44 Essential Tools

44 Essential Tools
Rio Grande For School

44 Essential Metalsmithing Tools and Supplies to Get Started in Jewelry Making

Discovering jewelry making can be fascinating, exciting—even life-changing for some people. In particular, metalsmithing and silversmithing are perfect avenues for working with your hands, exploring your creativity and sharpening your problem solving-skills in equal amounts.

But beginning to make jewelry can also be daunting. There is so much to learn. And to start unlocking all of that knowledge, you’re going to need get your hands dirty. That means you'll need tools. Lots of them. But which tools are truly necessary when you’re just getting started?

Rio Grande has been supplying jewelers with everything they need since 1944, so we've got a few suggestions. Here’s our list of the 44 most essential tools and materials for anyone who's new to metal forming, metalsmithing and jewelry making. Throw in a nice cotton apron and some safety glasses, and you'll be ready whenever inspiration strikes.

Need Help?

 

This is a great guide for getting started, but it’s not comprehensive. What you need as a jeweler ultimately depends on what you want to make. So if you’ve got a specific project or process in mind, but you don’t know where to begin, call Rio Grande’s customer service representatives at 800.545.6566. No question is ever too big or too small … just ask!

METALS

Without metal, you just can’t make jewelry! Get comfortable working with base metals and silver before you invest in more valuable materials like gold and platinum.
Shop Silver sheet solder assortment

Metals are subjective depending on the look you’re going for, but try using these minimum thicknesses when you’re still getting familiar with metals.

HAND TOOLS

Remember to keep your hand tools clean, dry and (when it makes sense) sharp. Treat your hand tools right, and they’ll reward you and your designs for years to come.
Pliers and cutter set

Pliers and cutter set

With six of the most common pliers and cutters that jewelers depend on, you’ll use this set of for a wide variety of bench tasks.

Half-round ring file

Half-round ring file (German cut #2)

Half-round ring files are useful for smoothing the interiors of ring shanks and concave surfaces. The German cut rating refers to the number of teeth, or fineness, of each file. Use a #4 German cut file for coarse cutting and removing large amounts of material.


Half-round ring file

Half-round ring file (German cut #4)

After an initial filing with your #2 German cut file, clean up your piece with a finer #4 German cut file. You’ll probably want to continue to refine the surface with 400-grit and 600-grit sandpaper, then finally a wheel compound and a buff.

Friedrich Dick Needle File Set

Friedrich Dick Needle File Set, Cut #3, Set of 6

You'll use this set of six small files for working on fine details and in small areas of your workpieces.


Shop Plastic Hand-File Handle

File handles

Many files can be used as-is, but securing them in a handle like this improves control for better precision and tool safety.

Brass Bezel Roller

Bezel roller

Use a brass bezel roller during stone setting to close bezel edges around stones without marring metal.

HAMMERS AND MALLETS

Turn to your trusty hammers and mallets for foundational forming tasks like flatting, straightening and forging.
Deadblow nylon mallet

Deadblow nylon mallet

With their non-marring nylon faces, deadblow mallets are used for bending, forging, shaping and flattening metal.

Planishing hammer

Planishing hammer

A planishing hammer is great for intricate metal work, creating custom bezels and even creating subtle textures with its rounded face.


Ball-peen hammer

Ball-peen hammer

An effective general-use tool, ball-peen hammers feature at least one ball-shaped face that’s designed for "peening" (spreading) rivet heads to seat them, as well as other light forging work such as flattening and shaping.

Riveting hammer

Riveting hammer

A traditional riveting hammer features two faces: one wedge-shaped cross-peen face for setting rivets; and a flat face for refining and finishing rivet heads and for general forming.


Brass mallet

Brass mallet

Use a brass-head mallet when stamping, dapping, or when cutting metal with disc cutters. The relatively soft brass head won’t damage steel tools.

BENCH AND BENCH ACCESSORIES

Every jeweler needs a dedicated space where they can make their creations. A good, sturdy work space will go a very long way in helping you with organization and production.
Rio Grande Jeweler's Workbench

Bench

Every jeweler needs a jeweler’s workbench! With multiple drawers, a bench pin, armrests and a slide-out tray, you’ll wonder how you ever worked without one before.

Steel Bench Block

Bench Block

You'll need a steel bench block for layout work, flattening, stamping, chasing and forming 90° bends.


Shop OptiVISOR lens

OptiVISOR® lens

A visor with interchangeable magnifying lenses is a popular choice with jewelers, as it keeps your hands free and your vision sharp at the bench.

LED task light

LED task light

A high-quality jeweler's task lamp provides full illumination across your work surface; this one includes adjustable brightness control and a USB port for charging your devices.

FLEX SHAFT AND ACCESSORIES

The flex shaft is the most-versatile and most-used tool in a jeweler’s studio; use it to drill holes; grind, buff and polish metals; set stones; cut jump rings; create textures; and a whole lot more!
Flex shaft

Flex shaft

When it comes to quickly and efficiently performing a variety of bench tasks—such as engraving, flush setting stones and polishing—jewelers can't beat a flex shaft. This one comes a 43-piece accessory kit that’s great for getting started.

Flex shaft stand

Flex shaft stand

A flex shaft needs to be hung up and out of the way of your work, yet close at hand, to work safely and properly. This flex shaft stand’s Swing-Away™ arm increases its versatility even further.


Drill bit set

Drill bit set

This set includes 36 large high-speed twist drills in a variety of sizes, and it’s easy to keep organized in its wood base.

SAWING

A saw frame, the correct saw blade and a little practice are the keys to incredibly detailed designs that you just can’t achieve any other way.
German saw frame

4" German saw frame

A 4" throat depth delivers excellent maneuverability to cut curves, angles and corners into most pieces. The frame is adjustable, allowing you to set the blade tension for any saw blade length.

German saw frame

Saw blade assortment

You'll want to have a variety of saw blades organized on your bench. This assortment contains 144 (12 dozen) of the most popular saw blade sizes for jewelers, two dozen each of: 4/0, 3/0, 2/0, 1/0, 1 and 2.

BurLife lubricant

BurLife® lubricant

Smooth cutting depends on an effective lubricant. BurLife® keeps cutting tools such as saw blades, files and burs sharp for smoother cutting.

RING AND BRACELET MAKING

Get the right size for you customer with ring sizers and ring sticks, then shape rings and bracelets quickly and accurately with mandrels.
Ring mandrel

Ring mandrel

Use a hard, smooth forming mandrel to form and shape rings, larger bezels, earrings, coin frames and chain links.

Ring sizing stick and gauges

Ring sizing stick and gauges

The combination of an aluminum ring stick and steel finger gauge set is designed to work together to accurately size rings.


Round bracelet mandrel

Round bracelet mandrel

Use a cast-iron round mandrel for shaping and forming bracelets in a variety of sizes.

Cuff bracelet mandrel

Cuff bracelet mandrel

A cast-iron oval mandrel is useful for shaping and forming cuffs. This mandrel features four graduated steps and a built-in tang that allows you to secure the mandrel in a vise.

FINISHING AND POLISHING

Whether it’s a matte finish or mirror shine you're after, the final finish on your piece is what makes your design pop.
Sandpaper assortment

Sandpaper assortment

Silicon carbide abrasive paper is suitable for polishing metals, glass, ceramics and stone, and can be used either wet or dry.

Shop Steel burnisher

Steel burnisher

A stainless steel burnisher smooths metal surfaces and leaves a high-gloss finish.

Radial bristle discs

Radial bristle discs

Use radial bristle discs with your flex shaft for removing firescale and light oxidation, pre-polishing, semi-finishing, blending, texturing, and polishing. Stack 3–6 discs on one mandrel to create the width that best suits your task.

Sunshine Cloth

Sunshine® Cloth

Made exclusively for Rio Grande, this micro-abrasive cloth safely cleans, removes tarnish and polishes gold, silver, brass, copper and other metals, glass, mirrors, wood and more, leaving a deep, long-lasting luster.


Sunshine Cloth

Sunshine® Satin Cloth

This pink two-in-one cloth features a micro-abrasive polishing cloth bonded to a fine-abrasive sanding cloth—ideal for shaping contours, smoothing out surface scratches and producing a smooth satin finish on metal.

Sunshine Cloth

Sunshine® Soft Cloth

This blue micro-abrasive polishing cloth is exceptionally soft and pliable, conforming effectively to surface contours and getting into crevices without creasing or tearing.

MEASURING

Measure twice and cut once. Precise measuring tools are essential to accomplishing your tasks right the first time, saving you time and money.
Caliper

Caliper

Use a caliper to accurately measure thicknesses and distances; its adjustable jaws make it easy to measure inside diameter (ID) and outside diameter (OD).

Steel scribe

Steel scribe

Two sharpened steel points allow you to precisely mark virtually any metal.


Divider

Divider

Use a divider to easily and consistently create perfect circles and arcs on your metals.

Center punch

Sheet and wire gauge

Allows you to quickly measure sheet and wire; simply insert the material into the gauge through the slots.


Ruler

Ruler

Besides precisely marked increments in inches and millimeters, this ruler also includes quick references for measuring rings and bracelets and for converting measurements.

SOLDERING

A torch can truly take your creativity to the next level. Use it to close jump rings for more secure chain; attach findings, prong settings, bezels and appliqué; anneal material for forming; melt metal; create texture … the possibilities are endless.
Soldering kit

Soldering kit

A soldering kit is the perfect way to get started with everything you need—right down to the acetylene/air torch set-up—for larger soldering tasks and light casting jobs.

Shop Silver sheet solder assortment

Silver sheet solder assortment

Solder assortments are a great way to always have the solder you need on hand. This one includes 1/4 ozt. each of extra-easy silver sheet solder, easy silver sheet solder, medium silver sheet solder, and hard silver sheet solder.


Have a jewelry-making question?

Call 800-545-6566

7 am to 6 pm MST, Monday through Friday