Tag Archives: metalsmithing



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.

Equine Inspiration


There are horses everywhere here in Steamboat Springs. I designed this horse while I was in the lobby of Old Town Hot Springs waiting for my spa companion to finish his sauna. It will be a bolo tie when finished. The design needs refining and tweaking, but there will be plenty of time for that during the long cold winter days. Today we had our first snow and lighted a fire in the downstairs wood stove. Life is good!

Botanical Mixed Metal Pendant


I just finished this and shipped it off to one of my galleries. The botanical portion is made from BronzClay (Metal Adventures brand), and then riveted to sawn nickel silver and copper which has been textured.

The botanical image was made by carving into a soft block material. This is yet another way to use one’s own images to make jewelry.

One of my followers (wow, doesn’t that sound awesome?!) suggested I do a post on two-part silicone mold making. I will write that as soon as I can, as well as posting about the carving method used above.



Sterling Metal Clay: PMC3 plus PMC Sterling


Celie Fago posted the results of her year of experiments with combining equal amounts of PMC3 and PMC Sterling clay. Celie’s blog explains this in more detail, but this combination of clays can be fired on an open shelf (no messy carbon!) at 1500 degrees F for 1 hour. This is the most exciting development in metal clays in a long time.

Often I wait for new trends to settle and let others experiment before I try new techniques or materials, but Celie was quite confident about the strength and ease of this combination. I immediately tried it and used the result to make the earrings above. The flower components are the new sterling combination, riveted to a backing of patinaed nickel silver sheet metal.


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.