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Charges for basic silversmithing classes?

Your help is requested. What is the range of charges for a one to
three, 3-hour sessions, basic beginning silversmithing class? Charge
by the hour, class, session? This would be held in a local gallery
shop. The initial simple cutting and soldering project would be done
in copper. Tools would be shared between the 4 or 6 students per
session. Suggestions and comments for class content would also be
appreciated. Instructor is an unknown local hobbyist. Thank you. M
in Mich.

I am assisstant instructor for our rock club’s metalsmithing class.
We have an 8 week (one session a week) class and charge $120

my suggestion is don’t go. You can learn more on your own with a good
manual and some sterling or fine silver. learning to work in copper
is useless- the softness is not near the feel so to speak of sterling
or fine silver. Cutting it out is learning to use a saw. using shears
for ultra-thin gauges of metal may give you a decent result if
between 26-30g.

but those are rarely used as the light weight is only good for
earrings. Sharing tools between 4-6 students in a 3 hour class is
ridiculous. If there aren’t 4 available saw frames and the blades
that are right for the metal’s gauge the class isn’t worth it’s salt.
It doesn’t necessarily matter if the instructor is unknown or not as
long as you can see their work somewhere- anywhere… I wonder why it
would be at a gallery as opposed to a place with studio set-ups like
a community Y, or other center offering ongoing craft classes…

I always have a problem with beginner classes that don’t teach
students anything about tools to start with; One must know what they
are working with and what is available to be able to make good
choices for themselves. You should be told saw blades of “x” size
have ‘x’ number of teeth per inch and are best used for which gauges
of metal. then there are the metals: why fine silver is better than
sterling, though the hardness of sterling is better for making parts
or components that need strength like clasps or catches…why higher
karat golds are more forgiving than 14 karat and why you shouldn’t
buy white gold unless you enjoy paying for nickel which isn’t
discounted in the price of the gold alloy and therefore far better to
use an all precious metal white alloy like palladium or platinum
which requires different heating and tooling but is cheaper than gold
and worth considering in these times given the metals trends. then
with copper what will you be taught to use as the solder a silver
coloured or sterling solder or copper paste type stuff? that will at
least match the colour of the metal, unless you are going to inlay
the copper cut out pieces with silver solder by graving into the
metal and creating a design to which the silver solder is applied for

Sounds to me like a cheapie course and not a lot of useable
as you would have to translate what you learn to precious
metals as copper and other alloys have a low perceived value by
potential clients and other than cutting it into a strip and learning
to chase it for repousse ( a design raised with punches ) and then
bending around a mandrel to make a cuff bracelet it is useless for
soldering lessons. . First copper is extremely cheap.

A sheet of it less than 10 dollars in a 24 gauge which could be used
for most construction. So if you materials cost is more than 10 bucks
for whatever “kit” you will be given, it’s too much. One can get
nickel that is somewhat like sterling but harder and requires a
different pickle due to the ferrous metal in the alloy or “nu-gold"
a. k. a. merlin’s gold which is a sheet bronze that works somewhat
like 14 karat( feels similar to ) again requiring different pickle
than silver or gold for about 14 dollars a 12"x12” sheet. While I
don’t recommend starting out with gold, I do think at least an alloy
like sterling silver should be used as the soldering operation is
crucial to making jewelry that is not just cold connected. and that
is perhaps the single most operation beginners find challenging to
master. In more than 35 years I have never been asked to make anyone
anything in copper. Copper is also highly reactive with skin
chemistries causing it to turn green most often and if it is worn in
an area with sulfurous water may turn black too…

so not a good choice even for demonstration. Copper can be used in
ordinary pickle though as it doesn’t ruin it however it leaches into
pickle making it turn blue - good for plating solutions or
granulation work but that 's not generally in a beginner’s course ! I
would look around for a different course that teaches with at least
sterling and silver solder, or better yet get a copy of Tim
McCreight’s the complete metalsmith and read it, then read it again.
Buy yourself some good quality tools ( a saw frame and blades, decent
chasing hammer, standard 8" files in barrette flat, and round with a
fine cut and maybe a set of diamond coated files in a set of 10-12
for under 15 bucks ( harbor freight tools sells similar sets around
10 bucks or less) they are good for filing, finish work, enlarging
and cleaning up excessive solder, etc., a bench knife, round, chain
nose and flat pliers, a baseball bat that you then cut into three
sections for bracelet mandrels and a rounded end for planishing
annealed metal, a stainless steel ring mandrel ( not stepped but with
size markings etched into the metal), a dremel tool or flexshaft (
again harbor freight has a “corded rotary tool” similar to a dremel,
though the branded dremel is a cut above and can be used much like a
flexshaft, and they are now selling flexshafts or pendant motors
which have higher torque at lower speeds and are similar to most
decent flexshafts or invest in a good one like Foredom, buffalo
dental, or otherwise and they will come with a basic #30 handpiece
which is what many jewelers learn on - however if investing in a
Foredom brand, or otherwise but have small hands opt for a set up
without a handpiece, or buy a slimmer handpiece increasing your tool
kit to a basic #30 and the slim #15 type for everyday use.

many add on’s for flexshafts require a #30 handpiece because it is
presumed everyone has one…then add some 3M radial bristle discs for
shaping and polishing, some wet or dry sandpaper or specialized
tri-m-ite papers, again a 3M product, from a jeweler’s supply to
finish your work. Buy a bench pin that can be both bolted and clamped
to a bench or work table- the actual pin can be replaced easily and
it has a small anvil on the top to flatten small pieces of metal. If
you can add a vise ( a panavise is a good first vise as it has a
u-joint and can be fixed in many angles and will hold even a dremel
tool or flexshaft’s handpiece to use as an arbored motor for
polishing, shaping and other operations. You can also drill with the
flexshaft or dremel. Dremel makes a universal chuck that will hold a
very small ( #68) drill and can be used with any bit you may find
useful. Harbor freight sells assorted sanding bands, drums to hold
them, flat laps, polishing bits, mandrels for wool and leather
polishing points, wheels, etc. and compound, well usually rouge (
which contains iron to colour it red and is best completely removed
before putting a workpiece into a final pickle or it can blush silver
pink) and a green compound used for ferrous metals, but buy a good
compound from a jeweler’s supply ( if you like a mirror finish)
specifically for silver and gold or all precious metals.

Adding to this you will need a basic torch; a butane one will do well
for small pieces for soldering and annealing and will melt a small
amount of silver in a fused clay crucible ( first completely heated
then glazed with borax to prevent the metal sticking and enhance the
melt and pour), but there is a 45 dollar torch sold at most home
stores by bernzomatic that uses disposable O2 and acetylene or
propane cannisters. It is expensive to use as the fuel gas is burned
at about 1 cannister to at least 2 of oxygen- that adds up quickly.
But if you are not certain you will stay with jewelry making it may
be the way to go for ease of use as it doesn’t require tank rental
regulators and perhaps insurance problems or apartment restrictions,
but if not planning on reclaiming your scrap metals just yet, the
butane torch will reach about 2400 degrees F, plenty of soldering for
any hardness of solder ( hard, med. easy ; you would use hard solder
for seams or joining one piece to a jump ring or clasp, then med, if
more than one soldering operation is necessary, and easy if many
operations are required to execute a design which you don’t want to
mellt down the previous solder join). You will need a good all
purpose flux, one with a firescale preventative best ( I like
Cupronil best as you can warm the metal and build coats that turn
white with repeated sprays, when ready to solder the flux turns
clear and indicates you are ready to see a flow begin ).

A solder pick of titanium set in wood is best, there are ones you
will see in catalogues set in plastic or aluminum but the pick
separates from the handle as soon as it gets hot- avoid them). you
need a surface to solder on as well. A charcoal block is fine as it
can also be used to melt scrap into a well you carve into it with a
bench knife, and you can also create grains with a drill bit should
you want to design something with small grains.

There are all sorts of other items you will see in catalogues but
those above are the most basic. If you look in any jewelry supply
catalogues you will find basic tool kits, some too basic some far
more than is necessary ( like a pickle pot when a 20 dollar crock pot
will do as well ) and others that lack many really basic tools. So
get an idea by comparing different kits and the list McCreight gives
in Complete Metalsmith- most libraries have a copy or can get you
one. It is truly a good basic manual that covers in enough detail so
that operations are clear enough for someone with little experience
but a passion to learn can understand. there are all kinds of jewelry
making books free as well. Google has an e-book service that offers
out of print/public domain books for zero cost and you don’t have to
bring them back to the library! One title that is good and relevant
even today for basic jewelry making is titled “Jewelry making and
design: an illustrated text book for teachers, students of design,
and craft workers in jewelry” it is dated in design unless art nouveau
is your thing, but otherwise the most basic materials and tools
haven’t changed much in the past 90 or so years.

anything you can’t glean from the illustrations is mentioned in
McCreight’s book, except maybe the “mop” or “nest” which is simply
iron binding wire coiled into a mass that absorbs heat, and was used
for soldering and holding parts in place before more modern fixturing
tools and compounds ( the third hand is everywhere but an alligator
clip is easy to solder to your work and a high tech clip of titanium
is not worth the almost 70 bucks for one, when small pieces of
firebrick work just as well- pins can be pushed into it for holding
chain or other items, and the brick is an additional soldering
surface ( though pitted, requiring frequent resurfacing) and can be
cut into pieces for fixturing work to be soldered, and a simple
washer used as a weight. All said, for the same money as the course
may cost ( lets imagine it’s pricey : asking 150. 00 for three hours
x 3 days and 4-6 students sharing tools and working in copper - as
long as everything is included in the 150$ ! ) for the same money you
could buy most of your own tools in an economy grade and a torch (
butane). Jewelry making has become expensive with silver at 32. 00 a
troy ounce. But if you buy a strip of sheet at least 7" long x 3"
wide in a relatively versatile gauge ( 24-26 gauges are not too heavy
nor too thin whereas 28 is approaching too thin for rings, or other
work of a single piece as you would use for a flat broach or pendant)
you can set it up to cut a strip for a bracelet then carefully lay
out the rest for pieces and parts and to practice laying out- without
cutting at all to maximize your metal sheet’s usefulness and size
your designs based on the metals you can afford, then actually using
that skill to design pieces to fabricate for building a portfolio of
sorts should you dream of making a living at jewelry making.

Any class where tools are shared is problematic and dramatic…I
don’t care what anyone says- there will be that one personality that
needs"extra" attention and it comes out in taking far too long with
the single saw or that doesn’t listen to how to use it properly and
keeps braking the blade(s)! Better to walk in with your own saw,
pliers, saw blades, clamp on bench pin to saw and file against, and
set of small files 4"-6" with or without diamond, beeswax cake for
lubricating the sawblade and anealling pan with sand or pumice in it
for soldering and perhaps your own charcoal block or firebrick (
magnesium firebrick is different as it is soft from most hardware
store firebricks), and your own flux ( even if it’s just basic old
fashioned borax and denatured alcohol ). Use the provided solder and
metal. Alternatively just call the instructor and get a list of and
how many of each of which tools will be necessary and work from that
list in choosing what to bring so you maximize your time. What are
the students doing that are not sawing or cutting out their work-
listening to instruction or socializing?

You can’t concentrate on learning to use a saw correctly while trying
to hear instruction… and if one person is hammering on a steel
bench block where are the other students while that noise is
happening and what is being discussed while that is going on. I have
taught and taken many a course. I have seen some really ill thought
out “classes” and some very well organized…I think by asking some
questions before putting a deposit down, directly to the instructor
you will get a good idea of their level of organization. A gallery
space isn’t ideal unless it serves as a working studio. If it is a
painter’s or sculptor’s studio what flammable chemicals are
nearby?Where are the extinguishers or sprinklers? What is going on in
the gallery during that time your class is scheduled? i would need a
lot of convincing to take anything more than a 40 or 50 dollar course
for three hours a day for " one to three days" in copper.

As it doesn’t really give you any usable other than how
to set a sawblade- the soldering is foreign to silver soldering and
the colour contrast is different if using non copper solder. Most
jeweler’s use paillions of sheet solder, not pastes I haven’t seen
much copper sheet solder and it’s hard to make a eutectic bond with
copper on copper without using a zinc containing additive as is in
even paste solder for copper and I’m doubting this person is going
to teach you guys to make your own copper solder ( simply- copper
filings, boric acid and zinc oxide paste will work in the right
proportions to make different hardnesses as eutectic bonds require
each piece of metal to reach the liquidus stage concurrently, or at
the exact same time and temperature then they bond together as the
crystalline structure of copper consumes the crystals from the
other’s side becoming like a single continuous piece best
illustrated if you were to make little domed circles soldering the
seam to make a final lentil or bead). I do wonder what the projects
are as you may not want to design something you wouldn’t consider
wearing or giving or keeping to serve as a reminder of that first bad
( or good ) class you took!! In fact finding out what the project is
/are may help you decide if its worth it at all…rer

my suggestion is don't go. You can learn more on your own with a
good manual... 

Funny, I thought the poster wanted to offer courses and was asking
what is acceptable in terms of content and pricing.

When I retired (as an educator) in 2011, I was being paid $35/hr for
my fulltime position, and would get $25/hr for parttime lectures. I
do a basic chemistry lecture now, that lasts two hours and that is a
$50 fee. I do it for a friend (former student) so I don’t make money
on it, as I spend about $30 in gas to get to his site and back home.


If you live in Los Angeles area go the website Sterling Design Jill.
I teach in Pasadena all levels and you walk away with a cool piece.
take alook. jill

Mr. Grau is correct… I was asking: “What is charged for similar
classes elsewhere?” I apparently did not make it clear. I have been
asked to teach a very beginning class or two for hobbyists on initial
steps in cutting/sawing/soldering. I suggested using copper due to
lower cost. I found a copper solder that is said to work like medium
silver solder, so the soldering experience should be similar to some
silver work.

The gallery location is what the requestor has available. I was
hoping to show that these classes should be very low cost. If someone
wishes to continue, they could acquire their own tools and books and
work on their own at home.

I am a hobby smith. The person at the gallery wants to learn and
have others learn too. He has asked me several times over 3 years to
do this and has not found anyone else to teach this. I know of no
hobby type classes or workshops for silversmithing here. The local
University may have semester long credit classes, but only for
enrolled Art Majors, not for hobbyists. (ee)

I also appreciate the comments previously given by others. I feel
that ‘Something’ may be better than ‘Nothing’, however I may be
wrong. Maybe I should forget doing this since it is not an ideal
setup? Any additional suggestions would be appreciated.

Thank you.
M in Michigan

Hi there,

I’ve lost the original post, so I don’t remember the OP’s name.

Couple of things, regarding some of the things that’ve come up in
this thread.

To the OP: You might want to clarify what you mean by
"Silversmithing". To me, trained as a silversmith, that means you’re
planning on teaching people to do large(ish) silver vessels or
holloware & tableware. (Bowls, vessels, etc.) It seems a tad unlikely
to me that your average gallery has the tooling to teach that
effectively. I’d be delighted to discover that I’m wrong, but the
odds are against it. (Raising vessels requires lots of stakes and
hammers, and they’ve gotten rare of late.) If you’ve got a stash of
stakes, you have a rare resource, and should take advantage of it.

If you just mean “jewelry not made of gold”, you might want to call
it ‘metalsmithing’ or ‘introductory jewelry making’ or something. As
you’ve discovered, ‘silversmithing’ and ‘goldsmithing’ are loaded
words for many people.

As far as pricing goes, that’s a touchy subject. I’m doing a weekend
workshop class at the local college. 4 hours on saturdays, for 6
weeks, for $90, but I’m doing it strictly for fun. Weirdly enough, I
actually enjoy teaching. If I were doing a full-on course, I’d be
charging somewhere between $35-50/contact hour.

The adult-ed system where I used to teach was largely state
supported until that all exploded, and the courses were about $50/9
weeks (3hrs week), but then once they transitioned to full self
funding, that went up to about $200.

When the weekend course started, it was at $125/6 weeks, and we
discovered a real inflection point at $100. Above $100, we had
trouble. Below, it fills. Since I’m doing it for reasons beyond
money, it was OK to take the price down, but what works for me may
not work for your guy.

I think you’ll have to be guided largely by what the market will
bear. Look around at what’s being offered in your community, and let
common sense guide you.


Would anyone like on the Stuller Sterlium Plus, as well
the Continuum Silver?

Andy “The Tool Guy” Kroungold

Hi Andy,

Yes, I would appreciate some tech tips on working with Sterlium. I
have some sheet, but have not played with it yet. You can respond
offline if no one else asks for the info.

Thanks, Judy in Kansas

For my classes in Santa Monica, CA the Adult-Ed school charges about
$5 per class hour. That covers my salary, overhead, maintenance
items, and consumable supplies (acetylene gas, silver solders,
copper sheet, etc). No precious metals or gemstones are provided.

I also run an occasional three night, nine hour beginning
silversmithing class to make a silver pendant with bezel set stone
where all tools, gemstones and silver supplies are included.
Beginners walk out wearing their piece, stamped polished and
patinated, all for $68.


Good morning,

I taught a very basic course last year and it was well received. I am
just a beginer myself and did this on behalf of the Gem Club and just
to break even. i had four students and charged $35.00 per class
including material. The classes were as follows

First Saturday - Sawed out 1" circle and 2 - 7/8" circles out of
silver for pendant and earings. Had the students texture them with
the back end of a body shop hammer and domed with dapping block.
Second - 18 x 25 stone mountd in silver for ring, bezel set. Third -
18 x 25 stone mounted in silver for a pendant bezel set… Fourth -
Project of their choice (within Reason)

I have taught 3 of these 4 week sessions and 2 0r 3 of these students
have purchased their own tools and continued on.

I will be doing another one this March, we can only have 4 students
at a time because of space, but I wouldn’t want many more.

I think after the smoke cleared the Club actually made a few dollars
on the classes as I didn’t charge for my time.


My wife just did a basic metal smithing class at our rock clubs
clubhouse, She used copper, copper solder (could only find copper
solder in a 1 pound roll, and it will last our lifetime,lol) and
some relatively cheap gemstones and cabachons. She charged $15 and
donated that to the club. While she was doing that, I taught basic
slabbing and cabbing in our rock shop, at $2 per person and that also
went to our club.

I think the big thing is to pass it on and keep another generation
rolling along.

All had fun!!!
Dave Leininger

It seems as though we have been all over the place in this
thread! First, in my opinion, if the requester wants this class, then
you have a student already. Go for it! Make the best plans you can
and adjust as you go. Price: It’s hard to set a price for this kind
of class since there is nothing to compare it to. I would honestly
just take a shot in the dark and set an arbitrary price that seems
fair to you. If people come, and the class goes well, then you hit
upon the right price. It may sound silly, but there’s no real
standardization for this sort of thing. Ask your gallery person if
your ideas seem fair to him/her, adjust, and move forward. Specifics
may not be the same where you are, so so read on with that mindset.
I live in the Poconos, and I teach basic silver jewelry fabrication
at a couple of bead shops locally. I charge a bit more than most of
the beading teachers, and that seems about right here. I charge
about $10/hour for each student, plus a small fee for the shop. This
works out to $35 for a 3 hr class ($30 for me and $5 to the shop) or
$45 for a 4 hr class (same arrangement). This fee is charged to each
student, so if I have a full class (that’s about 8 or 9 people), I
make out well for my afternoon of work.

Often, I only have 1-3 people. I don’t do as well financially, but
we have fun, the students enjoy the process, and I still enjoy the
day and find it worthwhile.Sharing tools - best when you don’t need
to, but it can work if not overdone. Keep a sense of humor.
(Seriously!) I suggest creating a tool list and supply list for the
basic tools that each student will need. Make sure, if possible that
students have these lists before beginning. If you are only teaching
your acquaintance, he can surely borrow your tools. If there are
more, you will run into a jam in a situation like saw piercing,
where everyone really needs their own saw frame. If you have a
couple of extras, great. If not, make sure you are charging enough
to purchase a spare or two of those few things that really can’t be
shared. You may want to institute a class fee for supplying things
like torches, fuel, flux.

saw blades, bench blocks, etc. as loaners. You may not get
reimbursed fully for any investment you incur, but if your class
goes well, and you teach it again, that next fee may pay you back
and allow for your investment in other tools for a group. another
alternative: Students may be willing to purchase from a list you
bring to the first class, and you can place an order for them for
very basic supplies that they will keep. Decide on the class content
with attention to the tools that will be required, and keep the
tools basic. Classes: Will your classes be skill oriented or project
oriented? (Will your students come out of class with a finished
product to wear?) That will determine the structure and goal of your
classes. Mine are always project oriented, and I look for projects
that can teach basic skills, don’t require too many tools or
materials, and that will be attractive enough to draw students. I
work very hard to create projects, make samples (which are displayed
in the shop for a few weeks before class), write supply lists, and
create written project instructions, and plan the general structure
of the lesson before I ever set foot in the door of the shop.

I recommend that you do a run-through of each class before you run
it, anticipating student questions, writing lists of supplies and
tools used, etc.

Ex: You mentioned sawing, that was the first class I taught, a= nd
it was a good choice. No fire, I was able to lend the group bench
pins (scrap wood and c clamps when I ran out) and they shared my 2
bench blocks and my little anvil. The store was prepared with tools:
1 dozen saw blades per student, saw frames - they had to come in with
their own or buy one from the shop, I only had 2 to lend. I provided
small copper sheets. If they wanted to make a silver pendant, they
had to come in with silver or buy it there. A couple of candles or
tubes of bur life, some 400 sandpaper, and we were set. The limiting
factor in that class was the saw frames. For holes (internal cuts) I
used a metal punch. After some basics (saw blade sizes, etc), we
learned to put blades in the frames, did some sawing practice in
copper, punched some discs out with my disc cutter (this was a real
hit), and pierced pendants.You can do this! Need more ideas, etc,
email me off-group. Good luck with it! Lisa