Getting Started

Maybe you have been taking a short course at the local jewelry school. Or maybe you have been creating wire and bead jewelry and now you want to take that next step and start creating more elaborate pieces that require the use of specialty tools and more advanced metalsmithing techniques.

But where to start? With more questions than answers it’s quite overwhelming and very easy to put your dream in the “I’ll do that one day” basket. Well…don’t!

Starting out is not that hard. Yes, you will need some tools and a space where you can work, but whether you start in a corner of a 1 bedroom apartment or you allocate a whole room of your house, the steps you need to go through are more or less the same.

The below gives you a quick outline of the main components you need to consider to get started:

The Jewelry Studio

Dust extraction 01

The studio or workspace is obviously rather important. You need to create a location where you have sufficient space to work effectively. The space needs to be safe both for you and for others. So if you have kids or pets you need to make sure there is a door you can close or a cabinet where you can lock up some of all the “dangerous” bits and pieces involved in handmade jewelry making.

Light and ventilation are important. Although both can be created artificially, nothing beats natural light and an open window. However, if you live in some of the more extreme places in the world where heat or cold prevents you from having great natural ventilation in the form of an open window, well, there is way around that too. I’ll show you what I did for fume and dust extraction.

The “plumbing” for my fume and dust extraction setup

The Jewelers Bench

Jewelers Bench

When you have figured out where you can fit your workshop, you need to think about the bench. You have probably seen what a jewelers bench looks like. It’s sort of a tall table with a half-circle cut out of the desk top.

A bench is, in my opinion, a very personal object that will have to fit you perfectly to give you the best possible work position and comfort.

I know there are many different ways to approach getting the perfect bench but I believe the most effective way is to build one fitted just to you. OK, I know this is where my woodworking legacy kicks in and obviously it is not practical or possible for everybody to create his or her own custom bench like I did.

But as mentioned, a bench can be many things. You could buy a ready-made jewelers bench or you can use an old desk you pick up from the roadside on trash day. It really doesn’t matter as long as it works for you. But more on that in the Bench Section.

Tools and machines

Tools and machines are one of those areas where you can buy yourself silly and go all out on all the best hand tools, the latest and most effective power tools and so many different variants of each that you could fill the whole house.

But to get started it’s totally unnecessary to go quite that far. There are some tools that you will need but there are lots more that are nice to have, tools that will make life easier for you. In the Tools Section you can drill into all the different tools: what they do, how they are used, what to look for when buying, etc., and on the Resource Page you can find links to a flock of places where you can get all the tools you could ever dream of. And a few you

Safety and Health

It’s important! Don’t ignore it! As my optometrist said to me when I came to him with dust in my eye from a project I had been working: “You are an idiot! Wear eye protection! You only have one set of eyes, do not risk it.” That kinda put things in perspective and I have started to always use the proper protection, be it for eyes, ears, or breathing.

So when setting up your space, you need to consider how you will be able to get the soldering fumes out of your face, how you can avoid getting fingers, hair or other loose items in places where they can get cut or caught in a fast-spinning polishing wheel. Not to mention catch fire!

The one thing I am always very conscious about is the risk of hurting others. It’s one thing that you hurt yourself (although I generally try to avoid that too) but if your child gets accidentally hurt by drinking some nasty chemical or getting their fingers in a machine, that is a different thing altogether!

Materials

Last but not least, you need to consider the different materials (i.e. consumables) you will need. The most obvious one is the metal that you will be using to create your jewelry, but other things like solder, flux, pickle, polishing compound, mops abrasive paper, and if you’re like me and are a little heavy-handed on the fine drills and burs you may count those as consumables as well!

Depending on the style of jewelry you want to make there are different materials needed: you can use parts of old watches (steampunk), natural objects like stone, precious metals, gemstones, wood, steel, copper, PMC (precious metal clay) and a ton of other things. Not all have to be purchased, so again, this is a very open field, but I’ll run you through what I use and where I get my stuff from.

So from here you can choose one of the main areas from the menu and dive into it. Enjoy!