Student's basic tool set

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    I asked her if she saw anything in the pliers/cutters section
of the catalog that she wanted and she said "But there are so
many, however could I choose?" 

I think that you have done these students a disservice. What college
should be is a place to learn, practice and hone basic design and
technical skills. Nobody should need more than a basic set of tools
t0 this.

There is an old adage that say that a bad workman always blames his
tools and I can’t help feeling that you are expressing the flip side
– ‘If only I had better tools I could become a better worker’.
Which, not only is not true, but it runs contrary to everything
that, I think, education should be about.

Bill Bedford

Bill in England! a.k.a. “UK”

I always use the old adage…" why buy when you can modify with what
you already have?". Modifying any old pair of pliers to suite another
purpose gives you an additional tool. You can create this newer tool
just for your setting needs, time lost schlepping to a toolstore
downtown or on-line. If you buy the best quality of basic tools,
stick with them, but modify at will . My articles in “Bench” and "AJM"
magazines, have shown how I sculpture many of my tools.


as for most of us, we almost all started with a set of second hand
tools that were none worse for the wear.

the very first thing I did behind the bench (and keep in mind I
apprenticed under my father for years.) I was sat down with:

a saw and sawblades
an old file (one of the little ones to use the handle as a mandrel.)
and a section of sterling wire.

what was I doing? I was told to make a bunch of little silver
jumprings. about 100 sawblades later, I had a nice stack of
jumprings. (this taught me to use a saw) then I was given two pairs of
old pliers and told to link them all together (taught me to use my
pliers properly) and then to my horror I was told to solder each

well needless to say, I melted the first 10 or 20…but I learned
great torch control. and in the end I was told to squish the
jumprings to make ovals and wa-la…I HAD A SILVER LINK NECKLACE!

after many exercises like this (one of which I was given a piece of
paper and told to make a design…this became a piercing exercise
with a drill, a saw and a flat piece of silver.)

year to two later…I breezed the classes…why?? I knew how to use
my tools and I knew how to control my torch!

Your tools don’t need to be new or wonderful, they only need to
work. and you don’t need much to start off with.

I would think a basic setup would be: flexshaft (or I originally used
an old hand drill), mandrel, hammer, round nose pliers, flat nose
pliers, wire cutter, sawblade and torch I think it would be wonderful
if all the tool junkies out there (and I should know because I was
one) would donate some old workable tools that sit in that tool
drawer to students learning the craft. (how many of you traded in
that old chuck flexshaft for a quick change and though you have 3-4
quickchnge, that old chuck flexshaft is sitting in a drawer, and you
don’t even know where the chuck key is!) I don’t know how this could
be viable, but you don’t need much to learn, and I think it would be
a wonderful way to give back to the “community”.

-julia potts
julia potts studios

Bill in U.K.

Can’t resist this posting

The pair of pliers do not do the setting or jewellery manufacturing.
Its the person who is holding these tools. Does a surgical precision
knife do brain surgery? NO, its the person who is guiding this tool
along…Bill, you are right “it takes education to be a better
craftsperson”. If I had a Rolls Royce would it make me a better
driver??? no, but it would look better…:>)


Check this article at Ganoksin:

Some basic metal working tools for beginners


Your Bench is like the Cockpit of a Plane -
Organizing your bench


Dear Orchidians,

A line in Frederika Kulicke’s post caught my eye and made me chuckle.
This is it ;

     It doesn't take that many tools to get started. Add more
tools little by little. I'm still buying tools. " 

That and some other posts on the subject of which tools to start with
inspires me to recall this story which I shall now entitle;


About 24 years ago I was leaving the interior of British Columbia
for our new home on the coast. I was a woodworker at the time and an
older man, who had been my mentor for a while, asked me if, when I
got to the coast, I might look up his old mentor and pass greetings
along to him. I agreed, recognizing the chance to meet a great
old-time craftsman and source of wisdom.

Not long after arriving on the coast I was strolling through a local
shopping mall and there was a temporary exhibit set up on the
subject of repairing and restoring antique furniture. Who should be
manning the exhibit but The Great One himself - I went over and
introduced myself and delivered the greetings as promised. Soon we
got to talking about this and that. I was just re-establishing a
woodworking shop and on the hunt for tools.

The old man, who had just turned 94 a few days earlier, told me that
he’d gone out to his workshop on his birthday and looked around at
things and it suddenly dawned upon him that he had reached Nirvana.

I asked what it was like, how he recognized the moment of entering
the blessed state of sacred bliss.

He said, “As I looked around the shop I realized that this was the
first time in my whole life that I couldn’t think of another tool
that I needed or wanted.”

If I proceed at the same rate as The Great One I figure I’ve got
about 30 years to go at this point.

Take a deep breath.

Marty in Victoria where it might be raining of maybe sunny, whoops,
raining again, but I see some blue sky.

Hi all,

I have another question for the group on the subject of jewelry
education courses. I know of several community colleges in the are
who teach some basic jewelry courses, I took one, as well as a few
basic beading classes at a store. My friend went the community
college route and then went to a local “jewelry academy” who is
affiliated (as in co-owned) with one of the local jewelrymaking
supply houses. Someone in one of her other classes mentioned
another local supply distributor who was much less expensive and the
instructor/owner got very upset which is how the students came to
learn she owned the supplyhouse.

Let’s just say that the 1 day class in PMC that I took elsewhere
with a supply fee of $25 + the silver (by a published author and
television guest-star) my friend took a similar class at the
"academy" for a similar price, but then they “add” a $200+ tool and
supply list (on top of the silver), some of which is noted before
but much was a last-minute “oh, you can go next door and get it”.

At what point do reputable schools draw the line between “nice to
have” and “need to have” tools on their tool lists and is it common
practice for a “school” to do “last minute” lists of supplies and
tools so that the students are greatly encouraged to shop at the
affiliated store whose ownership interest is not common knowledge to
the students? I have no doubt that a great many instructors sell
tools and supplies. I know my PMC instuctor did once she got us
hooked with what we could do with our imaginations, and her tools
and molds she let us use during the class (Note the tools she let us
use in class weren’t ones we could really “ruin”), but I find it a
wee bit deceptive to add to the tool list at the last minute and
then not mention that you own the supply house.

My friend is trying to encourage me to do my casting with this
instructor/owner but am I being paranoid in not trusting her because
of her duplicity at the school?


Tina McDonald


I just returned from Tucson. While there I visited the Art Clay
Booth and signed up for their Free class.

the class was taught by a certified instructor. there were four
students at the table. Each one of us had a complete set of tools to
work with and were given a free package of 5 gr. of Art Clay Silver.

We were shown how to make use of all the tools before we opened the
packets. There were agate burnishers, files, rollers, textured
patterns, stamps, and free dichroic balls, just off of the top of my
head. We followed instructions to roll out the clay and do what we
wished. I decided to texture roll my material and then slice it down
the middle to make a pair of earrings. When the first steps were
completed, the pieces were put into a dehydrator to speed up the
drying process. We were then given the opportunity to torch fire our
pieces to turn them into the first stage of solid silver.

When cooled we used the files to smooth out rough edges and the
agate burnished to bring up the fine silver glow. My earrings turned
out very well and I have received many compliments on them.

Art Clay was honoring their distributors and not selling in
competition with them. This indicated quite a bit of integrity. They
had lots of products at this booth. Unfortunately their distributor
was not well stocked at all and did Art Clay a disservice.

I have a lovely pair of silver earrings containing 5 gr. of Art Clay
Silver and two dichroic beads, final cost? Zero. Quite a different
story from yours. Look for and demand integrity from all you deal
with. It is your money. You should feel good about spending it and
the value you receive.


Hello Tina,

You’re not paranoid - trust your “gut.” A teacher who conceals
such as being an owner of the supply house you are to
use, is likely concealing other things. You don’t need that.

What you describe is not a teaching environment; a teacher does not
ethically do these things. Just my personal opinion.

Judy in Kansas, where we’ll see 65-70 degrees F. Lovely. The grass
is greening up too.

My friend is trying to encourage me to do my casting with this
instructor/owner but am I being paranoid in not trusting her
because of her duplicity at the school? 

If it were me, and if there were some other choice available, I’d
try the other avenue before going back to this woman.

But that’s just me…

He said, "As I looked around the shop I realized that this was the
first time in my whole life that I couldn't think of another tool
that I needed or wanted." 

Marty, thanks for sharing this great story! Funny, though, that the
quote that sprang to my mind when I read it was “and [insert name of
toolhound here] wept, for he saw that there were no more worlds to

It’s a different expression of the same drive, but I know of a
collector of Darwinalia who realized he had, in essence, collected
the whole set. He sold every last item and started over.

Happy tool-hunting!

Jessee Smith
Cincinnati, Ohio