Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Help in Teaching metal class

I have just been hired to teach beginning and advanced jewelry at a
local community college. I have been teaching Art History for the
last two years there, and when the Metals position opened, it was
offered to me. Couldn’t pass up such an exciting offer… But, I have
never taught metals before. First classes will be safety safety
safety… after that it is open… Any helpful suggestions would be
appreciated from all you wonderful people out there.

I have a cup of coffee with you every day, and soak up all the great
Thanks in advance…

Joan Dulla

well, although i’ve only had limited experience teaching
jewellery–teaching simple chains(teaching retired people who have
never picked up even a pair of pliers before, ever) the challenge
i’ve found is to have enough projects to go around for all levels of
accomplishment before even starting the course… hope this helps
…congratulations on your new position! erhard.

Well why not start with teaching people how to cast their own metal to
form sheets & wire , and then start up with small projects to teach
soldering, annealing, work hardening. Which they can use the metal
that they made for their projects.

And then get a little fancier with wire inlays, or embossing.

Just a thought, I’m a newbie with learning metalsmithing myself.


One thing, or actually several, you need to invest in: compressed
charcoal blocks. These are made with the brand name of PANA, from
Germany. The only drawback with them is that you can’t just push in
jigs and tables (have to drill a hole first). But, they really hold up
well for students. I’ve been using one for about 2 years now for my
regular soldering. It’s about 1/2 the height it used to be, from me
sanding it down occasionally to get a level surface, but they don’t
break up like regular ones. I use another for my granulation. I’ve
probably done around a 1,000 granules, give or take a couple hundred,
with very little degradation. You can’t say that about a regular
charcoal block.

Usual disclaimer here.

Hi Joan; Here’s my favorite "safety in the shop"
lecture/demonstration. For the first class, bring some medical
adhesive tape, some gauze pads, and a tennis ball or two. First, have
everybody tape a gauze pad over one eye. Then, have them tape their
right index finger and right thumb together. Now, instruct them to
untie and re-tie one of their shoes. Have them try to open and
re-close a button or two on a shirt. Have them try to shake hands
with someone. Toss the tennis balls to them and let them see how
difficult it is to catch one without any depth of field. Post this
little sign in the shop: “Hand tools hurt. . . Power tools maim.” By
the way, hope you enjoy teaching. Feel free to ask for all the
advise you could possibly stomach. I’ve had 4 years teaching in
community college and a couple years as a grad student teaching
assistant. My degrees are in metalsmithing.

David L. Huffman


My .02 from lots of teaching. First off adults are destination
driven. If the first several classes will be on safety and nothing
else, you will lose your audience immediately. Every class is
different and everyone teaches different things. For the beginners,
we teach how to make a simple silver band ring, a pendant or brooch
with a set stone. Along the way we give them demos every week in
roller printing, hammer textures, soldering, piercing, cold
connections, measuring, flex shaft tips, drilling and integrate
safety throughout. For the first class, or even before the first
class, I ask the beginners to make a found object necklace with a
theme. All the necklaces from my previous classes are hanging up in
the studio. Bringing the necklaces and talking about them is a good
ice breaker.

Intermediate courses range from more stone setting, epoxy inlay,
design, forging, fold forming, hydrolic press, photoetching, hollow
forming, etc. Adults want to take home jewelry. They want to make
something for their cousin Hilda. If they keep coming back, then
they settle down and get much more into process and less destination.
For my intermediate students, I have them transform a shoe and bring
it to class. It is nothing about metalsmithing, but pure creativity.
I have gotten some very cool shoes!

Somebody mentioned on this forum, that no matter how small the size
of the class, a certain percentage will be quick learners and be very
motivated. Another percentage will move along at a steady pace, and
a few, no matter how much time and effort you put in, will never get
it. And if you find one that is dangerous to themselves and others,
you have the right to send them packing. It only happened once to
me, but I was glad I took the inititative.

Don’t worry about screwing up a demo either. It happens to me from
time to time, and the students love to see that you are human. The
hardest thing the adults are going to find is that their vision will
keep them from seeing tiny objects like sawblades. When I gave them
a dozen in their kit, they were amazed to find how small one of those
blades were.

Bring in work of your own, slides of others’ work and laugh a lot.
Your background in art history will be an asset.

You will be great I’m sure. Best of luck and let us know how you are


I start students off with about six inches of copper grounding wire.
The objective is to make a bangle bracelet with two planes . . . the
ends splay sideways and the middle vertical. The students learn to to
file ends, forge with direction, anneal, bend and shape, plus sanding,
filing and buffing. I get a lot of mileage out of this bit of wire. It
looks super if it is made up in silver latter. The students don’t have
to worry about melting precious metal and if the size gets away from
them, we whack off the ends and then they get even more hammer
practice. I give them outlines on basic soldering, tool use and
identification. They also get papers on how to buy silver, and what I
think is important things to remember when planing functional jewelry.
After this, they get an approximately two by three inch inch if
roofing copper. With this, they drill a hole to pierce and then sweat
solder the removed piece to the original. I then give them a brass
wire and show them how to make a safety pin type back to solder on. Of
course, again they are filing sanding buffing etc. Again, they don’t
worry about cost and I tell them that they are learning their ABC’s
and not making a creative statement.

Marilyn Smith

Could you decribe the bracelet project in a little more detail. It
sounds like something I wuld like to add to my silversmithing
classes. Helen in Ct.