Making silver jewelry and decorative objects is rewarding but also intimidating. It may seem inconceivable for the casual hobbyist to create works of art from hardened metal. However, it's not only possible; it can be done with a minimum amount of special equipment in your own home.
While you don't need to invest thousands in special equipment, you will need some basic tools for successful silversmithing projects. Some items can be found at a hardware store, while others can be obtained through dealers who specialize in metalworking. To get started, you will need a jeweler's saw and blades, needle files, a ball-peen hammer, a handheld torch, solder, flux and silver pickling compound. Safety should be at the forefront when you set up your work area, so always use fire bricks or pads when using the torch, keep a fire extinguisher nearby and wear eye protection. As your silversmithing hobby grows, you'll find other tools and equipment for more sophisticated projects.
Sterling silver is not as hard as some alloys like bronze, but it can be difficult to cut. Use a jeweler's saw and blades with the teeth of the blades facing toward the handle. Use smooth strokes to cut and don't force the saw or you'll be working harder with less result. Blades break often, especially when you push too hard on the saw, so keep plenty on hand.
Although soldering, joining two pieces of silver together with a heated alloy, can be unnerving at first, it's easy to catch on to, and you will expand your range of projects when you master it. Make sure the surfaces you are soldering are completely clean and free of tarnish. Apply the flux to the surfaces and heat them with the torch. Touch the solder to the pieces and you will see a flash when the solder melts. With a pair of tongs, drop the piece into the pickling solution. Never touch the heated metal with your bare hands and use a fire brick or pad under the silver when you're soldering.
To finish your project, you'll want to polish it. The polish can range from a shiny mirrorlike finish to a more rustic, less-reflective surface. You can either use an electric rotary tool with polishing wheels or do the polishing by hand with cloths. Both are used with polishing compounds that vary in abrasiveness. Start with a more abrasive compound and work up to a finer compound. The finer the compound, the shinier your finished product will be.
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