Ah, January. Resolutions have everyone on their best behavior, eating better, learning new skills, saving money, being earth friendly. . . . My friend Chocolate and I can’t help you with the “eating better” part, but I’m happy to say I do have some ideas that will help you learn new (jewelry-making) skills, save money, and be earth friendly, all at the same time.
Shop Smarter = Save More
I love finding new and unexpected uses for items I already have, and spending a few days with master metalsmith Lexi Erickson in her studio recently brought to my attention how many everyday items we jewelry makers repurpose for use in our craft. Shopping “outside the genre” is a great way to save money (try buying white ribbon both in a fabric/craft store and in a wedding shop, and you’ll see what I mean), but it also cuts down on having to buy more stuff, which most of us already have way too much of as it is.
|Lexi’s saw with her sparkly bike-grip saw handle.|
Lexi shared her jewelry-making essential tools on Friday, and while watching her work some magic in her workshop, I made note of these everyday, unexpected jewelry-making essentials she used while making handcrafted sterling silver jewelry:
1. Keep pickle hot and ready for your jewelry in a Crock-Pot.
2. Cute bicycle grips make a perfect hand-friendly topper for your tool handles. Get a cute sparkly one with ribbon streamers like Lexi’s, and no one will mistake your tool for theirs in a class—they’ll just wish it was theirs!
3. Sharpie markers: Draw designs on your silver or copper sheet or wire with a Sharpie—the ink will rub off when you’re ready for it to. Sharpies also double as a mandrel and are the perfect size for forming ear wires.
4. Bar Keeper’s Friend is a pumice that teams up with (5) Dawn dish detergent and (6) a kitchen scrubber or (7) a toothbrush to clean and finish sterling silver jewelry after soldering, pickling, and liver-of-sulfuring.
8. Baking soda works well as a pumice and cleaner, too.
|Bar Keeper’s Friend (a pumice) pairs up
with Dawn detergent to clean silver jewelry.
9. A plastic sandwich bag is always handy; use it to keep scraps of metal types separate, to store different gauges of wire (write the gauge on the back with a Sharpie), your saw blades, polishing wheels, solder, as a backup container around liquids that might spill, even over your hand as a makeshift glove for dirty jobs like painting on liver of sulfur.
10. Milky Way mini candy bars: Lexi never really explained why these were necessary, but she’s the expert, so I’m taking her word for it. ;o)
11. Use old paintbrushes to apply liver of sulfur to add patina to your silver jewelry.
12. Ammonia, used with Dawn, dissolves oily, greasy buffing compounds from metal. If you’re removing Tripoli, use a toothbrush or a brass brush.
13. Cotton swabs and (14) toothpicks make great removers, too. Use them in your flex shaft with Tripoli and rouge to get into hard-to-reach places and then use clean ones to remove stubborn buffing compounds from high-polish metals.
15. A pencil makes a good solder pick in a pinch—just be careful not to catch it on fire! A pencil can also be a mandrel to coil metal.
16. Boiled eggs: Slice one in half and store it with silver in a bag from #8 to get an attractive patina without using liver of sulfur.
17. Just like the bags from #8, mini candy or mint tins can be used to store any little bits and pieces you need to keep track of without investing in expensive storage pieces.
|Lexi keeps various solder types in color-coded
Altoids tins, but I’m a Godiva Chocolate Pearl
girl (of course). These tins are vertical and
taller, making them good for wire, saw blades,
18. Wad up toilet tissue and send it through a rolling mill with sheet metal for a beautifully unique texture.
19. Fabric scraps also impart great texture on metal when passed through a rolling mill. Coarse fabric doubles as very fine sandpaper or polishing cloth. Crocus cloth from auto-supply shops can be torn in strips and used for sanding or thrumming.
20. Textured-paper greeting cards, gift wrap, wallpaper samples—all of these can transfer beautiful textures to your metals when you run them through a rolling mill.
21. Window screening/mesh: You can use metal screening for its textural qualities in a rolling mill, and plastic screen doubles as a strainer for holding small parts when pickling, liver of sulfur, enameling, and more. Don’t use metal screen in pickle. Plastic screen is available.
22. WD-40 is good to keep tools oiled and whirring along smoothly.
23. Beeswax makes a perfect lube for saw blades.
What’s your favorite everyday essential for jewelry making? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!