A to Z 2023, Blog

Z is for Zam – 2023 #AtoZChallenge

Fabricating jewelry leaves file marks, hammer marks, oil, and residue on the silver. The final step in bringing a design to life is polishing.

I am again going with a product name – Zam. It is a buffing compound used in finishing and polishing your jewelry piece.

The process of finishing requires a few different steps that may vary depending on the look you want to achieve. The piece can be oxidized, buffed to a dull shine, or highly polished using a variety of methods.

The finishing steps may include:

  1. Filing, sanding, and emerying to remove file marks, unintended tool marks, and smoothing out solder joins.
  2. For a dull shine and often for an oxidized piece, the surface will be brushed with a brass brush using simple soap and water.
  3. Initial polishing stage uses fairly aggressive compounds to lightly remove the top layer of the surface of the silver. There are different levels of grit in the compounds. Zam falls into this initial stage, but is not the most aggressive compounds available.
  4. Final polishing stages use compounds with color to enhance the underlying luster of the metal – these are called rouges (red rouge is on almost all jeweler’s benches. It contains iron oxide to buff the surface of the metal.

It is not unusual for a jeweler to have a tumbler loaded with stainless steel shot to polish silver jewelry.It is recommended to set stones after tumbling,however.

A to Z 2023, Blog

Y is for Yellow Ochre – 2023 #AtoZChallenge

When soldering a piece of jewelry, there may be times when you want to protect the piece from the heat of the torch.

This may be to protect a previously soldered joint, to protect a delicate filigree, or to protect a clasp that has moving parts that could be damaged by the heat. One way of doing this is by using a mixture of yellow ochre powder and water or alcohol as an anti-flux or resist.

Yellow ochre is a naturally occurring mineral comprised of clay, silica, and iron oxide. A small amount mixed with water or alcohol is painted on the portion of a piece you wish to protect from the heat. After soldering is complete, the piece can be quenched and pickled to remove the yellow ochre. In some cases it must be brushed off with soapy water and a brass brush.

Care must be taken with any natural material containing silica or iron oxide as they can cause respiratory problems if inhaled over time.

A to Z 2023, Blog

X is for Xuron – 2023 #AtoZChallenge

Xuron is a brand name which I might not normally write about, but it’s the letter ‘X’ and choices are limited.

Xuron makes a line of hand tools for all types of intricate work including jewelry fabrication, beading, model train building, electronics, and tying flies for fishing. I will focus on the pliers and cutters they manufacture because there are probably as many types of pliers as there are hammers.

Chain nose pliers – A good universal plier. Often used for opening and closing jump rings, they are useful in getting into tight spaces.

Chisel nose pliers – Flat nosed pliers with 45° tips. Often used to hold wire while filing. Also used for chainmail work.

Crimping pliers – used in beading work to flatten and close crimp beads. Crimp beads are used to secure a strand of beads on beading wire.

Flat nose pliers – pliers with a flattened jaw ideal for bending and shaping wire and thin gauge metal.

Round nose pliers – pliers with a round tip gradually transitioning to an oval shape. Often used to create loops in wire.

Split ring pliers – designed specifically to open a split ring. A split ring is a double jump ring, resembling a circular metal key ring.

Flush cutters – a cutting plier designed to make a flush cut on one side of a cut rather than a pinched end.

Double flush cutters – a cutting plier designed to leave a flush edge on both sides of the wire being cut.

Hard wire cutters – a cutting plier designed to cut hardened or memory wire. Designed to leave a flat cut on both ends of the wire being cut.

There are other specialized pliers made by different manufacturers, but since we are on the letter ‘X’, I am limiting this post to those manufactured by Xuron. I found the following video on YouTube of a creator doing some beading work with Xuron tools.


A to Z 2023, Blog

W is for Workspace – 2023 #AtoZChallenge

Today we are featuring the best laid plans of mice and men. I intended to select some good YouTube videos to feature illustrating the steps to set up a home studio. Sadly, they were all over the place and did not necessarily cover some of the important steps I feel should be considered. I might still find a video or two to pop in at the end.

It is not unusual for beginning jewelers to work out of their home, often on a dining room table, or a corner desk or table in a bedroom or living room. One of the big problems with this is it often involves a continuous cycle of setting up and breaking down because of the lack of dedicated space.

When I first started beading jewelry, I worked on the dining room table. My poor husband was forever stepping on the surprise bead (barefoot of course) that somehow fell and rolled across the tile floor waiting to be discovered. I could never work more than a few hours at one sitting because it was again time to prepare a meal.

Fast forward to fabricating metal. There are many more considerations due to the materials and tools required not to mention a stray piece of metal in a bare foot has more consequences than stepping on a bead.

I have compiled my list of considerations for setting up a space inside a home or garage. This is my opinion.

  1. Set up a dedicated space if at all possible.
  2. Arrange a place to store hazardous materials (under lock and key if you have children).
  3. Understand your local area’s requirements for disposal of chemical solutions.
  4. Metal stock and tools must be stored in a dry area away from moisture.
  5. A workbench or table at the correct height with an adjustable chair is essential.
  6. Adequate ventilation even in winter is imperative.
  7. Tile or hardwood floors are preferable. (Carpets hide metal dust and small pieces of metal.)
  8. Easy access to water.
  9. Adequate electrical outlets.
  10. Adequate task lighting.
  11. A place to set up a soldering station, preferably near a window.
  12. Basic tools: bench pin, hammers, pliers, files, sandpaper, jeweler’s saw, drill, bench block, magnification, etc.

My husband created a small area in our utility room so I can work. I do not have adequate space or ventilation for using a large compressed gas torch, so I use a small butane torch. My soldering station gets set up on my washer and dryer, beside the window.

A to Z 2023, Blog

V is for Vise – 2023 #AtoZChallenge

Vise: any of various tools with two jaws for holding work that close usually by a screw, lever, or cam.

Above is Merriam Webster’s definition of a vise. Jewelry studios usually have several vises. They can be used for a multitude of tasks and there are various types with different intended purposes.

A vise has two parallel jaws, one fixed and one that moves, designed to hold material firmly in place. Since vises usually have textured jaws, jewelers will have smooth covers for the jaws so they do not leave marks on the metal. These may be purchased or hand forged from copper.

Below are brief descriptions of some of the types of vises found in a jewelry studio.

Articulating (ball) vise – a vise mounted on a ball that can be rotated 360° for easier access to the piece.

Bench vise (large or small) –  a vise normally bolted to a work bench. They have various designs, often including ‘pipe jaws’ ideal for holding a ring mandrel and sometimes a small bench block or anvil. There are also portable bench vises that are clamped onto a work bench rather than permanently bolted.

Engraver’s vise – a specialized ball vise (block) used for hand engraving metal. The ball is heavy and sits on a circular base allowing it to be rotated by the non-dominate hand for engraving. The ball usually has a pin vise that fits into the ball vise to secure the metal being engraved.

Hand vise – There are several types of hand vises. As the name implies, they are designed to be held in the hand. One of the more common uses is for holding wire for wire-wrapping. They are also used to pull wire through a draw plate.

Miter vise – Much like a miter box in carpentry, a miter vise holds sheet metal, tubing, or wire so it can be cut or filed to a precise angle.

Pearl holding vise – a vise designed to hold pearls in place for drilling.

Pin vise – There are two types of pin vises. The first is actually not a vise, but rather a pen-shaped hand-held manual drill. They have very small collets to hold small drill bits. The second type of pin vise contains a grid with holes and is often used with a ball vise. They are very handy for stone setting. Pins are placed anywhere on the grid to secure a piece in place.

Vertical vise – a vise whose jaws close vertically rather than horizontally.