Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Tool Time Tuesday – Using and Comparing Corrugating mills

I know it has been a long time since I have made any videos or posts here on my blog. There are many reasons for that. As you can see, my blog has moved. My previous host shut down their services and I lost all of my images. I have been working for weeks on getting them all loaded again. But there were more than 1,000 of them, so it is taking a long time. Doing this has been encouraging and discouraging all at the same time. It is so frustrating to have to locate the images, reload them, and enter all their information. But my blog is so full of so much good material and information that I don’t want it to just go away. So I am working on it.

Another reason is that I have just had a very difficult time emotionally and it has taken its toll on my metal work, to the point that even my husband was starting to think that I should just sell everything and be done with metals and jewelry. I have to admit, there would be a lot of relief that would come with that. But I really don’t want to. So I have had to work through all of that. Luckily, I really am starting to get back to things again. I am excited to make jewelry again. I am working hard on my book again. I am working on my blog again. I am making videos again. And it feels GOOD! So please plan on seeing more from me soon.

Speaking of videos. Here is a video that was requested. A friend had bought a micro fold break and didn’t know how to use it and asked if I could help her. I figured it might help a lot of people, so I decided to show you quickly about the Bonny Doon Micro fold break and compare that with my Durston Corrugating mill. Plan on seeing some fun things with great textures from me soon. 🙂

Tool Time Tuesday – Using Spacers in the Hydraulic Press

First, let me tell you how much I appreciate all of you. I received so many comments, phone calls and emails after my last blog post about bullying. Thank you so much. I truly feel loved. I am so sad to hear how many people have also been through that and still, as I do, deal with the lasting effects. I am glad to know that I do not stand alone.

This week has been off to a good start. Last week we were working in the studio with an electrician to get some more outlets in the studio. I am so happy about that. I seriously had something like 8 – 10 outlets in the studio and it is just no fun to trip over the cords, unplug and plug in equipment because you need something different. Now that things are finally sort of cleaned back up, I started to play a little bit. I had a large tool company ask me to evaluate some hammers for them and thought it was time to pull them out and run them through the ranks.

This is the result of my efforts yesterday….


This little bowl started life as a 3″ copper disc. I hammered it into a sand bag to get the initial shape and then followed that by forming on a stake and then finally a large 2″ dapping punch. It was so much fun to just hammer away for a while.

I liked it so much that I decided to see what I could accomplish using the hydraulic press. Here are my efforts from that little experiment. I will play around with it more. In the meantime, I will make little bases for these mini bowls as well.


And yes, I do believe this will be a project in my book.

Okay, on to the real reason of this post, TOOL TIME TUESDAY!!!

I have had a lot of people ask me about spacers and the hydraulic press. So I decided to make a quick video to show you how I work with the presses in my studio. Enjoy.

Video Link:

All content and images on this blog are the property of Melissa Muir and use of them in any context is strictly prohibited unless written permission is first obtained. Please feel free to repin any of the pictures of pieces done by Melissa Muir only.

Catching up – Give away

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday. It was the first in our new home. It was a lot of fun. And, nothing like a nasty cold to hit right before the holidays to put you behind schedule… and that is exactly what happened to me. Yuck.

Rather than overload this message with my 30-days-of-art (which I am slightly behind on – Thank you stupid cold) I figured we would just jump right to the good stuff.
There area  couple of videos that I didn’t get posted. Of course we have to have the videos.
The first video is of the Arbor Press Offered by PotterUSA. I show how to assemble, temporarily mount it to the bench top, and of course, how to use it.


The second video is how to use the newly redesigned Ring Shank BeRing Shank Bending Tool by Pepe Tools. In this video I demonstrate how I make my Spinner Rings. The more I use this tool, the more I really like it. It just might find itself permanently mounted to my bench soon.

Video Link:


Now for the super exciting part! I finally reached over 2,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel. WOOT! Thank you all for your support. To celebrate, I am going to give away one of my new Cherrywood Swage Blocks.  The cherrywood came from my Brother-in-law’s property in Florida. Of course, in the hands of my talented Father-in-law, they have become a beautiful tool for your studio. I have 28 of “first quality” blocks in stock. I also have an addition 10 “second quality.” The reason for the “second quality” is because Cherrywood has more knots than the black walnut. So some of the grooves have a small knot that makes some of the grooves only partially usable. These are still amazing blocks, and I have no problem using the “Seconds” but some people might not want them.


The First Quality Blocks are $52.50 (includes domestic shipping) and are available on my website.

The Second Quality Blocks are $37.50 (includes domestic shipping)

Even if you purchase a block and then win the giveaway, I will refund your money. But what is that you say? You are one of my readers that doesn’t make jewelry and have no need for this beautiful block? Well, I will also give away a pair of earrings. They haven’t been made yet, so I can’t post a picture. But I will when I get them done.

How do you enter? Just leave me a comment on this post. Easy Peasy. I will number the comments and have select a number for me and that will be our winner. I will draw a winner on Wednesday Evening (12/4/13). Good luck!

Thank you all again for your support. It has been a crazy few years. I am hoping that 2014 is a good one for us now that we are settled and can get back to a normal routine. NO MORE MOVING. LOL.

All content and images on this blog are the property of Melissa Muir and use of them in any context is strictly prohibited unless written permission is first obtained. Please feel free to repin any of the pictures of pieces done by Melissa Muir only.

Essential Hydraulic Press Setup

A friend of mine (Hi Elenor) told me that she was finally ready to purchase her hydraulic press. (YAY!) And she asked what I thought were the essential tools for her to start off with. I actually get this question a lot. There are certainly several things that you really must have if you are going to be successful with this tool. So I will share those with you along with what my first purchase consisted of.

First – Obviously you need the press itself and a jack.


In my photo above I have two presses. They are both 20-ton presses and will do similar jobs. There are some notable differences though. When I was first researching presses, I looked at everything on the market and decided to go with the press offered by Potter USA. I liked the larger opening and larger bottom platen. And of course, their price was about 1/2 of the other press I was looking at.

The jack I chose to purchase is the red one in the photo. It is a 20-ton bottle jack with gauge port by Norco. It is a great jack, but a bit more expensive. I chose to spend the money as I knew I would be using in my studio for students as well as myself. It is also one of the only ones available with a gauge port.

The smaller press has a short profile (shorty) jack that I purchased at Harbor Freight. You must have a short profile jack for the smaller press. The smaller frame has a 4″ wide by 6″ long opening. While I am still able to use all my Potter USA accessories, it is limiting when it comes to purchasing ready made products such as Urethane from other vendors as it is typically sold in 6″ square pieces.

While a gauge is nice, they can be spendy and difficult to find. I would check with Kevin Potter of Potter USA before purchasing your jack. Sometimes he is able to find some and will sell them to his customers. If you are not able to get a gauge, a great alternative is the Torque handle made by Potter USA. Check out my video on how to use it.

The other thing I liked about the Potter USA press is that the press will accept the tools they make, as well as those made for other presses on the market.

Second – Spacers

You should never raise the ram on your jack all the way for risk of damaging your jack. And if you do extend it all the way, you won’t be utilizing the pressure from the jack efficiently. Spacers are necessary to help in this area. Spacers also make it so you don’t have to raise all the way which will save muscle fatigue.


There are a number of items that can be used as spacers. In the image above, I have 2 6″ pieces of 1″ thick acrylic pieces. I also have a contained urethane that I will turn upside down and sometimes use that as a larger spacer. I have also been known to use my steel bench blocks. Anything that is stable, flat and can withstand the pressure of the press can be used. You just want to decrease the space between the top and bottom platen for the most efficient use of your press.

Third – Pancake dies

Pancake dies are used to punch out shapes from a flat sheet of metal. There are lots of designs readily available. These from Potter USA work best for metal that is 20 – 16 gauge thick. Although, I do use 22 gauge regularly, however, there is a bit more clean up on those from the bur that is left due to the larger cutting edge.

When I made my initial purchase, I picked out 6 – 8 designs that I thought I would use the most and started with that knowing I would add to it later as I became more proficient and had the money to add to it. The nice thing about these dies is that they are EXTREMELY affordable and you can expect to get about 100 pressings out of them before you would need to purchase it again or retire it.



Fourth – Silhouette dies, contained urethane and pusher

Silhouette dies are what you use to “puff” or form your shape. In order for you do to this you will need, at minimum, urethane. But the container and pusher are going to concentrate the force of the urethane so that you get the most efficient use of the force of that urethane. These can be purchased in 2″ and 3″ varieties.

Again, I looked through the available options and picked out about 6 or so that I felt would work best in my work.


Optional But Fun

Bracelet former Kit – Anticlastic and Synclastic

I ADORE anticlastic bracelets. I have for a very long time. I have made them before on a stage or forming block and they take a LOT of time. They look fantastic, but you can be pretty sure you will lose any kind of embossed or etched design easily. So when I saw this kit, I was pretty excited about it. You can purchase the entire kit (all 5 pieces) or the pieces individually.

In order to make a bracelet with the former you will need, at minimum, the frame, one or two of the dies and a piece of urethane.


Bracelet blanking dies and Extended platen

These actually came out a while after I had my press. Before, I would just cut my bracelet blanks with a jewelers saw or shear. But these dies make quick work of punching out a bracelet blank. The extended platens aren’t necessary with the larger press, but will be needed for the smaller bolt-together press. But I use them anytime I am making a blank, regardless of the machine I use. I like that they apply even pressure to the entire blank.


Embossing Dies

These little dies are fantastic. It is a great way to put in deep texture without having a mill or having to do it by hand with a hammer… which isn’t really possible with these designs. They have been milled from steel and are nice and sturdy. There are several designs to chose from. You will want a container, urethane and pusher for these as well. I find that I get the best results with thinner metals, but I have done some up to 16 gauge. You will apply a LOT of pressure to get a good impression, but that is why you have a press. I typically go up to about 6,000 psi on these.


So there you have it. The first four items are what I would deem necessary. The last items are great fun and make my job easier, but they are NOT needed to be successful with your hydraulic press.

All content and images on this blog are the property of Melissa Muir and use of them in any context is strictly prohibited unless written permission is first obtained. Please feel free to repin any of the pictures of pieces done by Melissa Muir only.

Jump Ring Earrings Video Tutorial – Pepe Jump Ring Maker

I made another video on how to use the Pepe Tools Jump Ring Maker (JMR2) to make the rings for a simple pair of chainmaille earrings.

Here is the link to the video:


All content and images on this blog are the property of Melissa Muir and use of them in any context is strictly prohibited unless written permission is first obtained. Please feel free to repin any of the pictures of pieces done by Melissa Muir only.

Tool Time Tuesday – Center Positioning Dies

Measurable progress is finally being made on the first volume of my book. I am very excited about it. I have set a deadline for myself of Thanksgiving. That is a tall order, so we will see what happens. Of course in this time, I am still trying to run a house, remodel, paint and volunteer at the girls’ schools. But I am working on it.

I haven’t really had any time in the studio to play around yet. Although I did get the chance to make a bracelet and pendant while using this weeks Tool Time Tuesday featured tool, Pepe Tools Center Positioning Dies. I love these little things. They allow you to create perfectly concentric washers. You simply punch a hole using the desired inner diameter, switch to the position of the desired outer diameter die, insert the center positioning die to align the hole of first hole, then use the larger punch to punch out the outer ring, and VOILA, you have a perfect washer.

These are great for a number of uses. You see these washers all the time for stamped jewelry. But I like to texture them up and use them as different design elements. Today, the video I am posting shows you how to make a beautiful silver drop pendant with some blue coin pearls.

One of the great things about these dies is that you can make your washers how you want them. There are some washers that you can buy already made, but you don’t get to determine the metal thickness or even how large your hole is or the outer diameter. Now you can.

Video link:

All content and images on this blog are the property of Melissa Muir and use of them in any context is strictly prohibited unless written permission is first obtained. Please feel free to repin any of the pictures of pieces done by Melissa Muir only.

Tube Setting – What to buy?

I have had a lot of questions about which burs and sizes to buy when it comes to tube setting stones. Here are the tools I use every time I create my tube settings from scratch (or at least from a premade length of tube.)





Choosing the Right Bur

So how do you know which bur to use? You want to use a bur that is just slightly smaller than the diameter of your stone. For instance, if I have a 6mm stone that I am going to set, I would start with a 5.9mm round/ball bur to get the depth of the tube close to where I want it to be. Then I would switch to a 5.9mm setting bur to complete the setting. 

The stones I tube set are typically 3, 4, 5 & 6mm. So here is what I use:

  • 3mm  stone
    • 3.5mm outer diameter heavy walled tube (Rio 100452)
    • 2.9mm Round ball bur ($3.40)
    • 2.9mm Setting bur ($4.05)
  • 4mm Stone
    • 4.5mm outer diameter heavy walled tube (Rio 400427)
    • 3.8mm Round ball bur (4.05)
    • 3.8 Setting bur ($4.85)
  • 5mm Stone
    • 5.5mm outer diameter heavy walled tube (Rio 100429)
    • 4.70mm Round Ball Bur ($4.75)
    • 4.70mm Setting Bur ($5.35)
  • 6mm Stone
    • 6.5 mm outer diameter heavy walled tube (Rio 400431)
    • 5.90mm Round Ball Bur ($4.75)
    • 5.9mm Setting Bur ($5.35)



    Of course, here is the video that I did that shows how I do some of my tube settings. 

I hope that helps answer the questions regarding the size of burs and tubing. I know that rio also sells tubing for stones 1.5mm – 6.5mm every 1/2 size. If you need help figuring out which tubing and/or bur to buy, just let me know. Again, the email is at the top of the navigation bar for the blog. 

All content and images on this blog are the property of Melissa Muir and use of them in any context is strictly prohibited unless written permission is first obtained. Please feel free to repin any of the pictures of pieces done by Melissa Muir only.

Tool Time Tuesday – Super Ring Bender by Pepe Tools

School started for all three of my girls yesterday. That is a pretty big thing. Of course I had a lot on my schedule, and of course, hardly any of it got done. I guess I had more on my list than I realized. All of the girls had a great time and it is going to be nice to get back into a routine. I do wish I could figure out the magic of getting my kids to bed at an early hour though.

I just received my shipment of “Bench Tips for Jewelry Making” by Brad Smith. So if you were waiting, I now have 10 copies in stock. Thank you to all who have purchased up to this point. Both Brad and I appreciate the support.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Pepe Tools asking if I would be willing to make a demonstration/tutorial video on how to make a spoon ring with their newly improved Superior Ring Bending Tool. Now anyone who knows me, knows that I will jump at the opportunity to try out new tools, especially when it involves me doing a video, demo or review. I love doing them. If you are familiar with my jewelry, you will note that I do not typically make spoon rings, or the flatware jewelry, so this was an added benefit to me as I got to try out something new. I spoke with my friend Danielle at Bent & Twisted Creations about what materials I should be looking for and where to find them. I also thought it would be fun to demonstrate a couple of types of materials…. that was, until I tried it out with HARD material. LOL.

Danielle was gracious and sent me a couple of handles to play with. I bought one sterling silver spoon from an auction and another that was silver plate. Did you know that if you are going to work with silver plated material, it is best to buy those that are made prior to 1913? The alloy used before that time is much easier to work with than that made later.
I was anxious to play and didn’t have anything to play with. So I went to my local discount store and picked up a box of flatware for only $6. I chose a set that had thin handles and figured I would be able to bend it. Naturally it was stainless steel. I highly suggest you avoid stainless steel. Just turn the other way. Don’t even let it tempt you. Just run away. It is THE HARDEST stuff to bend. Was I able to do it? Yes. Surprisingly the Super Bender did a great job on forming the metal, but it was not easy. I was totally discouraged, but quickly found out that it was just the material being used. Once I got my hands on some pre-1910 plated flatware and sterling it was an entirely different story. That stuff moves, not quite like butter, more like stiff taffy. But hey, it moved and I didn’t have to apply a lot of effort to get it to do it.
The Super Bender comes with 7 different dies, 5 round ranging from 12mm to 22mm, and there is a 45 and 60 degree squared set. Each die has a matching pusher. You simply place your metal between the two pieces, move the handle on bender and voila, you now have a curve in your piece.
Do you want to see it in action? Well, naturally I am happy to oblige. I created this video tutorial so you could see how I make two different spoon rings. Enjoy.

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Thank you to Pepe Tools for the opportunity to do this video.


All content and images on this blog are the property of Melissa Muir and use of them in any context is strictly prohibited unless written permission is first obtained. Please feel free to repin any of the pictures of pieces done by Melissa Muir only.

Book Review: Bench Tips for Jewelry Making

I have had the great fortune of “meeting” and “knowing” some amazing people in the jewelry field. I love the internet. I have been able to learn from some of the greatest of the great. It has been an interesting process as I have made my own journey in learning to be artistic and creative. My beginnings were slightly different than most as I never really did consider myself creative. I tried, but was never able to really be what I would call successful. You know all those pictures you see of Pinterest Fails? Well, I usually fall into that category. HAHAHA It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered I could make jewelry, and even better than that, I could actually do it pretty well. It was a surprise to everyone! No, Seriously!

As many of you may have already experienced, there are people who won’t share a thing about their process of creating. And then there are people like me, who have no problem sharing pretty much everything. It is thanks to people like this that I have been able to learn what I have. Brad Smith, is also one such person. In addition to being a bench jeweler and lapidary artist, he has been teaching jewelry making for 17 years. Of course, in 17 years of experience, you can expect to learn a thing or two and he has no problem sharing what he has learned. He has a page on Facebook called Bench Tips where he constantly shares some of the helpful little tips he gives to his students.

With so many tips amassed, he decided it might make a good book. And you know what? It does make a good little book.  Not all of the tips are new, especially if you have been following my blog for a while. But there were quite a few that made me go, “huh, why did I never think of that?”

Not only does it have little tips to make your job or project easier, he also includes resources to where you might be able to purchase things like patina solutions, specialty materials or tools and other items not commonly found.

This book is a SUPER easy read and is a great reference book to keep near your bench. It is laid out nicely and has a great number of photos that go along with the items he is discussing.

Want to take a look at a sample? Just click on the link below to open a PDF with a few pages of the book.

Bench Tips for Jewelry Making Sample Chapters

So where can you purchase this book? Well, I happen to have 4 copies currently in stock with a few more on order that should be here in a couple of weeks. Just visit Kelsi’s Closet Jewelbox to get your own copy.

In Other News

Thanks so much to my blog readers and Facebook friends, I have reached over 1,500 subscribers on my YouTube page and well over a quarter million views. WOW! So to celebrate, I am going to hold a give away. I will be posting more about that next week. So be sure to watch for it. In the meantime, why not visit some of my past Tool Time Tuesday posts. If you are new, you will find a wealth of information, tips and even tutorials. Be sure to subscribe my YouTube channel if you haven’t already. There are nearly 50 videos currently posted and more to come in short order.

Thank you again for all your support.

All content and images on this blog are the property of Melissa Muir and use of them in any context is strictly prohibited unless written permission is first obtained. Please feel free to repin any of the pictures of pieces done by Melissa Muir only.

Tool Time Tuesday – Polishing your piece with a flexshaft

Okay, I know it is Wednesday, but that is just how things are rolling at my house right now. My girls start back to school on the 19th of August. While that is really early, I am kind of excited. I am ready to get back into a routine and have my house stay clean for longer than 5 minutes. Even if it is only clean while they are at school. In addition, I am really looking forward to finishing up the book that I have been working on. If any of you have been working with the hydraulic press and would like to submit your photos for possible inclusion in the book, I would love to see it. Just shoot me an email at:

I am also getting really excited for the Metal Retreat I am hosting with my friend Francesca Watson in Washington. I cannot wait to get back up to the Columbia River Gorge area. I have really missed that place.  We are going to be working on so many fun things. There is etching, metal clay, hydraulic press, roll printing, enameling, glass fusing, resin, forging, fold forming and so much more. We still have two openings if anyone is interested. The cost is only $200 plus everyone chips in for food. If you would like to know more, please visit our retreat website: 

The past week has been an exciting one for me as I have gained a few sponsors for my Tool Time Tuesday posts. So watch in the next few weeks as I do a few different tool and materials reviews. And just wait until you see what Kevin Potter has in store. I can’t wait for that post. Of course I have to wait for his goodies to arrive. Darn it.

Well, today’s Tool Time Tuesday/Wednesday is no exception. Just before I moved from Washington, Lucy Brooks of Eternal Tools contacted me and asked if I would do a tool review for some of the tools she sells. She has been waiting patiently as we moved, then had to build a studio, then summer hit, and well, now it is 4 months later and I am finally getting this post done.

One of the questions I get asked most often is how to get a good finish and polish on a piece of jewelry. I wish I had the answer. I know that people spend a LOT of time at the polishing machine. But what if you don’t have one? There is another method, but it doesn’t take any less time, at least it doesn’t for me.

I wanted to create a piece that had lots of little spaces, you know, so I could show you how to get in there and polish them. Now, I certainly had second thoughts about that when I finally had to polish all those little spots. LOL. But I digress. So I created a sort of “filigree” piece that would allow me show you how to get into the nooks and crannies to shine them up.




Two different “tools” were used to polish the pieces. The first are silicone polishing wheels. I love these little wheels. They actually come in Wheels, Knife edge, and cylinders. All can be reshaped as needed with a file. I work through a progression of 4 “grits” if you will (coarse, medium, fine/high shine and very fine/ultra-high shine.) Because I am able to cover more area with these, it is my first tool of choice to go to. I am unable, however, to get inside the details of the pendant.


So the second tool used are called Polishing Pins. The pins used in this video were supplied by Eternal Tools. These come in a cylinder shape but can easily be “sharpened” with a file, as you will see in the video. There are six pins and again, they range in their coarseness to give you a nice fine mirror finish on your piece. I know the picture above isn’t fantastic (it was taken with my phone) but you can see how smooth things are. I didn’t get a before shot, but it was lumpy, bumpy and just plain over soldered, which was intentional for the purpose of the video.

I have a very small stash of the silicone polishing wheels for sale on my website (or at least they will be shortly.) And the polishing pins are available through Eternal Tools. I also just noticed that Eternal tools sells the silicone polishing wheels as well. So you have a few places where you can purchase them. Both tools will need a mandrel, so be sure you get that while you are at it.

So, are you ready to see how they work? Well, wait no longer.