What to buy for new studio

Okay, I’ve been watching the forums selectively for a while now,
trying to glean some wisdom as I move slowly towards starting up my
own little shop. I find myself in a rare position at the moment. I
have a gorgeous room at one end of the house that is my “studio” and
around $20,000 to set up nearly everything I need to fabricate. I do
have my Foredom flex shaft and a nice little starter’s bench, as well
as a small propane-oxy setup (much was gathered from
archives here before that purchase) with a Little Torch. I also have
a MAPP torch my husband bought me (nice mom’s day gift eh?)

However… I need help! I am lost and overwhelmed by all the
I’d like to pick up all the MAJOR equipment right now,
while I can (before my husband reclaims my trust fund for the
mortgage!), so I am looking at things like burnout kilns, vacuum
tables, lapidary setups, polishing lathes, dust collectors… the
works. I’m even looking for opinions on the best range hood(s) to
slap on one of the walls and trying to decide if I want to set some
money aside to build some counter space under the hood and I expect
I’ll need to lay down some fire-resistant mats over carpet in the
areas by the kiln and torch…

I plan to do gold & silver and also try my hand at PMC and enamels
at some point. I may dabble in beads/glass at some point, but don’t
expect to ever specialize in it, so it’s not on the priority table.
I’m definitely interested in doing more lapidary work as well though

  • I was cutting cabs in my last class and loved it!

Can anyone help me in choosing the right equipment? Or recommend an
article/book, etc, that talks about the best “bang for my buck”
items I can get at this time. Technically, I’d probably still be
considered a fledgling in this field - I’ve had some training but
still - so I’m looking for all the advice I can get. I want to get
this ball rolling right the first time! So, I’m looking to the

Thanks in advance! I look forward to hearing your responses.

Amy Howard
http://www.Raynstones.com (coming soon!)

I have a gorgeous room at one end of the house that is my "studio"
and around $20,000 to set up nearly everything I need to
fabricate. I'd like to pick up all the MAJOR equipment right now,
while I can (before my husband reclaims my trust fund for the

Lucky ducky!

You’ll get lots of replies to this, but I’ll give you a list of
equipment I wished I had bought sooner because they either save lots
of time or just a joy to work with:

A bench polisher. Most jewelry looks best after having been polished
on a big polisher. I’m partial to Red Wings because they have 2
speeds and nifty little chucks that can be converted to quick change
chucks. Get a good polishing hood.

A rolling mill. Embossing, making sheet and wire to specs and just
lots of other uses.

An ionic cleaner. Busts off tarnish lickety spit, including inside
chains (have to clean out the gunk like soap and oils first).

An ultrasonic cleaner. Cleans things so you can solder, prepare for
a repair, removes oils and gunk, removes polish residue. You can also
get creative with a few other things, like the hubby asking you to
clean out the sand stuck in the irrigation drips.

Really good hand tools–files and pliers. Sets of burs for your

Nice but not necessary is a BD tall 20-ton hydraulic press. You will
need to take a class to be effective with it, preferably a week long

A barrel tumbler with stainless steel shot. Works great for
burnishing, especially large intricate things like crowns and tiaras
where it would take forever to hand polish.

Intensive classes and workshops.


Sounds like fun.

Everything you make will need some polishing, I have yet to kill (20+
years) just a regular 3600 RPM motor with a tapered spindle on it.
Don’t go cheap on the dust collector, it’s going to be around for a
long time and cleaning up polishing dirt every where gets boring very
quickly. No crap with just vertical furnace filter. You want
something which pulls the air UP through as large an area of filter
as possible, I then blow the exhaust outside. (I really don’t like
cleaning up polishing dirt :slight_smile:

For casting a kiln is really good, preferably with some sort of
programmable controller. Size to fit just somewhat larger than you
plan to do. I cast with a little torch (O/A) but for propane a big
nasty welding torch would be helpfull. They are pretty cheap,
probably cost more for the ‘Y’ fittings and valves and safety stuff.
Vac table/bell jar is almost required. There are smallish
combination vac tables and vac casting machines, or you can use a
centrifuge (my preference from a miss spent youth) Old kitchen mixer
and a bunch of other small bits…

Rolling mills are fun and certainly qualify as a major purchase.

I would recommend the following tools, based on my experience and
tempered by my personal preference as a traditionalist, fabricator,
and minimalist:

(not necessarily in any particular order)

  • hammers: goldsmith, chasing, ballpeen
  • mallet (plastic face)
  • files, needle files, escapement files
  • pliers, snips, shears
  • saw frame
  • dividers
  • machinist square
  • vernier, ruler, dial calipers
  • metal dapping block and punches
  • wood dapping block and punches
  • swage block
  • design block
  • ring mandrels: standard, grooved
  • bezel mandrels: round, oval, square, triangle, trillion, emerald
  • bracelet mandrel: round steel, wood baseball bat
  • rolling mill
  • draw plates: round, square, triangle
  • draw bench
  • draw tongs
  • vise
  • torch
  • crucible
  • ingot molds: open trough, adjustable sheet & wire
  • goldsmith bench
  • flexshaft
  • burs
  • a basic metalsmithing library

This would furnish a pretty complete studio for a traditional
goldsmith. I’d spend a portion of the rest on metals, a portion on
workshops or instruction, and put a portion away for future business

Michael David Sturlin

Amy -

Get a rolling mill with square and round wire rollers. Install a
ventilation system that will serve your bench and your polishing
station. Filters should capture all the gold dust you kick up, and
keep all that polishing dust, rubber wheel residue and tiny fibers
from getting into your lungs. Keep your environment healthy!

Then get all the stuff that Michael David Sturlin recommends. (Then
invite me for a vacation to test everything and make sure it’s OK!)

Have fun,

Amy - What a marvelous problem to have.

So far on the list - folks have suggested good basic things-

Can you narrow down what you want to do as you begin this journey?
Probably the best thing you can do at this point is sign up and pay
for several classes - Go to Revere and take two or three in most any
thing. Get a Bonny Doon class, and one from GRS. Or take a semester
at your local college. Or we have a good resource here in Denver -
the Sweetman Allen studio - that offers all kinds of classes,
including private and semi-private instruction. Their studio is
exceptionally well equipped so you can see much of what is available.
That said - you probably have all the basic technique stuff so - here
is my list.

Get a bench shear - a decent 12 inch guillotine shear - Durston is
top of the line, next down is a Pepe. I bought mine used and had the
blades sharpened. See Rio or Otto Frei or Contenti

The BonnyDoon press is invaluable - the press is the smallest part
of the expense - all the tooling really runs up the cost and don’t do
any of it until you take a class in its use. Include the electric
device for the ram. David Anderson really knows the device and is a
good teacher - among many. Cynthia Eid is another good one. I think
of my press as one big hammer…

Spring for a really good bench - Otto Frei has marvelous ones = the
double bank is a treat. Rio also has a double bank, but doesn’t ship

If you think you might be interested in engraving or fancy stone
setting, look at the GRS equipment from Glendo Corporation. I
especially like their very quiet compressor. Sign up for an engraving
class from them first - and then you will know if you like it, and
what to buy. An engraving ball is marvelous for all kinds of setting
stones as well as engraving.

Get a second flex shaft with a quick change handpiece.

A big red tool chest from Sears with lots of drawers. The tall one
in two pieces.

For lapidary work, a Geni six wheel diamond lapidary. A good trim
saw. I also like the All in One lapidary system for flat work.

A big no nonsense vise - five inch jaws.

A good anvil minimum 70 pound = check the Orchid archives, someone
recently got one and was all excited about how good it is.

A complete set of tumblers - the see thru rotary, a 5 or 6 quart
vibratory, and a 6 inch magnetic finisher. Polishing this stuff by
hand, even with terrific vacuum collection is not healthy. Use mass
finishing to save your lungs and manicure.

You mentioned a hood - get a good one and mount it close to your
soldering surface - I choose not to solder at my bench, but rather at
a separate station just to the right. If I had to do it over, I would
have gone to the highend kitchen appliance place and bought a dented
vent-a-hood or something similar. They really move air. But I have
survived for 15 years with a basic stove hood, vented to the outside.

Some really sturdy benches - right now Sams Club has some great
ones, steel with maple tops, some with storage.

Sign up for the periodicals in the field - MJSA Journal, Metalsmith,
Jewelry Artist, and maybe Art jewelry.

And don’t forget to include a basic stash of metal. As you start you
will probably want sheet, wire and bezel stock in silver. And maybe
some stones?

If you plan to sell your work - how will you start? For that you
will need a tent (dome), and display cases.

So, I’ve spent your 20,000 and then some. Enjoy.

Just so you know - I did buy all that stuff and more over the past
years, and now am moving so that I can have a big enough space for
all of it. I didn’t have a trust fund, the money came from selling

Judy Hoch

Hello Amy,

I decided to start my own shop this year too, You have really good
money to start I am a little short of money that is why I have to
make a basic list and my wish list for later. I have help from my
jewelry teacher that offered me to use part of his shop then I can
buy the expensive tools little by little without getting stuck with

I already have my bench, my little torch, my flex shaft, files, some
pliers, compass, and a ring sizing for wax(as I have some wax at
home to work with) Soon I will be ordering a bunch of small things
like more files, pliers, flux, hammers ETC

On the top of my wish list are the rolling mills and the polisher.
Recently I was recommended by someone I met and knows this business
for years to invest in a good jewelry DVD’s library as they will
help me any time I need to remember or learn how to do something.

I hope to see your work soon GOOD LUCK!!!

- goldsmith bench - flexshaft - burs - a basic metalsmithing library 

That’s a good list - all such lists are generic. Don’t forget raw
materials, while you have the money - 20 ounces of silver, a couple
of ounces of gold, a few pounds of brass, whatver it is you like to
work in…

Hi again everyone!

First off, thank you SO MUCH for all your responses! I hadn’t
thought about getting a bench shear yet, so I’ll have to look at
those now, and I was thinking I’d wait on a rolling mill but so many
of you are listing it high on the priority list that I will

I definitely plan to install some cabinets and a decent vent at my
solder area which will also be where I put the kiln. I’m also
planning on getting a dust collection setup for my bench and
polishing stations.

My big questions right now are lapidary setup and kiln. So specific
recommendations on those are coveted! Judy suggested a Geni six
wheel diamond lapidary, and I hadn’t looked at those yet… further
recommendations are welcomed on those and other setups that you like
for cutting cabs.

On classes - I have taken some classes at local colleges in my area.
I’m in the far Northwest suburbs of Chicago and if anyone knows
classes within an hour or two (driving time) of me I would love to
know about them. I have looked into going back to school for a degree
in Fine Arts, but it’s just not the right timing for such a thing. I
have two small children at home so I’m afraid I can’t go gallivanting
off to California or Colorado for classes right now - I can’t even
get away with running off to Chicago much as I have to drive them to
and from their school. I would also love to know about DVDs that have
excellent instruction though, I’ve been watching the forums for those
as I can, although my time at the computer gets limited.

Things I’m hoping to do add to my studio capabilities:

Lost wax casting Enamels Cutting Cabs (not ready to move into

Now some things were recommended that I forgot to even mention I
had. I’ve been quietly swiping about $40 a month from my husband’s
paycheck for my “business fund” which has been dropped into an array
of pliers, a couple of hammers, a vice (although I think I want a
different one), the flex shaft I have (as well as another one that
was cheaper and didn’t have the subtlety needed), and a variety of
other “small” things I am not thinking of. I do have a little bit of
metal to work with at the moment (I sold a piece to a friend and
bought metal with the proceeds!), but I do know I need to save some
money for that. In answer to one person’s suggestion - I do already
have a canopy for when I have enough inventory to start doing shows

  • that was a birthday gift a couple years back. I’ve been slowly
    trying to do this on a 5-year-plan. Since my youngest is about to
    start preschool next fall and thus my mornings will be free to be
    added to “work time”, I’m prepping to step this up a notch! So I
    pulled most of the money (before the economy murdered what’s left of
    it) out of a trust fund my mother (who once attempted to do this same
    thing with a handful of tools and a flex shaft in our basement) left
    from the sale of her house. I know she’d want me to use the money for
    this, so that’s where I’m putting it!

Send more brand names of the tools you like best folks! It’s one
thing to know I need a rolling mill, for example, it’s another thing
to spend hours and hours agonizing over the right one. Let me know
why you like it and what you do with it too!

Thanks again!
Amy Howard
RaynStones.com (coming soon!)

On classes - I have taken some classes at local colleges in my
area. I'm in the far Northwest suburbs of Chicago and if anyone
knows classes within an hour or two (driving time) of me I would
love to know about them. 

Well, Amy, you could come to the Evanston Art Center and take classes
with me! I teach Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Wednesday after
noons. There are other teachers as well, of course, at other
times. And there’s The Art Center in Highland Park, Northeastern
Illinois University…


I have taken some classes at local colleges in my area. I'm in the
far Northwest suburbs of Chicago and if anyone knows classes within
an hour or two (driving time) of me I would love to know about

Oh, well, then you will want to join the Chicago Metal Arts Guild.
And you can take classes at The Fine Arts Center in Highland Park,
Evanston Art Center in Evanston, and Lillstreet Art Center in

Lillstreet has stonesetting and intermediate and advanced and
independent study courses. Private lessons are also available.

For a review/about studio ventilation systems, I have a
guest post on that heRe:

Part I, http://tinyurl.com/b68krs

Part II: http://tinyurl.com/azp22b



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