In The Local News!

Christine Cox making masks during 2020 Covid-19 pandemic

While Christine Cox will tell you that her COVID-19 mask making is serendipitous, we say it’s taking a difficult situation and turning it into a chance to be a hometown hero.

Metalsmith: Using Miniature Hardware And Tools

Miniature hex head bolts, nuts, and washer set - copper

There are two ways for you to use miniature hardware in your metal art project. If it isn’t important to thread the hardware into your piece You can just drill the holes with a 1/16″ drill bit (available from hardware stores) and pop the hardware in. The hole will be just a tiny bit too […]

Metalsmith: Torch Comfort

Holding a metal torch, position one

Most metalsmiths hold their torches differently than I do. They set up their torch head so that the tip is opposite the control knob. Check out the first photo accompanying this post. Setting up the torch tip this way means that adjusting the flame requires a deft little move involving the joints of your thumb […]

Metalsmith: Breaking the Rules

muse - metalsmith - breaking the rules

As a silversmithing instructor, I spend a lot of time explaining to students how to get the perfect solder join. “Clean the metal. Use flux. The join must be perfect. Solder must touch both sides of seam. Both sides of seam must reach soldering temperature at the same time. Capillary action. Supports are heat sinks. […]

Metalsmith: Mini Anvil

A steel spot

Need to hallmark or center-punch your piece of metal? It’s such a simple job when your piece is flat. Just lay the metal down on a flat, hard surface and whack away. But what if the piece isn’t flat? As long as there’s enough room underneath the piece to set it on an anvil, you […]

Metalsmith: Antique Tools

antique metalsmith tools featuring vintage file

I’m sure that if I had been a seamstress I’d save meaningful bits of fabric, or if I had been an engineer I’d collect antique slide rules or something similar. The fact is that I’m a metalsmith and a bookbinder. I collect antique tools made for those trades. They’ve come to me in various ways; […]

Jewelry: Cushion Behind A Stone

Cushioning enamel stone

There are times when a jeweler needs a cushion behind a stone or enamel that’s being bezel-set, whether to raise it higher, or to even out an unevenness such as in the case of a warped enamel. One solution is to use fine sawdust between the piece and the bezel. Some people like to use […]

Metalsmith: Studio Use For Metal Planters

Using metal planters for storing sheet metal

You never know what you’ll find at the nursery or a thrift store that will be perfect in the studio. These metal planters are a great solution for storing heavy, sharp sheet metal. They’re durable and some have handles that make transporting heavy metal from one place to another much easier. I’ve used mine for […]

Metalsmith: Binding Wire Wizardry

spinner ring after repair

It’s a beautiful design, a ring bound by another ring, which spins freely. They’re great for people who like something to fiddle with and it’s a fantastic design element. Whatever you call them, when one breaks, it can be a challenge for a jeweler to fix, especially if what fails is the solder on the inner ring. […]

Enamel: California Native Plants In Cloisonné

California native flower plants rendered in enamel

Recently, I finished these 4 kiln-fired cloisonné pieces, which are a little over an inch square each. They are made from sterling silver, fine silver and enamels, which are glass ground with different minerals for color. Each was fired repeatedly in a kiln at almost 1500°. It’s an exacting and exciting process with beautiful results. […]

Metalsmith: Avoid Sanding Low Spots In Ring Rims

I was sanding the edges of these two bezels to make them the same height and I got lazy. I started sanding back and forth, as we’ve all done when we haven’t been taught otherwise (and some of us, even when we have). What happens? Uneven results.

There’s a point in every metalsmith’s early career where they realize that they are tired of compensating for their mistakes, tired of making something that is the best they can do, but still not quite what was pictured. There’s a desire to make a piece from beginning to end, exactly how it’s pictured in the […]

Metalsmith: Ferric Chloride Exhaustion

Bottles of ferric chloride that have been neutralized and are headed for the dump

For decades, I’ve been etching copper, brass and nickel-silver with ferric chloride (FeCl3), an industrial ferrous salt normally used in water purification and sanitation. If you’re using ferric chloride, you may wonder how you can tell if it’s exhausted. How often you etch, which alloys you etch, and how large your metal pieces are all […]

Metalsmith: Straighten A Crooked Balled Rivet

Crooked balled rivet fixes

Balling up the end of a wire for rivets, findings or decorative elements is one of the first things a metalsmith learns. It’s a fun and rewarding activity, though there’s a bit of a knack to it. The wire needs to be in the hottest part of the flame. You can’t dwell too long or […]

Metalsmith: Kitchen Tools In The Studio

Using kUsing kitchen drawer organizer to organize metalsmith toolsitchen tools to organize metalsmith tools in drawers

The sweeps drawer under my bench used to be a mess. I had tools mixed in with metal scrap, used sandpaper, leather pieces, broken saw blades, and lots and lots of metal shavings from sawing and filing. It was a major undertaking to clean it and a job I avoided. At a local store I […]

Metalsmith: Twist to De-Bur

Removing any burrs by using larger drill bit

After drilling in metal there is often a large bur around the hole. It’s unsightly, dangerous, and can throw off how your piece goes together. Eliminate it easily by using a drill bit that’s larger (by far) than the hole you’ve drilled.   Chuck the large bit up into a pin vise. Place the metal, […]

Protect Your Findings While Soldering

How to protect findings while soldering

Sweating solder onto findings: Dig little holes into your charcoal block and then bury tiny findings (butt-side up) into the holes. This protects the little dears while melting the solder.

Tight Space? Use A Barrette File.

Use a barrette file to handle tight spaces

For filing in tight places where adjoining areas could be damaged, use a barrette file. Only one side has teeth and the other edges slope away from them. They come in several sizes and every coarseness you could need. They are even included in most needle file and mini-needle file sets.

A Tip That Protects You When Using A Saw

Leather patch on blacksmith's apron

While stringing a saw frame most people use their sternum to compress the frame while tightening. This can be dangerous and painful if you have bird bones like mine. Staple a piece of leather to your shop apron and you’ll have some protection.

Two Tips That Make Soldering A Pin Easier

Making a silver bird pin

If your shape doesn’t lend itself to being wired for soldering, cut notches in the base-plate. They will be sawed off later with the rest of the excess metal. There are 4 teeny tiny notches around the profile of the bird in this picture.

Metalsmith: Old Gold

Forging gold sheets

I love a new challenge and this one was a blast. My friend Lauri and I decided to take some old gold jewelry and turn it into sheet. I had a couple of pieces of 14k gold jewelry that I knew I’d never wear again so we studied up, melted it down and rolled away. […]

Metalsmith: Hardening Sterling

Rawhide Mallet Construction View

Great question in my email this morning: Natalie: I recently ordered a wood base steel bench block from you, and am so in love with it! I’m now looking to upgrade my hammer for wire hardening, as I’m finding that the finer wire (28 gauge and smaller) is not hardening well with my current plastic mallet. Would your […]

On Drawing Celtic Knots

Draw Your Own Celtic Designs by David James

I’m in love with all the doodles, Zentangles, zendoodles and other drawing techniques that are so hot right now. As I’ve been reading about the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells lately my doodle love has turned into a full-blown case of Celtic Knot Love. The beautiful knots incorporated in some of the illuminations in the manuscripts are […]

Bookbinding: The Thomas Hoard

The Thomas Hoard

A couple of weeks ago I taught a class on Gothic-style book furniture/hardware. My student, Kath Thomas, did amazing work! In spite of having a cold, and having never worked in metal before, Kath was quite prolific and produced what I like to call The Thomas Hoard. I have to say, Kath’s energy is inspiring! Great […]

Metalsmith: Keep That Iron Tip Tinned

Weller Soldering Iron

Kris sent me some questions about stained glass soldering this morning. I’ve had similar questions in the past so I thought I’d cover it here too. Q. Years ago I bought a Weller 100 soldering iron and always had a problem keeping the iron hot enough. It would start out great and after a short […]

Metalsmith: Oyster Knives And Bacon Cooker In The Studio

Using an oyster knife in the studio

Part of the fun of being a metalsmith is collecting and customizing tools and containers for your own use. Besides the obvious, such as measuring cups, spoons, and the ubiquitous creme brûlée torch, how many kitchen items do you use at the bench? Here are a couple from me. Fold-formed metal opener: Opening up folded […]

Cracked Enamels

Blue enameled flower

Studio artist Vicki Potter and I were talking about enamels yesterday. Vicki said: After total success with my green flower necklace and another black and white necklace, I ran into some trouble with the yellows/oranges.  The enamel on all 3 of the flowers I did in those colors cracked.  So, I got out 3 more […]

Bookbinding: Customize Your Awl Handle

Light duty awl. Original round handle and customized handle with one side flattened

Binding books is about so much more than just the finished book. I love the process of designing the book and of choosing the materials. The subtle texture of paper and the smell of leather are irresistible. The simple act of calculating the thread or stringing a sewing frame starts focusing my mind on the […]

Question: Can I Etch Sterling Silver?

Sterling Silver Textured Pendant Back

Elaine K. emailed about etching silver: Q. I’ve been fascinated with your website and its offerings, but am not sure I am ready to equip my studio for etching sterling silver.  Can I etch silver, either sterling or fine? A. One can etch silver, but it takes a different chemical and different equipment than one would use […]

Metalsmith: Beveling Metal

beveling metal

Susan Robson Tobin writes: I was wondering if you carry a piece of equipment or a tool that helps one to create a beveled edge on metal? I want to put a beveled edge on some of the metal I bought from you but have no clue as to how to go about it. Is […]

Metalsmith: I Love A Torch That Only Takes One Hand To Use!

Heating non-ferrous metals

When heating non-ferrous metals, oxides form on the surface and prevent the flow of solder and just generally make a mess. This is because three things are present; metal, oxygen and heat. Eliminate any one of those three things and oxides won’t form (or at least they’ll form much more slowly). An oxide-inhibitor (anti-ox) is […]

Enamel Switchplate In Progress

WIP - enamel copper switchplate

Today I’m making enameled copper switch-plates. Check out those tiny pieces of wire. In spite of bad eyes, years of chain maille has made me love detail work like this.

Metalsmith: Bench Pin Customization

Customized bench pin

The bench pin is a metalsmith’s best friend and its design can be very personal. Many people use pins as they come but they can be real workhorses if you customize yours for your work style and the things that you make over and over. Grab your saw, a drill, and a wood file and go to […]

Bookbinding: Double Sided Tape Is Versatile

Roll of double-sided tape

Double sided tape in strips from a roll or in sheets can be used in many, many crafts. Books Neater Than Glue Double-sided tape is a wonderful way to assemble our Star Book Kits and others that require an adhesive. Less glue mess and much faster. Envelopes And Boxes Clear Tape Can Be Very Useful If […]

Bookbinding: Raised Supports On Spine

Goat leather bound book with raised spine

The book with the blue cover was bound using 15th Century Europe style. The green goat leather book has raised supports made with our 12-ply Irish linen thread.