Tag Archives: smithing tools

Tool of the Month – Engraving Ball

Engraving BallThe engraving ball (also known as the engraving vise) is a steel ball with a slot cut out of it, and a vise clamp across it. It is seated in a cup (in this case, a leather donut, lubricated with graphite) which enables it to be rotated 360 degrees around, and around 180 degrees side to side.

Engraving Ball

Used most often for engraving (obviously!) the ball gives you a full range of movement so that as you are cutting, you can spin the piece around for ease of access.

Engraving Ball

Although I have a set of gravers, and understand the principle of engraving (and of faceted stone setting which also requires gravers), I don’t practise those disciplines. Instead, I use my engraving ball for another of its purposes – setting cabochon gemstones.

Engraving Ball

The same principle applies, in that you can rotate the piece so that you can approach the setting from all angles.I love my engraving ball, and use it all the time – I’d be lost without it!

Drusy Agate Ring Rainbow


Tool of the Month – Jeweller’s Files

This month, I thought I’d show you my jeweller’s files. As with most smithing equipment, there are a vast array of files, and I have just a few.

Smithing Files

The largest file I have is a good old half round file, and the smaller files are barette, half round, pillar, round, three square & square needle files.

Smithing Files

Files are mostly used to shape and remove excess metal, so you can imagine there’s a lot of that going on! The larger files move more metal, of course, and the smaller needle files are more delicate and precise.

Smithing Files

After you’ve filed a piece, there will be file marks left in the metal. That’s where emery paper comes in. With each stage, you remove the marks that the last stage left, so the file marks are taken away with a coarser emery paper first.

Emery Sticks

Emery, not to be confused with sandpaper, is mostly corundum, which is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide with traces of iron, titanium and chromium.

Emery Paper

I use two grades of emery: a coarser 400 grade, and a finer 1200 grade. I use it wrapped around a metal stick, or a needle file, or just by itself in a small sheet, depending on what I’m emerying! Sometimes a piece looks great just left at this stage – it can provide a lovely matte surface. Most often, though, I brass brush after the emery stage to leave a great satin finish, as you can see on these butterflies. I really love the softer shine this gives the silver.

Twin Butterfly Sterling Silver Pendants

There are more steps after this used to create a polished finish, but that’s for another day!

Tool of the Month – Mandrels


Mandrels are tapered steel rods, which come in various shapes and sizes. I have three round ones, which go from a millimetre or so up to maybe 40mm in diameter.


Using either my wooden mallet, which will reshape silver but not stretch or resize it, or my bench hammer, which will both shape and stretch the silver to a different size, I use my mandrels to shape bezels, shanks and various other things as I am creating a piece. I even bend my round hoop earrings on my mandrel!


You can get oval mandrels, square mandrels, teardrop shaped mandrels, hexagonal mandrels.. I do have another one or two on my wish list, but for now I love my round mandrels!

Mandrel Uses


Tool of the Month – Hammers

Jeweller's Hammers

The humble hammer. I used to think a hammer was just a hammer, right? But no! There are many different sorts of hammers, with many different purposes. I have a small collection, and I use at least one with just about every piece that I create.

Claw Hammer

First up, the claw hammer. Great for hammering in and pulling out nails in the carpentry world. I use mine for heavy hammering, such as stamping pieces with my maker’s mark and 925 stamp, or hitting the ends of my doming punches.

Jeweller's bench hammer

Next, my jeweller’s bench hammer. This baby has a flat face and a cross pein. (The pein is the ‘other’ end of the hammer). Great for such things as using with my bench block to harden earring hooks, and with my mandrels to straighten and stretch rings. The pein end is useful for things like curving silver in my swage block for rings like this cuff ring. (Don’t worry, posts on all those other weird tools will be along sooner or later! 🙂 )

Wooden Mallet

Thirdly, my wooden mallet. Great for shaping silver without making it thinner – rounding a ring on my mandrel without making it larger, for instance. (Has not been used as a judge’s gavel -yet!!)

Chasing Hammer

Finally, my favourite hammer, my chasing hammer. This baby is great for setting gemstones, using my engraving ball and a setting punch. (Yep, more on those at a later date, too!!) The handle thins dramatically towards the head of the hammer, making it very whippy and easy on the wrist, which is a nice thing when it can take up to an hour’s hammering to set a stone.

There are lots more jewellery hammers, used for various things like forming, planishing, rivetting etc. These four are the tip of the iceberg.. but they are all I need at the moment for all of my creations. A simple everyday tool, the hammer; but indispensable in the jeweller’s studio!

Tool of the Month – Jeweller’s Saw

There are many pieces of equipment that are essential to the creative silversmithing process, and one that gets used in practically every piece is the jeweller’s saw. From cutting through fine chain links, to carving out an entire pendant, the saw is a very useful piece of equipment!

Jeweller's Saw

One of the first things I learned when I started smithing was how to saw – first straight lines, then curves, then around corners. There is an art to sawing! Jeweller’s saw blades come in many sizes, the tooth count varying depending on the job you need to do.

Sawing with Jeweller's Saw

Saw blades are replaced when they become blunt or more often when they break – which happens all the time. Inserting the blade correctly, holding the saw upright, not applying pressure and letting the blade do the work will all help. “Doh! Another one!” is still a frequent cry around the workshop though!

Replacing saw blade

Saws can also be used for piercing.  First a small hole is drilled, the saw blade is fed through the hole, and then tightened into the saw.

Art Nouveau Inspired Silver Earrings

I have two saws, my old faithful that I’ve had from day one and my newer Green Lion Studios saw, which has a deeper frame and can be used for larger cuts. I have different sizes of sawblades in each one, and they are both some of my favourite tools!