Fabrication Questions

Please see my site disclaimer

Last updated:  7/31/18

   Nancy LT Hamilton

 Clicking on the images will enlarge them.


Questions and Answers

#1 –  I am trying to make a pair of earrings. Simple, but I can’t quite get there. Brass hoops attached to copper springs with brass circles soldered on and silver ear wires to make the ear post. I can’t figure out how to best get the ear posts right.
#2 –  Soldering the brass circle to the copper…I’m making a mess of it. I file the copper wire flat on both sides, but something keeps going wrong trying to attach the 2nd circle. Even when I get the circles on, I ended up having the ear post, snap off when I was twisting it.
#2a –  I was using brass solder, but it’s all one temp.
#2b – Then, it’s so hard to polish up the copper spring, even if I use Firescoff, and it’s hard to put the spring back in the spring. I tried attaching the circles/post then coiling the copper. It was better but still looks a mess.


#1 –  Ear posts:  drill a partial hole, the same size or smaller than ear post.  If you use the same color metal, for the post, as for the front, you can drill all the way through, clip and sand.  The post will be invisible from the front.  Back to instructions:  drill hole, place post in the hole, apply a TINY bit of solder that touches the post and the bottom piece of metal.  Solder from underneath so you don’t melt the post.  The end!  With good finishing, it is invisible!
   Ear post soldering
#2 – See attached image. Don’t solder with spring in place – add later.  Try harder metals.   Change how spring attaches.  No more ear post snapping as they are soldered in a hole.
 Design ideas

#2a –

Switch to silver solder! More ranges for melting temperatures.
Have you seen my sweat soldering vid?
#2b – Polish spring in a tumbler.

 How to stretch a ring


“How do you stretch a ring?”


You can stretch that ring with a leather mallet and a ring mandrel.  Just hammer it a bunch on the upper edge, flip it over and hammer the other side.  If it doesn’t fit, anneal it and repeat the process.  There are also ring stretchers that can help.  Amazon sells several. Saying that, I own one and have used it 0 times.  So…. Back to Table of Contents

Soldering Bezels to Ring Shanks


” I’m trying to make a Sterling Silver ring with a cabochon setting and I want it to be two sheets thick with the bottom one being wider than the top plate. I am unsure as to what I should do first…solder the sheets together first or solder the bezel onto the top plate then solder this to the second plate. The two plates are 24g sterling silver and the bezel tape is 28g fine silver.”


If you want a simple straight walled bezel, you’ll have to make the bezel first and then solder it to the band.  Otherwise, you won’t be able to trim around the bezel wire. Then there’s the issue of what comes after soldering the two pieces together while flat.  When it is time to form that metal into a ring shape, the bezel will be forced into the same shape. That makes soldering the bezel wire very difficult because now you have a curved surface that you need to solder a straight piece of metal onto.  This can and has been done but, it is not fun.  I usually cry.
  • I almost always make my bezels separately and then solder the bezel onto the preformed ring shank. Actually, I may do it all the time as I can’t recall an instance when I haven’t. But, as you know, my memory is suspect.
  • If you are making a bezel that has a decorative, flat backing and you want it hanging off the band, you can solder the backing on first BUT, there is the issue of soldering a very thin bezel wire to a lot of metal.  It will be much easier to melt the wire, in this scenario.  I highly recommend making the bezel first and then soldering it to the shank (without the stone in, of course).
  • Be sure to file a flat spot, on the ring band (see image below), for the bezel to be soldered to. This increases the amount of surface area that is touching.  The larger the area, that the 2 pieces have in common, the greater the strength that the join will have.   Wild horses should have a tough time tearing this join apart.  I think Rio Grande sells these horses.  Not sure though…
  •  Don’t set the stone until you are done with all soldering and preferably, done with the majority of the finishing.  Buffs, burnishers and compounds, etc. can damage your stones. 
  • If your stone is large,  you may also have some overhang (see image below) – especially if you haven’t filed that flat spot.  The overhang can be a design element so, if you’ve got it, make sure it looks good.   Just remember that you don’t want your finished ring to fall apart before the warranty expires. (Warranty? I guess this implies that after the warranty, it’s tough nuggies to you, dear customer!  Not a good business practice yet, oh so common with cars, houses, washing machines, toasters – anything over $5.00, it would seem. Gotta love the 1% and their ethics.)
  • Soldering the bezel to the ring band will be much easier if the area, that you have filed, is very flat and even.  I like to drag the band along a wide file – I tend to make flatter surfaces that way.  Lumpy surfaces make for weak joins and unsightly gaps, as the bezel wire doesn’t sit flush on its backing.  This is an embarrassing situation to be in.  So, you probably shouldn’t be behaving that way. See my video on Flat Square Edges on Sheet Metal for some assistance with this process.
wolfbeltsanderThe Okohe Belt Sander is also great for sanding nice flat areas.  Be careful that you don’t get wacky and overdo it – creating highly unuseful, lumpy ring shanks.
bezelbandpat This illustration shows a fancy (well not fancy, just not straight up and down) bezel backing.

 Straight sided, traditional bezel.   One image illustrating the unsightly (if unintentional) overhang (I have that same problem with certain areas of my body!) The other, the corrected version with flat area filed on the shank.  Do they make stomach files, do you think?  I REALLY don’t want to know if they do.  Please don’t tell me.  Back to Table of Contents

Ear Wires


“Can you tell me how long to tumble handmade ear wires? I’ve made them from 20 gauge copper and tumbled them for 5 hours.  They still aren’t strong without hammering them.  Any helpful ideas would be much appreciated!”


Copper is not a great wire to use for ear wires.  The amount of oxidation it gives off can cause problems in peoples piercings.  I , myself, am very sensitive to any oxidation and can only wear fine silver, Argentium, gold, titanium, niobium or platinum.  Also, it is a very soft, pliable metal and will want to bend out of shape all the time – especially during the heavy use an ear wire gets.  It can also turn ear holes green.  Nickel (many people have allergies to nickel), copper, brass and bronze should be steered clear of.

If you want the browny-red color of copper Reactive Metals sells a bronze colored niobium.  Rio Grande sells copper colored niobium ear wires – premade. Rio Grande also sells Argentium and Sterling Silver.

Try to find another type of wire for your earrings – if at all possible.  Sterling silver is good because it is strong but, it also oxidizes – not as much as copper, brass and bronze though. Argentium is better because it doesn’t oxidize like the SS does.  I find fine silver too flexible to make great earwires.  Also, you are never going to get really stiff 20 gauge wire because it is so thin – especially with such a soft metal like copper or fine silver. Some people use 21 and 22 gauge wire too.  I find them too thin and almost always use 20g.  But, some people have difficulty fitting the, slightly larger, 20 gauge in their piercings.

There is a method for work hardening the wire before you make your ear wires:   give the wire a little twist. Use a piece of wire longer than you need, (so you can cut off any damaged bits from pliers and still have enough for the ear wire). Hold one set of pliers at one end of the wire and another at the other end.  Twist in opposite directions and then shape into the ear wire. After the twisting and the shaping of the wire, your ear wires shouldn’t even need a tumble – they should be very work hardened. You can do longer lengths by putting one end in a vise.

Saying that, I’ve found that, even without the twist, the process of forming the earwires is generally enough to work harden them.

Are the ear wires you are using commercially made?  If so, they should be work hardened already. It must be the copper… Back to Table of Contents

Bending tubing


“I want to make a copper dream catcher.  I want to use hollow copper tubing 1/2 inch diameter, maybe 24 inches long and I need to bend it into a round circle, is there a way?  Then I want to solder the ends, drill holes in measured increments and wire semi-precious stones along the web. Do you have any ideas or recommendations as to how I would go about achieving this?”


There are several methods for bending tubing.  The wall thickness of your tubing will make a big difference.  Thicker walled tubing doesn’t crush as easily.  Also, the metal needs to be annealed. Small circles are harder to make than larger as the bends are sharper.

I recently found this blog from David Cruickshank: Coiling Tube Using The Draw Bench, that is brilliant.

There are lever-based hand tools for bending:  OEM 25179 Tubing Bender.

I own one and just tried it with some copper tubing.  It bent the tubing but, crushed it at the bend.  There are other types of benders like these spring benders from Micro-Mark. Grainger also sells them.  These are better for small diameter tubing.  They are a bit difficult to use as you bend them with your hands.  In this case, you might want thin walled tubing.  There are also very expensive hydraulic benders.  Another thought:  perhaps you have a metals shop near you that can bend tubing for you.

If you go with the tool route, you will have to experiment with metals, wall thicknesses, etc. You can also try one of the methods below:

Some people fill the tube with water – sealing off the ends (try beeswax) – and freezing it.  Then bending it with the ice in it.  The idea is to not have an empty space (inside the tubing) that helps to keep the tube from crushing.

Other’s have filled the tubing with dry sand (with tightly capped ends and tamped tightly).  Same principle as above.

The Goodheart-Willcox Company has a chapter, entitled: “Working with Copper Tubing”.  On page 43, they write about how to use a spring-bender, a lever-type bender and bending by hand..

You could also skip the tubing idea and try making the dream catcher with a thick gauge wire like 4 or 6 gauge.  Of course, that will make it heavier and more expensive.

  • Michaels – ArtMinds Metal Rings (sic). In sizes 3, 5 and 7 inches.
  • Factory Direct Craft has many different sizes in a gold-colored hoop.
  • Amazon has the “Set of 5 Dream Catcher Hoops” 6” diameter. They also have “Springfield Leather Company’s Mandella (sic) Hoop 9″.

    Back to Table of Contents

    How to Create Graduated or Tapered wire


    “How do I create graduated or tapered wire. I am using 2 mm wire, primarily copper, and need to find a good way to get a nice blunt taper on the last 3/8″ or so. Hand filing isn’t great and takes a while. I have a Dremel, and have been waiting for the right excuse to invest in a Flex shaft, hopefully with one of those little belt sanders. Maybe a grinder?”


    I have a video on this subject:  Tapering and Drawing Wire.

    I have yet to find a less intensive method for creating graduated or tapered wire. That said, there are a few techniques that might be easier.  It all depends on what tools you have available to use.

    Perhaps the easiest method is using the rolling mill. I have found several, very reasonably priced ones: Amazon, $150.00 US, Otto Frei’s Silver Economy Flat Mill at $175.00 – although, this mill doesn’t have rollers or sections of the roller dedicated to rolling wire.  It is much easier to roll taper the wire in the wire rolling grooves. Contenti carries many different types of mills too.  They have one called: The Compact Economy Rolling Mill, the second mill down on the page, is the one that comes with the wire rolling rollers.

    You can also forge the wire using a cross pein, riveting, raising hammer (like this Fretz HMR403) or other hammer that has a thin, linear edge (see images below).  The process is similar, in concept, to using the rolling mill. You still have to file a bit to smooth the transitions. Here’s a book on hammers, that might be of interest, Better Know Your Hammers, by Betty Edsall-Kerwin.


    You still have to file as you’ll have “little steps” on the wire where you started each new pull, roll or you’ll have hammer marks.  You can planish some of the marks away with a planishing hammer. You still have to file as you’ll have “little steps” on the wire where you started each new pull, roll or you’ll have hammer marks.  You can planish some of the marks away with a planishing hammer.

    Charles Lewton Brain has written on other methods here, at Ganoksin. One more from on step rolling by Charles.  Visit Sandra Noble Goss’s site for info on rolling a taper (and much more).   You need to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find the applicable section.

    Also see:

    Ben Dyer Workshop Forging with a Rolling Mill

    Another method:  You can pull the wire through a draw plate, in stops. Stop the first pull where the beginning of the taper starts.  Go down a hole size, on the draw plate, pull the wire through but, start the pull a few millimeters before the start of your first pull.  Repeat this process, working down the length of the wire until, it gets ridiculously difficult to pull through. Then it needs to be filed, to even out the steps.

    making-graduated-wire  Click to enlarge.

    You can use a desktop belt sander like Kate Wolf’s Belt Sander (it runs off a flex shaft) available at FDJ Tools and other vendors.   FDJ has a video on using this tool.

    wolf-belt-sander  Wolf Belt Sander

    In all cases, You can cut a groove in your bench pin to hold the wire while filing, turning the wire often.  You can also use sanding discs in descending grits, while the wire is in the groove. Robert Dancik’s: Amulets and Talismans book has a picture of just what I’m talking about – regarding filing a wire in a groove.  Scroll down to page 24:  under the heading – Pointed Wire. Robert’s book is also sold on Amazon.

    You can also hold the wire (depending on its length) in a jeweler’s ring holder/clamp to have more control and to give your fingers a break.

    ring-clamp  Ring Clamp.

    For a completely different solution, try making your wire with one of the great metal clays out there.  There is a “sterling silver clay” (not actually sterling as the composition of the silver isn’t 925 but 900) but, the material is stronger than most silver clays and much more flexible.  Just a thought. Back to Table of Contents

    How to Make a Cone


    “Thank you for making the cone video, I’ve found no other instructions for making a cone. I wish to make open ended cones for finished necklace ends instead of buying them.  Do you have a suggestion as to how to cut the small end hole correctly?”


    One idea is to file the end flat – after soldering, use a nail punch and pop a little dent in the center of the sanded end and then drill.  Use increasingly larger drill bits until you reach the size you want.  You can also saw off the end with a jeweler’s saw and then file it even – if your sawing wasn’t machine like in its precision – and whose is?

    How to Make a One-Piece, Bezel-Set, Drop-In Ring



    “I got into making jewelry about 1 month ago and I’m doing pretty good at creating bezels. I was wondering if you’re familiar with the type of setting the ring in the attached picture? I would love to make a ring similar to that for myself but I’m a little baffled.”


    Welcome to the jewelry world.  The ring is a bit ambitious for one just starting out but, what the heck.  It is a drop-in bezel set ring (from what I can see).  It was probably made in wax first and then cast.  

    Another method that could have been used to create this ring, is fabrication.  I’ve included this link from Alan Revere at Ganoksin from his book:  Professional Goldsmithing.  I can’t believe I actually found the pattern (and the instructions – thank you Alan!), as I first made this ring when I was a new jeweler – almost 20 years ago! It took awhile to remember where I got the pattern from. The ring didn’t turn out right but, I still have it and fondly recall struggling through its construction.

    There are several good books on stone setting.  I have a few listed on my website underBooks: Links.  There are also books, that I own and use, on jewelry making.  Back to Table of Contents

    What Can I Use to Cut Sheet Metal to Size?


    “Would you recommend the cutting disk (my insert:  I believe the author is talking about cut-off discs here) to cut straight edges on sheet metal (not too thick, about 20-22 gauge)? Or would the round sanding bands be helpful too (doesn’t seem appropriate to me but I don’t know) ?
    I saw that you used the cutting disk (cut-off disk) to bend the metal along your line, but I don’t have the money to get a guillotine or the miter tool that you used in your other video to cut straight edges.
    If I could use the cutting disk, that’d be great, otherwise I might just buy sheet pieces online to my specified dimensions. ”


    I sometimes just use my jeweler’s saw to cut my metal sheets to size – especially if they are too thick for my guillotine shear. Then I drag the edges along a wide, long file to square up them up.  I think, that using the cutoff discs to cut metal is a laborious and rather dusty project.  I would saw the sheets or do, as you suggested, to buy them precut.  You might also be able to find a metal fabricator or metal shop in your area that will cut them for a reasonable price.  The thinner metals, like 22, 24, 26 gauge, etc. I like to use my French Shop Shears.  They will even cut small pieces of 20 g. The metal curls but, placed on a flat steel surface, with a chunk of flat, smooth wood placed over it, in a steel, metal, wood sandwich, I give the sandwich a few whacks with the mallet and flatten it.  It helps if the metal is annealed before doing this.  Works especially well with copper.

    Note on the Shop Shears:  The web page says for metals up to 26g but, I’ve been using the French Shop Shears to cut thicker metal for years.  I’d give them a try before using the cut-off discs. Not only do they cut 22-30 gauge easily, they are inexpensive, last a long time and you have the flexibility of scissors.

    The sanding drums would not work for this procedure.

    Harbor Freights has a Throatless Shear for about 140.00 -Item#38413. Back to Table of Contents

    I’m Having Problems Balling Up Wire On Both Ends For A Hinge


    “I would like to ball up wire on both ends of a tube hinge.  I have issues balling the wire when it is so close to the metal hinge…do you have any advice?  I have a little smith torch propane/oxy.  I have tried fine silver, argentium and sterling.  I cannot seem to get the second ball of wire to work…I think the piece is getting too hot but I can’t for the life of me figure out what the “antidote” for this is.”


    I’ve done this before and know what you are talking about – it’s tricky.

    The problem is, that I’ve found, is that when balling up wire (normally), you actually place the working end of the torch, a little below the tip of the wire.
    Try leaving the wire a little longer and heating it from the back.
    Another idea is to pre-melt the sphere and solder it to the end of the wire using easy or even extra-easy solder. Either create the sphere on a flat charcoal block (results in a flat bottom ball) or sand a flat area on the sphere – to give it more area for the solder to hold onto.
    Another idea is to use PMC or metal clay for the center “wire”.

     I will say that of all the metals, Argentium and Fine silver are best as they make perfect spheres and melt beautifully.

    A sharp, hot flame works best – more o2 – less gas.  Hold with cross-locks but, not on the hinge.  The idea is to heat up the wire and not the rest of the piece. Back to Table of Contents

    Making Jewelry From Solder


    I attached a photo of something I’d like to try to make. I was wondering if judging by the large quantity of solder, do you think he/she used wire?  also iron or torch? I was going to try to experiment, but I thought I’d see if you had any idea where to begin.  Believe it or not they use rubber stamps to make those designs, so what do you think would accommodate the silver color and not be scorching hot? I should probably mention…it is over top of iron.  that is an iron pendant you’re looking at, with the stamped solder on top.”



    This looks like a metal clay piece to me.  I’ve never heard of doing this – solder and iron.  I would assume, that you’d heat the (clean) iron up – I’d use a gas torch or a kiln –  and flood it with low melt solder – like for use with a soldering iron – no lead in it! Lead is not used for jewelry – not good for the skin! Then, while liquid, it can be stamped. If using low temp. melt solder, I guess you could use rubber stamps – depends on the rubber’s melting temp. and the temp. of the solder.  You could press anything into the soft solder, at it’s fluid point.
    I don’t know if you would need flux or not. There is a paste solder that melts at 278F.  You could use this wire too. Just found this site:  Nunn Design and Can’t Stop Making Things,  that might be just what you need. Looks like a pretty simple technique.  Good luck and enjoy your experiments! Back to Table of Contents

    How To Remove Dross/Slag From Laser Cutting?


    “How do I get rid of the dross/slag left behind after laser cutting – which is very hard carbonized material? The parent material is stainless steel grade 304 at 0.5mm thick. At the moment I am trying in a vibratory tumbler with broken up 36 grit silicon carbide grinding wheel with ceramic media 4mm square mixed in, this is not working.

    What does work is harsh filing which leaves deep score marks, It is more labor intensive than I intended. Would you have any suggestions you could offer me?”


    I don’t work with stainless steel but, I did find these articles that might help you:  The Fabricator, The Fabricator (different article), Surtech.  I don’t know if any of these articles will help but, they might start you in the right direction.  Good luck and if you find an elegant solution, I would love to hear back from you.  Wish I had more info but, haven’t laser cut ANYTHING, EVER and the stainless thing (as mentioned above).  BTW, the pieces are very cool.

    Cutting Tubing


    I don’t have a tube cutter.  What else can I do to cut evenly?


    Thanks for a great question. It is difficult to saw perfectly without specialty tools (because, we aren’t machines!) but, that said, there are lots of options for reaching the goal of a nice, straight line.   I use dividers to evenly mark the metal.  You can then go over the (often faint) line with an extra-fine Sharpie – to make it easier to see. Bench-pin-adjustment-for-tubing I have a small rounded groove on the end of my bench pin to hold the tubing and/or wire.  Then, I place the dividers on the top of the tubing (a piece with a nice even, flat edge) and spin the tubing to make my mark.  You can cut another groove into your bench pin – to hold the tubing for sawing. The groove can go across the top of the pin or at an angle – which ever feels more natural for you to saw.   I like to use chainsaw files for this as they are both round, parallel and come in different diameters.  When sawing, saw around, on the lines first.  But, don’t saw all the way through.  Go slowly and turn the tubing, gradually increasing the depth of the cut.  The first groove, that you cut, will hold the blade in place.  So, it is important to be accurate and move slowly.  After sawing, you can drag the cut end of the tubing, in a figure 8 pattern, over some rough (220 – 320 grit) sandpaper or a hand file.  File or sand until you don’t see your lines anymore and the edge looks even and smooth. The miter-cutting vise and jig is a great tool for squaring up edges too. There are other options for making (fairly) accurate cuts.  tube-holding-and-cutting-pliers  There are tube cutting pliers available.  But, even with those, you will need to sand and/or file as the gap – where the saw blade fits – is a little wide.  But, they are great for holding the tubing while sawing.  One last idea (or 2):  Rio sells a pair of pliers that are used for crimping after using a corrugator. They are called “Confirming Pliers“.  confirming-pliers-for-cutting-tubing  They hold the tubing well and you can use their edge to saw against.  I’ve tried parallel pliers but, they don’t hold the tubing well.  You could always cut a groove in parallel pliers and make your own tubing holder.  So, those are my ideas for now.  If you ever want to invest in a great, all around tool, skip the tubing cutters and get the miter-cutting vise and jig.  It’s my favorite tool because it has so many uses.  I have a web page on this tool – if you are interested.

    Back to Table of Contents

    Related Videos

    Related Web Pages