Organizing ToDo list

Hello all,
I’ve been learning, practicing and making for 2 yrs, and am ‘all over the place’ with what I want to do. Scattertasked. I chunk goals into wide categories: rings, pendant, earrings; of course each has infinite paths down which I merrily go. Most of the time that’s ok as I’m allowing myself to do this with ‘the journey’ and production values in mind more than the outcome - other times it feels erratic, unfocused, unproductive.
Thanks for any macro organization tips for an overlarge large “oh I want to do this too” list…


Rather than focusing on the end, take some time to identify and then concentrate on learning specific skills and techniques. Many are shared by all types of jewelry and others are more specific. From this will come finished pieces of jewelry that you feel comfortable with and ready to go out and find something new to challenge yourself by. I have been doing this for 50 years adding new techniques, tools and materials as my curiosity has dictated. I tend to get obsessed. That can be a good thing, but also a waste of time and money. I have a lot of tools in my shop that I haven’t touched other than when I first bought them. You might buy a good book. Tim McCreight’s Complete Metalsmith is a good one. Read, reread and read it again and let it guide you as a list of skills to learn. Mine copy is dog eared from being used. You might identify one or two pieces that you can make well and quickly and then start to sell them. This will give you confidence to keep going and some money to feed your habit, so to speak. Good luck…Rob


Thank you. The focus on techniques makes sense to me. I have McCreight’s book and love it. I heard about that book here and it is a good manual as it is not focused on a recipe but focused on cooking skills… if I can borrow metaphor.

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I wholeheartedly agree with Rob, you should “take some time to identify and then concentrate on learning specific skills and techniques.” I was somewhat like you when I started out and even though I was an Apprentice, I was overly enthusiastic and wanted to learn and try everything all at once, but all I did was confuse myself, making even more mistakes and in so doing, I had to unlearn my bad habits to proceed… I eventually calmed down and Focused on the Individual Techniques, taking the time to Learn WHY I was doing what I was doing, not just HOW to do it and within a handful of months, I was able to do the majority of the Techniques that Jewellers use on a daily basis. After that, all I needed was time on the Bench and lots and lots of practice/repetition and working in a Jewellery Repair & Custom Fabrication Shop, I got plenty of both!

Since you already have some time and experience Making Jewellery and most likely have the Basics down, I would recommend that you look online or in a book and pick out One Piece of Jewellery (Not Overly Complicated) that you like or admire and then Draw the Piece (Front, Back and Sides, if possible). Once you are done with that, you will then Deconstruct it into what you think are the Individual Parts that make-up the Piece and Draw them. After you finish that, then you will Make Your Version of that Piece of Jewellery - Take your time and really Think About the Processes and Techniques that you will be using to make it. This is a really good Method of Training yourself to see a piece of Jewellery as more than just the finished product and to Think through HOW it was made and WHY it was made that way. This will also Improve your Drawing & Design Skills, as Deconstructing anything is a Skill in itself and will serve you well in the future. Once you finish this Piece and are satisfied with how it turned out, look for another Piece of Jewellery, maybe in a different Form or Style and repeat.

I’m glad that you have Tim McCreight’s COMPLETE METALSMITH, it is a true wealth of knowledge for Jewellers and Metalsmiths (though all of his books are well worth owning), another couple of books that you might want to get are:


THE WORKBENCH GUIDE TO JEWELRY TECHNIQUES by Anastasia Young - A wonderful book on a very wide range of Jewellery Techniques from an English Jeweller’s perspective, very well done!

JEWELRY MAKING TECHNIQUES BOOK by Elizabeth Olver - This is another English Jeweller’s book and it’s relatively short, but it has a lot of Information, Techniques and Inspiration in it, well worth having in your Reference Library!

JEWELRY CONCEPTS AND TECHNOLOGY by Oppi Untracht - Most Jewellers consider this (840) page book the “Bible” of Jewellery & Metal Work, as it covers quite literally everything and in almost every Jewellery Making Tradition! The only issues with it are: that it is quite expensive ($120.00), it can overwhelm you with minute details if you let it and it’s a little outdated, though the vast majority of it’s Information will never really go out of date! I highly recommend this book to anyone who is serious about learning about Jewellery Work, in it’s countless different Traditions, as well as Basic, Advanced and Uncommon/Rare Techniques - If you have a question about Jewellery Work, the answer is most likely in this book!

I could list many more books to add to your Reference Library, but these will be a great start and will really help to Guide, Focus and Inspire you to learn and perfect new Techniques that will expand your Knowledge, your Skills and your Confidence in Making Jewellery (though if you do have any specific areas of interest in particular, let me know and I will be happy to recommend even more)! The Most Important Thing that you can Do to Learn and Improve your various Skills and Techniques, is to FOCUS On a Particular Skill or Technique and Practice, Practice, Practice! Good Luck!



I just checked on Thriftbooks and the Untracht book is currently out of stock, but I recommend keeping an eye on it. They say they get one every six months or so. Prices for decent quality used books are often much less than half the regular price (I had a miracle and got a cooking reference book I had used and loved for many years (and lost), the price on Amazon was over $150 and I got it for $6!!! The deals aren’t usually that good, but it’s a great resource).


When I am trying out a new design or technique, I will work in copper or brass first so that I don’t waste a more expensive piece of silver. You can buy copper wire at your local hardware and strip it. Some of the bigger gauges are sold bare. Rio and others sell brass wire as well as brass and copper sheet. Both metals are fun to work with and very nice when finished, you just have to figure out how to keep them from tarnishing. I have even developed a market for bracelets made in brass. Good luck…Rob

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As far as books, to the Thriftbooks suggestion ( let me add, which works about the same way. You get free shipping and more or less the same or a lesser price as on Amazon. Either site will notify you when a book comes in if it is out of stock…you just leave your email address. I have used both these sites with complete satisfaction. Usually the books are in better condition than promised. I also always check Ebay, because many books are for sale there and they are often below Amazon’s price, too. At all these sites I try to check the ISBN, as sometimes the various editions get confused in the listings. Usually I opt for hard backs, since the price is seldom more, they are often withdrawn library books with slipcovers in great shape and they hold up better. -royjohn

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Hi Royjohn,

I just wanted to post a link and recommend protective book jacket covers, from Demco, a library supply resource.

they sell different sizes, and assorted size packs, and if i recall correctly they sent me a sample pack of a few each in all the sizes. Nice company.

I try to get books with book jackets whenever possible, and when not, i will make my own by making a copy of the book cover/ spine, or some other identifying image.

i think i use these…but in sheet sizes…not rolls…i know mine are center open…like this illustration…they have many options…


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Rob is always extremely helpful with his tips…he really knows his stuff!!..Thank you Rob!!! as a hobbyist and not a professional, I never was under time pressure nor selling pressure. I started with very simple designs, like a plain silver band ring that I learned to fabricate while taking a jewelry making class during high school… I also bought some old books that wrote about basic techniques. As I gained experience with metal working, my designs became more complex. I switched from silver to gold when I felt that I could do gold without ruining it… I ended up by using mixed metals on rings, decorating the shanks, and embedding designs in brass and copper into sterling for bracelets (very difficult as they make their own “solder”)… each step was an experiment and I have my first tries to compare to as I picked up more sophisticated techniques by trial and error, with some disasters on the way. The first tries were always primitive, but they were learning experiences… walk before running is all I can say… you will be able to sprint after a lot of practice…

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I appreciate this helpful encouragement. Time to spring-clean my workspace and re-focus. I’m noticing now how many books are arranged by techniques. It’s good to hear about how others worked through ‘confusing themselves’ by wanting to try everything at once. Exactly my issue. Drawing and thinking through a project is a good idea for focus and I’ll try that.
Brass and copper definitely good for first tries. I’m psyched, thank you.

Re the books - an amazing resource I discovered (besides Thriftbooks and Alibris for purchasing used books) is the Internet Archive. A digitized online library of books in the public domain - just search on ‘metalwork’ or ‘silver’ and you are able to ‘borrow’ for either 1 hour at a time or 14 days at a time, free, a huge variety of old books and illustrations. A book by Oppi Untracht, (he was mentioned in this thread), can be found at this link: Metal techniques for craftsmen : a basic manual for craftsmen on the methods of forming and decorating metals : Untracht, Oppi : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive. It is a wonderful library-type resource, 24/7.
I’m not a big user of social media but I have to say I appreciate being able to communicate with others who share my interest in metalwork. Thanks for the inspiration.


OK so I last wrote Feb 18 and here it is almost May - update being I have (well almost) spring-cleaned the workspace, and after a lot of thought and research as to what I wanted to use material for, have started some projects. Yay spring. Thanks for advice and book recommendations. Be well and enjoy your work.

I was doing thst until i decided to slow down and start going skill by skill. I was trying to jump in snd be pro from the start like i always have, but ive learned better craftmanship comes with time.

Always allow time in each day at the bench to try a new technique or a new style of manufacturing. Fabrication is very positive and you see the piece come together before your eyes,very rewarding! You have to keep progressing daily?
Try casting a drinking straw. Cut into sections and sprue up. Or sprue up and cast sum bugs !

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