Tips & Tricks
The following collection of tips was drawn from the winning entries of our monthly Tips & Tricks Contest. Each winner has received a $25 Gift Certificate from contenti.com and has been featured in our monthly e-newsletter. For more information visit our Contest Entry Form.
Create a Virtual Design Notebook - June '14
In addition to sketching your jewelry design ideas in a notebook, an easy way to collect and save them is to create a "Virtual Design Notebook" on your computer, smart phone, or tablet. Layout all your components on a flat surface and take a photograph. You can easily add captions to the photo describing how you plan to connect the various parts of the piece. When you want to make the same piece or something similar, you have a clear reference from which to work.
Submitted by: Phyllis Kacher
Make It Count - April '14
Get into the habit of counting when you are at the bench. This is especially helpful when you are working in 'production' mode. Counting hammer blows and file strokes while working reduces 'over working' one side and having to catch up on the other. For instance, if you are flattening the ends of 14 gauge wire, count how many hammer blows the first end takes, then repeat the same number on the other end, trusting your body's natural rhythm. You will be amazed at the near identical results you will achieve!
Submitted by: Janice Fowler
Stone Setting in Metal Clay - January '14
Implanting cubic zirconia and other small stones into metal clay can be challenging. One simple trick is to put a little dab of bur lubricant lubricant on a mini pallet knife or other flat tool. Touch the top of your stone with the lubricated knife. The stone will stick to the knife making it easy to insert the stone exactly where you want it without marring your clay.
Submitted by: Joanne
Clean Design Transfers - December '13
Design transfer can be messy and complicated sometimes. To make it easier and cleaner, draw your design directly on clean metal with a permanent sharpie, then cover with clear packing tape to keep the drawing from being rubbed off. When you've finished, simply peel the tape off--it usually releases without leaving behind residue. No need to worry about paper labels that don't stick or toxic rubber cement smells.
Submitted by: Chris Weston
Wonky Crimp Covers? - November '13
Tired of your crimp covers sliding around or being gripped wonky with your pliers? Try using your crimping pliers! Put the crimp cover on a flat surface and grip the cover with the most forward "slot" of your crimp pliers. It holds the crimp cover just right and it won't slide around preventing your from closing the crimp cover sideways, as happens with regular flat nose pliers.
Submitted by: Kaye Holt
Save Your Fingers From Sanding - October '13
To make sanding very small pieces of metal easier, use peel-off adhesive foam as a backing. Simply cut a piece of foam the size of the metal piece to be sanded and then stick the metal to the foam (with the side that needs sanding facing up). When you flip the piece over to sand, you have something to hold onto and keep your fingers from being sanded along with the metal. When you're finished simply peel the foam off the metal.
Submitted by: Karrie King
Dead Soft To Spring Hard - September '13
Round wire can be hardened quite easily and quickly by twisting
it. Twisting will not change the shape of the wire and you can
go from deadsoft to springhard lightening fast by placing one
end of the wire securely in a flexshaft or other rotary tool
and firmly grasping the other end with pliers. Simply start
the flexshaft at a very slow speed while gently pulling on
the wire. You will feel a slight 'give' as the wire lengthens
and you're done! (wear protective eye gear in case of breakage).
Submitted by: Janice Fowler
Faster Scoring - July '13
Hand filing lines for scoring metal is time-consuming and tedious. A faster, easier way is to use a separating disk instead of a hand file. Using the disc in your flexshaft, score a line deep enough in the metal until you can just see a faint impression from the opposite side. Then, use the corner of a square file to "clean up" the scored line before bending.
Submitted by: Karen Christians
Invisible Copper Solder Joints - June '13
Rather than deal with copper solder when soldering copper pieces, you can use regular silver solder instead. Easy solder is best, to prevent more oxides from forming on the copper than necessary. When placing the piece in your pickle, include a piece of binding wire. The steel wire causes the free copper oxides in the pickle to plate the silver of the solder joint, making it much less visible. Just remember to remove the binding wire from your pickle after you're done, or you'll plate the next piece of silver you work on, as well!
Submitted by: Wendy Oestreicher
Jump Ring Soldering - April '13
When soldering jump rings, use a permanent marker (red is great!) and mark on each side of the joint. Put the jump ring in the ultrasound or pickle for cleaning (the pen marks remain), close the joint and set it up for soldering. The marks make clear where the joint is, and it's clear where the solder should go. The marker fades as the metal heats up, but it's done its job.
Submitted by: MaryAnn Kane
Sawing Through Metal Tubing - March '13
Ever have problems cutting through a tube with your jeweler's saw? The teeth tend to get stuck on an edge and often will break your blade. To conserve time and resources, simply apply pressure on the upward motion of your saw to cut instead of the normal downward motion. The teeth won't get caught but will still cut through the tube like butter. Problem solved!
Submitted by: Grace Bader
Simple Flux Brush Holder - April '13
For those of us who are constantly misplacing our flux brush... Take a 2" length of a plastic drink straw and cut it in half lengthwise. Next, take a hot glue gun and attach the straw trough to the lid of your flux tub. This provides a handy place to park your flux brush while keeping your bench top clean and your flux uncontaminated.
Submitted by: Paul Klein
Sawing on The Double - January '13
When you need to saw two or more pieces of metal the exact same shape, place a drop of superglue to the clean surfaces of the metal. Glue the metal pieces together, wait for the glue to set. Trace the pattern onto the top metal and saw out the shape. Do not saw through the glue or your blade may get stuck and break. When sawing is completed, heat the metal with your torch flame and the glue will release.
Submitted by: Lewis Bennett
Easier Jump Ring Removal - December '12
If you are having trouble getting jump rings off a mandrel in order to cut them with your jump ring maker or saw, try this... Rub a bar of soap over the mandrel before coiling your wire around it. The soap will lubricate the mandrel and allow your coil to slide off easily for cutting. This suggestion works especially well for oval, square and other "non-round" jump ring shapes.
Submitted by: Nancy Layer
Keep Cutting Lubricant Close At Hand - October '12
Before using your jeweler's saw or a burr in your flex shaft, it is important to run it through lubricant wax to increase the life of your tools. To make this quick, burr out a decent size hole in the side of your bench pin and using a torch melt the edge of your wax and drip it into the hole. Once it's dry it's a quick move to run your saw blade through it with one simple motion before getting to work!
Submitted by: Grace Bader
Prevent Saw Blade Breakage - September '12
When creating a piercing in sheet metal it is best to hold your saw somewhat loosely without giving up control. This will allow you to feel when the blade is too taught or caught on something letting you know to pull back a tad and re-enter your cut. This will help you not break saw blades.
Submitted by: Janet Russell
Simple Jump Ring Cutting - August '12
Keep wooden dowels around to for cutting jump rings. If the rings aren't snug, wrap an appropriate length of masking tape around the dowel. It takes some fiddling, but well worth a minute or two to set up. The wood shavings burn out of fines and, with the dowel clamped in a vise and a bucket underneath, you can cut many, many jump rings at a time without wearing out your "holding" hand completely.
Submitted by: Janet Russell
A Bread Winner! - July '12
Sandwich bread is a great tool for setting up awkward pieces for epoxy work. Just ball up standard white bread to hold odd pieces and use pieces of whole wheat to lay out multiples of a similar piece. As the bread dries,it shrinks leaving no mess between the piece and the epoxy. It is also water soluble. Just be sure your studio does not have ants!
Submitted by: Kevin Duris Jr
Leather Hammer Straps - June '12
Cut a strip of scrap leather slightly longer than the head of your hammer. Attach the strip to the edge of your bench or a wall within easy reach of your bench or anvil. You can use decorative upholstrey tacks, nails with a large head, or roofing nails with a pre-attached washer. When mounting the leather holder, leave some slack to slide the hammer handle through. Over time, the leather will develop "memory" and the hammer will fit perfectly. Installing several of these holders will keep your hammers nicely organized and close-at-hand.
Submitted by: Rebecca Rourke
Designing with Photocopies - May '12
When planning a design using larger stones like agates, jasper and turquoise try photocopying the stones several times to help plan your design. Cut each of the photocopied stones out of the paper so that you can move them into different arrangements. A variety of drawings can then be done using many configurations. This approach makes it easer to compare ideas quickly and it is also a more attractive and accurate record of your designs because the image of the stones can be glued on to each drawing.
Submitted by: Marilynn Nicholson
Custom Bench Pin - April '12
Customizing your bench pin can make many tasks easier and save you time. To help hold tubing and wire secure during filing, use a hand file to create two long strip grooves (one small and one large) on one side of the pin. On the other side, create a notch for rings to fit easily in so filing them down is no longer a problem either. This is a simple five minute fix that will save you time in the future.
Submitted by: Rachel Booth
Cotton Swab Polishing points - April '12
Polishing in tight areas is difficult. To make the task easier, make your own polishing points using cotton swabs. Remove the cotton ends, then using an abrasive disc in your flexshaft, narrow the ends to a point. Use one swab to apply a small amount of polishing compound to the area you want to polish, and mount another in your flexshaft handpiece, sticking out about 1". To get a high shine, use a new, dry swab to finish the polishing.
Submitted by: Greg Bean
Quick Vise Jaw Protectors - January '12
For the jewelers out there who are tired of ugly vise "teeth" marks in their work here's a simple and quick fix for your bench vise jaws. Measure your bench vise jaws and cut 2 appropriate lengths of copper or brass sheet that is twice the width of the jaws. Bend each piece of metal over the jaws so that they are now perfect protecting plates for your work. You can use some masking tape to secure the metal plates into place... And POOF the unwanted marks will be gone for good.
Submitted by: Rachel Booth
Better Bezel Measuring - December '11
When making a bezel for a stone setting, instead of wrapping the bezel wire around the stone, (which I find akward) I use masking tape. I wrap a length of the tape around the stone and very carefully slip the stone out and then cut the masking tape, making a rectangle that I can then measure. Not only can you then put the tape on a table (sticky side down) to measure better, but also you can lay the stone on the the tape and get a better idea of the height.
Submitted by: Cara Likens
Solder Snips Organizer - November '11
To avoid wasting solder, save your extra snipped pieces in a porcelain daisy paint mixing tray with multiple sections. Use a Sharpie to mark each section with the solder type (Hard, Medium, Easy) and keep the snipped pieces in the appropriate section. No more waste, the solder is easy to see, and you can use the extra sections to hold small components. You can even use a section to hold a drop of flux to dip your solder bits in before using them.
Submitted by: Wendy Oestreicher
Spring Handle Pliers for Smaller Hands - September '11
Spring handle pliers can be difficult to grasp, especially if you have small hands. To make your life easier, stretch a wide rubber band across the handles to pull them together slightly. This stops them from springing open to their original position and adds additional grip while holding them. Start with the rubber band across the widest part of the handles and adjust it up or down to bring the handles closer together or farther apart.
Submitted by: Renee Isbell
No Tangle Chain Polishing - August '11
To tumble polish tarnished sterling chain with open links, thread it on monofilament or fishing line. Use a running stitch about every inch or so, depending on the size of the links, and tie the ends, making a loose bundle. Dip in jewelry cleaner to remove excess tarnish, rinse and tumble. No more tangled chain.
Submitted by: Joyce Miller
Quiet Your Anvil - July '11
A good quality anvil makes a loud ringing sound when struck. To dampen the ringing, attach a large chunk of plain old pasticine modelers/sculptors clay to anvil. Positioning the clay under the horn of the anvil keeps it out of the way. it works like placing a finger on a ringing bell... making the sound softer. You can also use a large magnet from an old audio speaker to get the same result.
Submitted by: Mark Kaplan
No More Lost Parts - May '11
Keep little bits and pieces from falling on the floor as you work: screw several cup hooks to the underside of your workbench, about 24" apart, about 6-8" from the front edge, with the open side away from you. Attach a couple of big safety pins, clips, clamps, or grommets to the bottom corners of your work apron, and hook up when you sit to work. No more lost rivets, jump rings, or gemstones... they'll land in your lap!
Submitted by: M Matteson Smith
Painless Hammering - April '11
Tired of hitting your fingers with your hammer when holding small projects down on the bench block? Grab a pencil and use the eraser to hold the item in place. It keeps your fingers out of the way and also keeps your project on the bench block.
Submitted by: Katie Mullins
Consistent Cut Wires - March '11
To cut many wires of the same length, such as for making earwires, cut a tube of brass or copper in that length. The diameter of the tube should be just slightly larger than the wire. Holding the tube with your index finger against one end to stop the wire, push the wire into the tube and cut at the edge of the tube. No more measuring and marking with ruler.
Submitted by: Joyce Miller
Transfer Designs From Computer to Metal - April '11
you create flat designs on your computer (using Adobe Illustrator or any other graphics program), here's any easy way to transfer those designs to your metal sheet for cutting. Load a sheet of labels in your printer. The size of the label will depend on the size of your design. You can get labels in a wide variety of sizes... even as a full 8.5" x 11" sheet. Simply print your design on the label sheet as many times as you need (this tip is great for creating matching earring components), then stick the label to your metal. You can cut right through the label without worrying about the paper moving or smudging lines.
Submitted by: Jo Ann Stevens
Sanding flat material - January '11
Here is an easy way to sand flat, or slightly curved, metal without having to hold it with your fingers. Cut a small piece of rubberized shelf liner, the kind with a bumpy texture. Place your metal on the liner and start sanding. The liner should hold your material in place without you having to use your fingers.
Submitted by: Carol Stewart
Quick and Easy Earring Posts - December '10
To make ear posts quickly and with less waste, drill a hole in a scrap of hard wood that is slightly wider than the wire you're using. The hole should be the same depth as the desired length of your posts. Round off the end of your wire and insert it into the hole. Cut the wire flush with the top of the wood, then file it flat. Tap the wire out of the hole and you have a perfect ear post.
Submitted by: Vicente J. Berrellez
Cutting Small Materials With a Guillotine Shear - November '10
Cutting small pieces of metal with a guillotine shear can be difficult, and even dangerous. To make the task easier (and safer), take the piece of metal and tape it to the side of a sheet of paper. You can then use the paper to hold the metal in place and keep your fingers away from the blade.
Submitted by: Aleksandra Vali
Small Desk tool Organizer - September '10
If you're stuck working at a small desk, you know how difficult it is too keep your tools handy when you need them, but out of the way when you're not using them. To solve this problem, attach a pull-out keyboard drawer to the bottom of your desk. It's roomy enough to hold many of your tools, but shallow enough to not get in the way when it's not needed. Now, all of your pliers, cutters and other hand tools will be one "pull" away.
Submitted by: Carol Hettenbach
Cooking Up Great Beadwork Designs - August '10
Several kitchen items make great, inexpensive helpers when doing beadwork. Ice cube trays and muffin tins are great organizers for storage or while you are working. If your design calls for several types of beads use a section for each type. Makes clean up easier as well. Tin pie plates and low edged cake pans lined with felt squares are great design workspaces. Beads don't roll off onto the floor! Baby spoons are perfect bead scoopers. Don't forget toothpicks for applying glue and clean condiment minijars (jelly, honey etc.) are perfect bead storage.
Submitted by: Leslie Holland
Keeping Liver of Sulphur "Alive" - July '10
Most of us have had our container of Liver of Sulfur mysteriously "die". Well, if you put one or two of the little packets of silicon, desiccant, that come in the box of shoes or other products, these will take up the moisture in the container and you will get to use it up to the last little crumb!
Submitted by: Micki Lippe
Quick-Change Texturing Hammer - June '10
It's nice to have different textured hammers, but with a small studio space you really need to be creative about storage. Instead of using multiple hammers, purchase a brass mallet with replaceable heads along with a few replacement heads. Texture each of the heads differently. Now, instead of changing hammers, you just change the heads and they take up a lot less space.
Submitted by: Cyndie Miles
Quiet Down Your Bracelet Mandrel - May '10
The loud sounds made when forming and forging on a typical hollow steel bracelet mandrel can be significantly quieted down by stuffing the mandrel with random pieces of plain old foam rubber.
Submitted by: Mark Kaplan
Dissolving Liver of Sulphur - April '10
When making a liver of sulfur solution for darkening sterling silver, try placing the large rocks in a jar with some hot water and then hold in a running ultrasonic cleaner. Watch the liver of sulfer dissolve with no effort crushing pieces or staining your clothes. This also serves as a good demonstration for students and retail personelle as to why one should not put your fingers in an ultrasonic!
Submitted by: Kevin Duris
Alternative File Handle - March '10
As an alternate to using a standard wooden or plastic file handle, epoxy round wooden beads over the sharp palm end of the file. They come in many different sizes and even colors. Now you can "choke up" on the file and gain more control without poking or cutting up your palm or wrist.
Submitted by: Dan Connelly
Preventing Stuck Flux Lids - April '10
When you are done using your soldering paste flux, simply grab some petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) and a paper towel and lightly wipe down the rings on the screw top lid and the jar (try not to overdo it). The next time you need to open the jar, you'll have an easy time of it. This trick also works on lids of jars of paint, nail polish, and other "sticky" materials.
Submitted by: Lori McKinney
Keeping Straight Wire Straight - January '10
To keep silver or gold wire from being bent out of shape after it's been straightened, use containers made from sturdy PVC tubing. Purchase 1/2" diameter PVC tubing from your local hardware store and cut into manageable lengths. Add your wire pieces and place 1/2" caps on the ends. No more worrying about kinks and unwanted bends.These are especially handy when you need to transport wires to and from class.
Submitted by: Nancy Layer
Organizing Your Wire Stock - December '09
Keep your assorted wire stock easily organized in an expandable manila folder with dividers. Place each wire size in its own section, stored inside a zipper-lock plastic bag. For easy identification, write the gauge and properties (soft, hard, etc.) on the front of each bag. This keeps both coils and scrap pieces organized. For silver wire, slip an anti-tarnish sheet into the bag to prevent tarnish.
Submitted by: Mary Anderson
Quick and easy drilling holder - October '09
When using a drill press the smaller pieces of metal can get really hot and are hard to hold on to. Use the eraser end of a pencil to hold the metal in place. It grips and keeps the project in place while drilling. Always wear eye protection!
Submitted by: Nancy Michalewicz
Inexpensive ring and bracelet display - September '09
For your next show use these inexpensive custom displays. Purchase a silk or velvet glove from a costume or formalwear store. White and black look nicest. For a ring display use a short glove. Stuff with cotton and pull the base over an appropriately sized weighted jar, secure the base with ribbon, and set upright. For a bracelet display, use an elbow length glove. Leave out the weighted jar; just stuff and tie the base with a rubber band and ribbon then lay it across the table adorned with a dozen bracelets.
Submitted by: Betty Smith
Easily size rings from a single size wax model - August '09
Place the wax model ring on a ring sizing mandrel, and clamp the mandrel into a vise so that it is upright. Use a hairdryer with a low warm setting to soften the model while gently pulling it down to the desired size on the calibrated mandrel ring sizer. With this approach you can make a wide range of sizes from a single size as long as your model is smaller and has a thick enough band for stretching.
Submitted by: Jonathan O'Hare
Keeping Tabs on your Sawblades - June'09
After sawing, do you put your saw away with the blade still in the frame? The next time you use it, do you have trouble remembering what size blade is in the frame? Here's a quick tip to solve the problem. Save a bunch of the little plastic tags used to keep bread bags closed. Use a felt-tipped pen to write the various sizes of the saw blades you use and keep the tags with your blades. When you put your saw away, snap a tag onto the saw with the size of the blade currently in the frame. That way you'll know what the blade size is next time you use the saw. And remember... don't put the saw away with a blade under tension. Always loosen one side.
Submitted by: Carl Powers
Keep Your Fingertips Safe While Sanding - May '09
Sanding bezels and ring shanks over a sheet of sandpaper is a quick way to get level edges, but it's also a good way to sand the skin off your fingertips. To prevent this from happening... Fold a small piece of paper towel and wet it with a few drops of water. Use the paper towel to grasp your metal piece as you rub it over a piece of sandpaper laid on a smooth surface. The wetness of the towel will grip the metal so you have better leverage and will keep you from sanding the skin off your fingertips.
Submitted by: Jennifer Roche
Quick Fabric Tool Roll - April '09
To make this tool roll, you don't even have to turn on your sewing machine! All you need is some funky fabric, some ribbon, & some fabric glue.
1. Line up your tools to determine the length of the roll. Leave them on the table.
2. Cut out a piece of fabric the width of your line of tools & four times as high as your tallest tool. Add an inch on all sides for the finished edges.
3. Lay the fabric front side down. Fold up the bottom & sides (not the top) 1/2 inch & glue.
4. Fold the bottom up about four inches & the top down. Tuck the unfinished top edge under the bottom part that was folded up & glue the top part down.
5. Place the tool roll above your line of tools. Put thin lines of glue under the bottom fold to make little pockets for each of your tools.
Allow the glue to dry, then add two ribbons - one to the far right middle edge & the other centered about 10 inches down the roll.
7. Put in your tools, roll 'em up, & you're ready to go!
Submitted by: Jean Van Brederode
New use for old utensils - March '09
Don't throw away you old steel knives forks and spoons! You can use them as forming and burnishing tools. Stainless steel is strong and ideal for tool making. Unserrated knives are perfect when trying to get into tight places to set stones. Smooth solid handles make good forming stakes. Serrated ones become scrapers Spoons can be used as burnishers or handles bent so that they can be held in a vise and used as a stake. Tongs of forks make small burnishers and forming tools. If you don't already have some go to your local thrift store. You will find a lot of different shapes that may prove very useful.
Submitted by: Marilynn Nicholson
REMOVING POLISHING RESIDUE - April '09
Looking for a fast and easy way to remove tripoli and other polishing compounds between polishing steps? Mix one cup of hot (but not boiling) water and one TBSP of OxyClean®. Soak the piece for 5 minutes, then remove and rinse in clean water. Polishing residue will simply fall off in the cup!
Submitted by: Madelynn Cassin
Tabletop earring display - January '09
To make a tabletop earring display. Take a picture frame with a back to allow it to support itself on a table. Use either nylon window screen or any color of netting from the fabric store. (The kind wedding favors and bridal veils are made of.) Pull the netting over the frame tightly and secure on the back with a staple gun or with glue. If you use glue you'll need to secure the netting until the glue sets. You can just hang the earrings on the netting.
Submitted by: Cyndy Chambers
Keep Polishing Compound out of your bezels - November'08
When polishing a bezel set stone, it's difficult to keep polishing compound from getting under the stone and into the bezel. To prevent this problem, wet the stone before polishing and apply baking powder, covering the stone and especially the top edge of the bezel. The baking powder will help prevent polishing compound from getting under the stone and is easily removed with water once polishing is complete. This process is really helpful with stones or glass that are light colored or clear.
Submitted by: Christal Keener
Protecting Stones During Tumbling - September '08
Have you ever wanted to put a jewelry piece back into the tumbler after you have set the cabochon(s)? It's possible, using this trick. Apply enough Tool Magic™ or Plasti Dip® to cover the stone and allow it to cure (about 2 hours). For additional protection, recoat and allow to cure. Then place the piece into the tumbler. It's a good idea to check the piece every five minutes or so to be sure that the stone remains protected. This works very well with steel shot. Use additional caution when tumbling with more aggressive media. Once tumbling has been completed, the rubber coating peels off of the stone quite easily.
Submitted by: Roxanna Santoro
Easier Metal Crocheting - August '08
Crocheting with metal wire is a popular technique. But, holding a thin crochet hook handle can be hard on your hands. To make crocheting easier and more enjoyable, wrap an elastic bandage (e.g. Ace® bandage) around the center of the handle many times until it forms a big lump covering the center third of the handle. The bandaged lump provides a larger grip and will conform to the shape of your hand as you use the hook.
Submitted by: Stephanie Riger
Polishing Small Details - July '08
Polishing jewelry that has very fine details can be difficult to accomplish without removing some of the detail. To make the job easier (and safer), apply a small amount of polishing compound to a wooden toothpick and use it to get into the tight spots. As an alternative, apply the compound to a small piece of chamois cloth placed over the toothpick. If you think creatively, just about anything can be a tool!
Submitted by: Christina Goebel
Seamless Gold soldering - June '08
Prevent visible weld seams and broken shanks when sizing gold rings. Use the next highest karat weight of hard solder than the karat weight of the material your working on. For example, if your job is a 14karat yellow gold then use 18karat yellow hard solder. Do not over heat your weld as this may cause porosity and weakness in the brazed joint. Not to mention the destruction of the work.
Submitted by: Paul Piazza
Easy Pricing Formula - May '08
Keep an index card for each of your production pieces, listing materials by piece or weight,and assembly time. Write a pricing formula, using "x" for spot market price and "y" for length of product - be sure to include your profit margin. That way it's easy to adjust prices when the market rises or falls, or for different lengths/sizes of that piece. For example: ((x+25+30)/y)1.3 In other words... Take the spot market price(x), add your hourly rate($25) and any additional materials($30). Divide that total by the length(y), then multiply by your profit margin(1.3/30%).
Submitted by: Sam Kaffine (Sterling Bliss)
Charcoal Block Soldering - April '08
Instead of digging notches in your charcoal block to hold your work while soldering, cut the block lengthwise into three pieces. Put the pieces back together, then stretch two steel springs around the outside and secure the ends with binding wire or by twisting the spring ends together. When you are ready to solder, pry the charcoal block apart and place your piece in the slot. The tension from the springs will hold your work upright without additional support. You can place your piece close to the block, allowing the heat from your torch flame to reflect back to the piece, making it easier to solder.
Submitted by: Steven Jugo
Tagging Solder Wire - March '08
Keep track of your wire solder by taking a square of sheet metal (brass, nugold, nickel silver, copper) and write the kind of solder on the face (in felt tip pen or metal stamps). Drill a few small holes along the bottom and thread the corresponding wire solder through the holes and twist to secure. You can easily snip off sections of solder as needed and the different metals are a visual cue to the type of solder on each. Drill a hole at the top of the square of metal and hang it on your peg board for easy access.
Submitted by: Wendy Oestreicher
Homemade Porosity Tool - April '08
A broken drill bit can be made into a very effective porosity tool with little effort. Start by breaking off any remaining cutting edges. Then, using a torch, heat one end of the broken bit until it is glowing red. Allow the bit to cool on its own(do not quench). Once cool, place the bit in a vice and bend a 2 cm long L shape into the end. File the end to a rounded point, leaving a smooth finish. Before using, heat the tip again until it glows red. Remove the flame and quickly submerge the tool in water to harden it. Mount the tool in your flexshaft handpiece and remove porosity as needed. ALWAYS REMEMBER TO WEAR EYE PROTECTION!
Submitted by: Andy Thomas
Color-Coded Solder - January '08
If you use sheet solder, color code it with a marking pen. Use red for hard, blue for soft and black for med. That way, if you find stray solder snippets on your desk or floor, you know exactly what you have by the color. It also makes it easier to put different types on your solder station, so you don't have to stop each time to change solders. A quick glance at the color will tell you what you have.
Submitted by: Carol Hettenbach
Embossing Metal Sheet - November '07
Brass templates used for paper embossing can also add texture to silver and copper sheet. Place the brass template on top of your metal sheet and run through your rolling mill. The template should hold up for several passes through the mill and give a nice sharp image transfer. These templates can be found at most craft stores among the scrap booking supplies.
Submitted by: Heather Loney
Working like a Clock - October '07
When using multiple pliers and hand tools, place them in the same order before you on your workspace. You can use the numbers on a clock as a reference, placing tools at the 9, 12, and 3 o'clock positions with your workspace as the center. You'll soon become accustomed to the placement of your tools and not have to take your eyes off of your work to pick them up when you need them.
Submitted by: Bonnie Elliott
Homemade Heat shield - September '07
Soldering links (or other elements) to fine chain can be difficult to accomplish without over-heating the chain itself. To protect the chain during soldering, use a small scrap of copper or brass sheet supported in locking tweezers as a heat shield. Position the chain so that it is behind the heat shield with the link to be soldered sticking out slightly. Bring your torch flame from the same direction as the heat shield such that it reaches the link but is deflected by the shield from overheating the chain. This trick works especially well with larger torches that don't have small/precise soldering tips.
Submitted by: Sondra Sherman
Alternative Soldering support - August '07
When positioning oddly shaped or delicate parts for soldering, using a "third arm" or binding wire is not always the best approach. For these difficult soldering jobs, try using scrap pieces of copper to keep your parts in place. Just bend the copper scraps into table or sling-like shapes to support your pieces, then coat them with a solder-flow prevention compound such as liquid correction fluid (e.g. WhiteOut™). The copper supports will keep your parts positioned, while the coating prevents solder from adhering to the copper. This technique works especially well with parts that are impossible to bind together with traditional binding wire.
Submitted by: Marilynn Nicholson (Taos Jewelry School)
Making a Miniature Brass Brush - July '07
Have you ever had trouble getting into small spaces with a standard-size brass brush? If you don't have a small brush at hand, you can easily make your own. Cut a small piece of copper or brass tubing (the type used for hinges on small boxes). Pluck several bristles off an old brass brush and insert them into one end of the tubing. To keep the bristles in place, simply crimp the tubing with a pair of pliers or your bench vise. Now you have a cheap, go-anywhere miniature brass brush for cleaning rings and other small items.
Submitted by: JoseCarlos Villalon
Keep your sketches in sight - June '07
After making sketches of the designs you would like to make, don't leave them on your bench top to get dirty and be "in the way". Instead, hang them up and out of the way with a curtain rod and curtain clips. Mount a curtain rod on the wall in front of your bench and secure the drawings with simple curtain clips (available at most hardware/decorating stores). This will help keep your work surface less cluttered and keep your sketches in sight.
Submitted by: Alaina Burnett
Quenching & Pickling... The dry way - May '07
This is an easy way to keep your hands dry in the studio: poke holes in a clean plastic yogurt container with a hot nail. Place the container in your quenching bowl, and drop small parts into it as soon as they are soldered. Pick up the container with your copper tongs, and submerge it into the pickle. When it's ready, pick it up again with the copper tongs, let it drain, and then submerge it into a vat of clean water. Swirl it around a few moments, then drain the water and pour the parts onto a drying cloth.
Submitted by: Evelyn Arvey
filing bezel wire the easy way - April '07
Because it's so thin and flexible, bezel wire is not always easy to work with. To make filing easier, hold the wire in a pair of flat nose pliers, leaving 1 mm of the wire end sticking out to the side of the pliers jaws. File off the excess wire until it is flush with the pliers. Repeat for the other end of the wire. If the back of the plier jaws (where the joint is) is at a right angle to the sides and the bezel wire is carefully aligned with the back of the jaws, the filed ends will be absolutely flat and square, making them easy to solder. Just be sure not to squeeze the pliers too tightly or you will mash the bezel wire.
Submitted by: Noël Yovovich
Preventing Stuck Paste Flux - March '07
Sitting down to a solder job and finding the lid to your paste flux jar "glued-on" can be frustrating. Follow these simple steps to ensure that this doesn't happen. After you've finished your soldering work for the day, simply wipe down the grooves on the flux jar before replacing the lid. Then, store the jar upside down in a dish of water. The water will prevent the flux from drying out. Voila! No more sticky lid!
Submitted by: Kristi Zevenbergen
Quick & Easy Wire basket Soldering - April '07
When soldering basket settings for gem stones,
bore out a dish shaped indention in a charcoal block with a sphere or cone shaped abrasive wheel. Position your V-shaped wire parts into the dish so
that the sides of the dish support the formed wire and the points
are clustered in the bottom of the dish. Then, simply solder the wires together. The increased stability makes soldering quicker, easier and
more accurate than other methods.
Submitted by: James Hutchinson
Stuck on beading - January '07
Picking up small beads, like heishi and seed beads, can be difficult. Instead of using your bare fingers,
use a rubber finger cot (or surgical gloves) with a small amount of rubber cement applied to the tip. You want to use only enough cement to make it tacky, allowing you to pickup those small items with ease. The cot will protect your fingers from the adhesive and the adhesive will save your beads from being lost.
Submitted by: Steven J Jugo
Stop Grating Your Teeth - December '06
Cut a short piece of rubber surgical tubing (approximately 5" long) and pull it over the threaded part of your polishing motor arbor before attaching your buffing wheel. Then, if the piece you are polishing should accidentally rub against the arbor, you don't have to worry about it being scratched or chewed up by the threads. A great low-cost solution that works extremely well.
Submitted by: Jan Werner
When two wires are better than one - November '06
When making earrings or any other "two-of-a kind" pieces with wire, you can save yourself considerable time by making both pieces at one time. Just lay your wires side-by-side and tape them together at both ends. Then, use your pliers to work the wires into the desired shape. When you've achieved the result you're looking for, remove the tape and voila! You now have two perfectly matched pieces that took you half the time it would normally have taken.
Submitted by: Suellyn Snobeck
Never Lose Your Chuck Key Again - October '06
Constantly misplacing your flexshaft chuck key? A retractable id badge holder or retractable key chain is the perfect solution to this all-too-common problem. One costs only a few dollars, can be easily secured to your bench top and has a long stainless steel cable with a sturdy locking ring at the end. Simply attach the base to your bench (or any other convenient place) and secure your chuck key with the lock ring. You'll never waste time searching for the key under a pile of tools again.
Submitted by: R.E. Rourke
Keeping Your Metal Clay Moist - September '06
There are few things more disappointing than sitting down at your bench and finding that the lump of metal clay you were about to use has dried-up into an unworkable, useless blob. Keeping your unused PMC or Art Clay moist is much easier with a package of Soil Moist granules from your local garden center and an empty film canister. Place 1 teaspoon of Soil Moist granules into the film canister (or other air-tight container) along with 1 tablespoon of distilled or tap water. Allow the granules to absorb the water, then pour off any excess. To use, simply place your metal clay (wrapped in plastic wrap) into the container. The Soil Moist granules will keep your clay from drying out and prolong its life indefinitely. And when the granules begin to lose their moisture, just add a few drops of water to the container. It's that easy!
Submitted by: R.E. Rourke
Coordinating Colored Beads - August '06
Take a "Chip & Dip" platter or similar plastic plate with divided sections and paint each section a different color. Choose primary and secondary colors as in a traditional color wheel, or color themes such as warm hues, cool hues, or seasonal colors. Once dry, the tray(s) can be used to help coordinate colored beads for projects. Place the beads on the tray and move from section to section until the desired color combination is achieved. This is a great way to find uses for left-over beads and for experimenting with unique color combinations.
Submitted by: Deb K. Oller
Making Metal Clay Texture Plates - July '06
Begin with a thick sheet of Sculpey(r) or other polymer clay material. A 3" x 4" piece with a thickness of approx. 1/4" works well. Using an antique button, rubber stamps, metal screen material, or any other object with texture, make repeated impressions in the clay sheet. Overlapping the impressions in some areas and using a variety of objects, will make the texture plate more interesting. Once you are satisfied with the texture, trim the clay sheet to 2" x 3" and bake at the manufacturer's recommended time/temperature. You now have a custom-made texturing plate to add more interest to you metal clay creations. Simply, coat the polymer clay sheet with olive oil to keep the metal clay from sticking.
Submitted by: RobinBeth Faulkner
Extending the Life of Sanding Discs - June '06
When your snap-on sanding discs become worn out along the
edge, you can easily extend their life using a sharp knife.
With the disc mounted in your handpiece and running at a
moderate speed, place the tip of the knife on the underside
of the disc. Bring the knife blade up, cutting off the
outer edge of the disc. This will leave you with a smaller
disc with a fresh cutting edge. This technique can also be
used to true a new disc that is mounted off-center.
ALWAYS REMEMBER TO WEAR EYE PROTECTION!
Submitted by: David Huffman
CUSTOMIZE YOUR FILES - May '06
Extend the usefulness of your files by creating "safe" edges on them. Using a large grinding wheel or sanding
belt, remove the teeth from one of the cutting edges,
leaving a smooth, non-abrasive surface (take care not to
overheat your files while grinding). This will enable
you to file in tight areas without effecting adjacent
surfaces. You can also use this technique to fine-tune
files that already have safe edges but the teeth of the
cutting edge(s) may extend beyond the safe edge.
Submitted by: Robert Coogan
STORING TINY DRILL BITS - April '06
Tired of loosing those tiny drill bits on you benchtop?
Here's an easy way to keep your small drills organized and
within reach. Place a piece of beeswax along the edge of
your benchtop and insert your drills, pointed end first,
into the wax. When you need them, simply remove from the
block and use. As a bonus, the wax film left on the drill
will act as a lubricant, making drilling easier and the
drill bit last longer.
Submitted by: Jessica Daman
ROLL YOUR WAY TO A PERFECT BEZEL - March '06
Kinks in your bezel? Or is it a little too small for the
stone? Use the thin, delicate quality of the bezel material
to your advantage. Slide the unfinished bezel onto an
appropriately shaped bezel mandrel and roll the bezel on a
hard surface, as if it were a rolling pin. The rolling
action will smooth out any kinks in the bezel and enlarge
it slightly. The more you roll, the larger the bezel will
become. Anneal and repeat if necessary.
Submitted by: Anne Wolf
LOOK FORWARD TO SAWING - sample tip
When sawing through sheet metal, always keep your eyes
focused slightly ahead of your sawblade. By looking several
millimeters ahead, you will have less of a tendency to make"choppy" corrections when your cut strays. Just like
driving a car, you want to pay attention to what's in front
of you, instead of what is directly below you at that
moment. The result? Smoother curves, straighter lines, and
Submitted by: The Contenti Company