Basic Silversmithing Tools With George Francis I

Video 1


JT – Hi everyone, this is Janice Tenorio from Turquoise Skies and I’m here with George Francis and he’s going to talk to us about basic tools.

GF – What we’re going to talk about is basic tools that you will need to get started. Obviously you’re going to jump the gun, get ahead. You will still want to stay with your basics and work from there until you get into more difficult circumstances.


GF – One of the very first things I was introduced to was a pair of pliers, to bend the metal. I do that by hand by manipulating the metal, and this metal in this case was silver. So I began to use the pliers of different shapes, and different cutters (nippers) of all types. This is a channel (pliers), a flat nose, so you can hold the piece, and a pair of cutters. Now cutters come in different sizes. They can come in this size or they can come in 12in. They come in various types; tin snips, aviator pliers, ect. You can decide on which one you want, but get your most basic. Actually, one of my other pliers, were just a pair of water pliers. It’s one of the most common pliers that you’ll see in anybody’s tool box, and that’s one of the basic tools. In fact I still have, from 47 years ago, my original pliers, so those are very important to have.


Some of the other things that you’ll need are hammers. They come rubber, leather, plastic, brass, again plastic. They all have different purposes. This is metal. These are ball-peen(pein) hammers. If you can get a ball-peen, get some in different sizes. Get one to start out small and work your way up. As you realize you need a heavier hammer, you can move up to a heavier hammer. My very first mallet that I had was a rubber mallet. One side was yellow, one side was black. I still have that.

Do you want to add anything?

JT – I just wanted to go back to the ball-peen hammers. Is it okay to grind (the ball side) down? I was texturing copper bracelets and I left a mark because of the use of them.

GF – If you get a mark from your first ball-peen hammer, whether you pick them up from a pawn shop or a larger chain stores, what you’ll find is that some are marred. Go in like you said, grind them a little bit, finish them by hand with an emery cloth. Rub on it until you can’t feel any mars. Then go head and  polish it, like you would with a piece of jewelry. That’s what you need to do.

The hammers are made to do certain things. These three here (Rubber, leather, and nylon) are made to flatten pieces of metal or to bend them in certain directions. The softer the head, the less you will mar your metal. For example we were talking about the ball-peen hammer, that if there was a mar left on here you will be transferring that over to your metal. Now we’re doing that here where you’re hammering flat you want to be sure you’re no leaving any marks. The rubber mallet is a great thing to use, they come in different sizes. The leather mallet is of course leather and soft and tends to give before the metal does. Now when you use a plastic mallet, it tends to give but if you strike it with the edge of the mallet, you’ll mar you’re mallet and leave a mark. And of course if you use a metal hammer, whatever you hit, will dent, and leave a mark. Now there’s brass which is also metal, so you’ll want to be careful using that because you’ll mar your metal. And brass being a softer metal, if there’s any marks left on here, like this hammer, then it will be transferred to the outside of your metal. Again plastics are one of the better ones to use. My first hammers were a plastic and rubber mallet. A combination I still have today.

Coping Saw

The saw frame comes in different sizes. It comes in 3in, 4in, 5in, 6in, 8in, 12in. And what it is, we’re talking about the depth from the throat to the back. So 3in here…There’s a reason for that. I like to saw, and practice makes perfect. Saw blades come in oodles of sizes. As you saw, you’ll always want to do a straight saw. Some people lean one way or the other. Some people lean forward, which is fine until you get to a corner that presents a problem. So you’ll have to square up and try to keep the saw straight. A saw frame is important because I you’re doing 3in products with a 3in depth you’ll be able to go all the way around the piece and never have a problem. It’s when you have a 6in piece and when you’re doing the cutting and you’re throat isn’t deep enough, you have to stop sawing and come back around to finish the sawing. Always find the appropriate size. One size does not fit all. I remember when I started, I started off with a 6in depth, and that seemed to work for a long time. Now I have a 3in, 8in, 12in for making large projects.


The other thing that you will definitely need is a file. To begin you will need a flat file, I think the proper terminology is a bastard file, and they come in two different ways. Then you have a half round file which helps get around round pieces. There are two different types. There is a single cut file, and you’ll know because the lines on the file will only go one way. On a two cut file the lines will hash. A line will go one way and another go the other way. The two cut files are more aggressive so you’ll be able to file away more quickly, but they also leave different gouge marks/file marks. The way to avoid that is by learning to control the pressure of the file. Files come in many different sizes but for the basic beginner this is where you want to begin. As you become more experienced, you’ll learn that if you need a certain file to do a certain thing they probably make it.


There’s a lot of questions that begin to form when you’re learning to silversmith. Remember, work out the basics, learn to use your basics. Once you learn that you can start elaborating in other tools that are made specifically to do one job only, and at the time you’ll realize how fast you’re leaning and moving.

JT – There’s a lot of information out there. Someone might say “I’ve made this new hammer, and using this.” Everybody’s making their on tools their own way. Everybody has different tips on how to work your metal so it’s very important to keep your ears open.

GF – Get your basics moving then move on to other things you wish to progress in, in your metal smithing.