Friday 16 June 2017

Book Review - Practical Jewellery-Making Techniques: Problem Solving by Stephen O'Keeffe

Practical Jewellery-Making Techniques: Problem Solving
by Stephen O'Keeffe
Published by A&C Black, 2011
144 pages

Book Review by SilverMoss - Practical Jewellery Making Techniques

I have a well-worn copy of an earlier book by Stephen O'Keeffe, namely Tips and Shortcuts for Jewellery Making. One of the reasons I used it so much was because it is different from nearly all of the other jewellery books I have, which tend to be a combination of explaining techniques that are then used with specific projects. This book though, and the one I'm reviewing here, look at jewellery as a series of problems to be solved and the author helps come up with solutions through experience and ingenuity.

One line review

An unorthodox, excellent book on how to avert 'disaster' in jewellery making and silversmithing by creating clever tools and using innovative thinking.

First Impressions

I had to look twice at this book when I saw the cover. I recognised the author's name and style of jewellery and it made me wonder if it was a re-issue of the original book (I couldn't remember the title well enough to be sure!) or a repackaged version. Flicking through the pages showed me that this wasn't the case. the book was different and that it was worth looking at more closely, with lots of colour images set among the detailed text.

At The Start

The Contents page is text-based and simple, listing the chapters of the book and what each contains.

The two-page Introduction explains the thinking behind the book; trying to prevent 'disaster' and fix issues before they become problems, partly by using traditional techniques and clever, self-created tools. It's a great intro to the different thinking and style that this book follows.

In the Middle

The ten chapters this book contains make up almost all of the contents. The first three chapters deal with some basic ideas, like tools, techniques and making simple tools; these chapters are full of useful information and hints.

Chapter 4 discusses using a punch and die, and chapter 5 goes into detail on soldering. Chapter 6 deals with wire scrolls and chapter 7 covers doming blocks. Chapters 8 and 9 look at using a homemade swaging tool, forming oval nails into punches and instructions for creating a forming tool - examples of what can be made with these items are included and explained. The last chapter is about findings, including jump rings, catches, and ear wires.

Describing the chapters like this can make them seem a little disjointed, but the skills being taught are cumulative and the author's 'normal' job as a teacher is clear.

In terms of projects, these are interspersed throughout the chapters and are not listed individually in the contents page; instead they appear organically as part of the natural flow of the text and in context of what the author is writing about. This makes them a little harder to find at first glance but perhaps easier to follow if you read the book much like you would read a study course.

At the End

Ring sizing and wire sizing tables are at the end of the book, along with a glossary and index.

In Summary

An excellent book for anyone who uses smithing skills to make jewellery and wants to not only learn more but to think outside the box. If you are just starting out then a simpler guide may be useful to begin with, but do consider investing in this book as you progress. For jewellers at any other stage, I'd be very surprised if this book didn't provide at least food for thought and most likely useful guidance and a good few handy hints along the way.


For another of my jewellery book reviews, then check out The Complete Jewellery Maker by Jinks McGrath.

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  1. I went on one of his courses once. He was a great teacher. I have his books. Fantastic explanations and instructions. :)

    1. I do envy you, he seems to be such a good teacher if his books are anything to go by - they really are excellent, both of them.

      Thanks for the comment :)


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