Apprentice questions

Chris - I’m in the UK, and I’ve bought titanium from three sources:

  • Short lengths of round bar turn up on eBay. I think these are the
    ends of long bars that have been through automatic lathes. You might
    get 200mm of 25mm bar for ?10-20, as I recall.

  • Some of the metal dealers who sell to the model engineering market
    keep small bits of sheet, in the square-foot range. Again, ?10-20
    for a bit.

  • Industrial metal dealers will sell sheet, but they generally (a)
    want to sell a big sheet and (b) are expensive. But if you have one
    nearby, it may be worth asking if they have offcuts.

Is that any help ?



I recently asked a question about titanium and it's cost and where
to find. I never got an answer. 

Check out reactive metals.
Don’t be put off by the front page, what you see are items made using
their products, not items that they are selling, they are the ones
that sold the materials and equipment to make what you see. Click on
one of the catalog links and you will see pricing for materials as
well as tools and other products you may need if you get into
Titanium etc.

If you have any questions their email is info at

They post regularly on Orchid and sometimes are a little reluctant to
blow their own horn, so I will for them.

No affiliation other than has the parent of a satisfied Client.


Please re-enter the original question that we are hearing about.
thx, Bruce

I recently asked a question about titanium and it's cost and where
to find. I never got an answer. Of course I could have googled it 

That was me.

And you answered your own question with the reason I did not answer

There are two types of questions.

One is the newbie question, someone who genuinely does not know or
understand a technique, and asks a basic question.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that and I always answer

Then there is the lazy question.

Like asking the price and availability of titanium.

Google answers that a lot quicker than I can, and it does not cost
me time.

If the OP had asked how to blue titanium, I would have answered,
because that is not a question that can be easily answered.

And on a general note, if one asks a question and that person takes
the time to craft a response, just don’t simply disappear with out
even a thank you.

There is absolutely nothing more rude and it kinda shuts the door
for me.

Sorry you never got an answer about titanium, Chris,

Reactive Metals is the place to go for anything reactive metallic!!!
The source extraordinaire.

Hope this helps to redeem our Orchid crowd,
Linda Kaye-Moses

Great, reply, Agnes. Well, because so many of you wanted to help, I
feel I owe you at least one question out in the open!!

How about taking on apprentices with no experience at all. What is
the first thing you teach them? I mean, besides where the broom is
kept, haha. And the coffee. which I’d be more than happy to make if
we had a coffee pot in the shop! Lol.

Thanks to all for the info on titanium. Have checked out reactive
metals. Very nice material. Will also look on line for thicker
material for forging though I now know it is rather difficult to
forge. Seems that using a lathe, drill press, and milling machines
are the way to go for many designers. Again, thanks to all for
finding the time to answer my questions. Chris

Hans, you have said it a lot better than i did in my post on the 4th
of this month.

Its our time thats most valuable and it cant be free for lazy


This is how I train, in a nutshell. You need to get them started off
with really good work habits. The first thing is to just have them
watch so the new person gets the idea of how to work. How to sit, how
to wear the head loupe, how to hold and position the various tools,
work and torch, how your bench is organized, how the work is
organized. Then for months it’s all sawing, soldering, filing and
finishing, if you can do those four things well you will be okay.
Then as they improve, speed up and maintain their quality of work,
they get progressively more difficult and complicated work.

I would add that I never hired anyone who didn’t know anything at
all, that would be a risk for us both. Everyone had some familiarity
with a shops tools and it’s operation and they showed some talent in
the work they brought to show me. Often work they had done in


You asked about titanium - I don’t always answer when i think others
know more…

I get the stuff in lots of places - the easiest is Reactive metals. I
use titanium for lots of non-jewelry stuff - that is i use it while
I’m making jewelry. for clamps, mesh to keep pieces off the
soldering block, as shims on the soldering blocks. also for its
coloring effects, although niobium is easier to get clean and color.

Judy Hoch

HI Gang,

I’m not sure who asked about titanium, but I didn’t reply the first
time simply because I didn’t see it.

(Wouldn’t have seen it in this thread either, except I was already
reading this thread.)

As others have said, for normal quantities, Reactive Metals is your
best bet in the states. If you’re into truck sized loads, there are
industrial suppliers, (that Knew Concepts deals with) but that’s not
for the sane.

If you’re looking for random sized pieces, we (Knew Concepts) have
some. It’s the stuff that’s left in-between our saws when they’re
laser cut, so the size and shapes are totally random, but there can
be some decent sized pieces. (2x6" is about as big as they ever get)
We use two thicknesses:.060" or 1/8". So if you’ve really got a
hankering to abuse yourself by trying to work 1/8" titanium plate,
we can oblige.

If anybody’s interested, drop me a line directly, and let me know
what sizes and thickness you’re looking for. 2x6, or maybe 2x8 is
about as big as they get. Most of them are more like 2x3.

I’ll have to look to see what our scrap guy’s giving for Ti right
now, but we’d sell it off for a bit more than scrap, plus shipping.
(Probably $5 per pound.) Be aware: it’s been laser cut, so the edges
are sharp, and it has nitride spatter around the cut edges on one
side. (If you don’t know why I’m telling you that it’s nitride
spatter, you don’t want this. Trust me.)


How about taking on apprentices with no experience at all. What is
the first thing you teach them? 

Where the eyewash station is and how to use it.

Paf Dvorak

I have been using titanium for thirty years and in the past I have
forged various objects from rings, bracelets, to large necklets.
Titanium is easy to forge if you have sufficient heat. BUT the
problem arises firstly while working as titanium when very hot forms
a grey / yellow oxide some of which comes off as a fine dust when you
are forging the metal and is quite dangerous and unpleasant, so wear
a mask.

Be careful not to fold small areas over in the forging as it will
show as a grey line and present difficulties when finishing and

Finishing is a real pain as the oxides adhering to the surface
cannot be removed even with super hard files and must be removed with
wet grinding techniques, as with lapidary equipment, the oxides
released should not be breathed in. And do not think of using
hydrofluoric acid as, although it will remove the oxides it will
remove the calcium from your bones and replace it with flourides?
(spelling) Giving you osteoporoses and broken bones.

Titanium cuts beautifully on a lathe, but is a pain to drill,
especially small sizes, ie. 0.8mm, all drilling needs to be done with
adequate lubrication and continual gental progressive pulses and
withdrawals. Do not try to rush drilling as you will heat the drill
bit and blunt it. To colour titanium when the surface is perfect and
cleaned with alcohol research the process on some scraps, heat with a
medium flame slowly and note the colour changes, better still use a
small kiln with a thermostat.

Hope this has been of help.
David Cruickshank

Hi Denise,

How about taking on apprentices with no experience at all. What is
the first thing you teach them? 

Let me tell how I run an apprenticeship.

I will work with someone who is generally interested in learning the
“art and mystery” of our craft. If they don’t see this as their
career, I am not interested. If they just want a job, I am not
interested. If it is just their hobby, no apprenticeship here.
Previous experience or metalsmithing classes do confirm an interest,
but talent and motivation are far more important.

Bench test:

Very simple, I hand the person a jeweler’s saw and a piece of metal
with a little drawing on it and have them saw it out. If they have
never done that before, I show them how. They have to start by
putting the blade in the saw. Then I watch them do it, but not too
closely because that can be intimidating. I am looking to see if they
can handle tools and have good enough eye-hand control. This is just
to screen out absolute klutzes. So far everyone I have tested has

Start part time:

I start them just a couple days a week working on some of the most
basic and repetitious tasks in the shop. In my shop that is injecting
waxes for casting, cleaning up and polishing castings. Sometimes I
might have them soldering findings right out of the gate. There is
nothing about filing or polishing that is going to make them more
ready for soldering. Part time I learn if they will actually show up
and be reliable. It does not take too long to figure out if this is
someone I want to keep around. If I like them and I have the work for
them, I offer them a full time gig.

Terms of employment:

My apprentices are paid an hourly wage, covered by worker’s comp and
all the other legally necessary things to keep it all kosher. Several
have come to me and offered to work for free, just to get the
experience. I am not going to do it that way. They start at a little
over minimum wage and get raises as they get more productive. I
explain to them that I will regularly teach them new skills, even if
it is something I don’t especially need them to do for me at the
present time. The deal is that in exchange for helping me by working
for low wages, they will get an education. Expect this to go on for
four years.

Some of the things we make give a lot of creative flexibility to the
craftsman putting them together. These are fun. I give the
apprentice credit as a “collaborator” whenever I get the opportunity.
I take my apprentices on field trips, just recently the MJSA Expo in
NYC. If they want to use the shop on their own time I encourage that.
In the third or fourth year I will pay for something like a class at
the New Approach Jeweler’s School or something similar. Ours is a
family run business with my wife working full time as the business
manager and my kids working along side the apprentices quite often.
Any new designs created by an apprentice on company time belongs to
the company, but we do give the apprentice credit as the author on
Facebook posts and in conversation in the sales room.

Several apprentices have been part-time art students at a local
college or have been hired just for the summer. These are more like
interns. The real apprentices, after they have been full time for
four years, I give them a certificate that says they have completed
an apprenticeship with me.

Sometimes they stay longer. Sometimes they move on. My main
assistant, Lyndsay, got her certificate a few years back. She still
works for me and just keeps getting better and better. It is hard to
remember not to call her an “apprentice” anymore because we called
her that for a long time. My newest apprentice is an art school
senior. Part time for the past three semesters, she will become full
time after graduation in May. Between them is Abram, who has been
working for me full time since he graduated from High School in 2012.

Is this a real apprenticeship?

Some countries have very formal apprenticeship schemes through their
government education or labor departments. Jewelers in the US don’t.
What I have described above is based on traditional apprenticeship.
It is really just a deal between me and the apprentice. There is no
official oversight that recognizes that I am a qualified master or
states how this should be done. But it is real enough for us. We make
real jewelry together. After a while my apprentices have the skill
and knowledge that they can make real jewelry by themselves. This
morning I told Lyndsay I was planning to write this post and asked
her if she had any input. She wants to say she learned more in the
first year of her apprenticeship than she had in four years of art
school. My wife put a ring Lyndsay made on our Facebook page today
and it got over 600 likes in the first 3 hours.

Judge for yourself how real this is.

Stephen Walker

David. very good info on titanium and it’s working properties. I have
lapidary equiptment and access to a lathe and milling machine. Did
not know about the caustic nature of the material when heating for
forging. I’ve worked with all kinds of metal for 50 years but
titanium was not one of them. Am working on a body of work with
vitreous enamel at the moment and will set aside time to experiment
with titanium when I am finished. Thanks David and to the others
about where to locate the material.



I will work with someone who is generally interested in learning
the "art and mystery" of our craft. 

My daughter had a few lessons from me in making jewellery. When she
got serious she spent the night dreaming about jewellery before her
first full day on the bench.

Her talent for design makes me very jealous she can take a piece I
have at the design stage and make suggestions that improve it 1000%.
She has just had her second child so has been away from the chemicals
during the pregnancy.

When she stops feeding little Hunter she will be back. In the mean
time she has been making bead jewellery with her mum and THANK GOD
has been making the ear wires, by the hundreds.

I am often asked if I teach silversmithing, aka I wont to go into
competition against you. I say yes the tools will cost you $1000 and
you will pay me $100 a day 2 days a week. And I get all the jewellery
you make I supply the metal. Not takers yet.

But if some one does fit the bill then they will be working hard and
learning all I can teach them and go to my teachers as well.

Not interested in training some one for a hobby. Who thinks they can
sh*t on my business. But a real/serious person not a problem. That
will keep the trade alive.

I will also sell their jewellery for them, at a small profit for me
of course. I do give free advice to hobby makers, JOIN ORCHID and ask
me what you like but as for training you FORGET IT.

I train the kids at school to be real silversmiths. Had a newbie
today 2 silver rings bent out of shape.

A student took the first ring up the mandrel and before she hit it I
asked her what have we not done? Not been annealed (torch not set up
but band was thin). So be gentle rounded in seconds. She took the
second ring “Holy sh*t this is cracking on the solder line!” Told her
to look inside at the solder. "Too much solder and not “pulled"
through the join.” Welcome to shit from Asia. She then told the
Newbie that next lesson she will fix it for her, i. e. re solder and
make the join fit.

Newbie was told she will never buy sh*t again and will now make
better quality her self. One happy Newbie and one happy student who
can carefully re round rings. This stuff makes my day. Oh by the way
they were wagging their class to be in jewellery.

Tomorrow we make some copper rings and bangles. They get to Bash The
Sh*t out of some copper pipe. They will never be in competition with
me because I sell their jewellery for free at a local market. First
market sold $12 for them second market sold $60 by Christmas will be
selling hundreds of $ for them.

There is nothing better for me than the look on a student’s face who
has done some thing real. A student who the main stream do not want.
Just the type who will make silversmiths. I told the student who
rounded the rings it will be a while before you can set faceted
stones. She can already do cabs. “Get the f*cked Richard when I am
determined I will do it.” This from a 15 year old girl who rides
track work for race horses at 4.30 in the morning and runs a pizza
take away shop at night. Has this kid got what it takes to be a
silversmith? Hell yeah ! Just wait till she polishes her graver for
bright cutting. I will buy some ear plugs for that whinge.


Thanks for your very in-depth response. Your apprentices are very
fortunate, it sounds like.

Just so you all know, I need to keep certain things off the public
forum because of where I work. I have been able to gain some
perspective in the past week with the help of your collective input.
It was never my intent to imply that Orchid members were ogres. This
has opened my eyes a lot.

I like Richard more and more every day. He is such a straight
shooter, tells it like it is, helps anyone, and would be willing to
defend the weak. At another time and age, you, my friend, would have
been a knight. We should call you Richard the Lion Heart from now

Rock on.
Rick Powell

Hi all

jewellery class was magic.

The kid who rounded the ring resized the ring, the girl who owned
it, Newbie, totally freaked out at the change in colour when

But when it came out of the pickle and was given she was given 3000
grit to rub it over could not believe what it looked like and and was
amazed that it was a perfect fit. She sat there for 10 minutes and
worked the whole ring over. Smile smile smile!

Next the 3 girls made copper bangles cut tube to length using a
plumber’s tube cutter. Cost $18 and works a treat.

Hammered it flat and then rounded it round the bracelet mandrel.
Filed rough edges etc. No power in workshop, don’t know why, so hand
held strips of sand paper to clean up.

So they barged into the Principal’s office to show off the bangles.
He said what do you call that finished went one.

Half finished I told him. Then it was time to choose a packet of
sweets from his secret stash LOL. They have gone home with the piece
of sand paper to sand the bangles down.

What I found amazing was the kids learnt to round the bangles by
hitting in the right spot, took me a while to learn this. I just said
do not hit it where you think hit it here. “F*ck off Richard do you
think I am an idiot?” Said the kid who resized the ring. Told her I
want a sex change and a time machine, then I will be a nasty nun and
you will be in a convent and I will bash you for talking like that to
me. LOL. “You are a sick @#$ Richard.” “Thats why I teach you
silversmithing.” Laughter all round.

The Newbie took a while to get her’s done but could not believe it
was round. First jewellery lesson in a new school and has a piece that
looks great. Addicted another one to metal smithing.

One ring resized, three bangles made and a lot of laughter. How cool
is that. If I could just get the girls to stop swearing, OK if you
hit your finger with a hammer. So not only am I teaching jewellery
but also etiquette. Etiquette is the hard part.

The law prevents me from posting what life is like for these kids,
but it would make you cry.

Just give me the mad, bad and brilliant students who no one wants. I
will make them into silversmiths.

My heart opens to these kids and my smithing class is a light in
their lives.


For all of you who teach to keep the trade alive keep it going no
matter what level you teach at, basics like me or high end skills
like Jo/Tim and Gerry and the rest to long to list keep it up. The
trade really need this.

Looking forward to the next class. The kids are making silver rings
with bezel cups and then set the stones.


Agree with you 100% Richard.

I just recently took on a student. She has 10 years under her belt
and was trained in South America at a metal smithing school. My goal
is to make sure she learns at least one new thing from me each day. I
do not charge her for my time but do have a agreement that when I
start teaching next year at the University of Panama she has to give
back equal timehelping to teach there for free. I do not sell her
things for her but do furnish all supplies and tools she needs. She
then sells everything including my things for a commission.

Now I do not need to go around servicing the galleries and shops
that carrymy designs. Which gives me more time to make more pieces.
A win win for both of us and she has been able to get her things in
some of the galleries I have my items in. Every day she leaves my
shop with a smile on her face and something new to work with. In a
few months we will be starting a project to teach the blind how to
cut cabochons and make some jewelry. I am sure we both will learn a
lot from thisadventure. Keep making lots of jewelry and sharing your
skills with others. Who knows someday one of our students might do
better then we have done, whatbetter legacy could we leave behind.