Ask Betsy: October Edition



Q: Not so much a question, but, prompted by a conversation I had with a metalworking friend who is much more frugal and inventive than I, this month I want to share some ideas on using household items in your workshop. Here are a few items:

-Clothes pins. These are very versatile implements. You can use them to hold things together for drilling, riveting and are great when you’re working out a complicated design (not for soldering! They’re wood!). You can also pull them apart and use the halves for a number of jobs. You can shape the end by filing or sanding to make a bezel pusher that won’t mark your work or to set prongs without worrying about harming your stones, enamels, or whatever you’re capturing. The separate halves can also be used for applying polishing compounds.

-Chopsticks. These too can be shaped by filing or sanding. If you’re handy with them, wood or plastic ones can be used to take items out of pickle if you don’t have copper tongs nearby. They can also be used in many of the same ways as described above in the clothes pins section—bezel and prong pushing, agents for polishing compounds. The round ones can also be cut down and used in a flex shaft for polishing jobs so long as your collet is expandable enough.

-Toothpicks. Like chopsticks, these can be cut down and used in a flexshaft for polishing small spaces. 

-Paint stirrers/craft sticks/popsicle sticks. These are great for making your own sanding sticks. You can use glue or double sided tape to attach strips of sandpaper of various grits. You can write the mesh number on the back and always have various grits available for your needs.

-Plastic caps. There are all sizes of these. If you drill or punch holes in them, you can place small pieces in them after soldering (and cooling) to place in your pickle pot. It’s easier to pull the cap out with your pieces in it than to go chasing around the bottom of a pickle pot trying to corral those small silver balls you just melted.

-Cheese wax. Don’t throw out all the wax from your Gouda and Edam cheese! If you do any stone setting, you can put a ball of this on the end of a chopstick, toothpick or just hold onto it to help you place and remove gemstones in your settings. Store it in a plastic bag and it will last you forever.


This list is by no means comprehensive, and there are commercial items available to do everything mentioned. But they’re fun ideas and it’s always nice to have alternatives. If you have your own homemade tool ideas, feel free to send them in and we can spotlight them. 


And don’t forget to send your questions to!


Stay safe and well,