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Foundations in Metalsmithing: Statement Earrings

Lesson 9 of 21

Drilling Holes and Cutting Interior Shapes


Foundations in Metalsmithing: Statement Earrings

Lesson 9 of 21

Drilling Holes and Cutting Interior Shapes


Lesson Info

Drilling Holes and Cutting Interior Shapes

Now let's talk about cutting out those interior shapes because we want to be able to not just cut from the outside but from the inside, and so the way that this works is that we actually need to make a pilot hole in our metal that we can thread our saw blade through. Now, I'm just gonna do a couple practice pieces on here. So, I'm gonna show you guys how to use a drill bit and make a hole that way, which you can use with a Flex Shaft or a Dremel or a rotary tool or even a drill, but if you don't have any of those things the easiest way to make holes in your metal is to buy some really inexpensive, I think they're like, $10, hole cutting pliers. And so what they have is just a little tiny sharp piece that will make a hole. Now, the thing to know about these is that they're only rated for 22 gauge and thinner, so if you're doing a lot of heavy stuff you want to invest in something that you could actually drill a hole with. But for your statement here in this project, if you're like, "Hey...

, Megan, I don't have a Dremel tool. "I'm not buying a Flex Shaft just to make holes," this will totally do the trick, and literally... So this is one of those where safety glasses, 100% important because you're about to pop a little hole in something, but I can just take these, go right in here... And make a hole. So, not bad for 10 bucks, right? So, that's one option, but they're not perfect. First of all, they have a little bit of a distance problem. They do tend to mar your metal just a little bit, so in reality what we really want to do is drill our pilot holes with an actual drill bit. So, first thing's first, we need to choose the right size of drill bit. Drill bits, just like everything else, are backwards in their logic. So, the smaller the number the bigger the drill bit. So, a size 70 is going to be much smaller than a size 55. Now, what you'll find is again, if you go online there are like a million charts that's like, "If you're using this size saw blade "you should be using this size drill bit." My attitude is if you're using a saw blade you should use a drill bit that's a little bit bigger than your saw blade and that's pretty much it. So, I think I have a couple of small sizes here. Let's see what we have... We have a 56, we have a little 58. I just usually buy a couple sizes. A 61, a 70, so I'm gonna use... I know all of these are pretty much bigger than my drill bit, or than my saw blade, so I'm just gonna pull out this little 58 here. Just double check that by looking at one of my... Yep, bigger, so scientific, you guys. (laughs) So, then what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go ahead and I'm gonna mark where I want to put my hole, and what you want to do is if this is our shape here, if we can get our... I'll just come over here. Can you guys see that in there? I want to put my hole close to the edge but not on the edge, and the reason that I want to do that is because I have to cut from where the hole is to the line and I don't want to have to do a lot of extra cutting. So, I'm gonna put it close, but if I put it on the line I'm gonna end up with a little dimple, so I'm gonna put that in there. Now, the next step before we can drill is that we need to do something called center punching, and what we're doing with center punching is creating a little divot for our drill bit to go into. The problem is if we don't do this is our drill bit's just gonna want to skate across the surface. So, center punch is literally just a piece of metal with a point on it, and you ideally want to center punch on a piece of metal as opposed to on a piece of wood. So if your work surface is not metal you want a little metal plate or something like that, and the reason for that is that if you do that to something soft it's gonna make too much of a divot. It's actually going to distort your metal, especially when you're dealing with a thin, malleable metal. Like if you have 24 gauge Argentium and you're not on a steel plate it's gonna want to smush your metal. So, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna take my center punch, I'm gonna take a hammer, any old hammer. This was like, my grandpa's old hammer, so literally any old hammer. The rawhide mallet is fine, there's no special hammer for this. And I'm just gonna put my center punch right where my hole is and give it a tap and literally that's it. I know, that was like, nothing. So, just like, pick your spot, give it a tap, so now we have our divot that we can go ahead and drill into. So, now we're gonna drill our hole and I'm gonna use the Flex Shaft to do this and conveniently I already have a drill bit in here, so I don't have to put one in, but I'm just gonna go ahead and put my drill bit in here. I've got my Flex Shaft, this... If you've never used a Flex Shaft, you do not have to buy a Flex Shaft to make this project possible. I'm gonna be really clear about that. Again, you can use these, but if you have any kind of rotary tool, if you have a little drill, if you have a big, giant drill I do not recommend that because this is a little drill bit, but a little drill, any kind of rotary tool. The best thing is actually to use a little drill press, but very few people actually own little drill presses, so anything in this is fine. But if you own a Flex Shaft that'll work, too. So, if you're using a rotary tool or a Flex Shaft or anything that's not mounted like a drill press we still want to treat it like a drill press in that we're going to hold it very vertical. Now, if there's one process where you 100% must wear safety glasses it is this one. As a friendly reminder my graduate school studio had a picture next to our drill press of a picture of a guy with a drill bit sticking out of his eye. Nothing will remind you to wear your safety glasses more than that picture, so think about that every time. The other thing is obviously I do not have long hair, but if you have long hair you want to pull that back because this is a thing that spins and it can catch that. Same thing with loose clothes, no scarfs, shawls, anything that's loose you want to take that off. So, Flex Shafts will work by a foot pedal, so I've got my foot pedal down here, and you can see this is just gonna spin and you want to drill into wood in this case. I recommend actually keeping a block of wood for drilling into, but as you can see, in a pinch your bench pin, the back end of your bench pin works just fine. So I'm gonna go ahead and line this up. Let's put this in there, that is not straight. And then just give it a little press. So now I've got my hole in there. Pretty simple, right? All right, so now we're gonna go ahead and thread this on here, so I'm gonna open this up and slide this on. So this is where the tension piece gets a little bit trickier because now we've got a hunk of metal that's gonna want to weigh this down. But same thing, what I'm gonna do is always just slide it up to the end because if I try to put it on the middle it's gonna cause a lot of problems, so I always slide it as far up as I can go and then just like before, go ahead, get this nice and tight, little bit of relief on there. Now, it's gonna sound different because it's got something on it, so this is the one case where it's more of like, a feel than a sound because this is gonna change the sound, but ideally you should be able to tell that it's tight. And then is that what you're feeling for, just the tightness? The tightness, yeah, so I'm just making sure it doesn't have like, a lot of play in it. And it's one of those, too, where if you start sawing and it's not tight you're gonna feel it pretty easily. It's just gonna feel like it's not working, might sound a little bit different, and so now I've got this hole in here and basically what you're gonna do is just saw out to the hole. And if you're trying to practice, circles are really good practice because you have to move the metal the whole time. And I can tell that this is probably not as tight as I ideally would like, but it's getting the job done. And then we're just gonna keep cutting until we get back to where we started, and now we have a hole.

Class Description

Learn the basics of metalsmithing to make stunning statement earrings (and more!) - no torch required!

Getting started in metalsmithing doesn’t have to be scary. In Foundations in Metalsmithing: Statement Earrings, you’ll learn the basic skills you need to start making metal jewelry, as well as the design principles to create your own unique pair of statement earrings, all with less than $100 in tools! (And, you’ll be able to apply those tools and new-found skills to expand your ideas into a full line of jewelry!)

In this class, jewelry designer and metalsmith Megan Auman will show anyone how to get started making one of a kind metal jewelry.

You will learn how to:

  • Choose the right tools and materials for your metal jewelry projects.
  • Design incredible (and comfortable to wear) statement earrings with balance and movement.
  • Saw and pierce to create any shape from sheet metal.
  • File and finish your metal pieces so they look professional.
  • Create your own ear wires to finish off your unique design.

Whether you’re looking to grow your existing jewelry making knowledge or for a new creative outlet that you can proudly wear (and show off!), you’ll leave this class with your own pair of stunning statement earrings - and the skills and design chops to expand your ideas into a complete line of jewelry!  


user 1398976626171314

One of the most special things about Megan, is that though she is a creative, she is extremely good at business. Her organized way of thinking and presenting material, and her genuine joy when empowering her students with the tools needed to be successful, is charming and so much fun. Somehow there is such seamlessness and flow to her class structure and explanations, that I can absorb what she says and easily retain it. I really can start a jewelry line just with this class. She is amazing and LOVE her style!!!


I really enjoyed this class! Megan provides a great foundation for using metal sheets to design/make jewelry and using wire to make unique findings. This was a great class for learning the fundamentals and sparking inspiration for new projects

Vernell Bevelander

I LOVED this class! Megan is such a detailed teacher. She leaves no stone unturned. So much fun! Can't wait for my next class!