Silversmithing is not a cheap career to set up in, especially if you want to be a self-employed, studio based designer-maker based in Norfolk, where there are limited equipped workshops available for rent. With jewellery you can get away with a much smaller work area and the majority of tools are more reasonably priced to buy. But with silversmithing there are a few pieces of necessary equipment you just can’t avoid having to buy, such as some hefty torches to anneal larger pieces of metal.
With this in mind, I knew I would need to work hard after graduating to earn enough money to buy the equipment needed to set myself up with a workshop. Finally, after working numerous jobs throughout the summer and beyond, and with a little extra help from a scholarship, I have a workshop I can make things in. So welcome to my crib.
My beautiful bench.
Most of my pieces start from a flat sheet of metal, and the bench is where they get pierced (sawed) into the right shape before forming. To the right you can see files which are used to smooth edges, and there are pots of other tools such as scripers (to mark lines in the metal), burnishers, dividers and needle files. Hanging up are my piercing saws which are one of my favourite tools, mainly because they signify the start of making the new design in metal once the sketching and paper modelling has been seen through to resolution.
This bench was inherited from my dad who made it with his brothers when they were teenagers. It came complete with a vice so is perfect for holding silversmithing stakes, which are used to form silver. However I will be replacing the vice for one with a wider jaw as this one isn’t quite hefty enough to grip the larger stakes needed to form my work.
The bench provides lots of storage for all the stakes and various other bits and pieces. To the right you can see a bench grinder which has been transformed into a polishing wheel. I use this to polish jewellery with but any larger pieces which require a polished finished are sent to a professional as polishing large areas isn’t something a layman polisher can do well. Behind that is a Dremel flexi shaft which was my sole polishing method until superseded by the polishing wheel which does a much better job and in a fraction of the time. In the middle is the newest addition to my workshop family, a bench mounted pillar drill. A necessary bit of equipment when making my brogue inspired pieces as I need to be able to drill holes with utter precision.
Another of my favourite pieces of equipment, the brazing hearth. Although, to be honest, every piece of my equipment is my favourite. This beast is used for soldering and to anneal sheets of metal to make them more malleable. It has two torches; one with a massive flame and with a smaller, more precise flame and both are powerful and necessary for silversmithing, whereas you can get away with a much smaller torch for jewellery such as the ones used in catering.
After graduating I had ideas but nowhere to make them. Now I have ideas AND somewhere to make them! I’m thankful to the scholarship, to my determination to work hard enough to pay for everything else, and mostly to my dad who worked every spare minute he had to get the workshop built, insulated and up and running so I could finally start down the path of self-employed silversmith. Now I can add to my current portfolio (www.seedsilversmith.co.uk) with a new collection made as a professional rather than a student and it feels great.
- Suzy Seed