[Favorite tips] Request for more

Hi everyone, one of the things I really like about this site is the
wealth of that is shared! I would like to ask members to
send their favorite technique, whatever they find they use all the
time and get great results, or simply reduce the amount of pulling out
your hair in fustration! Doesn’t matter the topic; goldsmithing,
setting, anything at all.

Thanks, Tara


G’day Take a small pair of El Cheepo flat nosed pliers with plain
jaws. Open it as wide as you can and hold the handle in a bench vice.
Take a fine triangular Swiss-type file and file a groove along the
centre of the length of the jaw. Now file a groove across the jaw (90
degrees to the other one) and 5 - 6 mm from the end of the jaw.
Repeat the exercise on the other jaw, taking great care to get the
grooves exactly opposite each other. It only takes a few minutes and
you will be very glad you did it next time you have to hold fine
wires in pliers. Cheers, –
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ


Goodmoring All,

Wrap the ends of your pliers with “MOLESKIN” (no, not the little
animals)…hee hee…The stuff you get from the drugstore to put on
your feet (bunions and stuff)…Susan Chastain

Hi all- One of my favorite tool tips is this - I use those sanding
sticks with the thumbscrew tensioner that they sell in all the tool
catalogs all the time ,however a little tweaking makes them much more
usefull. First off I don’t use the type of sandpaper they come with,
instead I use the 3m crystal bay emery cloth in coarse, med and fine-
much more durable and a better cut .Second , take a piece of thin
(about 1/8 inch) rubber foam and epoxy it down one side and use this
on half round bands and all other domed surfaces this works like a
charm on all domed surfaces . Try it ,you’ll like it.

Have fun - Scott Empey - Prism designs

Ever had to drill a hole in assymetrical earrings, then had them hang
crooked? Never again with Karen’s tweezers! Take a pair of cheap
tweezers with pointy ends, yank the 2 arms apart (about twice as far
as they normally are) then using pliers bend the last cm of each arm
inwards, so the points now line up and touch when you squeeze. Now you
can hold a piece of metal up between the points to check for balance,
and if you sqeeze harder you can mark your spot too! karen in

Scott, along the same line as “sanding sticks” I love to use the
"fingernail emery boards" that are actually made of Si paper on both
sides of a medium hard foam. You can get then in the cosmetic area at
any drug or grocery store. They vary in size but most are 3/4 inch
wide by 7 inches long. Most have different grits on each side and
some are thinner than others. They are super for sanding rounds, hard
to get places, etc and can be used on metal, stone, plastics, etc. I
make a lot of black coral jewelry and they are like my right hand for
smoothing the coral. When when get a bit worn they are great for
giving a semi-polish.

Cheers, from Don at The Charles Belle Studio where simple elegance IS
fine jewelry!

Hello All: I size allot of David Yurmon, Steven Lagos and other rings
with heat sensitive stones and so I use this about 2 times a day on
average. I have tried all those cool jewel type products and this
beats them. Although wet sand offers some advantages, such as
supporting the item that is to be soldered, Granules of sand rely on
capillary attraction to stay wet. If the heat of the torch is enough
to vaporize the water faster than it can travel through the sand the
stone or other heat sensitive item, may become hot enough to thermally
crack or crack as the heat from the torch is removed and the water
travels back through the sand and quenches it.

For an illustrated version of this procedure go to

Sizing rings without removing stones

Whenever you need to size a gold or silver ring with heat sensitive
stones or enameling or you need to size a platinum ring with any
stones or gold accents, you can protect the stones or enamel or
accents by the following method: Make sure that the proposed solder
joint/joints is going to be far enough away from the stones or enamel.
This distance will differ from item to item but will usually be
approximately 10 mm. I have done solder joints as close as maybe 3 mm,
but it is tricky. The thicker or more heat conductive the item is, the
further out of the water your solder joint will need to be in order
for the solder to reach its flow point. Do whatever you need to do to
get the ring to the right size. Pre-flux silver or gold items with
boric and alcohol but don’t burn it on, just let the alcohol
evaporate. Platinum items need not be pre fluxed in this application
since we will be holding the stones under water. Put the ring on your
third-arm tweezers at about 90 degrees from the solder area. Fill a
tuna can or crucible or the like with water. Position the ring in the
water so that the stones are just under water. The more of the shank
that is above water the faster the solder will flow.

If the ring is open backed, I mean to say if the stone or stones are
visible to you through the back of the ring, you will want to pack a
small piece of toilet paper or Vigor Therma-Guard, (that cotton-like
fibrous material that can be soaked with water to insulate things
from heat) over the stone, to protect it from the flame. The pressure
from the flame can move the water away from the stone and cause the
flame to come into contact with the stone.

Once this is set up, you flux the seam (except for platinum) and
either place a chip of solder on the seam or melt it on a charcoal
block or for platinum a non charcoal block and pick it up with a solder
pick. I use a carbide soldering pick.

I solder using my usual Propane/Oxygen on shanks up to about 2 mm x 2
mm in gold or silver. On gold and silver items larger than
approximately 2 mm x 2 mm, I switch my tank to Acetylene/Oxygen. On
platinum I always use Propane/Oxygen because the heat does not sink
away as quickly as with gold or silver and it is not recommended to
ever use Acetylene on platinum. This is an excellent method to weld
platinum with stones set and keep from getting that dark seam from
using less than 1700 solder. It takes a little getting used to,
because the water will start to sizzle. The key is to be hot enough to
get the item soldered in about 10 seconds. See how big a flame you can
make with your torch. Chances are if you do not have an
Acetylene/Oxygen set up you will have little success on large gold or
silver items with this method. Because the water is sinking the heat
as fast as you can provide it, the flame must be bigger than your
good sense would normally allow. If you use a “Little Torch” use a #6
or #7 tip. Always leave the ring in the water after you solder or
weld. Grab it with another pair of tweezers or using another pair of
tweezers, dab water onto the third-arm tweezers until they quit
sizzling and are cool enough to touch, or pick up your third-arm base
and, without removing the stones from the water, submerge the entire
ring until it is cool. Be very careful that you do not burn yourself
on the third-arm tweezers as they can get very hot during this
process. Usually on silver I flow the solder on the outside of
the shank first then come from under the shank to pull it through.

Michael R. Mathews Sr. Victoria,Texas USA

I tried to bend a pointy-tweezer and the tip snapped off. So is it
necessary to to this when the tweezers are red hot? Will some tweezers
bend better than others? Rene Roberts

    Take a pair of cheap tweezers with pointy ends, yank the 2 arms
apart (about twice as far as they normally are) then using pliers
bend the last cm of each arm inwards, so the points now line up and
touch when you squeeze. Now you can hold a piece of metal up between
the points to check for balance, and if you sqeeze harder you can
mark your spot too!   

What a simple but excellent idea! I too have put the holes in the
wrong place! May I add a microscopic little to that? On reading
Karen’s tip, I modified a pair of pointed tweezers like she suggests,
but of course, the marks didn’t show on agate or jade - too hard. So
I put a dab of marker pen in roughly the right place, then used the
tweezers to mark the dab. I use a tiny diamond drill to make an
indent on that spot - and then I’m in business. Thanks Karen. –
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

I have a similiar set up, only instead of tweezers I bought a cheap
set of dividers with a screw adjustment and bent the ends in. It is
most likely larger than the tweezers (I’ll have to make one of those,
too - can’t have too many tools). It’s handy sometimes to have the
ability to set the screw and leave it in place.

Thanks again for all the great sharing.


Good quality tweezers are made of steel containing approx. 0.45%
carbon. They have been hardened, and on a rather high temperature
annealed. (Blue colour). So you get strong elastic steel with a rather
hard surface. If you are bending this steel more than 20%, it will
break. So what to do, heat up the tweecer until it gets dull red. And
let it cool down. Now you can bend the tweezers. You also can do it
when the tweezers is still dull red. After you achieved the correct
shape. Heat the tips up to cherry red (yellow red), and quench it in
water. Now anneal it, until you get a purple/blue colour. It is
advisable to use green soap on the tweezers before heating it up, so
it will stay clean after quenching it.

Martin Niemeijer

Another tip, which is kind of a take off on Johns’ & Karens’…

Take a pair of small crosslock soldering tweezers, and file them
blunt (squared off to about an eighth inch) About 1/16 to 1/8" back
from this edge, file a fine groove into them to hold wires of
whatever guage you might be using. File the groove a bit smaller than
the guage, so the jaws don’t meet around the wire.

These are handy when soldering wires to plate. An example would be
threaded earring posts… you can come up with a dozen other uses
for them.

On the subject of earrings… you can make an economical clamp for
holding pearl studs out of wooden clothespins. Simply cut a slot for
clearance of the post into one jaw. You need to get the pearl to rest
in the half round indentation on the opposite side. The spring of the
clothespin will hold every thing in place for the longer
setting/stronger epoxies. I have some that are slotted, others that
are drilled. They make handy non marring clamps for other uses around
the shop too…

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
704 W. Swain Rd.
Stockton, CA 95207
209-477-6731 - Office/Fax
209-477-6535 - Workshops/Classroom

Tara-- Here’s a favorite tip of mine. If you need it, its a lifesaver.
If you are impatient, and try a stone in a bazel too soon, and it gets
stuck, you can almost always get it out by putting it in a box with a
little extra space–say, the size sheets of wax come in, or larger–and
shaking it like a maniac. Hardly ever fails. One other tecnique I
couldn’t get along without is for delicate soldering, such as bezels
on large backs. I have strips of titanium, maybe 3/8" wide and 2"
long, bent into a “V” shape. If you set them on your block (on a
turntable helps too) with the points facing inward, and set your piece
on them, you can heat from underneath without the heat sink of a steel
tripod. The flame is aimed diagonally don and under, and bounces back
up at the workpiece. Copper or brass will work too, but Ti is best
because it doesn’t absorb much heat at all, and cannot possibly solder
to your piece. Hope you like these! --Noel

While living in Taxco, Mexico - I was constantly amazed at the
inventiveness of Mexican artisans. In a 10’ x 10’ dirt floored shop,
with maybe a $100 worth of hand tools that were not even designed for
the jewelry trade - I would watch them make anything I can make in a
shop with over $100, 000 in tools and equipment! (It just takes
longer. The average wage at the time was 6 - 8 dollars a day, and it
is not a whole lot higher now…)

For example: A silversmith had an order for a few dozen fairly
complicated pierced (sawn) designs… He would scribe the first
piece, saw it out, and then make rubber stamp of it from some
vulcanizable mold rubber. Using the “negative” sheet, this was done
in the kitchen oven, utilizing a couple of “C” clamps and two steel
plates. Then he would glue a piece of paper (always scrap - sometimes
a page from a newspaper or a piece of a paper bag - they waste
nothing!) to the silver sheet. Using the hand made “rubber stamp”,
glued to a wood block, and some homemade “ink” - he would transfer
the designs to the paper. Some shops had literally hundreds of these
rubber stamp patterns on file for various customers…

Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
704 W. Swain Rd.
Stockton, CA 95207
209-477-6731 Office/Fax
209-477-6535 Workshop/Classroom

Hello all!

Those small ball burs (.005 or so sizes) we all find useful for stone
setting needs, finishing etc. I have found if you put 4 (more or less
probably works) facets on the end at around a 45 degree angle they
cut quite well. You might hold the shank vertical to your stone or
sharpening wheel to take the point off sharply. You can of course
sharpen them many times. Since they don’t last long it’s nice to get
more mileage out of them when needed.

Tip #2 use an old piece of 100 grit sandpaper or what-have-you on the
paper side of a sanding disc. If you catch it before it starts to
wear thin, you will hardly fray another one again. Just dress with
sandpaper when they begin to cut poorly. I use them down to the
grommet for small detail next to prongs, etc. A 9mm sanding disc is
nice to have when you need one.


Dear Brian, How right you are ! I have observed the same thing in
Africa and Brazil . It is mind boggling how inventive third world
people can be! In our “Seven Eleven” culture we have traded
cleverness for convenience and take it for granted that problem
solving is just a matter of having the right gizmo to do a particular
job. We buy our way out of challenges instead of exercising our most
precious asset…our brain. Awhile back we were all
concerning ourselves about the deprived technology of those artisans
in the Himalayan countries. We condescendingly assumed that our
technology was indispensable and looked down our noses at those poor
disadvantaged people. I had a rude awakening recently when a customer
brought in a broach which she had purchased through a catalog
merchant. It was sterling silver and had nine large flawless garnet
cabochons in bezel settings.It was embellished with twisted wire and
beads and the entire piece was flawlessly executed and beautifully
proportioned…the retail price of the item was forty-nine
dollars and…it came from Nepal…enough said! Ron at
Mills Gem, Los Osos CA.

Brian, What a good idea, I bet you could also use copies made on a
copy machine, then glue them on to the sheet silver. Then, just
file a master copy in a file. Susan Chastain, Enchanted Forest Studio,
(yes, its really in a forest full of 100 year old oaks and pines)
Bell, Florida.

Ron, What is missing in the equation of “us” and “them” is what we
frequently lament right here online is apprenticeship, family, the
passing on of knowledge.

I learned many things from my mother’s hands, just wish she had been
a jeweler.

I traveled extensively for 30 years. Visited many of these countries,
and made it a tradition to buy from the hands of people. Hence the
Niello, Filigree, Amitra, etc.

Look how hard we are trying to trace Granulation. It appears Jean
Stark has a wonderful handle on that courtesy of Randy Smith’s web

Mexican silversmiths do very fine work with rudimentary tools.

The arrogance of attitude saddles us far more than we are willing to
admit. Sad but true. Teresa

That homemade ink is probably similar to GAK which is the name and
formula I got off a homecraft webpage:

[Ingredients: Jar containing 1/4 cup Borax dissolved in 1 quart
water. 1 cup Elmer’s glue. 1 cup water. Food colouring. Jar with
lid to mix the glue and water. Paper cups and other container for

Pour the glue, water and a few drops of food coloring together in the
jar, put on the lid, and shake hard. You now have two jars of
solution: a Borax solution and a glue solution. Any three to one
(3:1) measure of glue solution to Borax will create GAK. For
example, one tablespoon Borax solution and three tablespoons glue
solution will make a small quantity while 1/3 cup of Borax solution
to one cup glue solution makes a huge amount. GAK will act like
Silly Putty and copy newsprint when laid over the paper (comics are
fun). Store in a Ziplok bag.]

Kelvin Mok

    Brian, What a good idea,  I bet you could also use copies made
on a copy machine, then glue them on to the sheet silver.   

G’day: I scan all sorts of things at a high resolution, and file them
in a non lossy format, and keep them in a zip disc (it gets filled
quite soon enough). Then when I’m searching for inspiration and
ideas. I look through the file, select an item - say a butterfly,
then pull it into my Paint Shop Pro, re size it even in the butterfly
case - down to 3mm across. I edge enhance it, increase contrast, and
print several on a sheet of sticky paper. I can then cut out a pic
and stick it down to a piece of sheet sterling, and pierce out the
shape. The pierced sheet is cut into a suitable sheer, and used in a
piece of jewellery. Saves a whole lot of messing about. Cheers, –

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ