Monday, May 7, 2012


This month’s Blog Carnival** topic will undoubtedly be a treasure trove of hidden gems for the metalsmiths in the audience. The subject is “tools you have made yourself”, and the objects made with those tools. We are squealing with glee right now. FYI for our non-metalsmith readers, most metalsmiths, especially us, are unrepentant tool junkies. Very rarely will you encounter a metalsmith who admits to having enough tools.  When visiting each other’s studios metalsmiths will always want to look over the tools, and specially the little things each of us does to modify a tool for a special purpose. Almost all of us make tricked out tools for ourselves.

We make tools for the sheer joy and fun of it and suspect that making jewelry is simply an excuse to engage in tool making. In fact, we are writing this blog post as fast as we can because what we really want to do is visit all the other Blog Carnival artists to see what tool tricks we will discover. 

The first item is a jump ring cutter. Everyone has to cut jump rings sooner or later. We actually have many types of jump ring cutters and will grab the one best suited for the volume and size of rings we need. This one is for medium sizes and small quantities.  The second item is a nylon dapping block. We made this to form domes in metal that had texture or other processes applied to it. The nylon is relatively gentle and will not “iron out” the texture or pattern on the metal like a metal dapping block will. We have made a lot of these blocks in various sizes, usually to suit a specific project as needed.  We also make nylon or wood dapping punches to go with the blocks.

This chain mail necklace was made using the jump ring cutter and nylon dapping block.

This is a micro deburring tool that is made from old exacto blades. It is one of the most useful little tools on our bench and we use it all the time.

These are nylon and delrin mandrel for making quick work of trueing up or shaping cones of varying sizes and shapes. These are made on a lathe from rod stock and we have dozens of them in different sizes and shapes.

These earrings were made using the deburring tool and a cone mandrel.

A friend of ours, Trish McAleer, literally wrote the book on metal corrugation. In the early days there was no corrugation equipment other than expensive Italian rolling mills. Everyone used these cheap little tube wringers, which are still likely the most used tool for the job.  The problems were getting sufficient pressure on the metal and then turning the little handle when you did. We modified ours with a screw to exert mechanical force on the rollers and a handle that provided considerably more leverage for turning. This will do a respectable job on 24 gauge metal. 

PostJohnCarpenter Apocalyptic Earrings made with the metal corrugator

We have lots and lots of these wooden forming mandrels in a wide range of sizes. We make them on a band saw or lathe, often to fit a specific project.

A couple of bracelets that were made using the wood mandrels.

This is a carving bur made from a 45° heart bur that had become dull. These can be reshaped by grinding the top off the bur leaving only a portion of the lower section below the girdle.

This is a micro-clamp for working on small or delicate parts. It is an extremely versatile tool and we use it all the time for holding small parts while sawing or doing other operations.  One of the nice things about this jig is that is very easily modified to do a lot of different jobs. We have made lots of extra parts and configurations for the base plate over the years.

This carved and pierced bone pendant was made using the carving bur and micro clamp.

Technically this isn’t for metalworking, but we’re throwing it in just for fun. This is our flint-knapping tool kit. It consists of a deer antler heavy hammer, a copper small hammer, a copper compression tool, a leather hand protector and safety glasses.

A pretty crude knapped knife. We need to do a lot more practicing, but by the time the next ice age rolls around we should be in a position to clean up.

We could go on and on with tools, but we need to get over to the other Blog Carnival sites to see what cool things we can learn from those folks. 

** Blog Carnival is a collaborative blog experiment by the artists of EtsyMetal, an International collective or metal artists. Each month, various members write on the same subject, giving readers a perspective on how artists in different areas of the world approach themes common to our lives.