Basic Silversmithing: What You Need To Get Started

In this guide I'm going to list the basic tools and materials you'll need to just get started with silversmithing. Since I started jewelry making using silver and joined the metalsmithing Facebook groups I've done my fair share of asking what tools other's use and scouring the internet comparing tools and prices. I'm going to share only what I've found to be popular within the community or use myself.

The first thing you should learn to make, in my opinion, is a simple silver band. So this post will mostly show the basic tools you'll need to do just that. This post will be just like my copper electroforming supplies guide so if you're interested in electroforming you should check that out.

Basic Silversmithing What You Need To Get Started

Basic Silversmithing What You Need To Get Started

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Tools You Will Need

Torch

First things first, you'll need a torch. I got damn lucky when I won an Instructables contest with my "How To Copper Electroform A Ring" tutorial and one of my prizes was a Dremel VersaTip butane torch. I've been having an amazing time with that torch, the only downside is that butane isn't a hot enough gas for bigger projects so it takes a bit more time but I plan on upgrading once my skill increases. 

UK Residents

But if you do have some cash to spend and want to get a bigger torch here are a few popular options over $100.

Soldering Pick

You want to get a titanium soldering pick because your solder won’t stick to it as easy as with a steel pick.

Soldering Board

You’ll need a soldering board to solder on top of. Here are a few popular options.

Ring Mandrel

Having a ring mandrel is helpful for shaping your metal into a ring after soldering it. It’s best to have a steel mandrel so you can hammer your ring against it and your mandrel will hold up.

Rawhide Mallet

This is great for hammering your metal without putting marks on it. They comes in a variety of sizes.

Metal File

Metal files are needed to file the ends of your ring shank (before soldering) to make each end super flat so once you close the gap for soldering it’s as flush as possible. It’s also needed to file down excess solder (after soldering). A good metal file is something you shouldn’t skimp on. They can go up to $130 for one file so I’m going to source some smaller, affordable, but quality, needle files for you.

Half Round

A half round file is great for filing the inside of your ring on the round side and it’s also got a flat side so you can file the outside of your ring.

Metal File Sets

You can also get a nice diamond grit file set that come with a variety of shapes that definitely come in handy when you need to get into hard-to-reach spaces.

Copper Tongs

These will be used for getting your pieces out of your pickle solution. Make sure you only use copper or plastic (copper preferably) thongs. A chemical reaction will cause some of the  fire scale to electroplate themselves to the jewelry If you use  any other metal.

Crock-pot

This will be used for your pickle solution which cleans your metal after soldering. You want to get something that's ceramic as other metals can interfere with your pieces and/or the pickling solution. And you don’t need anything too big either.

There are so many listed here, just depends on your taste and budget. Just be sure to look for stoneware or ceramic.

Pickle

This is the solution you use in conjunction with your crock-pot to clean off the fire scale on your pieces. I use a mixture of vinegar and iodized salt which works wonderfully for me so you may have that stuff laying around you home.

  • Recipe: 1 cup of white vinegar per 1 generous  tbs of salt.

But they have pre-mix pickle solutions that may have more chemicals in it which you can find here but I just don’t recommend it. It just gives you another reason to wear a mask.

Flush Cutters

These are needed to cut your silver wire without too much jaggedness, it just makes the filing step easier. They’re also great for cutting pieces of your solder (if you’re using the wire solder. If you get the sheet solder then I would suggest getting some tin snips).

Materials You Will Need

Flux

Flux allows the solder to flow nicely and also protects you metal from fire scale.

  • 8oz Handy Flux on Amazon (this is the flux I use and most jewelers use. They call is “the beginners flux” but there are many seasoned jewelers who still use and swear by it)

  • 1qt My-T Flux on Rio Grande (this is another popular flux option)

Solder

You also need your actual solder. Solder comes in a variety of forms, it’s all up to your preference. You want to get easy, medium and hard solder. The main densities used are easy, medium and hard but there are also extra each and extra hard densities it just depends on your project. 

Wire

  • 22g Silver Wire Solder at Rio Grande (this is the stuff I use and love)
    - Easy
    Medium
    Hard
  • 20g Silver Wire Solder 3ft on Amazon
    Easy
    Medium
    Hard

Sheet

Chips

This is the same as wire and sheet solder except it’s pre-cut into tiny pallets. A lot of jewelers like the wire and sheet better because you can cut exactly how much you need, but I wanted to add this option anyways.

Paste

This paste comes with flux in it so it’s a 2-in-1 product. I haven’t used it but many jewelers have and they love it.

Silver Wire

I’m not going to label the prices for the silver because it’s always changing. Just click the link to see the prices. You always want to get dead soft as opposed to half hard or spring hard because it’s easier to work with. Once you start working with it is will work harden.

Half Round

This half round wire is perfect for making rings. There is a variety of sizes you can get.

Round Wire

Round wire is also a great choice for rings for extra comfort.

Polishing

Lastly you’re going to want to polish your piece. There are a plethora of way you can polish your jewelry but since the theme of this supplies guide it to just get started I’m going to recommend polishing cloths. I personally use a tumbler or a Dremel with felt tip and red rouge polishing compound which I’ll link below to the exact products I use.

Other options would be a tumbler, a  Dremel or Flex Shaft with a felt polishing tip along with red rouge polishing compound.

These are items that are much needed but you can at least get started without them.

Third Hands

These are so helpful and 100% deserve the name. They really are like helping hands.

  • EuroTool Third Hand with Tweezers on Amazon (this is the one I got just for the base and I got some better quality tweezers with a handle to use instead of the tweezers this third hand comes with)

  • Fiber Grip Cross Locking Tweezers on Amazon (these are the tweezers I got to go with the third hand above, perfect pairing! They also have a slight bend at the tip making it easier to work with)

  • ToolTron 4-Piece Tweezer Set on Amazon (I’ve never seen these but they would probably be very helpful with having so many options that you can interchange in your third hand base)

Mask

This is paramount! You really don’t want to be breathing in all those fumes from soldering or while you're polishing pieces. There are many many masks you can use but I’m only going to recommend the one I use and know well.

  • 3M Half Mask Respirator on Amazon (this is the mask I use and LOVE! I use the small because my head is quite small. You get just the mask for these prices so you’ll have to get the filters separate, listed below this)
    - Small
    - Medium
    - Large

  • 3M Particulate Filter (2) 2096 P100 on Amazon (these are the exact filters that go with the mask above)

Whew! This was a lot of information! My suggestion for digesting all this is to first bookmark this page or share to your metalsmithing Pinterest board for later reference. Then write down your budget to begin and then write down each of these items with a checkbox next to it. Then check off the list as you accumulate more tools and materials.

Like I mentioned, I suggest starting with making a simple silver band. This list is just what you need to do that. If you may need other materials to create bezels or other kinds of jewelry.

If you have any questions, comments or any product recommendations please leave a comment below!