Silversmithing is a time-honoured profession that requires a certain level of knowledge, skill and practice. To become a silver craftsman, according to the Society of American Silversmiths, you must learn basic silversmith skills such as "soldering, polishing, forming and fabricating." Creating a piece of art from raw silver takes not only skill, but the proper tools.
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Large pieces of raw silver will need to be winnowed down to a workable piece. You will need a jeweller's saw and at least a dozen saw blades of each size: 2-0, 4-0 and 8-0. Having a saw is helpful when making long cuts or cuts through thick pieces of raw silver. For thinner pieces, or when shorter cuts are needed, you will need snips. You can use basic metal snips, or tin snips, found at any hardware store.
Silver forging is the process of moulding rods, wire or sheets into desired shapes by hammering the silver. You will need an anvil or stakes. You can purchase an anvil online; nearby metalworking shops should be able to direct you to a local vendor. Stakes are pieces of metal, such as iron, that can be placed in a vice to create a surface where silver is hammered. They may be large and flat, or shaped, depending on the desired outcome.
You will need several different hammers to achieve different designs. A cross-peen hammer has a normal hammer head and a wedge-shaped head. The wedge should be perpendicular to the handle when looking at the flat side of the normal hammer head. A ball-peen hammer has a normal hammer head and a ball-shaped head. A planishing hammer has one flat head opposite a cone-shaped head. A raising hammer will have rectangular heads that are wider than they are long on both ends.
Silversmiths need files to shape metal and to smooth rough edges. Flat files are long, metal files with a flat filing surface on both sides. Half-round files are long, metal files with one flat side and one rounded side. These two types are used for larger scale filing. Jewellers' files are smaller in size, but come in many shapes including round, triangle and diamond, and are used for smaller-scale filing.
Silversmithing requires piecing together smaller sections of silver. Riveting attaches two pieces of flat silver by placing a rivet through a pre-drilled hole and applying pressure to the rivet, either with a mechanical riveter or by using a hammer. Soldering uses molten metal to bind two pieces together by filling the gap between the two pieces. When soldering, you'll need a soldering iron and wire. More experienced silversmiths may use torches to adhere metal together, but this is not the best method for beginners.
Cleaning and Polishing
Once your project is ready, you'll want to clean and polish it. A borax paste applied with a metal brush over the entire piece will clean most debris and oil from the surface. If you've soldered or used a torch you can remove fire scale, or stains, from silver with sulphuric acid diluted in pickle. There are many polishing compounds on the market, and you may find one in a particular that works best for you as you become more experienced. Once compound is applied, a mechanical buffer with several buffing wheels can be used to bring out brilliant shine.
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