Learn From Home, an Age Old Craft
February 7, 2012 7:10 PM   Subscribe

Can I teach myself to be a silversmith? More specifically, I want to make nice rings, with drusy and cut stones, and maybe some raw brass pendants. But how do I start?

posted by ohmansocute to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: AW I forgot to mention, I can't really take a class. Just let me know how difficult it would be to learn at home with a good book/video tutorial.
posted by ohmansocute at 7:11 PM on February 7, 2012

Lots of stuff on eHow.
Here is one: http://www.ehow.com/about_6634295_silversmithing-beginners.html
posted by JayRwv at 7:26 PM on February 7, 2012

You certainly can, though the main issue with doing it on your own is having the right equipment around you, which can get expensive, especially if you don't know it's for you.

Here's a fairly decent basic page on what's generally necessary to get into real silversmithing. You also want to make sure that with the heat and sharp instruments, you're very careful not to get burned or cut yourself or ruin work surfaces, etc.
posted by xingcat at 7:36 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would recommend The Complete Metalsmith, An Illustrated Handbook by Tim McCreight as a good book to start with. It gives you all the basic instructions for jewelry construction including what tools you need and how to set up a basic workbench.
posted by blacktshirtandjeans at 8:19 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding the McCreight book. I've played a little bit with silver. Casting is harder than you think, I think I know how to fix my process but haven't gotten around to that yet. I learn best by trying stuff, so I'd say get the book, pick a project, buy the necessary tools, and practice.
posted by straw at 9:15 PM on February 7, 2012

Having taken a few classes in this stuff, I highly doubt learning to do this stuff on your own, with a book, in your own home, is going to go well. Solder is a tricky substance to work with even with help, and there's also flaming torches to deal with. At the very least, you'll be putting a lot of money down on equipment that you don't know how to use yet. I know you say there's no option for a class, but I'd be really, really leery of encouraging you to give it a go at home with no idea what you're doing. Some things need on-hand instruction, you know?

On the other hand, you could probably figure out wire wrapping jewelry on your own (at least, it'd be less dangerous), and that can still do a pretty good job of handling stones and making rings.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:27 PM on February 7, 2012

Rio Grand is the source for everything a silver smith needs including helpful information.
posted by hortense at 11:50 PM on February 7, 2012

You may want to work in wax.

Pick up a sampler of wax blanks from Rio Grand or Indian Jewelers Supply Co. and then shape them with tools. Then drop off the wax blank at your town's local jewelry casting shop and have them cast your ring or pendant in silver.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:55 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Might be worth looking into precious metal clays too. From what I've heard, it's easier to work with than the pure metal.
posted by MsMolly at 7:06 AM on February 8, 2012

Response by poster: Excellent. Thank you guys. I'll start small, maybe some hammered brass.
posted by ohmansocute at 8:19 AM on February 8, 2012

I know quite a few jewelers that are on this forum Orchid. It's a very well respected forum in the field.
posted by Vaike at 10:37 AM on February 8, 2012

I agree with jenfullmoon. I've taken a bunch of courses and I still like the guiding hand of someone teaching me and there to help me if I screw up.

Getting a bench set up is really expensive and one benefit of classes is that they have all that crap and machinery for you already.

You can definitely start with wire and by ordering settings online, but when it is time to break out the saws and the blowtorch, I really think you need a person next to you to save your finger/your table/your piece when you inevitably make a mistake.

There are things you can learn online like filing, polishing, wrapping but things like getting the right feel for when a piece is warm enough to solder is something that is hard and not cheap to do, so you will want to start out doing it the proper way and avoid wasting a lot of metal and time.
posted by rmless at 2:59 PM on February 8, 2012

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