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Beginner help with metalsmithing jewelry

I’ve tried beading and I didn’t like it.

I want to try my hand at cold connection metal jewelry making.

I want to hammer something!

Is there a good beginner book or something?

I’m an absolute beginner, I’ve never done any of this before.

Brian Sommers

Hello Brian,

Look for Tim McCreight’s book “The Complete Metalsmith"and"Jewelry
Fundamentals of Metalsmithing.” The latter has a nice chapter on
cold-joining. Good descriptions and illustrations. Anything written
by Tim will be good.

Go to your library and cruise the DIY and Crafting sections for more
options. There are some creative ways to make jewelry that don’t
involve soldering/brazing - riveting and wire work come to mind.
Tools for those activities are relatively limited, but WHAT AM I
SAYING!! There should never be a limit on tools!! If you have not
yet bought hand tools, do spend the bucks and buy the best. After
nearly 4 decades, I still grab my pliers bought from Swest. Quality

Last piece of advice, find a mentor. We don’t know your location,
but if you can share the city, there might be an Orchidian or two
who would do that.

Best to you on your hammering adventure, Judy in Kansas, where the
rain is coming down nicely. Of course I just irrigated and that must
have stimulated the rain gods.


  I want to try my hand at cold connection metal jewelry making.
Is there a good beginner book or something?

Learning how to make cold connections includes an equal amount of
time learning about the tools that will help you create cold
connections. Your research will overlap with beginning metalsmithing
in areas such as metal selection, cutting, measuring, drilling,
filing, polishing and tool maintenance.

A book about cold connections will explain which tools you need to
work along with the book. But if you consult another book, it might
recommend a different version of a tool you already bought.
Therefore, I would do plenty of research before buying books or

I would start with an internet search on “cold connection jewelry”.
I found the following on the first page of a search engine listing:

*A couple of videos by Your search listing links will
take you to their website where the video is too small. Click on the
Youtube logo to see it larger. Rio’s videos are tool intensive
because they sell tools, but if you continue making cold connection
jewelry, you may eventually want all the tools they are using in
these cold connection videos.

*An article on, and a video called Metalsmith
though it is only a 5 min. excerpt of a much longer paid video.

Page 2 of my internet search on cold connection jewelry appeared to
be as promising as the first page.

Hi, Brian,

Yes, most of us who started with beading got bored pretty fast.
Where are you? The Gem Cutter’s Guild of Baltimore is offering a
level-1 metalworking class this fall; also intro to lapidary.
Gemcuttersguild dot com.

Also have a look at Fowler’s wire wrap if you like. I’m not a big
fan of wire wrap, but golly, this guy is a genius. I think he’s in
New Hampshire.

When you want to move to torch skills, you might try a little
kitchen butane torch first, keeping in mind that the small flame and
lower heat is only suitable for small items like earrings and rings.

Other resources: US Faceter’s Guild (USFG dot org) and
gemologyonline dot com. Faceting is addictive!

Reactivemetals dot com for anodizing niobium and titanium, for which
joins are done with rivets. See HollyYashi dot com for how beautiful
finished products can look.

Just a few ideas,


Don’t mean to hijack the string, but…

Is the guild offering classes to the public or members only? I am in
Columbia, MD and am looking for beginning metalsmithing classes. I
unfortunately have a meeting on Tuesday nights I must attend. How
late do the meetings go?

Also seeking a mentor but I’ll post that later.


Hi Jaqueline. I help teach a beginner jewelry making class at
Creative MetalWorks in Kensington Md. Contact Michael Shwartz about
the many classes available.

By all means, find a kind teacher. It will save you a lot of
headaches and a lot of time. There’s no need to re-invent the wheel
when someone can show you a wheel.

Hi there Brian,

It was a rare pleasure to read your post here on what is really not
a gold/silver SMITHS forum, as what most folk here do is fabricate or
cast precious metal and set stones therein. There are very few here
who make their jewellery primarily wrought.

The other way of making jewellery is probably the oldest and that is
hammered, tho today thats called wrought, as in forged. This can be
cold or hot and IF as you say you want to hammer something, then
theres a whole world of products awaiting your hammer and hand.

The only limitation is your imagination!!, and you would be making
things quickly and profitably if you want to earn your living from
your craft, or is it just a hobby to pass spare time? You mention cold
connections? well thats basically just a fancy new name for the old
fashioned way of joining things called rivetting. With beading having
reached saturation point, v I find it amusing to consider all those
bored housewives setting up anvils on their fancy worktops and
hammering away.

But where to start? you ask as a beginner,? well id be happy to
point you in the right direction If you can tell us where you are, ie
town, how old you are? what education or work you have done so far?
and what sort of space you will have available for your tools
equipment and storage. Without this info any reply would be too
general to really help you. Mind you! the old smiths axim, dont be
afraid to hit it is a good one to start with! Await your reply.

A wrought jewellery maker.

Thank you Vladimir.

I live in Millersburg, OH I’m 51 yrs young and I just got into
woodworking mostly by hand, I still have some power tools. I do enjoy
that, but it is very hard work and I’m out of shape. It seems very
overwhelming to me.

I have a lot of interests. I do a little sewing as well and I want
to make handbags. My wife works the 9-5 in the office and I also sell
vitamins off on the side as well.

I would like to be able to earn enough to bring my wife home from
her job, she makes soy wax candles and I’m thinking if we really bust
our chops we could do all of these things from home and work from
home, both of us. That is our dream!

I used to be a roof/floor truss designer and when the economy dumped
I went down with it.

as far as education? I’m a college dropout.

As far as space, I have a small 167sq. ft. wood shop, but that’s my
wood shop. and then I another little room that I could set up my
jewelry area.

Actually a section of another room in the basement, it would be
shared with gas furnace, fridge, freezer and wood storage, but I was
thinking of building my own jewelers bench, down the road. For now
I’d probably just work off the table, I could probably work in my
wood shop as well to get started, but I do have to stand, my
woodworking workbench is to high to sit at. I have some nice options
for that.

I have to watch my money very closely so I don’t want to be taking
up tons of inventory/parts, etc.

I have this notion/idea that I might like jewelry making better than
I do woodworking, since I do most of my woodworking by hand and I’m
not exactly in shape. Handplanning is hard work! Jewelry making looks
to be a lot easier to do physically at least. The reason I am
interested in cold connections is because torches make me very
nervous and I’m afraid I’d blow up the neighborhood or something! I
have no problem using small hand held torches, it’s when you get into
large tanks of “gas”, that is where I get cold feet.

I want to start with copper/brass, etc due to the cost of getting
started then move up to the more expensive materials when I know I’m
not going to screw it up! Hope to hear from you and what your response

Brian, have you looked into leather tooling to make the handbags?
Not strenuous, and the finished products command good prices.


you can have a very nice compact space and if your not “hot” on gas
tanks splice into your homes natural gas line. Thats fairly easy good
start to your new work space. Harbor Freight for tools, from good
pliers to anvils. Money might be tight, but don’t skimp on a good saw
frame and blades, and a good smithing hammer.

And enjoy its a wonderful skill and a fun passtime might even make a
few bucks. Good luck

There are a few more points to consider, Brian, judging from your
explanatory post. First, the height of your workbench may already be
satisfactory. I have four in my work area, all the same typical
workbench height. One is specifically for jewelry work, and the
height? A simple solution: forget about the chair, and get yourself a
bar stool. That should put you at a better working height. Don’t
throw the chair out yet, however. If you ever get to the point of
sawing metals for jewelry, you’ll probably find that you have better
tool control if your viewpoint is closer to thesawing level.
Speaking of control: jewelry work calls on a different set of muscles
that woodworking does. You’ll be working on much smaller products, so
small-muscle control is of paramount importance; you don’t handle
most of the tools used in jewelry-making with the same gusto that
youuse working with dimension lumber! Unfortunate correlation? I’ve
found that the growing number of small tools I have (I don’t think
that any Orchidians own only one hammer, for example) takes up a lot
of space. A place for everything, and everything in its place, I
read someplace. Are you going to screw something up? Never doubt it.
I’m willing to bet that even the best and most experienced members of
this group will admit to making mistakes. We all learn from our
mistakes – and we all still enjoy our work, or we wouldn’t be doing
it. C’mon in; the water’s fine!

Blessed be…

Hi Brian,

Thank you for outlining your general circumstances and what you
would like to achieve.

You do have a number of obstacles to surmount to become successful,
the main one is your physical robustness. Perhaps too long in front
of a cad screen maybe? However, your young enough to overcome this
with daily practice i can assure you of that.

The next is not the designing or making but the marketing of what
you make.

You need a weekly market somewhere within say a 2 hr drive like a
craft market or even a farmers market or even a regular car boot
sale, where you can expose what you make to a large no of people.

You need to do your research to this end before you do anything
else. Selling on line is not the way to go when you start. you need
the interaction with the customer and the feed back you will get to
develop your ideas for each following week. I kept my family from a
4ft by 4ft display at an open air art market, albeit some 3 hrs each
way one day a week for 7 yrs before moving on to bigger things. bit
younger then!.

People do like to see a regular face, try on the product, your then
half way there.

Next is the product.

Copper and brass are nice decorative metals, look good when polished
but are not really suitable for on the skin wear. Laquering isnt
permanent and you do need to promote the longevity of what you make.
Now there are 2 options id advise,

  1. making unjoined silver rings.

To give you an example, I had today my 10 yr old grandson in my
workshop, I showed him how to make a 1/8in dia round wire silver
ring in 5 mins. Silver cost here in the uk say ?1. selling price ?5.
Now assuming I can make easily 50 a day taking my time what with cups
of tea etc. thats ?250 a day.

If i work 2 days a week making and 1 day a week selling say half of
what i made in one day, thats ?125 just from that product line. All
you need to do is be yourself.

to make these I used the following tools

  1. leg vice the 3rd hand 1 med sized hammer, 1 small hack saw the 6
    in blade type 1 tapered steel ring stick a steel block to hammer on
    held in no 1, and finally a small band sanding machine, 36 in long
    belt 1in wide 240 grit. free running vertically to deburr and

This has a tapered spindle on the top roller to take small up to 4in
dia scotchbrite wheels and polising wheels. A piece of tapered broom
handle to support the ring when polishing. It spins on the wood
polishing the inside as well as the outside at the same time.

You need to be fast and accurate to maximise your time.

  1. You need to consider 999 aluminium, say in 1/4in dia annealed
    rod. you use this to make simple cuff shaped bracelets, onto which
    you stamp say the owners name at the market.

Sort of a personalised service. It worked for me for many yrs.

You mention making bags, ladies do buy bags, so to sew them up you
need at least one of the following, singer 29k better still a 45k
with a cyl arm. both will sew leather well the latter when motor
driven up to 1/4in thick!! I have both here so know what they will
do. Source of lots of leather furniture upholster’s off cuts.

Source of metal generally, any good scrap dealer will have copper
transformer wire copper sheet stainless sheet and more. Youll just
have to go out hunting.

They tend to be touchy Till you offer to make something for their
kids for free.

If you can work out how to read all the previous posts ive made to
this forum youll find some more useful info there.

Once you get up and running, then you can develop what you do to
include silver brazing, much more wrought work, but thats all in the

Get back via this forum how your researches progress, then well look
at the next step.


Hi Brian,

Tanks of gas (acetylene / O2) in a basement or cellar is a no no.
Virtually every fire code prohibits it for safety reasons. A leak or
spark could send you and your abode to kingdom come (maybe your
neighbors too).

I had a similar issue to resolve particularly so I could do my own
casting. I had been using another studio and ran into scheduling
conflicts one to many times when i had orders to complete.

The issues of a basement are WHERE to store a b tank and working
ventilation. I store the b tank outside in a locked shed about 5
feet on the outside of the building on the other side of a walkway.
The whole area has no pedestriantraffic (blocked and locked off). I
pull a longer gas line in for working. Its a 25 footer, and i only
need about 15. It gets checked for leaks regularly.

With a very good exhaust ventilation system (512 cfm) andreplacement
air, its fine. It replaces all the studio air every 15 minutes and
is very quiet. Doing a smoldering paper test to check the efficacy
of the exhausting was fun. You can see and smell it it works. Its a
double exhaust fan setup. One at lower speeds it directly vented
over my burnout kiln. The other doubles over my centrifuge and works
in tandem. I dedicated an area with a footprint of about 10 =D7 12.

I still do alot my soldering outside in a usually sheltered balcony
station with an awesome ocean view and a bunch of hummingbirds and
gold finches flying around. Then there is the troop of young
raccoons who provide additional entertainment if i work early or
very late. They come right up through the trees and criss cross
along the top of the redwood fence when i’m working away. Because of
critters i am very attentive to the gas lines and tank. They are

It took alot of planning and engineering and I waited (stalled is
more like it) 7 years after I started doing jewelry to bite the
bullet. I live directly above one of my studios which is about 800
sq feet. The person who would get blown up was ME!!

It scared the bejesus out of me for quite a while until I went into
engineering mode. Very serious business and in all it cost me a bit
for the necessary changes(new kiln, dedicated 30amp twist plug about
30 feet of conduit from the studio subpanel, new centrifuge with
added 75% wrap surround and top, ceiling tracks for adjusting vent
hood positions and more overhead lighting, fans, ducting, used
rolling tool stands for equipment (very ergonomic for height). I
could not be happier with the results. Then I added an alarm system.

You might want to check with your locale municipality about what you
can and cannot do - also your ho insurance. If there is a local
community arts center with a teaching jewelry studio class or if
your city has a JC, or a lapidery club, that might be a less costly
option for a while instead of building out your ownspace.

Good luck with your dream.

I work mostly with copper and red brass. Yellow brass is a poor
man’s gold. Nickle silver works like silver but some are allergic.
Stick with brass and copper for now, and get it dead soft. I work
with (large to fine) 16, 18,20-22, and occasionally 24 and 30 gauge
wire. You can email me directly ifthat’s allowed. Mention this in
header. I recently became sight impaired. I just designed a
complicated earring set mostly by feel alone. I’ll help you get
better at jewelry making.

There are lots of free tips and tutorials around. just google.

I hope this helps.

Speaking of stools, recently at the dentist I noticed the dental
assistants stool, asked if I could try it for comfort, this spurred
some conversation. The result being that when I left it was with a
dental assistants stool thatwas a spare.

The back rest swivels to the front for an arm rest when needed,
finding it to be very comfortable and useful.

Mike Brenner

Eileen - you are mistaken about the characteristics of acetylene -
it does not puddle in the lower recesses - you seem to have it
confused with propane - which certainly does that.

Depending on where you live Brian - if you own a place or if you
rent - acetylene works just fine inside - it’s like all we do in
metalsmithing - you have to pay attention, be careful about how you
handle tools and gasses. Many municipalities have rules, figure out
what they are and follow them.

I used acetylene in my basement for the first five years as I
learned. I talked to our homeowners insurance and got a written
coverage for using natural gas in the basement as well as acetylene.

Your experience may vary. It’s up to you to learn the rules and
risks. Tell your homeowners insurance what you are doing and don’t
take the first “no”.

Judy Hoch

You have received some excellent suggestions which should be of help
to you. I agree that an important consideration after you decide
what you want to do, is to learn where to show your items. Craft
shows are one option, so check them out now to see what they are
like. Also, you might get some ideas as to exactly what skills you
want to develop. For example, do you want to make, jewelry? purses?
wood object? etc. etc. You might want tofocus on something you
already know how to do. Someone suggested tooled leather purses, as
you already know how to make purses. Do some research on the internet
and see if that appeals to you. Alma

Let me echo Judy Hoch’s comment about household insurance. That
first ‘no’ may be related to the underwriter’s personal
understanding about equipment. Ihave a small kiln for firing metal
clay. The insurance person I spoke to started going on about the
kiln’s location, venting, etc. It took further explanation to help
her understand that this kiln is way different than a ceramic kiln,
not to mention a very small unit.

Judy in Kansas, where the pastures are STILL green! By August, most
are going dormant from lack of rain. A few months ago this area was
in a drought -now there is an excess of moisture. Rather than
climate change, this is Weather Wierding!

Hi Brian,

Heres an update on tools I mentioned in my last reply.

Re the leg vice, the center for your wrought work, i had a look on
Ebay here in the UK, where im based and they come out around 25 to
50 pounds sterling However!! in Ebay USA there around 10 times for the
same thing!! you will need to do some serious searching to match the
UK price…

Do you have any iron smiths in your area? they will be your best bet
as most iron smiths collect tools for their trade and are happy to
help out a starter like your self even if your into non ferrous like
me, or know who might have one.

Ive been reorganising my workshop here and dug out some 10 leg vices
Ive collected over the years.

Also im chucking out at least 10 hammers from my collection of a 70
or more! I just dont need.

Also ive not mentioned yet a T stake which is flat for half the top
and has half round grooves of decreasing sizes on the other half.
Top length average 7 to 12 ins.

Ive at least 8 of these. Youll need one of these to add to your
starter kit.

You use this to turn round or square wire or sheared strip into half
round or round, all with the hammer.

The real benefit of going down the wrought or hammered route is that
there are very few silversmiths who make this way.

Also as its fast and profitable, youll get asked to sell wholesale.
Dont as they will want credit and a discount of 50 % of your retail
prices. By designing, making, and marketing retail youll make the
profit on every operation, and by keeping your prices economic,
youll have no competition from the mall or high street shop. who
rarely make anything anyway. I bet there not offering sterling rings
for 5 dollars.

Your just a metal worker in things people wear.

Next time I write to you ill outline the making in 5 mins the silver

Hope this helps.


ps - an aferthought, You mentioned a jewellers bench, dont even think
it at this stage.

your next !! 1st priority is to get copper in the sizes ive
mentioned and develop your skills and designs with that metal, then
pick up the silver to do the same with that metal…