*Last Updated 8/10/2019
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.
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Tools You Will Need
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.
Dremel VersaTip Butane Torch on Amazon (this is the torch I use and love, it has multiple tips for multiple uses)
Dremel VersaFlame Butane Torch on Amazon
Tech Torch Auto Start on Amazon
Blazer Butane Micro Torch on Rio Grande
Euro Tool All-Purpose Large Butane Torch on Amazon (this torch has a lot of recommendations)
Blazer GT8000 Big Shot Butane Torch on Amazon
Roburn Butane Micro Blow Torch on Ebay
But if you do have some cash to spend and want to get a bigger torch here are a few popular options over $100.
You want to get a titanium soldering pick because your solder won’t stick to it as easy as with a steel pick.
You’ll need a soldering board to solder on top of. Here are a few popular options.
6”x6” Solderite Board on Amazon (this is the one I use. I have a ceramic tile underneath that I found in my garage)
12”x12” Solderite Board on Amazon (if you need more surface to work on)
5.5”x2.75”x1.25” Charcoal Block on Amazon (a lot of people use this on top a solderite board because it doesn’t have a big surface)
5 5/16”x3 7/8”x1/2” Honeycomb Ceramic Soldering Board on Amazon (these are great for standing things upright inside the little holes but you can also create small holes in the other boards. A lot of jewelers have said that these are easy to break but they get the job done.)
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.
This is great for hammering your metal without putting marks on it. They comes in a variety of sizes.
Size 1 Rawhide Mallet (Face Diameter 1.25”) on Amazon dd
Size 2 Rawhide Mallet (Face Diameter 1.5”) on Amazon (this is the one I use)
Size 3 Rawhide Mallet (Face Diameter 1.75”) on Amazon
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.
Main Files You Need
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. Also, having a flat file is great for filing flat surfaces (this flat file has more surface area that the flat side of the half round). It’s also great for filing two ring ends at the same time so you have a perfectly square solder joint.
Grobet Half Round #2 Swiss Cut File on Amazon (this is the one I use and love!)
Grobet Flat #2 Swiss Cut File on Amazon
You’ll find that you need more precision filing in certain cases in which a need file set can come in real handy. They usually come with a variety of shapes perfect for when you need to get into hard-to-reach spaces.
Grobet Set of 6 #4 Cut Swiss Files on Amazon (You can thank me later, these will become your lifesaver when metalsmithing.)
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.
Copper Tongs with Bent Tip on Amazon (you just can’t beat this price)
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.
Elite Gourmet 1.5qt Slow Cooker on Amazon (this is a similar one to what I use)
There are so many listed here, just depends on your taste and budget. Just be sure to look for stoneware or ceramic.
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.
Cutters + Pliers
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).
Xuron Micro-Shear Flush Cutters on Amazon (these are the ones I use, they aren’t the best but for the price I’m very satisfied with them)
Hakko Microsoft Flush Cutters on Amazon (they are a best-seller)
More here, depends on your price rang
Needle Nose Pliers
Round Nose Pliers
Pandahall Ergonomic Round Nose Pliers on Amazon
Parallel Jaw Pliers
Mazbot Smooth Flat Jaw Parallel Pliers on Amazon (These are seriously the best of their kind in my opinion.)
Materials You Will Need
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)
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.
28G Silver Sheet Solder Kit, 1DT each of Easy, Medium and Hard on Amazon
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.
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.
1 DT Silver Paste Solder at Rio Grand
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.
This half round wire is perfect for making rings. There is a variety of sizes you can get.
10g Half Round Sterling Silver Wire at Rio Grande (this is the gauge I use for medium sized stones)
20g Half Round Sterling Silver Wire on Amazon (this is what I use for small stone stacking rings or midi rings)
Round wire is also a great choice for rings for extra comfort.
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.
Sunshine Polishing Cloths, 7.74x5” (3) on Amazon (these are simply the best)
These are items that are much needed but you can at least get started without them.
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)
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)
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!