Tool Time Tuesday – Store Your Metal

Today has been a crazy day for both Jeanette at and myself. So I thought I would quickly share one of my organization techniques that I use in my studio.

As most of you know, I have only been serious about making jewelry for just 3 1/2 years now. It has been quite the learning curve as I am mostly self taught and don’t really have a mentor that got me started. Since getting into this I have met some of the most amazing people and I enjoy learning from them as I go. When beginning, I didn’t buy nice tools or precious metals as I just wasn’t willing to spend the money due to a fear of ruining it beyond all recognition.

My very first silver wire purchased was only an oz of 20 gauge sterling silver. It came in a small baggie just smaller than a sandwich bag. I bought this wire in October of 2005. The following October, I got brave and bought an oz of 22 gauge gold filled wire. I still have about a foot and a half of this as I am too stingy to use it with the cost of gold at this time.

Slowly I began to get more and more serious about jewelry and the need for more precious metals developed. At first there wasn’t much at all, so I kept it all in a manila folder. This worked okay for just a short while, but then the tags fell off of my silver and I didn’t know which gauge was which. I could only hold them next to each other, compare and make my best guess. I had read somewhere that someone had put their various gauges each in its own folder. I thought that was a great idea, and soon, each had its own folder. Then I noticed that my wire was tarnishing. That is okay, but it is a pain to shine it all back up, particularly as I continued to accumulate more and more metal. I also found that it wasn’t a very good idea to store mixed metals together as they can react with each other in undesirable ways.

When I went away to college a million years ago, I had bought some file crates. These had been sitting around in my house just storing crap, so I figured I would empty one out and use a hanging file folder system. This was the beginning of a beautiful relationship for me. I moved each gauge of wire into a 1 or 2-gallon zip-lock type of bag – sometimes only a quart size is needed, and organized them according to gauge. Moving them to the bags was WONDERFUL as it helps keep the oxidation exposure lower and I don’t do nearly as much pre-work polishing.

I write the gauge and shape of the wire stored in each bag and then organize my wire from largest to thinnest, followed by sheet and and specialty wires. When we moved into the home we have now and built my studio I wanted to have a more mobile system for my wire. I went to one of my favorite stores and looked in their office supply section and found this great stainless rolling file cabinet. There is just one large drawer and one smaller drawer. It was only about $30, so very affordable and serves my purposes perfectly.


I have moved the drawer to the top of the cabinet. There was a little shelf where I could place other things, but I like having my wire up higher so I don’t have to bend down. This gives me much easier access to what I need at the time I am looking for it.


This is what it looks like from the top of my drawer. Like I said, I like to put them in from largest to smallest gauge, but everyone is going to have a system that works for them.


I keep my spooled wire in the drawer, and it is actually a pretty good size drawer as well. I do have some copper “craft” wire that I keep in a different location as I usually only use that in my other classroom. That, and it is stored just outside the door to the metals studio and is within easy reach when needed.

Hopefully this will give some of you something to think about. Even if you don’t have a large stock of precious metal or wire. It is still a technique that you can  use to keep your studio or work area a little more organized and you won’t believe the efficiency. I would be very interested in hearing what some of you  use for various organization techniques, including organizing tools and other materials.

There is also one recent change I have made that I neglected to add. I have switched from paper hanging folders to plastic. some of my folders were wearing out and tearing. The plastic folders are much more expensive, but totally worth the cost and durability.

Thanks for reading

11 thoughts on “Tool Time Tuesday – Store Your Metal

  1. shay

    Another great post Melissa! I have quite a similar set up with my wire except I have it in a traveling file case with a handle on top:) I’ve been wanting it higher as well though. Maybe I’ll have to go search for a cute little cart like you have. Hmmm…
    Can I blame you for making me spend more money?

  2. Dian

    Ooohh..aaaahhh…that’s fabulous idea. I guess I’ll go to make file folder systems like yours. What I have now is shoes’ bag curtain with 8 bags which is hanging in back of door. But it’s not enough. Your file folder is better. Thank you so much Melissa.

  3. Melissa

    Hi Dian,

    I am so glad you found it useful. Just yesterday I spent the afternoon at a friends studio and we organized everything including her silver. It makes life so much easier when you have a good organization system.


  4. Carol Bradley

    That is a great idea, and I especially love having the drawer on top and open! I’ve gotten to the gallon baggie level and in order by size (usually), but they are on the floor between the table leg and the file cabinet. I’ll be looking for a card like yours soon.

  5. Mel

    Another thing for reducing oxidization is using little silica packs that you often see in newly purchased items such as purses or jewelery boxes etc. When they need to be dried out again, just put them over a furnace vent in the floor for a day or two.

  6. animal texture clutch

    Good one, thats a good blog. I must say that’s a creative work, I like it!!)

    “Movie Leather Jackets”


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