Tricks of the Trade

We love to share metalworking advice from our experts!  Many thanks go out to our faculty and community members for generously sharing tips they've learned or developed from years of experience at the bench. If you would like our monthly "Tricks of the Trade" delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our email newsletter, In Lighter News, in the website footer.

Use a cordless drill to make quick and easy jump rings!

The best way to create a loop is with a perfect pair of forming pliers. Forming pliers have one round, tapered jaw  and one flat, tapered jaw.  These pliers will allow you to make a loop without getting a “dent” on the outside of the wire.  Never use round pliers as they will leave a dent in the wire.



Add color and creativity to your decals by using Thompson Enamel Marking Crayons and China paints.

Do you have a complex shape that you need to make a prong setting for? Follow these simple steps.

Looking for an easier way to start your rivet heads? Check out this great tip by jeweler Monique Rancourt. 

Learn this quick and easy way to make rivets using the Orion pulse arc welder. Get a nice even ball with very little texture!

Look no further if you need to make a bail that is functional, good looking, and easy to produce.  A great way to finish your pendant in just 7 simple steps.    

After a forged form is curved, you can widen the form by using a wide raising hammer. Using a curved stake will also work. The heavier the stake, the faster the metal will move. 

I often make several pieces at a time and go from the pickle pot, to the rinse sink, to the corn cob meal for a super quick way to dry pieces off in between steps. You can also use it right after applying a patina to avoid finger prints. I have also kept files in a bag of it during long moves and travel to keep moisture from creating rust spots.

To start, prep your metal by annealing and cleaning it with scotch bright and/or acetone. Make sure there is no finger grease on the metal. It helps to tape your design to the worktable so it won't slide around. Next, slide the sheet metal underneath and line up the metal with the design. Place the carbon paper between the metal and the design. Remember to make sure the carbon is paper is face down onto the metal. Use a sharp, hard pencil (No. 2 is great) and trace your design while pressing firmly down onto the paper. Try to rub the pencil into the design for a good transfer. After tracing the design, the carbon should show up on the surface of the metal.


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