Turn Your Metalsmithing Mishaps into Masterpieces (and Swear Like a Pirate)

I don’t share my personal metalsmithing work on social media much, but I seem certain to share if I hammer my thumb, lose a gemstone in the mess of my bench, or nearly catch something on fire. I wonder why that is? Is it simply humility that makes us share our metalsmithing mishaps more than our masterpieces? Or maybe it’s just humor–I suppose it’s funnier to tell a silly, pitiful tale than to “brag” on one’s mastery!

But we should “brag” and share our accomplishments, just as much as we lament, with friends. So while I’m encouraging all of you to show off photos of your metalsmithing and other jewelry work to your Facebook friends and groups or on Instagram etc. (tag your soldered pieces with #solderlikealady !), I have to share this funny story with you as well. A brilliant metalsmith, Kati Ross, posted this in the Aspiring Metalsmiths group on Facebook. After I stopped giggling, I immediately wrote Kati to ask if I could share it with all of you, and she graciously agreed. Enjoy, mateys!

Turn Your Metalsmithing Mishaps into Masterpieces (and Swear Like a Pirate)

Swear Like a Pirate: Inevitable Rites of Passage for New Metalsmiths

By Kati Ross, Owner of La Caprichosa Art Jewelry

Last night, for the first time in ages, I nicked my finger. Got me thinking about how far I’ve come in metalsmithing. And so this morning, I offer today’s Inspirational Message for New Metalsmiths, subtitled “Inevitable Rites of Passage for Bench Jewelers.”

1. Finish soldering a complicated piece, pleased with the result. Notice one little gap, heat the piece, blink twice, melt the piece, swear like a pirate, start over.

2. Drop a tiny stone. Get flashlight. Search for stone under metalsmithing bench for 40 minutes, occasionally smacking head on underside of bench pin. Suddenly find stone inside of your sleeve. Swear like a pirate.

3. Squint furiously through visor while flush setting a 1mm stone. Beads of sweat form and hands are white-knuckled. Lean forward, intently. Accidentally knock your visor on your bench lamp, rendering yourself suddenly unable to see the piece and blinded by the lamp. Swear like a pirate. Repeat step two.

Saw, Solder, Finish: Jewelry-Making Tool Basics for 3 Metalsmithing Essentials

4. Use a metalsmithing tool for 20 full minutes. Phone rings. Set tool down for 30 seconds. Return to bench. Tool has passed through a portal into an alternate dimension. Swear like a pirate.

5. Painstakingly compile a list of everything you need from Rio, Stuller, and Otto Frei. Get online and go to Rio’s website. Put stuff in cart. Oooh, look, clearance section! Browse for a moment. Heeeey, videos! Watch a couple. Well, you definitely need THAT. Add to cart. See suggested products. That too. Check out. Realize you forgot one tiny thing, plus you have no money left for Stuller or Otto Frei. Oopsie. Swear like a pirate.

6. Sawing along like a champ. Blink. Slit your fingertip. Swear like a trucker fighting a rap star with a gang of sailors on a pirate ship.

Some of y’all are being a little hard on yourselves, lately. Thought it might cheer you up to know we’ve all been there. —Kati

I couldn’t agree more! So for every complaint or critique or silly confession you make on Facebook, share a beautiful piece of your metalsmithing work. The world needs more of your greatness! And if you still feel like you need a little more finesse and fewer mishaps, improve your metalsmithing skills with the experts in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine.

Get these (and more!) Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Collections in our shop!





  1. Diane F at 5:36 am July 17, 2017

    This article made me snort coffee…. I had to read it out loud to my husband .. my kids call my ‘swearing like a pirate’ ‘putting extra love’ into my pieces…. i wonder if all our jewelry dimensional portals are connected……………

  2. Judy R at 12:08 pm July 17, 2017

    So, so true! My tools are always landing in another dimension and I’m glad I’m not the only one having pirate mouth episodes.

  3. Robbie G at 5:33 pm July 17, 2017

    I can add one to Kati’s list. As a new metalsmith you repeatedly test your bezel, making sure there are no gaps between the bezel wire and the backing. It takes you longer to get the solder to flow than it does for an experienced metalsmith but after much trying you finally get it. Only to find after soldering, the bezel is now too small for the stone. Swear like a pirate.

    • Jennifer S at 2:16 pm July 20, 2017

      Been there, use flat nose to carefully stretch out sides. Finally think you are there, stone fits. Pull it out with the dental floss. Then some idiot picks up stone, jams it in bezel, says “oh good it fits now”. You cannot get it out to put in ring band. Tear it all down and throttle ??friend.

  4. Kaelin C at 6:47 am July 19, 2017

    This is perfect!! I absolutely did everything on the list this week- and may or may not have done my best pirate impersonations! 😉 But it’s all part of the journey, and I continue to post my work as well. Thanks for sharing the post- I somehow missed it on Facebook 🙂

  5. TammyJones at 12:56 pm September 19, 2017

    So glad you all got a good laugh from Kati’s post! Thanks for being part of our community! –Tammy

  6. Valorie Bowen at 6:42 am July 13, 2018

    My first attempt at soldering a bezel to a back plate was amazing….I was super ambitious to have a beautiful back plate…stamped an amazing design…to add to the stamped design I drilled pilot holes to saw out some small swirls…I would step away to keep myself from getting frustrated….now it was time to solder my bezel on….I was so proud of my patience and design….and then as go to check my cabochon would fit reality hit me like a brick wall….I soldered the bezel on the wrong side….The only words that I could say was “YOU IDIOT!!!!” and then came the hysteria of words and laughter….over thinking my design process….

  7. Anonymous at 7:12 am July 13, 2018

    Okay who else experiences “end of day syndrome”? That time of day (usually around 5 in the afternoon) when whatever you are working on – soldering, enamel, whatever – decides to melt, fall off its trivet, come apart and basicly tell you “you are done, quit, step away from the bench!” LOL

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