Tool List for Beginning Metalsmiths and Metal Art Jewelry Making
What does an aspiring silvermith, metalsmith or metal arts jeweler need to get started? I get asked this question a lot so I thought I’ld put together a list of tools specifically for beginners... the basics and things to consider as your interest grows and skills expand.
Jewelry making and metalsmithing are not inexpensive crafts and there are a lot of us on a budget. Sometimes this industry reminds me of the wedding industry. Add the word “wedding” on anything and its immediately more expensive. It works the same in the jewelry making industry... just add the word “jeweler” andthe tool is twice what a garage mechanic is charged for the same item. Don’t get me wrong though, there are a lot of amazing tools made or modified specifically for jewelers that will become your new best friend in the shop and worth every penny. If you want to drool a little, I recommend browsing Rio Grande, Otto Frei, Contenti or FDJ. I go to FDJ a lot because they are just round the corner, so no shipping charges, offer 10% discount for most tools for FSG members and I can peruse the products up close and personal.
It is hard to know what to buy, when to buy it and where to buy it to get the best deal. Many jewelry making supply stores provide kits. This makes the buying process very easy and could save a lot of time and even money by avoiding the never-ending task of hunting for bargains. However, I found that most of the kits contained items I didn’t need, could do without or could buy for a lot cheaper at hardware stores and thrift stores. I started as a beader so in my case I already had a toolbox and a garage full of tools.
My list is categorized so you know exactly what you are using each tool for. I’ve included some suggestions for using household items instead of specialized tools that will work just fine until you can afford to upgrade.
Where to buy?
Depending on your level of commitment and your budget, try shopping at a local hardware stores first. The tools available there will most likely be sufficient for your first year or more. I’ve made many a purchase at hardware stores to keep costs down.
Don’t forget discounts. Many jewelry supply companies offer discounts for members of lapidary, craft or other groups. Ask them before you buy. By joining a local guild you’ll also get recommendations from members for places to shop
Used tools... I’ve found some really great deals by checking in with local guilds and clubs.
Enjoy, share and let me know if you have any other suggestions.
What was the first "real professional" tool you bought?
I think mine was a disc-cutter. I remember thinking if I just get that tool I'll really be able to make some amazing stuff. After purchasing, everything I made featured a circle of some kind. Learning to saw changed that... but more on that later.
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