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Do you make your own tools?

Do you make your own tools, and If yes what are they? Are there are
tools that you would like to have, but they are not available or too
expensive? I am not talking about machinery. I mean hand tools. The
reason I am asking is that I was approached about making a DVD about
tools used in goldsmith shop. I put it on back burner, but the
subject of “Setters hold” have brought it into focus. I am curious if
this is the subject which holds any interest. Mention toolmaking and
it conjures imagery of of large shop filled with all kind of
machines, but it does not have to be so. Quite a lot can be
accomplished with few simple tools, which a goldsmith already has.

Leonid Surpin

An interesting question Leonid, When I started my apprenticeship as
a goldsmith 50 years ago, I was encouraged to make many of my own
tools, as tool shops did not stock as many specialist tools as they
do today. My first self made tool was a joint filing tool, a tool
for filing tubes when making hinges. This was made out of the tang
end of a large flat file and I still use this tool today although I
have since made a thinner model from tool steel. I also made all of
my chasing and texturing tools from tool steel rods. I make my lead
blocks, for hammering shapes into, from scrap lead and also have
ground many stock shape hammers into shapes that suit special
hammering jobs. I also customize needle files and gravers to give me
shapes that I can use.

Peace and good health to all,
James Miller FIPG.

I am the proud owner of some of Leonid’s DVD’s, and I think would be
a superb subject. At this point I am not quite at the point of being
able to fully utilize his DVD’s, but I’ve watched them many times,
picking up things here and there that I can do, which has made the
learning process so much easier.

I’ve made some of my own tools, and really enjoy it. I, for one,
would love to know more about the process and, knowing how in depth
Leonid’s DVD’s are, I know it would be great.


When I started making jewelry I had no idea what I was doing, but
some idea how I wanted to do it. I made my own tools from bits of
stuff I found around the garage or the house.

It’s so much easier to grab a stick or a piece of wire and whittle or
whack it into the shape(s) needed for the task at hand than it is to
find someone who knows what I need to do and has created appropriate
tools for it, assuming that such a person even exists.

I learned from my father (who would rather fiddle with things
salvaged from a dumpster than buy things from a store) that
everything I encounter can be regarded as either tools, materials, or
both. It’s a lesson that has served me well.


Yes, I make my own tools. Here are a couple of PDFs showing

A special jig that was used in the construction of a diamond ring

It shows the jig in use and the completed platinum ring.

A special tool that I made to bend up collets.

For small collets I find it difficult to form them ready for using
the collet block without denting or bruising the metal. The tool I
designed performs the operation with ease and works with any sized

Regards, Gary Wooding

Do you make your own tools, and If yes what are they? 

Punches and chasing tools, of course! If I need a new one I don’t
have, it usually takes less time to make one than it would to buy it.
I have also made a lot of carving tools, like gravers, for working
wax and plaster.

Some jewelers treat steel like it is a great mystery, requiring some
kind of special skill that they don’t have. The hardening and
tempering heat treatment, which can be fussy with some alloys but
amounts to a couple minutes with a torch if you use W1 water
hardening steel. Usually that is all you need and it is very easy.

Steve Walker

There are 2 threads in your post.

1, do we make our own tools?

  1. making a DVD about the tools used in a goldsmiths shop.

Looking at 1, Any full time and professional gold, silver and applied
art smith including iron, will make tools that simplify his work, or
buy them in when making them isnt economic. That brings up what your
time is worth, doing what each of you do. Each and every hour you put
in at your craft should return you what you think your time is worth.
If your lucky enough to have rich and wealthy patrons then you can
devote more time to hand work. If however the market for your
products is in a different price range then you may have to mechanise
more to get the prices down and still make what your time is worth.

This then leads into answering 2.

It depends who approached you, is it a DVD publishing co? if so what
renumeration are they offering for the 50 hrs of time its likely to
take? then are they free to sell the DVD on their commercial
outlets? with a percentage to you from every sale? or not? So if its
an outright sale then its 50 times your hourly rate. Otherwise theres
no point in doing it. We all know how much it costs every day just to
sit at home with one feet on the table, so why work for less for
someone else? sorry to be so hard nosed about it, but in the cold
light of dawn that the way I see it, if I was approached for my

I don’t have the original post to reply to, but I am a retired auto
technician and I have made specialized tools all of my life. I get
about as much satisfaction from making tools as creating jewelry and
cutting stones. Most of the tools I have made are for stamping or
repose or jigs for repetitive bends or shapes. I enjoy buying cross
peen hammers at the flea markets and cutting to flat surface to make
texturizing hammers. I make an adjustable ring shank and I made the
tools to make the shank smaller. It is just fun thinking up ways of
making a job easier and making a tool for it.

Ken Moore

Growing up on a very modest horse ranch in rural Wyoming, one of the
first lessons I learned as a lad was; if you need it and don’t have
it, you’ll probably have to make ityourself.

Even though perhaps not everyone makes a lot of their own jewelry
tools, most goldsmiths have to modify some tools to suit their
particular uses. A simple example is sawing and piercing. Finely
detailed work often requires specialized tools, and making
adjustments and refinements to needle and escapement files is to be
expected. Many times we have to make a special tool for just one

Most of us also make modifications to pliers and hammers and use odds
and ends of wood for blocks and dapping forms and make chisels and
punches from the worn and broken steel tools readily at hand.

I see a great area of need for more instruction in simple tool making
for the new practitioners of our craft. Some of us older
practitioners might like some pointers also. I know I would.


Yes, I make my own tools. Here are a couple of PDFs showing

Outstanding Gary!

Ken Moore

I asked my students what they would like me to teach next, and
making their own tools (chasing tools, forge, etc.) was very high on
the list.

Any full time and professional gold, silver and applied art smith
including iron, will make tools that simplify his work, or buy them
in when making them isnt economic. That brings up what your time is
worth, doing what each of you do. Each and every hour you put in at
your craft should return you what you think your time is worth. 

There are two ways to answer that. Many goldsmith on this forum and
everywhere else, started their training with tool making. This done
not necessarily because tools were not available, but because it is
a good way to acquire necessary dexterity and start thinking in terms
of construction. Soldering is not a factor in tool-making, so parts
have to be fitted and other methods than soldering have to be
considered. This is very useful experience to have. A beginner can
avoid a lot of grief, if reaching for torch impulse is controlled.
Also filing is quicker learned on steel than on softer precious
alloys, and many other useful habits are developed as well.

The other benefit is that no matter how well equipped your shop is,
there are always come a time when design just does not yield to
conventional tools. Specially made tools are the solution in there
cases. An ability to recognize these situations and been able to
design and make these special contraptions are the direct result of
tool-making stage of training. I think that overemphasis of economic
consideration is a mistake. Goldsmith must treat his/her time as an
investor and not as an accountant. Not every investment pays off
right away, but eventually dividends do come in.

Leonid Surpin

1 Like

I’d appreciate the tutorials. I am a novice who would like to make or
alter some tools, but it intimidates me. Seeing someone else do it
would be very helpful.

Katherine S. Margolis

I haven’t done a lot of toolmaking, but I have started to take an
interest in ferrous toolmaking. I’ve made and hardened some Japanese
style metal-carving chisels, which I’m rather proud of, just using a
bench grinder and a torch. I occasionally make unusual tools for my
medieval work - I recently made a tiny brass swage for beading
sub-millimetre wire. I did try to make an organarium once, for the
same purpose, but that was an epic fail. Epic.

I’m no setter or engraver, but I was lucky enough to do a short
course with John Russell in Birmingham, where we spent the first
morning making gravers. At the time, I thought it was a waste of half
a day, but now I have a grasp of the angles…etc. None of this was
covered in my apprenticeship, but I do think it’s a really important
part of the trade, and maybe any other tool-using profession. It’s
cheap, too - those chisels cost 50p each,whereas I recken they cost
UKP 10-15 each from a shop.

Jamie Hall

Hey Steve,

I often get quizzical looks from quite advanced jewellers (including
some goldsmiths). When you come from a more industrial background, a
lot of what I do with steel I take for granted.

For example :- buy a box of 100 square section black spring washers,
and you can have 100 chasing tools, or 100 chisels, 100 knives…
etc. etc. etc.

Spring steel is very forgiving, and if you make a mistake with the
heat treatment, you can simply start again, until you get it right

Regards Charles A.
P.S. I feel like I am offering something of equal value in trade when I
can answer their questions in return for them answering mine :slight_smile:

Yes, I make my own tools. Here are a couple of PDFs showing

Gary, you are a gentleman for sharing, I appreciate it :slight_smile: CIA

I've made some of my own tools, and really enjoy it. I, for one,
would love to know more about the process and, knowing how in
depth Leonid's DVD's are, I know it would be great. 

The DVD would have to be very specific though, as general tool
making has been done to death.

If it wasn’t specific, then there’d be no difference between the
proposed DVD and the other too making DVD’s currently on the market.

Make a chisel make a chasing tool.

What I would like to see is a good DVD or book on making induction
furnaces. A tool not specifically for the jewellery trade, but still
useful for us.

I think jewellery techniques are far more marketable, and technique
DVD’s haven’t been done to death, like tool making has been.

Regards Charles A.

Your from a very useful background. Now to think about making tools
for a specific job, i guess the following was the biggest undertaking
ive done here. I was already in 1985/7 showing and selling my work at
large shows with my own exhibition tent.

some 20 by 10 ft, with a working area and a sales area. when I got my
1 st drop hammer, ex Birmingham jewellery quarter, instead of
building it into the fabric of my workshops,what was the normal thing
to do with it, I wanted to take it with me to shows to mint a coin,
or medal or plaque At the exhibition For the exhibition. 1st dream up
a framework for it to replicate a permanent installation, then make
it easily and quickly dismantleable. Then modify my commercial truck
to 7.5 ton capacity to add this piece of kit to the rest of what I
take with me.

Well, a years work of a day aweek and the results were fine. That
needed lots of arc welding, steel fabrication and then wood work, and
lots of struggling!! as it had to not only work well but look good

the original castings were from 1880 so all the construction had to
be in period. Square headed nuts and bolts etc varnished wood, and
polished steel work.

This 1st setup had an anvil of 1 ton, which takes some handling in
and out of the truck, positioning on its base lining up the guides
etc. Takes a day to set up.

Anyway the results justified the effort.

At the Great Dorset Steam fair in 1989 I minted a plaque some 2in by
3in oval, over the 5 days 1000 sold off the hammer!! That die became
the basic shape for a whole range of designs, ie the blanking tool in
a 6 ton power press prepared all the blanks i took with me.

This shape also lent itself to making a fine buckle, minted in
silver, bronze and brass.

I then had a similar design die with a steam engine on it in a 1in
button size. They also sell very well.

This setup was seen at that event, and resulted in sponsorship to
events all over Europe to mint products for patrons.

One example was to mint 500 silver medals for a Castle on the Rhein
nr Solingen. Some yrs I bought a season ticket for my ferry trip from
the Uk to the Europe main land, the last big project was a hot forged
bronze plaque for the 40th anniversary of the GDS FAir. Some 2500 off.
The 50 th year will be here soon, so thats in preparation as of now.
Funnily enough, making a non oxydising atmosphere muffle propane
fired, was the trickiest thing to get right.

I thought it might be interesting (to me) to briefly try and think
of tools I’ve made over the… eons. Let’s see… teenage jewelry
and machine shop… rounded mill cutters to make a doming block, the
doming block, ring mandrel, casting machine parts, hand filed belt
buckle and concho punches, tufa carving tools, sandcasting boxes,
clay and woodworking tools.

As a grownup, working for manufacturers… a few jigs and things for
production fabrication and soldering, a few custom stamps made from
old files (Southwestern Silversmithing 101). Things got more
interesting after my last regular job, when I was partners with a
couple of guys trying to make a go of their/our own small operation.
I built my first sit-down, leg-powered, bracelet doming ‘machine’,
and in '86 became obsessed with the RT/Pancake die process. This was
before the Bonny Doon equipment came out, so I had to revamp the
original RT saw, and muck around with funky presses, which was very
funky indeed, being neither an engineer, machinist, and not having
much in the way of machine shop equipment. Lots of hacksawing and
filing in those days. I also built from scratch a die saw that
allowed me to cut bigger dies. It’s horrible now to think of using
it, as it was strictly arm-powered, with a lot of inertia due to the
size and weight of it’s frame, which springs didn’t completely

Thank goodness Lee Marshall called me up one day around '92. I still
use the sawguides that are self-modified versions of his original
sawguide design (I’ve posted a few times about them, the leg-powered
one and the gearmotor -driven one), and original-design presses .
One of the more interesting things I made was a motorized bracelet
domer that was later cannibalized to make a motorized rolling mill
(using areal rolling mill).

Dar Shelton

I think jewellery techniques are far more marketable, and
technique DVD's haven't been done to death, like tool making has

One depends on the other. Besides, I am not talking about general
toolmaking, but specifically oriented towards goldsmithing. I am
working on my next DVD right now and the problem that I am having is
to limit myself to tools generally available. It would be pointless
to demonstrate technique requiring some special gadget that nobody
has. I am definitely going to miss targeted release date and
probably by much. I am even wondering if I should postpone next DVD
and make a tool making DVD instead.

Leonid Surpin