Category Archives: FREE Projects and Information

Ten Things Metalsmiths Love, Plus Two

I’d like to share this list of “10 things to make a metalsmith smile”, directly from the Lapidary Journal/Jewelry Artist Newsletter called “Flashcard,” written by the amazing and inspirational Helen Driggs. If you every make anything at all, you can be assured of a few trials and tribulations. There is celebration when things go right, and here are ten little causes for celebration, plus two of my own!
1. When the hammer hits exactly where you intended it to, with exactly the right amount of force. And it’s a brand new hammer, too.
2. The bezel really fits and you aren’t in denial.
3. You find a 2” x 6” sheet of 18-gauge silver you forgot you bought. (this actually happened to me in December!)
4. No firescale.
5. The ring fits the finger you made it for.
6. No scratches.
7. You put exactly the perfect size solder chip right where it needed to be.
8. The eagle eyed cat looks right at the 3mm faceted stone you just dropped on the floor until you pick it up.
9. The sawblade doesn’t break when you know it really should have.
10. The phone call that results when your best friend e-mails you a photo of the piece she just finished at exactly the same time you were e-mailing her a piece you just finished.dscf1814a1
11. Helen Driggs is Managing Editor of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Magazine, and an accomplished metalsmith, toolhound and teacher, and I’m a big fan. I love her Flashcard e-mails. I’ve made some of her projects (see bracelet image, right). Her is often the only newsletter I consistently read, word for word. I always learn something, and often get a smile just from Helen’s down-to-earth, soul-filling writing style.
12. Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist Magazine is the mother ship of Flashcard. It’s a hold-it-in-your-hands paper periodical full of tips, tricks, inspiration and techniques for lapidarists and jewelry artists of all skill levels. Metalsmiths and rockhounds covet issues the way some covet the beautifully photographed and written National Geographic magazines. In particular, the January 2010 issue contains so much good stuff that my issue is already dog-eared, bent up, underlined with ink multiple times and highlighted for good measure. I’ve thought of placing it on my forehead before retiring in the hopes of awakening the next morning, imbued by osmotic effect with all the wonderments of knowledge contained in the ink.
It’s a great day when a metalsmith can appreciate any one of these ten + two things. What makes YOU smile?
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How to Make Jump Rings – A Free Lesson

Making jump rings eventually becomes a fact of life for anyone making jewelry. Sure, you can always buy them already made up. But that isn’t always practical when you have a great project you want to wear the next day, and assignment due, or a client waiting for a special order. Or you may have a minor repair that only requires a jump ring or two. And you may not be able to find the right size in a commercially available jump ring, though there are many available in different sizes, gauges, and metal materials. Here is an easy, inexpensive way to make them yourself. As with any technique that is new to you, start with less expensive materials before moving on to silver or gold.

Alan Revere with two of his pliers
Alan Revere with two of his pliers


Annealed* wire in desired size/gauge
Wood dowel rod
Drill bit slightly larger than wire
Masking tape
Sharpie marker
Jeweler’s saw & blade
Shears or flush cutting pliers
Jeweler’s apron or towel (to catch rings)
Bench pin (optional)

If you have purchased a softer wire you will probably not need to anneal it, especially if it is in a smaller gauge, such as 20, 19 or 18. (*Annealing is heating metal with a torch or in a kiln to soften, making it easier to work with). If your wire is sterling silver and/or is springy, anneal it before attempting to make jump rings with it – it will save you time and frustration, and possibly the skin on your fingers!
Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Cut dowel rod down in size to about 10-12″ long. Mark a spot about 1/4″ down the rod. Using a drill bit slightly smaller than the wire you wish to use, drill a hole all the way through the dowel.
  2. Gently smooth out the wire. Insert one end of wire into hole and just through to the other side. Wrap wire around dowel, keeping it perfectly perpendicular. Continue winding, making sure the wire remains tight and as close to the wind before it as possible. When you have wound as many rings as needed, plus a few extra, cut off any excess while maintaining your grip on the wire.
  3. Continuing to grip the wire, put some making tape over the rings you have made, all along one side. Draw a straight line down the wires, parallel with the dowel, to be used as a cutting guide.
  4. Place towel in your lap, or put on your apron. Position yourself at your work surface with the dowel in your non-dominant hand, resting against the bench pin or the work surface, and jeweler’s saw in your dominant hand, lubricated saw blade ready to go.
  5. Place the blade at the top of the dowel and cut right down through the wood to the first ring. Using pliers, remove the first ring. Pull back some of the tape, allowing the rings below to slide up towards the top of the dowel, and saw carefully through the rings (on one side of the dowel only!) following the line you drew.
  6. Using two flat-nosed pliers, one in either hand, bend the jump rings slightly back and forth, until the ends of the rings meet perfectly. Remove any rough edges as needed, so rings meet flush. If soldering, wash rings with a little bit of Dawn dish washing liquid first.

Now you have made a pile of perfect jump rings!

Assorted Jump Rings
Assorted Jump Rings


When making copper jump rings that will be soldered closed, cut only what you need that day, plus a few extras just in case. Copper oxidizes quickly and a fresh cut will facilitate soldering.