Caring For Your Tools

Jewelry Wire CuttersSo you’ve decided to invest in some jewelry making tools. Hooray! A world of creativity is opening to you. But how do you take care of your tools to keep them in good condition for years to come?

    • One easy way to help maintain your tools is to use the right tool for the job. For example, using wire cutters for a thicker gauge of wire than they are rated for can reduce the life of the tool significantly.
    • It’s important to keep steel tools dry. Water plus steel equals rust! Wipe down tools with cloth or paper towels if you detect any moisture on them.
    • Next time you purchase a product and find a silica gel pack in the packaging, don’t throw it away! Instead, throw the pack into a drawer or toolbox where tools are stored. It will absorb moisture within the enclosed space and help keep tools from rusting.
    • If there are certain hammers you rarely use, or if you need to put them in storage for a long time, protect the hammer faces with petroleum jelly, wax, or oil. This will help keep rust away.
    • Keep hammer faces that you use directly on your jewelry piece free of pits and marks. You can sand and polish hammers before the first use and as needed in the future. In his book The Complete Metalsmith, Tim McCreight recommends a stiff muslin buff with an abrasive compound such as White Diamond for polishing hammers and stakes. A smooth, polished hammer face prevents marks from transferring onto your piece.
Chasing Hammer
    • Use separate hammers or mallets for striking steel tools such as chasing punches. The hardened steel is likely to mar the hammer face, so it’s best not to use your best planishing hammer for stamping.
    • Always lubricate burs, drills and saw blades when using them on metal.
    • Files are made to work in one direction. Sawing back and forth with your file will cause it to wear down more quickly. Push the file forward against the metal, then lift it on the return stroke.
    • Files can also be damaged if they are allowed to rub together. Instead of throwing them together in a drawer, create a way to separate them. This might be a partitioned holder on your bench, or perhaps a magnetic strip on the wall.
    • Keep files clean by brushing them with a file cleaner after each use. This will keep metal particles from building up and eventually damaging the file surface.
    • Motorized machines such as flexshafts should be oiled periodically to keep moving parts in good condition. Follow manufacturer recommendations regarding how often a lubricant should be applied and the type of oil or grease to use.

I hope these tips help you keep your tools in good shape as you build up your workshop. You might want to check out this article for some other ideas on tool care and safety, too!

-Lani Dearmin


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