Tag Archives: Cheap tools



Experimental earring jigs made from scrap polymer clay and a bag of assorted tubing/rod from K & S. (Available at some model railroading shops)

As *they* say (who is this they?), Necessity is the Mother of Invention. I wanted to make some custom earwires to better fit the look of my handmade one of a kind jewelry pieces (https://www.etsy.com/shop/OffTheGridDesigns/search?search_query=earrings&order=date_desc&view_type=gallery&ref=shop_search).

When you make a pair of custom earrings, it is nice to be able to make a unique pair of earwires to match. There is so much freedom in design, size, shape, length, small accent bead, twist, bend and overall personality. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to make custom components yourself without having to order from a supplier. Or when you realize that you have to ship an order the next day and there’s nothing open at 3 a.m.

These jigs were an experiment that was kind of successful. I used scrap polymer clay that I rolled out into thick sheets. I stacked the sheets, pressed a piece of card stock on top and rolled the stack  to compress the layers.

Using some simple sketches of positions for the holes/tubes, I chose small bits of tubing in roughly equal depths and pressed them into the clay.

Placing the tubes and rods is a bit tricky because I tried a few designs that were impossibly complex and when I bent the wire around them, it did not cooperate. I used half-hard wire because I find that dead soft is just too bendy and I ended up with deformed earwires. This all is a matter of experimenting.

When the tubes are pressed into the raw clay, the edges tend to sqwunch out (there, there spellcheck!), so I used a straight tissue blade to trim the edges square.

Each little jig was then set on a ceramic tile and baked in a convection oven.

Some of these jigs worked well, and others not so much. In the front of this photo you can see samples of some of the earwires made, next to the corresponding jig.

I have lately been experimenting with small pieces of scrap wood and nails, and some as simple as dowels and white glue. I will post these very soon, as well as more ideas for earwire design, reverse engineering and problem solving!

Let me know what you think or if you have questions I forgot to answer in this post.

I have purchased bags of scrap tubes/rods here:


This listing is hard to search, and you might try calling them directly. If you are in or near Denver, this is a crazy fun place to visit. They have all kinds of tools for small-scale metalsmithing and jewelry making. Think out of the box and consider this alternative art/craft/jewelry supply heaven. If you go there in person, you will spend lots more than you budgeted. Trust me. I know.




What metalsmith can’t use a new few tools? These might be my most frequently used tools – grungy, beat up hammers from estate sales, basements and alleys/dumpsters around Denver. My absolute favorite has got to be the one that was originally offered at the exorbitant price of $3 and then marked down to a more reasonable $2.00.

Tiny Clips

Tool Fix

These clips are useful for so many things in the studio: clipping together components that will be riveted together so that they don’t get separated, holding items together temporarily before securing in a ring clamp in anticipation of drilling them or sometimes even clipping paperwork and receipts together. These clips are very cheap (about 59 cents each) and I found them in Home Depot, in the “tool jail” near the much larger and much more expensive clamps. You can buy them by the dozen and will almost never be sorry that you have more lying around all over the place. Sometimes a person needs to spend some money. Just a little bit.