Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers: A Million (okay, 17) Silver Jewelry-Making Tips

I've been like a kid awaiting Santa Claus since I learned about our silversmithing book, Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers: A Handbook of Techniques and Surface Treatments. (Is it here yet? Is it here yet?) I couldn't even get my hands on an advance copy–until now! And I'm absolutely astounded by all the silver jewelry-making techniques and information that's included in this one resource.


Called an expert metalsmithing guide "with a silver lining," Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers includes all of the basic and advanced metalsmithing and metal jewelry-making techniques you can think of–they're just presented in a way that's specific to jewelry artists working with silver (my favorite).

Dozens of basic and advanced silver jewelry-making techniques (etching, engraving, embossing, reticulation, and so many more) and skills (such as how to make box clasps, how to make rings using silver sheet as well as silver wire–even how to make findings for cuff links and brooches!) are presented with step-by-step illustrated instructions–plus each technique is paired with tips to help you achieve the best results in your silver jewelry designs.

Learn to make a box clasp in Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers.

I found literally hundreds of tips, tricks, and suggestions flipping through the book, about common and advanced silversmithing skills and techniques. Though it was nearly impossible, I managed to limit myself to sharing only these seventeen silver jewelry-making tips. Enjoy!

Sawing Tips
1. Remember that the cutting motion comes from the elbow and not the wrist. Hold the saw frame lightly, keeping your arm and body relaxed, and saw using long, even strokes.

2. If you saw with too much force or try too hard, you'll probably break a blade. That's a real momentum killer–and it's wasteful! Always check the tension of your blade, too, as a loose blade will break.


3. Start sawing with the blade tilted at a slight angle; then return to a vertical position to continue sawing sheet silver.

Filing Tips
4. When filing flat edges, mark a straight line to work toward using a square and scriber.

5. Make sure your file does not "dip" or slope up or down at the beginning and end of your cutting stroke because it will create an uneven or rounded edge. Remember that files cut on the forward stroke. 


Drilling Tips
6. Lubricate your drill bits with beeswax or burr-life lubricant to help them stay sharp longer. Some lubricant will also help keep your drill bits from overheating, getting stuck in the metal, and breaking.

7. Drill large holes in stages. Start with a smaller drill bit, drilling a smaller hole, and then gradually increase the size.

8. Remove sharp edges from drilled holes using a ball or bud burr.  


Metal Forming and Doming Tips
9. When forming rings and bangles, keep them turning around the mandrel to counteract its tapered shape and to ensure that both edges become the same size.

10. Texture silver sheet before cutting a disc for doming. Remember that the textured surface needs to be protected with masking tape during doming. Use a wooden punch instead of a steel one when doming textured silver.

11. Don't force a disc into an indent on the block if it doesn't fit. Start forming a dome in a larger indent and gradually reduce it until the dome reaches the desired size and profile to avoid crinkling the silver. 

I could go on and on! (And I do! Read on for six bonus silver jewelry-making tips.) You'll be hearing more from me about this wonderful book. It's ideal for newer jewelry makers who are interested in metalsmithing as well as for experienced metalsmiths who want to expand or perfect their silver jewelry-making skills.  


Order your copy of Elizabeth Bone's book Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers: A Handbook of Techniques and Surface Treatments, a must-have comprehensive silversmithing resource. I challenge you to find a metalsmithing technique that isn't included in the book! Bone covers everything: hammering, pickling, annealing, sawing and cutting, filing, forging, hallmarks and stamping, cold connections, polishing, (inhale) oxidizing and texturing, soldering, etching and photo etching, press forming and embossing, chasing and repoussé, engraving and reticulation. She shows how to make hinges and chain, clasps and catches, sand and cuttlefish castings, pierced metal fretwork and filigree–you'll even learn to marry metals, work with gemstones, create metal clay jewelry, and make various textures and surface treatments. There's even a resource section with how-to information for selling your handmade jewelry.

Is there anything else? If you can think of something, I bet it's in there. If you're curious, ask in the comments below, and I'll let you know!

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