Make a Wire Knitting Spool

Knitting copper wire with a knitting spool and steel crochet hook.

Knitting copper wire with a knitting spool and steel crochet hook. (photo: Chris Kafader)

In my opinion, the hardest part of spool knitting with wire is finding an appropriate knitting spool.  There are commercial versions available (also called French Knitters, or Knitting Nellies), but I prefer to make my own, so that I have control over how many pins I use, and how far they are from the central hole. If you drill your own central hole, you can also control how big that is, and thus control the diameter of your knitted chain.

The wood spools I use come from a doll house supply company in bags of 25, but you can also simply drill a hole in a short piece of broom stick, tree branch or other dowel, as long as it has enough girth to accommodate the center hole and leave enough thickness for the pins not to split the wood. Continue reading

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Portable Jewelry Display Cone


If you travel out-of-town to do craft fairs and shows, you are probably already hungry for ways to make the stuff you have to lug with you as light and durable as possible.  If you aren’t hungry yet, do a couple of shows with bulky or fragile display furniture, and that will whet your appetite :).  If you are ready to make your display furniture eminently portable, collapsible, and unbreakable, read on! Continue reading

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Micro Sanding Strips

Lowther.SandingStripsIf you are in the habit of doing elaborate and detailed piercing, you have probably discovered that it’s easy to make crevasses and crannies with a saw blade that are tough to clean up and finish with even the smallest needle or escapement files.  It probably also really annoys you when you can’t get your lines as exquisitely clean and crisp as you want them. Fret no more!  There is a way to sand the edges of even the smallest fissure….

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Pricing Your Work

Lowther.PricingThere are two ways to set prices. You can take a market-based approach, and look at what other artists charge for similar work, or you can take a cost-based approach. I feel that many artists choose a market-based approach because they think it’s easier.  It’s not.  Market-based pricing is harder because it’s such a frantically moving target. I also believe that it is highly likely to be woefully inaccurate and so has the potential to be lethally damaging to an artist’s business.

Because many artists don’t know what it actually costs to produce their work, they don’t understand that their prices are unsustainably low and don’t see — until they’ve slipped beyond the threshold of recovery — that their businesses are hemorrhaging money.

The good news is that you don’t have to join the headlong rush over the fiscal cliff! Continue reading

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Make Your Own Lemel Trap


Every year I cut a LOT of silver wire into tens of thousands of jump rings.  As the saw bites through the precious metal, it throws off lemel, the metal equivalent of sawdust. Unlike sawdust, silver lemel remains precious, and can be sold for scrap, so it’s well worth catching and saving.  To that end, I created a Lemel Trap to use with my Jump Ringer (TM).

Turns out the Trap is useful for containing the dust and mess from other flex shaft applications as well, plus it’s laughably simple to make, cheap, and dead easy to use.

Must have one for yourself?  Read on!  I took lots of pictures :). Continue reading

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The Secret Power of the Sliding Gauge


The humble brass sliding gauge is a powerful tool, and no self-respecting Shoebox Studio should consider being without one.  I have two.  When one goes with me to teach classes, the other stays at home snug on my bench, just in case the first one succumbs to a fit of wanderlust and goes astray….

I used this tool for an embarrassing number of years before I learned to read it properly. Particularly embarrassing because it’s so ridiculously easy.

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Wooden Dapping Punches


Wooden dapping punches are useful little things to have about the jewelry studio. They are gentle tools, and won’t mark your metal the way metal punches will. To the uninitiated – and those without cabinet-making experience – they may look puzzlingly tricky to create. The truth is just the opposite, which totally enhances the fun of revealing it.  I love screwing them together and having them be all “Ta-da!” awesome in about, oh, 5 minutes.

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Gah! Pickle Turned My Silver and Brass PINK…

Sample sterling chain, and the same chain with the dreaded copper flashing...

Sample sterling chain, and the same chain with the dreaded copper flashing…

Copper is awesome.  It carries electricity through our world, and it makes many things blue, like octopus blood and turquoise stones.  We’ve been making stuff out of copper for, oh, something like 10,000 years. Yep. Really.

No surprise that we magpie humans first used copper for jewelry (ooh, shiny, pretty!), and we are still using it, a lot of it, in making jewelry today. Even when metal isn’t copper colored, it can still be mostly copper, like brass, bronze, and nickel silver (which, confusingly, contains no silver).

Most of the time, copper is a tremendously pliant and forgiving player in the jewelry studio, but occasionally it “misbehaves” and ends up in places we don’t want it to be. Sometimes… we pull a piece of silver or brass out of the pickle, and it’s… gah! it’s PINK!! Do not despair, chemistry is the cause, and chemistry will come to the rescue!

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The “awwwh” Factor: When Failure is Success!

My first tube set stone. Awwww, look how wonky it is!

My first tube set stone. Awwww, look how wonky it is!

STOP!! Don’t throw away that misshapen, mangled, completely-didn’t-turn-out-how-you-wanted-it-to-be project! Instead, toss it into the bottom of your toolbox and let it marinate with scraps of metal and seldom used tools.

Why am I so emphatic about this? Because you need those mistakes and failures more than you need the projects that turned out perfectly the first time, and here are three good reasons why: Continue reading

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Heat Shield vs. Heat Sink: or Where Do I Put the Tweezers?!

Lowther.Heat-Shield-VS-Heat-SinkYou’ve put a bunch of time into a piece, and now you have to solder a ring onto the end of a chain, or an ear post onto the back of an earring, and you REALLY don’t want to ruin all your hard work on this last delicate step by melting or annealing something that wasn’t supposed to be melted or annealed! How do you protect your tender bits from the relentless flame?!

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