This month, I thought I’d take you behind the scenes to share a bit about some of the tools I use in my work. Each piece I work on comes together in a series of processes, each done by hand. None of these can be rushed through, each is careful, slow and practiced—a real labour of love through undivided attention.
It takes time to learn each new tool, to find the right angle, pressure and rhythm to meet the metal. I think the first jeweller’s tool that I ever picked up was a saw frame, which is used to cut metal (in all forms: sheets, tube, wire…) and jewellery wax. The blades are extremely fine and easy to snap, so it requires a steady hand to find flow and a gentle pressure.
In my collection of tools, I have many treasured pieces. I have a beautiful brass set of calipers that were once owned by my grandfather, on which the measurements have been hand engraved. I also have a pair of large tailor shears (or dressmaker scissors) that my grandmother gave me.
I love working with secondhand and antique tools, I find that older tools are lovely to work with. They were made with a lot more care and better quality materials than they tend to be now. The handles on hammers, files and saw blades were generally made out of timber, rather than plastic, so they are so much nicer to hold.
The tools I probably spend the most time with are my files; I have a beautiful set of files, some new and some secondhand. Out of all of my files, I use the needle files the most. Needle files are small files in various shapes with a smooth edge on one side, so that they don’t mark metal when you’re working in tight spaces. I use them to finish and shape the precious metals—a process that can take some time. I picked up a set of these secondhand from a local elderly man who was once a mechanical engineer and also a leathersmith. They were in such good condition, so well looked after, and I love using them and knowing where they came from.
Whether old or new, hand tools are still rich in history, their forms reflect ancient inventions and techniques which are still used today. Each piece I make comes together using many of these. When you visit my shop you’ll see many different shapes, forms and settings; each of these has come together through a carefully choreographed collaboration between hand and tool.
Photography by Damien Milan.