Metal Strips and Tags
It can be very rewarding to handcraft your own jewelry with metal components. There are many skilled craftsmen known as silversmiths and goldsmiths. However, making jewelry components from base metals can be a rewarding adventure. Patience is a virtue and design work can involve a lot of adjusting and minor changes until you get exactly what you want. Working with metal requires skilled hands and eyes and may not be for everyone.
Safety First!!! All metalwork requires that care must be taken to protect your eyes (metal slivers, dust), protect your hands from cuts & burns (sanding and polishing can generate a lot of heat) and you need proper ear protection. Always have available, protective safety glasses (they need to cover your eyes completely), ear protection (when working with tools), gloves and a dust mask especially when sanding or grinding metal. The gloves can be a bit tricky as they must allow you to be able to work with small tools and materials but must still resist metal splinters and burns. You never want a metal sliver(s) in your eye (requires a visit to a doctor to remove) – metal slivers or burns on your fingers can be very painful. Don’t forget to wear appropriate footwear and make sure to sweep the floor after you are done – you do not want to step on a metal sliver – ouch!!! Buy all your protective equipment before you use your first tool.
And now for the fun stuff
What you can do is only limited by your imagination, time and budget. Aids such as computer design programs, engravers, lasers and countless small tools and equipment are available and you must decide what you need based on your own preferences.
There are some great books on the subject of metalwork – try Chic Metal: Modern Metal Jewelry to Make at Home by Victoria Tillotson for a great start on how to make simple jewelry with metal. Google has an infinite amount of videos for any of the metalworking disciplines you may need and how to use various tools.
One idea would be to try aluminum first as it is easy to use and shapes can be made with basic tools you may already have. Try designing your own charms or pendants, or engrave a dog tag for your furry friend. Got the hang of it, try copper or bronze. A little tougher to cut and shape but allows you to make just about anything your jewelry crafter’s mind can create. Once you’ve mastered these metals, the best of your designs can be made in sterling or other precious metals. Lastly, for a true battle, try stainless steel. For steel, proper tools and experience are a must.
But most of all have fun!!!
Anodized Aluminum is a great metal to work with. It is easy to cut or etch designs onto and comes in a variety of colors. This metal is probably the best starting material for beginners. We made these Orange Animal Prints Earrings from anodized aluminum strips cut into discs with hand drawn animal patterns.
We carry 2 x 12″ strips and just recently added 1 x 7″ strips in a variety of colors.
Copper and Bronze
Copper and bronze are similar metals as bronze is primarily copper combined with tin and other metals. We carry copper in 16 Gauge, 20 Gauge, 24 Gauge and all come 6 x 12″ sheets rather than strips. Our bronze is 22 GA and comes in 2 x 12″ strips great for cuff bracelets.
Both are half hard temper so again easy to work with. Both can be sanded and finished to a mirror shine or textured, hammered or antiqued or anything you wish. These metals are very versatile and workable. Do you like these Copper Fire Earrings?
We carry this metal in 2 x 12″ strips in 22 gauge thickness. This metal is 1/4 hard and very hard to cut and to work with unless you use special tools and cutters designed for stainless steel. Knowledge of how to work with steel is very useful. Remember Conan the Barbarian (starring a young Arnold Schwarzenegger) telling the story of Crom asking about the riddle of steel. Well lets just say, it’s good to have some knowledge before you start working with this metal. Although tough to work with, the results can be stunning as you see with our Mjolnir Thor’s Hammer Earrings.