Basic Silversmithing Tools and Supplies For Beginners (And Why You Need Them)

tools needed for silversmithing

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Setting up a shop to do silverwork is a lot more complicated than it appears at first glance. There seems to be a never-ending array of bits, baubles, and tools that you need on your bench and it can leave beginners without a clear spot to begin.

Ever wonder what you need when it comes to basic silversmithing tools and supplies? Then read on and I’ll go over the basics in both tooling and supplies!

What Do You Want to Do?

The biggest single factor in figuring out what you need is simple: you need to know what you want to do.

And if you’re not quite sure yet… don’t worry! By the end of this guide, you’ll have a clear idea of the basics required and what you can skip for a first purchase.

Those just getting into working with silver may not realize just how specialized tooling gets. With that said, we’re going to focus on the very basics here which includes:

  • Basic Forming
  • Soldering
  • Finishing/Polishing

And then I’ll go over some specialized tools that can really help with certain tasks.

This is far from a comprehensive tool listing, but if you follow along carefully you’ll find that you usually have what you need on the bench. From there it’s just a matter of getting more specialized tools.

One thing you’ll contend with as a newbie is this: there’s a lot of assumed knowledge in silversmith and jeweler’s tools. 

Basic Hand Tools

While smithing often brings to mind pounding metal on an anvil with a hammer, that’s a rare occurrence with silver. Instead, basic tooling is mostly about making sure you have the tools to move metal easily where you want it.

We can separate this into a few categories.

Hammers, Blocks, and Anvils

While your hammer isn’t going to be your main tool, they are still an important part of the process. Ideally, you’ll want at least three hammers:

  • Ball Peen A small ball peen hammer is great. Ball peen hammers will have a side that looks like a ball across from the flat side. A light hammer does well in this case.
  • Cross Peen A cross peen hammer has a flat or wedge-shaped back. I prefer a goldsmith hammer like the one pictured on the left below. The flat back portion is essential when you need it, and not easily substituted.
  • Mallet Two are pictured below, and I actually use the tiny one more. Mallets are used to form metal without marking it and come in a wide variety of materials including brass, plastic, and rawhide.

Hammers can be cheap or expensive depending on what you need. My advice is to spend a little bit more on one or the other of your steel hammers to start with. The biggest difference between a cheap and expensive hammer is the hardness of the steel.

Ideally, you want at least one of your hammers to be mirror-polished on the flat end. It’s rare they come from the factory this way, even for expensive hammers, since it’s assumed you’ll know how to do the finish work to your standards.

Mallets are very personal, and I’ll go against the grain of rawhide recommendations: rubber or plastic mallets are usually the best for beginners. I prefer rawhide, personally, but they require time spent breaking them in and it’s easy to leave marks with an improperly prepared mallet.

Hammers Blocks and Anvils are basic silversmithing tools for beginners

I don’t use a lot of hammers. I have over a dozen spread throughout my workshop. You will too if you stick with this long enough.

A stamping block or small anvil is another essential. Stamping blocks are just a chunk of(preferably polished) steel, usually ~4” square but available in bigger sizes. They can function as an anvil. I recommend a rubber backing block as well.

Most at-home smiths will be fine with a small stamping block for hammer work, but you may want to look into getting a small anvil as well. Something in the 1-2lb range is fine for most silversmiths, but those who are planning on getting into heavier work like thick cuff bracelets may want to look more in the 15-25lb range.

Pliers, Cutters, and Tweezers

If you’ve done any wirework, you should already have the basic pliers needed for silversmithing. You’ll want a pair of both of the following:

  • Chain Nose- Pliers with a flat surface in between and a squared-off end. Used for straightening, bending, and other basic bits of forming metal with angles.
  • Round Pliers- Rounded pliers with cone-shaped forming bits. Use to create bends in wire and sheet metal that needs to be rounded, and the small tips are very useful if you don’t have a set of tweezer-nose pliers.

Those two will get you through most situations. Tweezer-nose and bent-nose pliers are very handy as well, especially for holding tiny bits of metal firmly while you’re filing or sanding.

A basic kit will get you what you need. Replace them as needed, or if you need a higher-quality pair, with better pairs. Brands like Xuron make a good mid-point for those who aren’t ready to take the plunge into the serious, and seriously expensive, tools made specifically for jeweler’s work.

Great For Beginners
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You also want at least one pair of flush cutters. If you do any sort of wire wrapping or weaving you should supplement your normal, lighter set with a heavier pair. My red pair in the below picture is often used to snip small pieces of silver sheet up to 18 gauge (~1mm).

Any attempt to do so with the green pair would just lead to broken cutters. That’s my second pair of those cutters, I speak from experience.

Lastly, you need at least one pair of cross-locking tweezers. They should be able to take heat, which usually means wood and metal construction. This set is cheap and will work for longer than you’d expect.

Lastly, it’s never a bad thing to have a bunch of tweezers with really fine noses. A set like this is perfect and makes handling solder pallions and other very fine objects much easier.

Pliers, Cutters, and Tweezers basic silversmithing tools for beginners

Files and Abrasives

I use a lot of files in my work. The picture below is comprised of the sets that I had on my desk while I was writing this, which is about a third of them. You may or may not need that many in the end, but you need at least one set to get started.

A kit with some basic hand and needle files will serve you well until you find out what else you need.

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I also recommend keeping sandpaper around. I purchase sets online that go up to 5,000. I usually end up using only a few grits, but it’s cheap, doesn’t take up much room, and it’s there when I need it.

tools for silversmithing include files and abrasives

Power Tools

You don’t need a ton of power tools but a few of them will make life a lot easier.

My biggest recommendation is to get a low-end Dremel for finish work and minor grinding applications. The Dremel Stylo is a good choice, but it’s not workable with a flex shaft. 

That said, for jeweler use, I don’t recommend using a Dremel flex shaft. Investing in a proper tool will cost ~4x what a good Dremel and accessories will cost but opens up a whole different world of possibilities.

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I also recommend a drill and some basic bits. Anything works. Until I got my actual jeweler’s tools I was using the absolute bottom end BLACK + DECKER drill. I still use it on occasion for drilling, but these days it spends most of its time making coils or zipping screws to make wooden tool stands and storage.

In any case, a rotary tool and a drill are good ideas to have from the beginning.

Jeweler’s Saw

I’m going to let you in on a bit of a secret: your saw frame barely matters at all, the blades are the most important part. Something like this is fine.

That said, your saw is one of the silver tools that are exclusive to the jeweler’s craft. Don’t be fooled by the superficial similarity to a hacksaw (and you might want one of those too), a jeweler’s saw is a versatile, flexible tool that’s used in a different way.

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Good frames are mostly for convenience. The red one pictured below is a Pepe Tools Haymaker, it costs about four times more than a passable saw frame and the only thing that’s better about it is that I can change blades faster.

Spend your money on good blades from the outset. I recommend a set of 4/0 blades to start with, I’ve used them on everything from 3mm thick chunks of silver to 24 gauge (~.5mm) silver sheet with them, but you may want to specialize in the future. Pike is a good brand to start with.

You’re going to break a lot of blades to start with, but over time you’ll find a 144 pack of blades lasts for a long, long time compared to the initial cost.

You’ll also want some kind of lubricant in order to make sawing smoother. You can use 3-in-1, which is cheap and does the trick or invest in a wax-type lube like Burr Life or Cut Lube. I recommend the oil, as you can also use it to treat tools in humid environments.

jewelers saw is a tool for silversmithing

Vises and a Bench Pin

Do you see that little piece of beat-up wood?

That is, without a doubt, one of the most important things in my shop. I clamp it to my desk and it allows me to work with saws, files, and other hand tools without worrying. Any of them work fine, but it’s almost impossible to do some basic tasks without one.

Just make sure you have a bench pin of some kind. 

a vise and pin for silversmithing setup

There are also a ton of different types of vise out there. For a beginner, I recommend a simple table vise and a ring clamp for holding. Between those two vises and a bench pin, you’ll be prepared for most tasks.

In the future, you may wish to consider getting a ball vise or a good universal work holder as well. In my experience, however, cheap variations of either of those tools just fall apart quickly.

You’d be better off buying a pitch bowl if you need the holding ability for engraving or stone setting and don’t have a few hundred dollars lying around for a proper ball vise from a company like GRS.

Getting Together a Soldering Kit

Soldering is the basic way we stick silver bits together to make a finished piece.

One thing you’ll quickly learn: soldering is an art of its own, it’s not “just” how you stick pieces together. Keep that in mind as you work, and don’t get frustrated when “basic” joins give you trouble. You’ll learn quickly enough.

With the listed hand tools, you should have the bits you need to carefully position pieces and otherwise manuever your silver while working on it.

soldering kit for silversmithing workshop

You’ll need a torch, of course, which provides the targeted heat you need for these processes. You also need one for annealing your metal.

Check your rental/homeowner’s insurance if you want to go with an oxy-acetylene or oxygen-propane tank. These are more dangerous to store and require a lot more know-how to safely operate.

For those of us working without a dedicated space, a butane torch is often enough. You’ll see this guy in the picture of my setup below, and it works well for smaller work. With a bit of finagling I can melt up to 15 grams of silver at a time with it, and solder reasonably sized pieces.

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That’s a good place to start for the at-home jeweler.

You also need:

  • Safe Surface- I bought a piece of travertine tile from Home Depot. A single tile was less than $0.50 and mine has saved a few hundred dollars worth of damage to my desk. Most tiles will work just fine.
  • Firing Surface- I use fire bricks exclusively but they’re not the only game in town. Charcoal is common but has some extra safety precautions, and honeycomb grids are also nice.
  • Quench Jar/Bowl/Tray- Anything made of glass will work. Mason jars are fine, but something with a wide mouth is best for making sure you can fit the whole piece of metal on larger pieces.


You’ll also need solder, which comes in sheet, wire, and chip form. I recommend starting with a bit of wire in soft, medium, and hard. Paste solder can also be found, but it’s problematic for some people to work with and doesn’t work well for large joints.


You’ll also need flux. I bought a couple of jars of Stay-Silv at some point in the past and just add a bit of water to make a paste since they’ve long since dried out.

Jar For Pickle

Lastly, you need another jar for pickle. If you’re just beginning I recommend just grabbing another jar and dissolving salt into white vinegar. You can quench pieces in this mixture to undo firescale on the surface, or you can mix it all together in a crockpot to keep it warm.

Professional pickle is made with strong acids and has multiple safety concerns. You can switch in the future but it’s best to only deal with one new danger at a time.

Always solder with a breeze, and preferably with a fume extraction method. You can use a commercial ventilation system, a respirator, or just do your initial soldering outside until you have the right PPE.

Protective Equipment

Always use protective equipment.

I’ve had very few scares in my workshop over the years. By being meticulous and careful about anything involving heat or chemicals I’ve managed to avoid most problems.

But things do happen, and they happen quickly when they do. It’s best to just make sure you’re protected at all times.

At a bare minimum, you want safety glasses and an apron. Red hot, or liquid, metal will make a mess of you before you can blink and a leather apron will protect your legs and lap from all but the most horrendous of spills.

You may also want a good pair of leather gloves, especially if you plan to work on larger pieces since just the heat from large operations can be uncomfortable.

Besides: a leather apron is the universal symbol of a metalworker which automatically makes them cool.

What Kind of Material to Start With

Starting materials can often leave a new smith in the dark. Unless you have a specific project you’re aiming for, after all, you may not yet know what you need.

If you’re looking to get into traditional silversmithing, you can start with just a few gauges and pieces of materials.

In my experience, the majority of people start with simple bezel set pendants or rings. These are easy enough to plan for.

  • 20g Round Sterling Silver Wire- The perfect size for clasps, jump rings, and other connections. 20g is roughly .8mm in diameter and is sturdy enough for most structural use. It can also be twisted and hammered to create the flat, braided rope effect used in traditional silver jewelry.
  • 24g Sterling Silver Sheet- For backplates and small pierced elements. 24g sheet is a bit thin, but it’ll save you a lot of money as a beginner and it’s easy to work with.
  • 28g or 30g Silver Strip- You can purchase this in either ¼” or ⅛” high sections. I recommend ¼” for most beginners, but it depends on your stone sizes. ¼” is awesome for a large agate or jasper cabochon, but it’ll take some work to fit tiny, decorative cabs in the 5-10mm range.

If you prefer, all of these materials can be bought in brass or copper instead of sterling silver. Just be aware that these base metals take more heat to solder and tend to be finicky to work with. If you can afford it, I recommend starting with silver as it’s actually the easier metal to work.

Where To Buy Metals For Silversmithing

If you’re planning on purchasing smaller amounts, I’d suggest going through Amazon or Etsy to find your materials. Shipping is usually faster than if you were to use a jewelry supply warehouse, and you can often get free shipping.

If you’re making a large order of precious metals, go with a supply house like Rio Grande Jewelry Supply. You’ll get much better prices, and it adds up quickly when you’re buying a few troy ounces of silver at a time.

I have one more recommendation: if you’re planning on melting silver scrap at home then you should order some casting grain made of fine silver. You always want to add a bit of fine silver to a scrap melt, especially if there’s any solder in there, to make sure that it hits sterling percentages(92.5%). I add 5% weight in most cases.

And, of course, you’ll need the stones you plan to work with. What’s silversmithing without brilliant gems and gorgeous cabochons?

Adding Capabilities to Your Workshop

We’ve already got quite a list going, don’t we?

There are a few more expensive tools that I recommend if you can afford them. Once you have the basics, you’re adding capabilities to your workshop instead of simply another tool.

First up is a rolling mill.

A rolling mill allows you to process scrap ingots into sheet metal or wire. It also allows you to use texture plates, or pretty much any soft surface, to decorate metal.

Rolling mills aren’t a magic bullet. They take a little bit of time to get used to and working effectively with one takes time. That said, for a few hundred dollars you can remove any concerns about not having the right gauge of silver.

There’s a weird catch-22 with rolling mills as well. Cheaper mills require a lot more user experience to function correctly… but if you have the experience you probably didn’t buy a budget mill. I use a Pepe Tools combination mill. It’ll run you about twice what a budget mill of the same size costs, but it’s worth every penny.

The next big upgrade is to get a proper flex shaft with a hammer handpiece. The latter can be adapted for engraving purposes, in addition to hammering down bezels, and works just fine for stone setting as well.

The Foredom SR is a standard high-quality motor, but I use the Foredom LX which has higher torque and lower top-end RPM. You can only run hammer handpieces up to about 5000RPM before you’re risking damage to the tool, but it will make things faster.

From there?

Well, there’s ring and bracelet benders, hole punches, bench shears, and a dizzying array of expensive tools which seem to have very small focus areas. You’ll be able to decide what you need as you gain experience.

While a bit expensive, setting up a silversmithing workbench at home is a great hobby with some serious income potential. Once you have the basics?

Well, then it’s on you to decide which direction your creativity is going to take you!

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