Stock Your Studio with Jewelry Supplies at the Local Restaurant Supply Store
Why should a jewelry artist explore the local restaurant supply store? You’ll find it’s full of low-cost equipment and supplies you can use as jewelry supplies in your studio or workspace.
I always say I live in a remote area, and the nearest city, Alpena, has a population of only 10,483 people. Although we have mail service, the closest jewelry supply store is a 4.5-hour drive south into the wilds of the Detroit suburbs. So, I sometimes have to improvise. Occasionally, I shop at Gordon Food Service, a restaurant supply company open to the public. Not only do they stock whole filet mignon beef tenderloins, but their aisles are loaded with trays, scoops, containers, cleaning supplies, bib aprons, and other low-cost items perfect for a jewelry maker.
Even better, the company stocks tons of candy in bulk sizes, sodas, nuts, coffee, and other treats for breaks and late-night, on-deadline snacks.
Restaurant and food service supply companies in your area may have an even larger inventory to choose from. Just make sure they allow public access.
Here are some ideas.
Jewelry Supplies from Restaurant Supply Stores
Giant aluminum trays, $12.49
I slipped one of these commercial-sized baking sheets under my soldering station to create a spill-proof, fire-resistant surface. The wire-reinforced rim keeps everything from rolling off and can capture any flood of water or chemicals if something is tipped by accident. Metal is handy for keeping wayward flames contained. The 18”x26” inch tray I bought was $12.49 – about as cheap as you can get for surfacing. Other trays come in 1/2- and 1/4-size sheets for smaller soldering stations. Or they can be used to hold individual projects and stacked to save space.
5 lbs. of baking soda, $5.50
Such a deal, because baking soda is essential for neutralizing chemicals such as spent pickle and used quench water. Store it at your soldering station. In these quantities, it’s superior as an all-purpose fire extinguisher or can neutralize a pickle spill.
Plastic tubs that busboys use, $7.79
One word here: organized storage that is sturdy and easy to tote around. As jewelry supplies, these bins are great for holding plastic bags full of sorted beads, gemstone rough, clean up rags, or bottles of chemicals. Store on those chef-style wire shelving racks. When not in use in your studio, you can impress dinner guests by hauling one of these tubs out to bus the table between courses.
Vital for separating out findings, then rinsing, drying, and storing steel shot from your tumbler.
Magic Eraser sponges $3.99
These are supposed to be great for cleaning dirt off of white leatherette neck dummies and other display items.
Plastic scoops and measuring spoons
Handy for measuring pickle, casting investment, patinas, and other materials in proper amounts.
Clear plastic measuring cups, large and small
800 round wood toothpicks, $1.89
Especially if you need a lifetime supply. Or share with your friends. I use them as glue applicators, pointy thingies for nudging polishing compound out of crevices of my jewelry, and mini gemstone setting sticks when topped with a dollop of sticky wax.
Put a coffee filter in a nylon funnel, place in the mouth of a jug, and use this set up to strain out solids in etching solutions. Coffee filters also are great for mopping up small spills.
For bigger spills.
Vinyl gloves, $4.99 per 100
Available in three sizes. Also in latex.
Cut-resistant gloves, $19.49
As jewelers, we cut a lot of things with sharp edges, don’t we.
Bib apron with pockets, $8.99
It won’t have a fancy school or catalog company’s logo on it, but it will help protect your clothing. The pockets are a great place to keep your cell phone.
Butane gas by Sterno
I found four 8-ounce containers for sale for $9. The label says they are for portable butane stoves or torches. I didn’t test this, but if that’s the case, this is a cheap price for gas.
Plastic 0.75-ounce portion cups, $3.79
Snap up a 200-count sleeve and use them for sorting gems or storing snips of solder. Can be reused. I turn them upside down and use the bottoms to mix two-part epoxy for gluing pearls to earring posts, because they are easy to dispose of. Lids are $2.19 per 100, wouldn’t you know it.
Also, you’ll find low-cost cleaning supplies, brooms, dustpans, paper towels, toilet paper, plastic storage containers, scrubbing pads, timers, cool metal scoops, and squeeze bottles in the store that can double as jewelry supplies, besides restaurant quantities of ketchup.
Jewelry Supplies in Larger Communities
Checking the online catalog for restaurant supply in Detroit, (population 713,777), I found a much more extensive inventory and lots of other handy items:
- Restaurant shelving units
- Lugs and tote boxes with dividers
- Trucks and dollies for carting your tent and work to craft shows
- My personal favorite – a tall, steel-top table
- Anti-fatigue floor mats
- Micro-fiber cleaning and polishing cloths
- Torches capable of putting out 2450 F
- Long, water-proof bib aprons
- Heat-resistant gloves and arm protection
- A single $106 stainless steel mesh, cut-resistant glove cool enough to wear to a party (would be great for cutting molds open)
- Cutting boards and flexible cutting mats
The only thing I didn’t come across was citric acid in bulk. This chemical is less toxic as a pickle for removing flux from soldered surfaces. But a check online indicates it is readily available from other sources.
Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.