Tools for A Beginning Jewelry Studio

Here at Christmas, many student’s friends and significant others are calling asking what to buy for their favorite jeweler.  I have put together a list of what I think all beginning studios need.  For the advanced jeweler, I have added some fun stuff,  which are wonderful toys to own.  This list if for a metalsmithing studio, not for someone who beads, does PMC or wirewrapping, though the tools may overlap.  Because my friend John asked, I will list the sources, and for special, hard to find tools, I will list the supplier with the tool. Whatever you do, please buy the best tools you can afford.  They will last longer, and are safer.  I hope this helps.  Remember, this is just my opinion of what I see my students using and need the most.  Prices are approximate.

Stocking stuffer:  How about a year’s subscription to Lapidary Journal,  the country’s oldest magazine dedicated to stones and art jewelry?


1 set Habilis Files, Cut #1, set of 5 files–$55.0

1 set of 6 Craftsman needle files,  they come with a lifetime guarantee.  Great Deal!  $25.00.  Available at Sears.

#2 Grobet half round 6 inch hand file–$30.00

1 set of  pliers, 1 chain nose, 1 flat nose and 1 round nose.  Prices vary on quality.  Allcraft carries the very popular German ergonomic set, probably the best pliers on the market, in my humble opinion, and not hard on your hands, either.  Whatever pliers you choose, they must be jewelers pliers and not have teeth.

1  4 inch saw frame, German, the one with the wingnuts–$18.00

Several dozen Pike sawblades, size 2/0, 4/0–$3.95 per dozen

1 burnisher, and 1 bezel prong/pusher–$5.95 each

chasing hammer, 25mm–$38.00  Get a good quality one, cheap ones will be poorly constructed, and have loose/broken  heads–$38.00

1 bracelet mandrel–$40.00+

1 ring mandrel, non-grooved–$34.00+

1 rawhide mallet, 1.5 inch head–$17.00

1 Smith Handi-Heet acetylene torch with #1 head–$220.00  For setting up the torch, print out these instructions:

Small Crock pot and 2 lbs of PHDown, which is the same thing, but less expensive than pickle.  Crock pots available from Target or Walmart for $10-15.00.  PHDown available from your local pool supply, 2 lbs, approx $7.95

Copper tongs, for the pickle pot–$5.00

Firebricks–$8.00.  Be sure and get the  kiln firebricks from a ceramic supply shop, not fireplace firebricks.

Flex Shaft–Fordham is the best known, and if anything breaks, they are easily repaired.  But they hardly ever break.  $200.00-350.00+

Make sure they come with a #30 handpiece and a foot pedal.

Allcraft has a great economy flexshaft we have been using (abusing?)  at Coyote Creek Studio Arts Foundation for over a year.  $150.00.

Various buffs, white muslin for rouge , yellow treated muslin for tripoli,  felt, different shapes.  $1.00+ each

1 dozen 3/32 inch mandrels for the buffs

tripoi, rouge/Zam finishing compounds

Fun Toys for More Advanced Jewelers

Anything made by Bill Fretz.  The Fretz hammers are a dream, along with the tiny jewelers stakes.  You can’t go wrong with these.  My favorite is the large silversmithing hammer, because it leaves such beautiful strike marks.  These are wonderful for textures.

Set of 6 3M Radial Bristle Disks.  I call them “spiders” because that’s what they look like,  They are great for firescale removal, detailed polishing, and textures.  Buy 5 extra mandrels so you won’t be switching out spiders all the time.

Lucas Foot Control–the ultimate foot pedal for any flexshaft.  You can go 3 rpm with this thing!  It’s fabulous!

Valtitan Needle Files Set Cut 0

Grobet  4 inch  half round and  4 inch Barrette, cut 4 available and in stock at Allcraft

Grobet 6 inch cut 6 half round finishing file–will become one of your favorites

1 set of Tube Set burnishers in stock at Allcraft

Joyce Chen Kitchen Shears–available at kitchen shops.  Great for Keum-Boo.

PePe Guillotine cutter, 6 inch.  The most used tool in my studio.  Also available in 4 inch.

PePe Dapping and Die Set,  21 daps and a dapping block

PePe Disk Cutter–various sets, different prices, sometimes hard to find

PePe 110 mm rolling mill

Lexi’s Safety Soldering Station–keeps all your soldering operations in one safe, fireproof place–available from

Allcraft solder picks, won’t bend under heat and pressure–available at Allcraft

3M Finishing Film, the best “sandpaper” around–9-40 micron sheets–try your local auto supply store for this, and the jewelry supplier

Don’t forget, we always like a nice 6×6 inch sheet of silver, or if we’ve been very good, gold!  20 gauge, please.


Almost every tool listed here is available at a local jewelry supply shop.

Allcraft,  135 W. 29th Street, NYC, 10001–1-800-645-7124

Otto Frei Tools and Equipment, 126 2nd Street, Oakland, CA–1-800-772-3456

Indian Jeweler Supply,  601 East Coal Avenue,  Gallup, NM 87301-6005, (505) 722-4451


10 Responses

  1. A couple jillion thank yous, Lexi. More later, John

  2. Lexi,
    I remember the wonderful talk on creativity you gave to the Main Line Bead Sociery and I am thrilled to discover that you have a blog. I always look forward to your articles, and I am parking your blog’s feed in my newsreader!

    Martha Aleo

    • Martha–How wonderful for you to write. I had a great time that night in Philadelphia. Everyone was so nice, and the women are all so talented. Thank you for the nice comment about my articles. I love writing for the magazine, and get to keep in touch with many of my East Coast friends through Lapidary Journal. We moved back to Colorado, as you probably know last year. Please keep in touch, and if I can ever help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

  3. Excellent Lexi! Of course, my favorite on this list is anything Fretz!!! 🙂 Love the hammers, hope to have more, and I am looking forward to my first set of Fretz jeweler’s stakes….maybe this Christmas. If not, sometime in 2010!

    This truly is an invaluable list and I know how fortunate I am because I do have quite a bit of this equipment thanks to your guidance.

    Great post! Thanks.

    • Thank you my Dear Friend–I’m glad you like the list, and if you feel a need to add to it, please do so. See you tomorrow night.

  4. Great List! Thanks for posting it. I need a nice set of decent files – time to go shopping!

    • Hi Sandy–the Habalis files are great, and come in different shapes, so one set cn handle most of your needs forever. They are for the first filing right after sawing out, and they only come in 00 and 1 cut, so the #1 cut will be good. The 00 cut is too rough for jewelry, in my opinion. The Craftsman needle files, are great, too. I can’t tell you how many times I have broken a point off my round needle file. I have only broken one tip off the Craftsman, and they cheerfully replaced it. The best all around file is th #2 Grobet hand file, which works in almost every situation. When you get into speciality files, let me know, and I can offer some suggestions there. I really love my 4 inch #2 and #4 files, half round and barrette.
      Any time you are stuck about buying a tool, just call Allcraft and ask Tevel what Lexi buys! LOL
      Stay warm and keep in touch.

  5. O.K., I have some questions.
    Burnisher: Straight or curved?
    Bracelet mandrel: Stepped or tapered?
    Tube burnishers, set: Sorry, I’m not exactly clear on this one. I think I know what you mean. And, small, medium, or large set? Also, what about a set of burrs?
    Lexi’s Safety Solder Station: What’s included, what is the price?
    Thanks, John

    • Hi John–it looks like you are getting swept away with rain. We had -10 here night before last, but up at the Gallery it was -37. That’s pretty cold. So stay warm and dry. OK, now to answer your questions:
      Burnishers is just a matter of opinion. I prefer the curved one, about 3 inches long.
      Bracelet mandrel, tapered. You can turn the piece over as you work on it, to keep your sides even. You ill find other uses for it. Also, an old wooden baseball bat will work, too.
      Tube burnishers is a speciality tool, and fit over 2mm-6mm tube sets, and they push the tube set over the faceted stone and burnish the top of the bezel. I don’t think you need those yet. They are kind of difficult to fine,and pretty pricey. I don’t think its a necessity for your type jewelry.
      Burs: again these are mostly for stone setting. Most beginners are not ready for faceted stone setting. They have to perfect bezels first. But if you want burs, a good set of 15 stone setting burs is made by Grobet, but they are only for faceted stones. Burs have specific functions, and its hard for me to know how to recommend burs unless I know the specific need. Does that make sense?
      And the fabulous Lexi’s Safety Soldering Station is one of the best things to have in a studio for soldering. It is a metal insert that can lay on top of any table, wood, plastic, etc. It’s got a short bib on the front to keep it from moving, and about a 2.5 inch metal lip all around. It keeps your brick, flux, tweezers, burn ’em up pliers, etc all in one area. Keeps the brick dust from being all over your work area. It’s just a simple idea that is really a big help. And of course, its all metal and fireproof. They are $125.00 plus shipping. I am also making a rotating solder block holder. It holds a full size fire brick, and you can rotate it like a lazy susan while soldering. It helps for you to see all around your solder project and helps to pull the solder all round that difficult bezel. I don’t have a price on that yet, but should soon. You know me, anything for soldering has to be great.

      If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to write. And don’t float away in all the rain.

      • Hi, again, Lexi: Thanks for taking time to answer my queastions

        We had rain here Monday. And the big snowstorm missed us. We are high and dry but it’s cold.

        Anyway, here’s the deal with ol’ John. I will continue with some wire work, but I am going to go into metal work as well. To begin, it will be copper, brass and bronze. Very little silver, at least to start, and no gold. That is why I was so interested in your tool list. I will be going on a buying spree after the 1st of the year.

        I will have to stock up on the metal as I have very little on hand.

        I already have most of the tools on the list, but not the heavy tools, rolling mill, guillotine cutter, disk cutter, and I am glad to have your suggestions about them.

        I was merely curious about the solder station. I have a metal lazy susan, and most all of the needs for soldering, a Gentec small torch, electronic torch igniter, picks, tweezers, third hand, soldering blocks, flux, solder, pickle pot, copper tongs, just about everything. Funny thing about soldering, no two experts seem to agree 100% with one another!

        My flex shaft is a no name economy thing, but it works. I may splurge and buy another, better one someday.

        I’ve been checking various suppliers prices and while I haven’t called Allcraft to see how they compare, it appears that Metalliferous has the best prices for the Pepe tools and most of the others as well.

        Thanks again for the info.

        A big E-Hug, John

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