Need help to work with mild steel

Still seeking help working with steel. I just searched Facebook and
there are not steel jewelry artists groups that I can find. I bought
22 and 24 gauge mild steel today to make a jewelry piece. I don;t
have access to flame to anneal, if I can anneal it (?). Can I etch
it? Drill and pierce to cold connect? Patina? What are the
limitations of mild steel? I’ve only worked with nickel, copper and
brass so far. thx brenda

Jewelry in Steel is best done in combination with the forge studio,
and yes, you can anneal steel, etch it, drill and pierce to cold
connect, saw, drill, rivet, patina, powdercoat, enamel, forge, and a
lot more. The Small Metals Program at the Center for Metal Arts in
downstate NY teaches jewelry in steel and other metals, with an
adjacent forge teaching studio for the best of both worlds. The
Small Metals program provides studio experience in essential skills,
with practice in sawing, piercing. filing, sanding, soldering and
finishing of jewelry in steel, and can be taken in any sequence.

Rhoda Weber Mack
Center for Metal Arts


Mild steel is iron that contains less than about 0.25% carbon. This
low carbon content means that it cannot be hardened to any noticeable
degree. If its been work hardened then it can be annealed by heating
to a dull red and allowing it to cool VERY slowly. It will never get
anywhere near the softness of copper or brass. I would think that
any mild steel plate you buy is already as soft as it will ever get.

If used for jewellery its biggest problem is rust. You can reduce
rusting by chemical blacking, or by heating to a dull red and
quenching in old motor oil (not really recommended for safety
reasons). There are various chemicals that can colour steel, mostly
various shades of blue, black and grey.

If you want to use steel for jewellery, use stainless steel; it can
be worked like mild steel and is highly resistant to rust. There are
many types of stainless steel, so you can browse to find the grade
that’s most suitable.

I’ve not personally found a steel that cannot be silver soldered
(silver brazed), but its possible that grades containing lead will
have problems.

All (non-tool) steels can be drilled and pierced, but some grades of
stainless are notorious for very rapidly work hardening to the
extent that they can blunt saws and drills. Other grades are fine -
you should do your homework.

Still seeking help working with steel. 

There aren’t many people making jewelry with mild steel; it’s not
surprising you couldn’t find groups of them on Facebook. The problem
is that it tends to rust, which will ruin any garment a person
wearing steel jewelry might be wearing when caught in a rainstorm,
or just perspiring. It will also react with the skin, causing
discoloration. People who do make jewelry out of steel generally use
stainless, which doesn’t have that problem.

“Mild” steel is called that because it doesn’t harden, and
consequently it doesn’t require annealing. High-carbon steel will
harden, if you bring it to a red heat and quench it, and it’s
difficult to work with if it’s not annealed, which is done by
heating it to red and letting it cool very slowly. Steel can be
etched, drilled, pierced, and patinated - many other techniques can
be applied as well. But if you want to make jewelry from it, perhaps
the best technique to investigate is enameling, which will protect
it from rusting. But you’ll need a kiln, or at least a torch, to do

Andrew Werby

I’ve worked with mild steel in the past and think it’s pretty cool.
It can be silver soldered; you can get gun “blueing"or"browning” by
the bottle from gun shops; after blueing you can draw with colored
pencils on the surface and even paint the surface using oil based
model paints. Use Renaissance Wax after as a sealant or do some
tests with other sealants. Also, you have to use a different pickling
compound. If you search out blacksmithing forums, they generally know
what acids to use. It would be beneficial to have a set of files and
sanding papers just for use on the mild steel, so your silver or gold
doesn’t get contaminated with steel filings. You just need to
experiment with it by forming and soldering some test pieces. I just
read that a tumbler with ceramic pieces instead of steel shot is good
for cleaning soldered mild steel and is certainly safer than acids.

Just remind folks who buy the jewelry not to get it wet or if it
does, surely they can dry it off!

Renee DeMartin

I haven’t worked with mild steel, but another member’s comment about
protecting it from the elements reminded me of seasoning cast iron

One of the best methods uses flaxseed oil.

See that method here:

Massillon, OH

You can also plate the steel with Legor’s nano ceramic electro
plating but getting the equipment is not cheep. It will protect it
from rusting for years of normal wear. Here is a fright bird piece I
did in Steel with silver accents it is 3 years old.

This is the first time i have posted in the group. I have been
working almost exclusively with mild steel and fusing gold to it
since 2009. Lots and lots of trial and error. I have created close to
350 pieces of one off, hand-made pieces of very solid price points.
Through the explorations with mild steel, I have found the most
effective and efficient processes (for me) to create quality,
distinctive work. I have been offering in-depth 3, 5 and 6-day
workshops across the US for over two years, and will be taking a 7
week teaching tour to Australia starting June 2. I typically shun
chemical patinas and use heat to achieve whatever color I am looking
for, and seal at 200 degrees with SculptNouveau clear wax. I have had
minimal issues with oxidation using these techniques.

thanks, Chris
Chris Nelson

1 Like

pity I’m not in NSW. that looks like fun…

Paul, Last evening another mild steel/fused gold Workshop was
announced in OZ by The Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia.
Exclusive 5 day Chris Nelson Workshop

The Gold & Silversmiths Guild of Australia Workshop at GAA House
380-382 Spencer Street Melbourne

Chris Nelson

I took a 5 day class with Chris at Wildacres last year through the
Florida Society of Goldsmiths. He was a wonderful teacher and freely
shared his knowledge. I am sure he will come back from NSW and teach
in USA again!

Esta Jo Schifter

Exclusive 5 day Chris Nelson Workshop 

Awww! don’t tell me that!?! now I have to go see if I can afford to
go! sheesh