I love learning how to make things with a passion. When I get the idea that I'm going to figure out how something is done, I am absolutely obsessed. So when I started making jewelry about 10 years ago, I just about went crazy.
I spent hours and hours figuring out every single technique and my tool drawer grew, and grew, and grew. From then on my obsession grew. I couldn't afford or want to invest heavily in the beginning. I tried many techniques, trying to figure out better ways to do things.
I figured out ways to work with many household items to cut my tool cost. It's amazing the money you can spend on some tools that end up sitting in the bottom of your drawer because you used it once or came up with a better option. These tips will save you loads of money. I've also included some great short cuts and tricks!
Matching ear wires: Best way to get your ear wires to match exactly is to cut double the length you would use for one wire. Bend in half and shape your bent wire the way you normally would do. Trim the end once done to separate the bent wire into two identical pieces!
Soften wire: Use a propane torch back and forth over your wire. This is called annealing the wire. It will soften the wire. Be sure to cool the wire before handling!
Harden wire: Run coated pliers or your fingers along the wire to harden the temper. You can also use a small chasing hammer and lightly tap the wire to harden it. Be careful not to misshape the wire using this process.
Prevent Tool Scratches: Use one layer of masking or painter's tape on the jaws of your pliers and it will reduce tool marks.
Remove tarnish: Line a shallow dish with aluminum foil and sprinkle baking soda over it. Lay your jewelry pieces on top of this. Pour boiling water over the jewelry; add just enough to cover the pieces. Watch the tarnish just fall off! Wash and dry your jewelry.
Mandrels: Pens, sharpies, dowels....enough said.
Bobbins: For my weaving needs, I wrap my 28G dead soft onto bobbins to make my weaving consistent and more enjoyable. This prevents kinks and long lengths getting tangled. This bobbin came from craft wire that I bought from Wire-Sculpture.com. Another option is to purchase Kumihimo bobbins.
Emory Board: Don't have professional jewelry files, use emery boards. You get a rough and smooth size which is two in one! They are cheap and disposable.
Nail clippers: In an "emergency", a pair of nail clippers will work great as wire cutters for gold fill or sterling/fine silver wire (not too large), and you can get in really close. Just don't try to use them again on your nails, as the wire dulls the clipper blades fast!
Quilters tape: The fabric or quilters stores carry .25" wide masking tape called quilter's tape. It's nice and narrow so you can just rip a small piece and wrap your wires conveniently.
Cosmetic bags: The most awesome way to hold your smaller tools or wire. I keep separate cosmetic bags for my silver, copper and other metals. I keep my different gauges in clear plastic bags inside each cosmetic bag. I also keep an extra zip lock bag in each to hold the metal scrap.
Secret deodorant: Need a quick and perfect sized bracelet mandrel? That's right, Secret deodorant comes in the perfect shape bottle for this purpose!
Tooth brush, mascara wand: What better brushes to clean your jewelry with! The mascara wand can get into all those nooks and crannies that the toothbrush can't.
Dawn dish soap in tumbler: This does double duty. The wires are covered in oils from your hands which must be removed and what a beautiful shine you get when done! No need for harsh cleaning chemicals.
Homemade pickle: Pickle is used to remove the coating from silver (and other metals) after they’re heated with a torch. It’s a necessary part of the process. You take white vinegar, heat it up in your pickle pot or small Crockpot, and add one tablespoon of salt for every cup of vinegar.
Tool bag: Big box home improvement stores have an awesome collection of hand carried tool bags. Not everyone can dedicate a room in their home to the craft. A tool bag is a great option to keep everything together. They have pockets galore to keep all your tools at hand so you never go searching for them!
Paring knife: Boy, would I be lost without my paring knife! I bent the tip of one of my kitchen paring knives doing something stupid. Instead of throwing it away, it became one of my most treasured tools in my arsenal. The bent tip actually works to my benefit! I can get into those hard to reach places when trying to lift a wire.
Eggs: This is one of the easiest ways to add a patina to metal. All you need is a hard-boiled egg and a plastic bag or container. Hard-boil the egg. While the egg is still hot, cut it in half with a knife, shell and all. Place the egg halves and the jewelry into a plastic bag or bowl, and seal tightly. Let the items sit for a few hours. You will end up with a soft, subtle patina from the sulfur of the egg yolk. If you would like a darker patina, remove the jewelry from the bag or bowl, reheat the egg in the microwave and put the jewelry back in. Repeat this process until you have the desired color.
Orange stick, Popsicle sticks: The perfect solution for burnishing or pressing down areas on your work that won't leave a tool mark.
Shoe box lids: Lined with felt, use spray adhesive or hot glue to line the lids and you have great display trays for your jewelry.
Altoid box: Best little soldering station in the world!
If you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts, I'd love to hear about them!
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Hi and welcome to my blog. My name is Linda Taylor-Ricci of Ricci Designs.
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