An introduction to metalsmithing

Metalsmithing is the process of shaping metals into other objects, such as jewellery. If you like the idea of getting creative and learning the basics of metalsmithing, here is all you need to know.

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Understanding metals

Various types of metal are used in the metalsmithing process. These include precious metals, such as gold, silver or platinum, and non-ferrous or ferrous metals. Ferrous essentially refers to containing iron, with these metals including tin, brass, copper, steel and aluminium.

Metalsmithing processes

To make jewellery, metals need to undergo a number of processes. Not all processes may be necessary, depending on the piece you want to produce and how you want it to look. The type of metal you use can also determine how much work you need to carry out to transform it into a new item.

To begin with, metals normally need to be softened so that they are easier to shape. This is commonly achieved using a special type of flame torch.

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Once the metal is soft and pliable, it can be cut, drilled or sawn to the desired shape. To smooth down any sharp edges, the metal is carefully sanded or filed using special tools.

If you want to form your metal into a three-dimensional shape, you will need to hammer it against a hard surface.

When metals need to be joined together, you can use either cold or hot connections. Cold connections include riveting or weaving with screws, while hot connections involve soldering and fusing. Some people choose to use a special metal bonding adhesive from a manufacturer such as to ensure a permanent join.

To finish your metal creation, you may then need to sand or file it again or polish and buff it to ensure a smooth and shiny finish.

As you get more experienced at metalsmithing, you might also choose to add a range of embellishments to your designs.

Equipment needed

Anyone who wants to get started in metalsmithing must first make an investment in a few basic tools.

Hand tools, such as files, hammers, saws, stamps, disc cutters, anvils, daps and punches are all vital for the job; in addition, you might want to invest in machine tools, such as buffers and polishers, tumblers and flex shafts. A good toolbox also comes in handy to store your kit.

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