To learn basic skills before investing in costly sterling wire, we bought a practice roll of hardware store copper - and ruined the entire roll. Bought more rolls. Ruined them all. Bought more, and more, and kept buying and trying, until we taught that wily stuff who was boss. Then the unexpected happened: we fell in love. With copper. Nothing felt quite so at home in our hands as that humble and forgiving metal.
For forming cuffs and bangle bracelets, we liberated a rock from our garden. The business end of a turkey baster and a scrap of discarded pipe turned into mandrels. For filing, I pillaged my manicure set. A handful of miscellaneous nails punched holes. Jelly jars held paints and brushes, and kept our beads and such organized.
And so we learned and worked and learned some more.
Over the years, we've added some dedicated jewelry maker's implements to our kit. Specialty pliers, punches, cutters, files are always ready to hand. Our workbenches hold tumbler, pickle pot, drills and bits, torches and honest-to-goodness mandrels. Spools of wire and chain add "decorative accents." 50+ supply organizers march along our shelves.
But you know what? With all those new things, we still find ourselves reaching first for those early "make do" tools. Nothing else feels quite so at home in our hands.