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Starter kits at club workshops


Our Rock & Gem Club would like to get a silversmithing program
started. Because of our location it is not convenient to bring in
instructors, so I will be teaching the basics with the help of
another club member. Our thoughts are that the Club would purchase a
number of starter kits and the students would be responsible for the
kits as long as they are using them for a class and they can
purchase their own if they decide to go further. We already have a
rolling mill and one of our members will be donating some other tools
as she is moving into a condo. My question is does anyone have past
experience or success with this type of a setup.

I’m particularly concerned about lost tools etc. Any insight you can
offer would be appreciated.


'm particularly concerned about lost tools etc. Any insight you
can offer would be appreciated. 

Over the years I’ve taught at 5 or 6 different art centers. One of
them had this system:

Tools are in locked cabinets, teacher unlocks and locks

High value stakes, etc., are locked and unlocked ONLY for those
classes where they know what to do with them

Students are required to buy a kit with sawblades, needle files,
etc., things that will get used up. I think that is a very good idea.

Come to think of it, all the places have had locking cabinets.

I took a class once at a college where you had to trade in your
drivers license for a hammer. That was annoying.



Gerry -

My club is fortunate to have enough rented space that we have a
dedicated metalsmithing room. Over time, with club funds, we have
purchased four sets of tools & torches. When our members who are the
silversmithing instructors give classes, the students use the club
equipment. They never take them home; everything stays in that room.

Some of our older members live nearby and volunteer their time to
open the club’s workshops several times a week, and most of Saturday.
Any member in good standing, who has completed the associated
workshop, can use the smithing or lapidary equipment. A 'mentor’
member must always be present though, when the kilns or torches are
being used. Any time the workshop is open, there is a person
specifically responsible for the security and shutdown/closing; this
person must be present the whole time.

(This is one of the many benefits our older members bring us!
Several of them have mechanical and woodworking skills, so the
machines are all in working order, and we have 4 custom-made smithing

I don’t think we have had any problem with missing tools. But the
program was well-established when I joined the club; I imagine
sometimes in the past some of the tools walked out. The biggest
problem is damage to tools - some of the files are pretty ‘tired’!

I hope this helps you with your program!
Kelley Dragon



I’m sure you will get lots of people chiming in. I used to do demos
for my local rock club and people were a little overwhelmed by my
variety of tools. I’m pretty much a tool addict and if I can find one
use for a tool I’ll figure out a way to buy it. Assuming there will
be a common torch and buffer and to tools would be so that people
could work individually and not run all over the place finding tools,
the basic hand tools for making bezel set silver jewelry:

Rotary tool with an assortment of bits, Saw Frame and blades,
Chain nose pliers, Round nose pliers, Flat nose pliers, Side
cutters (a flush cutter would be nice), Rawhide mallet, 6 oz
Ball/Peen hammer, Ring mandrel, Bracelet mandril (could be a
common tool), Set of needle files, 6-8" flat file, Tweezers,
Small and large tin snips (large snips could be common), Sanding
sticks in 220-320-600 grit (can be made of from wooden paint,
stirrers or tongue depressors with sand paper glued to them),
Bench knife, Steel bench block, 

I’m basing this on what tools are left out on my bench all the time
because they are used often…

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan


One person I knew that worked in a Peace Corps program had a tool
shelf for loan, and painted all the tools bright yellow or orange so
that anyone in the neighborhood would know that they belonged to her
program. Ugly, but effective.



Hi Gerry,

Our Gem Club has quite a good set up with silver smithing. One of our
club members sewed a number of roll up calico pouches (for want of a
name). It is a piece of fabric with the bottom section turned over
and sewn into pocket like compartments. Each compartment has the name
written on it of the tool that fits into that space, ie, file,
pliers, sand paper, hammer, saw etc. What makes these kits so good
is that the tying strap for each is colour coded to the, easy to see,
large marks painted on the tools, (red, blue, yellow, green, orange,
mauve, etc). So if the tie is blue then all the tools have been
painted with blue marks on them. Consequently, as each person starts
a class they are signed in, allocated their “kit” and marked into
the book. Outside of class time these kits remain under lock and key.
After each lesson each kit is checked by the instructor to ensure
all the tools are there, then is rolled up and put away. If a tool is
missing it is easy to tell which one, as the empty pocket will have
the name of the missing tool on it. If someone wants to use a kit
outside of class time, they have to ask an instructor on duty who
signs them into the book. As the onus is on the instructor to sign
off each kit they are quite vigilant. Because of this system we
don’t have any problems with “lost” tools. I’m happy to take a photo
and email it to you if you wish, and also give you a list of what
tools are in each kit.

Club members, once having completed the course, are then encouraged
to purchase their own tools, but must have them clearly marked as
their own when they bring them into the club.

Lyn Nelson
Queensland, Australia


At my university we tried to supply “starter kits” for beginning
students which they would sign out and then sign back in. It became a
problem though getting ENTIRE kits back, and was a hassle for the
person who was responsible to keep track of them. There was too much
lost time when trying to track down the kit parts and the people who
were supposed to turn them in. We finally let go of that part of the
program and left the purchase of the beginning kits up to the people
who take the class.

There are a number of retailers who sell beginning kits at
reasonable prices, including Rio Grande.

I am not sure with a small group that this would be an issue for
you, and because of that fact you may want to just purchase a few for
your club, but I would urge you to consider asking the class members
to purchase their own. If they are serious about jewelry making, then
they will want to have their own tools, anyway.

Just a thought.

One person I knew that worked in a Peace Corps program had a tool
shelf for loan, and painted all the tools bright yellow or orange
so that anyone in the neighborhood would know that they belonged to
her program. Ugly, but effective. 

yes and accidentally painting a bookshelf once I discovered if you
use a paint for metal, the paint is improbable if not altogether
impossible to remove


lol…reminds me why my new apprectice ask me why i painted my
hammers and tools neon pink when i was at a blacksmith meeting… i
told him so i can if any of them grew legs or if i lent one out…
few guys will want a pink painted tool lol



Hi all,

The adult-ed program where I teach has very complete toolkits we
loan out to the students on a class-by-class basis. We tend to loose
odds- n-ends, but seldom anything massive. (and that’s with 12
classes of 24 students rolling through the kits every week, for about
10 years.)

Two suggestions based on our experiences: (A) make it easy to
quickly eyeball check the kits coming back in. Ours have such a raft
of stuff that it’s hard to keep track of it all, at least in a quick
scan. (B) paint the tools if you can. If you’ll have few enough kits
that each one can be a near-primary color, do it that way, if not,
pick a “house tool” color, and paint them all with whatever obnoxious
color you pick. (day-glo green is a personal favorite. It’s both
incredibly ugly, and incredibly obvious.) Number the tools so that
you can figure out which kit they belong to.

The fitted tool roll idea was great, but it limits what you can add
to the kits later, and makes it hard to change types of tools later
on. (Say you’ve got 3 basic files now, but 3 years along, you want to
add a fourth…you’re out of pockets. Equally, if you start off with
3 6" files, but later decide that an 8" bastard file would be better
for the wax class, you don’t have the room in the fitted kit to deal
with it. ) On the other hand, having a perfectly fitted tool roll
makes it very easy to eyeball check. That ease of checking may
outweigh the lack of flexibility. Your call.

Budget for replacement parts from the outset. Even with the best
will in the world, tools will get lost, broken, or dull. It happens.
Plan for it.

Best of luck,
Brian Meek.


The art museum near me offers jewelry classes twice yearly. As a part
of the enrollment, students are charged a deposit (around $50), which
covers the cost of tools. Each student is issued the same selection
of tools, and each is responsible to see that they return said tools
in good condition, in order to retrieve their deposit.

David A. Stitt

I would urge you to consider asking the class members to purchase
their own. If they are serious about jewelry making, then they will
want to have their own tools, anyway. 

I agree. For my beginning class (adult-ed.), I buy about $60 in
tools (saw frame, saw blades, pliers, files, V-slot bench pin) and
add to it a few miscellaneous items (wood block, 4/0 steel wool,
etc.). This is a required purchase, obviously modest in cost and
quality, partly for those who are not wealthy, and for those who may
discover that jewelrymaking is not their thing, after all. One of my
students went out recently and spent $700 on really great tools
(better than mine!).

The advantage of my purchasing the kit tools is that I can get a
volume discount, which I pass on to my students.

We do not have a problem of “migrating” tools, but, as someone has
already observed, that is the advantage of having adults as

Judy Bjorkman


I took classes where they had a tray for each set of tools (one tray
per student). They used a sharpie marker to outline the shape of
each tool on the tray. That way it was easy for a student to prepare
the tray of tools to be turned in at the end of the class, and the
teacher could look for missing tools in each tray at a glance.