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★ Jewelry Metalsmithing Techniques | Beginner's Tutorials For Sheet Metal and Wire Working ★

DIY Wire Findings, Metal Shapes, Soldering & Stamping

Jewelry making is a popular and fun hobby, and it's actually quite inexpensive to get started with the basics. I have made and sold jewelry for a few years now, and so this page is a collection of the tutorials I've found most useful to me when learning the techniques concerned with working with wire and metal.

Metalworking is usually the last skill jewelry hobbyists learn because it can seem daunting, and the fact that it requires more skills and often more tools as well can put people off. However, hopefully this page will make it seem a lot simpler to get into, and I certainly hope that the amazing metal jewelry on display here inspires you!

You will find lots of information below on the whole area of metalsmithing and wirework, including how to stamp metal, how to cut shapes out of sheet metal, video lessons about shaping metal, how to make your own basic findings, plus easy beginners projects and ideas. The metals that are mainly used are sterling silver, brass and copper, and this page provides everything you need to know in order to create your own quality necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings and more!

I hope you find this page interesting :)

Hammered Silver Necklace With Beads

The texture on these sterling silver pieces is produced by the technique known as hammering, and it is personally one of my favorite jewelry making styles.

The texture on these sterling silver pieces is produced by the technique known as hammering, and it is personally one of my favorite jewelry making styles.

Very Useful Jewelry Making Tools & Equipment - Bench Block, Pliers, Bench Peg, Hammer & Jewelry Saw

This selection of 5 tools are useful, or even vital, for many metalworking techniques:

Metalsmithing Introduction

Metalsmithing is the process of taking metals and manipulating them into the form of jewelry. The 'manipulating' encompasses all kinds of techniques including shaping with hammers, stamps, punches, dies, doming blocks and mandrels, cutting with a saw or shears, drilling, adding rivets, soldering, engraving, etching, forging, stone setting, and casting. Metal is malleable and is therefore a brilliantly versatile material, and the different designs you can create with metalsmithing are endless.

Metalsmithing is separate to wirework, with wireworking being where wire is used to create a variety of jewelry components and ornate creations. Wirework is an easier and less expensive skill to start learning because it doesn't require as many tools, and quite frankly it isn't as easy to hurt yourself with wirework!

When working with metals, especially when sawing, texturing and heating, you need certain equipment and tools on your workbench. Scrap wood is always useful to have to save your bench surface, and a wooden bench pin and clamp is highly recommended for working with sheet metal. When using a hammer, the metal you are working on must be against something that is not your work surface; this is either a metal block (resting on a leather sandbag to deaden the noise), or a doming block or some kind of metal mold which you want to shape the metal onto.

Mini glossary of some metal texturing and shaping techniques, which will be looked at again on this page:

- Hammering: Hitting a piece of metal repeatedly - sometimes hundreds of times - with a hammer to create a dimpled texture effect all over. I really like the look of hammered metal and it's actually a technique even beginners can master. The rounded part of a chasing hammer is usually used for this technique, but there are also special texturing hammers you can buy which transfer different and interesting patterns to the metal. Underneath the piece of metal should be a flat steel block or anvil to provide a solid and strong base to hammer against.

- Stamping: Imprints are made on the surface of a piece of metal by hitting a specially-made stamp onto the metal using a hammer. The stamps usually transfer alphabet letters to the metal, although you can buy stamps with numbers and decorative designs on too. This technique allows you to personalize jewelry with names, dates, initials, quotes etc. Make sure that there is a solid steel block under the piece of metal you are stamping on, and also be sure to use a regular household hammer with the stamps, as hitting a steel stamp with a jewelry hammer would damage it.

- Doming (also called dapping): Sheet metal is formed into a hollow dome shape by putting the flat metal in a dome-shaped hole (in a doming block), and then compressing the metal into the hole with a doming punch to shape it. The doming blocks are usually made of steel although they are also available in brass and wood. The blocks provide a selection of domed holes of different diameters so you can choose the size of dome you want.

- Etching: An acid solution is applied to certain areas of the metal sheet surface to corrode those sections, producing raised/recessed patterns on the surface. The parts you want to have as the raised sections need to be covered prior to applying the acid so that they aren't corroded.

- Engraving: A steel tool called a graver is used to remove thin slithers of metal from the surface to produce your intended design. The lines made can be very precise so you can create finely detailed images and patterns with engraving. You can engrave by hand or you can use an electric engraver.

- Sawing: A serrated blade positioned in a specially designed jewelry saw is used to cut shapes out of metal.

- Forging: A hammer is used to change the shape of the metal, e.g. curving it.

When shaping metals, please bear in mind that you should not use these techniques on plated metals, as the outer plating layer (usually gold or silver) is extremely thin and can quite easily be scraped off, and processes like hammering will expose the inside metal.

NOTE: With regards to safety, it's best to work with safety glasses when working with wire, or undertaking any activities that could result in something flying towards your eyes. When working with chemicals, or doing anything that creates dust (such as filing, sanding or sawing), make sure you have good ventilation and wear a mask. If hammering metal for an extended amount of time, wear some ear protectors too.

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Texturing Hammers, Dapping Block, Doming Punch Set, Needle Files ... - ...And Some Liver of Sulfur

- Needle files are used for smoothing metal edges after you have cut intricate pieces out of sheet metal; brilliant for getting into small areas.

- Liver of Sulfur is creates a chemical (oxidation) reaction with certain metals, such as sterling silver, to darken them and give them an 'antique' look.

- A dapping/doming block is for hammering and shaping metal discs into a dome shapes

- Texture hammers are fun for experimenting with different indent patterns and designs.

Simple Wireworking Video Lessons - Including How To Shape Wire Loops, Spirals & Headpins

Different Types Of Findings - Part 1

- Jump rings: Most vital in jewelry making, jump rings are just small hoops of wire that are used to connect different findings and charms together. They come in a range of sizes and gauges, although usually aren't more than 1cm in diameter. The most common diameter I use is 3 or 4mm. You can also find oval, triangle and sometimes even square shaped jump rings too.

A jump ring has a split in the wire loop so that it can open. To use the ring, hold the wire either side of the split with two different pairs of plier and twist the ring to open it. Never open the jump ring by pulling the wire ends (either side of the split) apart as this will drastically weaken the wire and will bend it out of shape. Click here for photo instructions of this.

Click here for instructions on making your own jump rings. You can also make twisted jump rings for added interest, which can be made of two different metals for a more decorative look.

Closed jump rings are also available, which are jump rings which have no split because they have been soldered closed - and therefore can't be opened.

- Clasps/ fasteners/closures: For necklaces or bracelets to be opened or closed easily by the wearer, a clasp is required at one or both ends of the necklace/bracelet. The different clasp designs to choose from are numerous, however the main ones are:

The lobster clasp (shaped like a lobster claw with a spring loaded close), the spring clasp (circular ring shape with a spring loaded close), "S" clasp (S shaped wire on one side and a ring on the other, also called 'hook and eye'), toggle clasp (a bar on one side and a ring on the other so the bar fits into the ring), barrel clasp (cylinder shape which has two halves that either screw together or hold together magnetically), and the box clasp (often found in bracelets, this clasp has a metal wedge part and a box part, and the wedge compresses as it is pushed into a small box and 'clicks' into place).

Some of the more decorative clasp designs are possible to make yourself, and I think handmade clasps look very unique and make the entire piece of jewelry look of higher quality. If you make a very ornamental clasp, it can become the main eye-catching element of the jewelry if you wish. Be careful however that they are practical as well as pretty, for instance if the necklace contains many heavy gemstones, a delicate clasp will not suffice.

Clasps that are often made by jewellers are: the "S" clasp/hook-and-eye, the toggle clasp, and other artistic shaped wire clasps like the spiral clasp and this fancy wrapped clasp.

- Ear wires are a particularly good finding to make yourself because there are so many varieties and you can add your own twist on the classic designs. You could make minimalist, modern, classic or embellished hooks - it's up to you!

The many types of earring findings include French wires (also called fishhooks or French hooks), hoops, lever back, kidney shaped and stud (post). It is possible to make stud earring findings, including butterfly backs, however this would be extremely time-consuming and are much easier to buy. Ear wires on the other hand have a much more versatile design which can easily be altered to suit your taste, and are quite easy and quick to make. Lever back varieties however can't be made.

- Click here for an easy ear wire tutorial.

- Click here for a more rounded ear wire DIY.

- Click here for a kidney ear wire tutorial.

- Click here for instructions on making modern and minimalist ball-end headpin earrings.

- Click here for an earring tutorial using decorative headpin and a hammering technique.

- Click here for a hoop earring tutorial.

Basic Wirework & Beginner's Techniques

Variety Of Jewelry Pliers



This photo shows a variety of tools including round nose, flat nose and chain nose pliers. Click Here for information about the different types of pliers.

Photo by Mauro Cateb.

Different Types Of Findings - Part 2

- Head pins and eye pins: Both of these types of findings are basically a piece of wire; however a head pin has a small flattened end whilst an eye pin has a loop at the end. The length of the wire varies between approx. 0.5" and 3" however if you are making them yourself you can choose the exact length. The gauge also varies so you will have to decide what you want before you buy.

Both pins are used to create 'dangles', usually for earring designs with beads placed along the length of the wire. The flattened end or loop will stop the beads from falling off if the hole in the bead is not too big, and if this happens you can put another bead with a narrow opening (such as a seed bead) onto the pin first. With the eye pin, the loop enables a further charm to be hung on the end of the pin, or it can be connected to any other finding with a loop.

When the beads are being added to the pin, space is left at the other end so that a loop can be formed here to keep the beads secured onto the pin, and to allow the pin to be attached to other findings. Often when only one large bead is added to a pin, the spare wire left at the top is used for 'wire wrapping', which requires more wire than just a loop as it also is wrapped around the top of the bead for a pretty finish.

If the head pin is handmade you will sometimes see a decorative wire end instead of the regular flattened wire or loop, such as a slightly textured ball. My favourite type of pin to use is a ball end head pin, which has a smooth ball as the end and is more attractive and decorative than the regular options. They are more expensive, but not as expensive as the handmade artisan pins you can buy.

- Click here, here and here for excellent tutorials on making your own ball-end headpins, which involves dipping a piece of wire in flux/Borax and heating it with a mini/micro torch until the end melts into a ball.

- Click here for a knotted headpin tutorial.

- Click here to see how to make a hammered headpin.

- Click here for a spiral headpin how-to.

- Click here for some ideas for fancy headpin designs.

I imagine it would be possible to make most jewelry findings, however it would not be practical to make some of them due to the equipment required - especially when you can buy them cheaply in many different styles anyway. In the long run it will save you money to make any findings that you can as it is cheaper than buying them.

The findings I personally recommend making yourself rather than buying would be: ear wires, jump rings, eye pins, ball-end headpins, wirework clasps (such as "S" clasps and other artistic clasps which only require wire shaping), plus any kind of wirework connector or spiral charm.

If you want to invest in disc cutters and doming equipment, then domed disc shapes can be made rather than bought, although it would only be worth buying these if you plan on making a lot.

The rest of the findings (bead caps, (flat) headpins, crimps, crimp covers, lobster clasps etc.) are for buying not DIYing.

Lost Wax Casting

Lost wax casting is the method by which all kinds of small items are created as one solid piece of metal. It allows custom one-off designs to be made, as well as small runs. First, the item is sculpted out of wax - you can see a the progression of a ring being sculpted in the photo above.

This wax piece then has a cylinder of wax called a 'sprue' added, which will later act as the entrance for the molten metal to enter the mold. This wax piece is then encased in investment material (like plaster) and this is allowed to set. This is all then heated up gradually, in stages, inside a kiln in a method called the 'burnout process', which pretty much vaporizes the wax out of the mold. This is the 'lost wax' step and it leaves behind a cavity in the shape of your original wax piece.

The molten metal is then poured into the mold, left to cool, and then the investment material is removed to reveal your metal piece. This is then cleaned up and polished.

You could make unique wedding rings this way.

Click Here for a photographic step-by-step of this process.

More Wireworking Techniques To Try

Tools & Materials

There are so many available tools for jewelry making that it can be overwhelming, but the best thing to do is focus on what area of metalwork you want to learn about and go from there. For instance, if you are interested in wirework, the least you need is a range of pliers and some wire. On top of that you can add other items like a chasing hammer, plastic mallet and steel block, and perhaps a drill and some needle files.

Here is a selection of the most common tools and materials used when working with metal:

- Pliers: Chain nose pliers, flat nose pliers, round nose pliers and side cutters are the minimum you will need, and these will cover most wirework jobs. Hole-punching pliers are useful too. Click Here for information about pliers.

- Hammers: A chasing hammer is the most important for texturing, a rawhide or plastic mallet is for work hardening, and a regular household hammer is for hitting metal stamps and punches. Click Here for more information about the types of hammers available. You can also buy special textured hammers to produce different textures on the surface of metal.

- Work surfaces: A charcoal block is required for soldering, a bench pin is used for sheet metal sawing and finishing, and a steel bench block or anvil is used for hammering.

- Cutters: Side cutting pliers are used to cut wire, but for cutting sheet metal you will need a pair of metal shears and/or a jeweler’s saw. If buying a saw, stock up on blades (because lots will be broken!) and beeswax to lubricate the blades.

- Files: A set of needle files and a couple of larger files such as a flat file and a half-round file (both of medium coarseness) would be a good collection to have to start with.

- Polishing and sanding equipment: Polishing cloths, wet and dry sandpaper in a range of grades, and fine (0000 grade) steel wool. If you buy a pendant motor or a buffing machine, you can then get polishing mops and sanding attachments.

- Mandrels, forms & shaping blocks: These are not vital, but if you want to produce rings or bangles you will need a ring mandrel and a bangle mandrel to help shape metal into a perfect round. There are also various shaping blocks like forming blocks and dapping/doming blocks.

- Burnisher: A tool required if you want to make stone settings.

- Drill: You can put holes in thin sheet metal with metal hole punches, however for thicker metals you will require a drill and drill bits. A center punch is useful for making guidance divots in the metal before drilling.

- Soldering equipment: a micro torch, charcoal block, solder and flux are vital for soldering. Check out the section on soldering elsewhere on this page for more info.

- Other: Dividers and an accurate steel ruler are useful for measuring purposes, and a scribe is handy for making marks on the surface of metal. A vice is good for holding things securely, and also helps you make your own twisted wire.

- Metals: When starting out, copper and brass are the cheapest materials to practice with. Then when you have learned some skill you can progress to sterling silver, gold-filled wires, fine silver and maybe even solid gold in the end! Click Here for information on the main types of metal.

- Wire: The higher the gauge of wire, the smaller the diameter, so 30g wire is very fine, whereas 10g wire is very difficult to bend. 12 or 14g is usually the thickest wire you will use, and is used for items like chokers and bangles, and the most-used gauges are 18-24g. Click Here to see which gauges are best for what use.

Wire is available is many different metals including gold and silver plated, sterling silver, copper, brass, gold and aluminium, and the cross-section can either be round (the most common), square or half-round. Click Here for excellent tips on which types of wire, plus wire gauge conversion tables. Remember that with earring hooks, it is advisable to make them from hypoallergenic metals like sterling silver, stainless steel, gold or gold-filled, and definitely try to avoid lead and nickel in order to avoid skin reactions.

Wire also comes in different degrees of ‘hardness’; (full) hard, half hard and dead soft, depending on how easy it is to work and shape. Hard wire is best for sturdier project like bangles, half hard is the most popular and is used for the majority of projects, and dead soft wire is very flexible and easy to shape.

A wire gauge measuring tool would be very handy so you know which wire is which in case you forget to label them. Bezel wire/strip is also available for setting stones.

- Sheet metal: Mainly available in sterling silver, brass and copper, the gauge refers to the thickness of the sheet, with 24g being most common. For practice purposes, I would recommend getting copper or brass sheets in 20g, 24g and 28g.

- Chain: This is available in different metals just like wire is, and there are different styles to choose from too, including more common choices like cable, curb, beading and snake chains, as well as trace, rope, ball chain, Figaro, rolo and many more. Click Here for an A-Z of chain styles.

The length you cut your chain to is also important, with the most common lengths being 18” and 20”. 16” is more of a choker style, and 30” is extra long. Click Here for a necklace sizing guide.

- Beads and stones: Wirework can be embellished with beads, or beads can be the main focus. Beads are either top drilled (briolettes) or center drilled and come in a wide variety of material (glass, plastic, stone etc.), size and shape. There are also many varieties of stones, and if you plan on creating a bezel setting, the stone will have to have a flat back.

Bezel Stone Setting

A bezel stone setting is made by soldering a strip of metal (called bezel wire or strip) onto the jewelry piece in a ring shape that is the same as the cabochon* you wish to set inside it.

* A cabochon (cab) is a stone that has a flat base and a domed top. You can find them in all kinds of materials (plastic, glass, stone), sizes and shapes, with round and oval being the most popular. When metalsmithing, gemstones are the usual choice and to start with you should choose a semi-precious stone such as amethyst, quartz, turquoise or onyx. This is definitely a wise idea because precious stones like opals and aquamarines are very expensive and any mistakes would be costly. As a beginner, I would suggest practising with a cheap stone, of a relatively large size so that is not too fiddly.

The bezel can be bought pre-made, but these only fit common sized stones and don't have as nice a finish. The steps involved for setting a stone from scratch are as follows:

- Measure (with dividers) how deep you need the bezel to be by measuring the cabochon from the base to just above where the sides start to curve inwards. Mark this depth onto either a piece of bezel strip or a piece of thin metal, using a scribe to do so.

- Cut along this mark so now you have a strip the correct height (using snips or a saw).

- Wrap the bezel strip around the cabochon and mark the point where it overlaps. Cut the strip at this mark to leave you with a piece of metal that wraps snugly around the cabochon, with the ends meeting together perfectly.

- Solder the ends together, then pickle.

- Check that the bezel still fits well. You can squeeze the strip all around with pliers to stretch it out a bit if it's too small.

- File the top and bottom edges slightly to make sure they're level.

- Keeping the strip in the same shape as the cabochon, solder it onto your jewelry OR onto a flat piece of metal (the 'base plate') if you are attaching a backing to the bezel separately instead. A base plate is added if you want the stone setting to be 'stand-alone' rather than part of a large metal piece such as a ring - for instance if you are making stud earrings. If you are adding a base plate, at this point you can saw any excess base plate away and file the edges.

- Pickle, and dry thoroughly.

- Place the stone into the setting

- Use a burnisher (a specially designed metal tool) to then push the top edges of the bezel strip onto the stone surface to secure it into position. Do opposing edges rather than working your way around the setting; so burnish the edge at 12, 6, 3 then 9 'o' clock positions before burnishing the remaining bezel edge. By rubbing the bezel with the burnisher, a smooth and polished finish will be achieved.

- Polish it to complete.

Click here for photos showing this process.

Simple Projects For Beginners

Sawing Sheet Metal

Cutting sheet metal is a delicate process which requires patience. When cutting out inner shapes like in this photo, a hole is first drilled in the area of metal which needs to be removed and then the saw blade is detached from the saw at one end to be fed through the drilled hole and then reattached to the saw. You are then able to saw that inner section out before moving on to the next.

Interesting Jewelry Making Methods

Oxidized Box Chain Bracelet

When you have made your jewelry piece, you have the option of oxidizing it. This is most commonly done on sterling silver pieces using 'liver of sulfur', but it can also be done to copper or brass. Oxidizing basically darkens the surface to make it look 'antique', rather than keeping the surface shiny. It's just a matter of personal taste whether you use this technique or not.

How To Use A Mini Torch PLUS Soldering How-Tos

Micro torches are the tool used for soldering most of the time, however soldering irons also have their place. Soldering irons require direct contact with the metal unlike torches, and their main use is with electronics/circuit boards, but they are also used when applying a soldered edge to glass jewelry.

I will be focussing mostly on the use of torches here though.

'Bead On A Wire' Wire Art Book

There are plenty of metalsmithing guidance websites and tutorials on the internet, but it's scattered around, there are gaps in the jewelry making topics, and there often isn't great detail offered (at least not for free!)...which is why I think buying a book or three is the best way to get a complete guide from an expert on the area you are most interested in - whether it's stamping, beading, wirework etc.

Now, when I started out I probably bought 10 books which might be a bit overboard! Out of my collection, the following 3 are the ones I would recommend most highly as being useful, practical, easy to understand, and inspiring:

2-in-1 Techniques & Projects Book

Modern Metal Jewelry Book - 5* Rating

Double Wrapped Loops

You can see that this necklace is formed mainly with wire spirals and double wrapped loops. You can recognize the double wrapped loops as the pieces of wire that hold each bead - with a loop and a spiral of wire at each end.

Soldering Books, Flux, Torch & Charcoal Block

Here is some vital equipment for soldering, plus a couple of highly-rated books to offer advice and help you get started:

Instructions For Working With Sheet Metal - Including Stone Setting Guides

Letter Stamped Necklace

Fun Projects & Things To Make

Soldering, Annealing, Pickling, Finishing & More!

Soldering is where heat and a metal alloy (called solder) are used in conjunction to join two pieces of metal together. If you don't have soldering equipment or you haven't got an appropriate area to use for high-heat jewelry making, then you can also 'cold join' metal together where metals are joined without the use of heat or solder. This is referred to as a 'cold connection' and is also used to join metals which would are not able to be soldered because they would melt. Riveting is one form of cold connection where a hole is made through the pieces of metal you want to join, a piece of tubing is fed through the hole so it sticks out very slightly on either side, and the ends are flattened and spread out to secure the metal pieces in between. Click Here for a range of examples of cold connections.

Soldering permanently joins metals together and the basic idea is that solder, which has a low melting point compared to the main metals you are joining, is heated with a mini butane torch (like the ones you use on crème brulees!) until it melts at the point you want the join to be - then when the solder cools, the metals are held together with the set solder. 'Sweat soldering' refers to a method where one piece of metal is attached on top of another.

Solder is available in sheet, strip or wire form, and can be 'hard' (H), 'medium' (M) or 'soft/easy' (S) grades. The grade of solder refers to the temperature the solder melts at, with the soft grades m