Jewellery Making Beginners Leisure Course: My Experience

Hello! I’m Hannah, the Marketing Coordinator here at Kernowcraft, I finally enrolled myself into a jewellery making leisure course and thought I'd take you along with me.

I have always loved wire wrapping and working with gemstone beads and I thought it was about time I dived into the world of metalsmithing! Everyone in the Kernowcraft team is experienced in jewellery making, so I’ve definitely gained some brilliant knowledge and tips from the team, as well as our customers. I feel like I’ve got the theory down but when it comes to getting hands-on, that’s a whole new ball game.

Living in Cornwall, there are a few options when it comes to trying jewellery making. If you’re after a jewellery making leisure course like me, colleges such as Cornwall College and Truro College both offer great evening courses. There are also lots of jewellery workshops to join at colleges or with private tutors, offering one-day sessions or longer. This particular course was 11 weeks long and was a great investment for getting a taste of metalsmithing and the techniques involved.

The beginning...

I get a little anxious when it comes to starting something new. After getting a little lost, I finally found the room we were working in and I was relieved to find friendly faces inside. Everyone in my course was so lovely and most of them were all complete beginners with no experience at all, so it was great fun to start something new together.

Measuring our fingers

We began by measuring our fingers using a piece of wire. We did this by looping the wire around our finger and forming a twisted coil underneath with the help of snipe nose pliers. We then cut the wire in half and folded it out, which we then measured to reveal the size of the ring we plan to make. This is a great way to measure your ring size if you’re just starting out.

Creating a copper ring

With our measurements, we were then given a strip of copper sheet but first, it was time to grab a saw frame and attach the blade. One tip the tutor gave us, is when attaching the blade, you can push the frame up against a table to ensure a tight fit. You want the sound of the blade to make a ‘ping’ sound when you flick it.

You can read our advice page here on using a saw for jewellery making here.

We used a piece of beeswax to lubricate the blade to ensure that it doesn’t stick when sawing through the metal sheet. We set up our anvil and bench pin to the table, marked where we needed to cut our metal sheet and got to work! It’s really easy to go in hard with the sawing, but really you just need to let the saw do all the work. Luckily, no blades were broken (this time around!).

We’re off to a good start I thought…

Using ring bending pliers, we bent the metal around to join the ends - this is definitely harder than it looks - I ended up giving myself tiny cuts from trying to bend the metal! If only I had some alligator tape nearby! We all struggled to bend the metal to meet the ends, but with the help of our tutor and a few more attempts, we got there. Next, we moved over to the soldering station where the tutor showed us a breakdown of how it all works.

We began by applying flux to our join, applied two pieces of solder strip and used a torch to bring the piece up to temperature and for the solder to flow and join the ends together. We all took turns and on my turn, the solder just didn’t want to flow. There were a few of us who had this problem, so we had to saw through the join again and repeat the process. On my second attempt, it worked. After you’ve soldered the join, you pop it in water to quench and then place it in a pickle pot using plastic tweezers to remove any fire stain caused by the heat during soldering.

I then popped the copper ring onto a mandrel and used a rawhide mallet to shape the ring into shape. Next, I used wet and dry sanding sheets to remove any scratches and then hammered the ring for a textured effect.

Experimenting with granulation

I have always loved the look of granulated designs and really wanted to give it a go. So now I have my copper ring, my plan was to create a copper disc and fill it with 3 tiny granulated balls. I started off using the saw to cut out a rustic circle (I call it rustic because it was definitely not round!) and filed the edges. 

I placed the circle into a doming block and used a doming punch and hammer to create a dome in the metal. I then used the hammer to create a hammered effect. Next, I soldered the disc onto the copper ring.

Using small scrap pieces of copper, I used a torch to bring each one up to temperature which then created a sphere shape and hardened. Once I had three granulated balls, I soldered them onto the disc.

I finally polished it up on the polishing machine and used Auto Sol to give it a gleaming shine. I wasn't overly keen on the outcome of this ring but my mum loved it, so I gave it to her to wear.

Creating a spinner ring

My next project was a spinner ring, which is a ring with another ring that spins in the middle of it. I began with a strip of silver sheet and used the same steps as before to solder the ring. Once again the ends didn't join properly and another time the ring snapped once I started hammering it on the mandrel. So this one was quite the challenge!

Once I finally got the ring how I wanted it and filed the edges, I used a piece of wire to create another ring which was nice and easy to make. It didn't fit over my bigger ring, so I used the flat end of the hammer and put the band onto a mandrel to hit downwards to increase the size until it finally fit.

I then used a doming punch to flare out the edges of the ring so the inner ring spun nicely. I used tripoli on the polishing machine to polish the ring and edges and then finally used Auto Sol to give it a final polish. This was the first project I was really proud of and was really happy with the results. It was also lovely to see what other people's spinner rings looked like and how everyone had a different style.

Next, cacti earstuds

Our tutor is really relaxed, which is great as you can do the projects you'd like to do and experiment with different techniques. So at this stage, people started doing their own thing, whether that was making a bracelet or another ring. I wanted to practice my sawing and as a plant lover, I thought some cacti earrings would be a nice little challenge.

I began by drawing a rough outline using a pen and then began sawing away. It was really tricky to go smoothly with such a small design but I got there in the end with some patience.

I used needle files to smoothen the ragged edges, then wet & dry sanding sheets to remove any scratches. I then used a hammer to create a nice texture of lines across both the pieces.

Now to solder the tiny pieces of wire onto the back to create posts! I used a scribe and hammer to mark an indent into where the wire would sit and then soldered the pieces on with the help of the third hand. Using wire cutters, I created little grooves where the earring scrolls would sit.

Finally, I used polishing papers from Kernowcraft and worked my way up the grades and then gave them a final polish with Auto Sol to reveal these shiny earstuds!

Sterling silver heart bangle

Next up, a bangle! My tutor cut me off some D-shaped wire, I filed the edges and shaped it around to join the ends.

I soldered the ends together, quenched and pickled. I put the bangle on a mandrel and used a rawhide mallet to form it into shape. I then textured the bangle using a hammer.

Apparently, there are many ways to create heart shapes and attach them to a bangle, but this was the way I did it...

I began with a length of wire and used round nose pliers to create a curve to form half a heart, then using wire cutters snipped off where the heart would end. Next, I repeated this step in the opposite direction so that the pieces would join together to form a heart with the previous piece of wire. I repeated these steps to create enough for four hearts, although they ended up being quite big, so next time I would definitely make smaller ones.

Next it was time to file the edges of the hearts so they fit together and then solder together. I was surprised that this went quite smoothly and was really happy with the outcome. I filed the edges of the hearts to they all looked smooth - each one looked different which I also liked. If you want them uniform, I would recommend measuring the wire while you're making the hearts to keep them the same.

Then it was time to saw through my bangle, attach the hearts and re-solder the bangle. I filed off any excess solder on the solder joint and polished it using polishing papers. My finished bangle is featured at the top of this blog post.

Stacking rings

On my final session, I wanted to make some stacking rings which used all the techniques I had learned in previous weeks. My rings wouldn't solder together properly and I even melted a ring out of frustration! With the help of my patient tutor, it finally worked. I hammered one of the rings for a textured effect and on the other two, I soldered on a granulated ball. 

Final thoughts

Despite working at Kernowcraft, I feel like you won't fully understand the methods used unless you give it a go for yourself! The one thing I've learned is that a lot of patience is needed and to expect things to go wrong, but the end result is always worth persevering! I was surprised with the number of finished pieces I had by the end of the course and we all felt like we achieved what we wanted to. I loved how our tutor gave us the freedom to choose the techniques we wanted and helped guide us throughout. My tutor also provided extra metal during lessons, so it was really easy to get started with a new project.

I felt like the course flew by and I was a little sad to say goodbye to everyone! I'd recommend following the people you meet on social media, so you can chat together or stay updated with their handmade designs.

If you found this post useful or want to know more about my experience, drop me an email to [email protected] and I'd be happy to chat!

My advice for beginners

As a jewellery making beginner myself, there are so many resources I can recommend. At Kernowcraft, we're always updating our jewellery making tutorial sections with new projects and techniques to try. We also work hard to bring you videos on tools, techniques and products to help you understand how to use them. We also offer a huge range of jewellery making books from beading, wire wrapping, stone setting to soldering!

I couldn't recommend doing a leisure course more, so take a look at the courses running near you and give it a go for yourself.

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