Studio Setup

Blacksmithing | Jewelry | Welding | Repousse & Chasing | | | | | |

Good morning all!
I'm new to the site, and after taking a year off from any metal work, I'm attempting to get back into the swing of things, and attempting to set up a studio at home.
Being a product of an average 4 year college, I am rather at home with being in a school metals studio, but have never had to set up a studio from the ground up.
I'm currently living in a small apartment and looking to set up a studio where I can play with metal when it suites me, however, being rather new to the field I haven't yet decided whether I want to work with fine jewelry, enameling, steel, or something completely different.
At the minimum I would like to be able to do jewelry scale welding, silver soldering , and torch enameling in my studio.

I'm looking for as much advice as I can get on picking up a torch, or any other bits of wisdom.

Nathan Logsdon's picture

"metal techniques for

"metal techniques for craftsmen" by oppi untracht. The definitive "bible" on metalwork IMO. Good luck.

Kimberli Matin's picture what a big question. what a big question. I bet you will get lots more help on this when you narrow down what it is you want to play with. Setting up a shop for making jewelry is much different than working with steel for instance. Maybe Oppi's book will help. Let us know when you get a bit more specific and I bet there will be lots of suggestions....

visitor's picture

are you still holding

are you still holding weekend metal workshops?

fullmetalgeek's picture

The question was

The question was specifically broad because I have experience in large scale metals and jewelry, and I was hoping to get feedback on both types of shops (even if I can't have a studio for blade making or forging or large scale welding in my current living arangement)

The bare minimum I would like to do:
soldering for silver (Acetylene is very dirty and I haven't used a acetylene for soldering since my first year, I'm used to natural gas and oxy which was much cleaner, and better geared for small jewelry)

Jewelry sized torch welding (I've used a Smith little torch with oxy acetylene, which worked like a dream, I'm looking at a set up for disposable oxy and propane tanks from the same company. Now the issue is, how hard is it to upgrade that to larger tanks, has anyone used those tanks? how long to they last?)

Torch Enameling, (I have used a Mapp tank, but the pressure that the torch has on it is way too high and negates ANY chances of powdered enamels. I have found an adjustable torch head online, I'm just not sure if I want to get a third sort of tank...)

Annealing for larger pieces and a generally larger flame. (Once again the disposable Mapp gas tank has worked before, but it wasn't my sole heat source and I have no idea how long these will last)

I really want to get an open ended set up that allows me to boyfriend freak out about the giant explosive tank of gas in the living room, is also a plus.

Thanks for any feedback :-)

eligius1427's picture

I would think a

I would think a propane/oxygen set up would cover all of you bases and allow you to use the same gas setup whether you're working on small jewelry or large fabricated pieces. I think the only thing you can't do with it is weld thicker metals. Propane is pretty safe and cheap. You might have to invest in different torches for different applications, but that should be it.

Upgrading to the larger tanks shouldn't cause you many problems. I use 40lb propane tanks right now because they're the largest tank i can easily move when filled. It costs me about $30 to fill and it should last you a long time doing jewelry work. I use the 3'oxygen tanks(don't remember the letter designation) for the same reason, it's just easier for me to move and get into the truck by myself. If you can, buy both tanks outright, and if possible get two of each. You don't pay rental(demurage?) fees that way and you won't ever run out. When one goes empty, you can just change it out, and refill the empty at your convenience. If you don't, you can bet your life that the oxygen tank will go empty Friday night around 7pm just as you hit that brilliant, once in a lifetime, idea. Just make sure to always have them chained up so they won't fall over.

Not sure what other tools you might need, but that's my take on heat sources.


fullmetalgeek's picture

Have you ever tried small

Have you ever tried small scale welding with the oxy propane?

People have been pointing out that the propane leaks, have you had problems with that?

eligius1427's picture

I have not welded thin

I have not welded thin materials with propane/oxygen, I mostly use TIG and MIG for welding anything. As for propane leakage, my shop is a garage and I always have numerous windows/doors open, so I haven't noticed leaking propane at all. Since you only have electricity, i'm not sure what your options are. I've never heard of bottled natural gas, but you might look, otherwise acetylene and propane might be your only options. Since propane is illegal indoors, acetylene might be what you have to use, although in my opinion it's far more dangerous than propane could ever be. If you go that route, make sure you learn all of the safety precautions and pressure restrictions with acetylene. It can be a little volatile if it's not given the respect it deserves. Do you need to actually weld, or could you get away with soldering and brazing? FYI, the "B" size tank refers to the Oxygen tank, in fact I think it applies to every gas type but propane which is usually referred to in pounds.


Fred Zweig's picture

For years I have managed

For years I have managed with small workshop areas. Propane/natural gas and oxygen will do just fine. I use propane air for most of my work. Remember propane tanks do bleed gas periodically and should not be kept indoors. The gas will collect in low pockets and can explode if ignited.

The 3' tanks are "B" tanks and there is no problem to later upgrading to larger tanks. I cannot recommend the disposable tanks. The pressure fluxuates to much.

I would consider acquiring a rolling mill and drawplates if possible and all the high quality handtools you can find. Building a bench to meet your needs is vital and be sure to maintain clutter to a minimum. THe mill and drawplates will allow tremendous flexibility in the stock of metal you use.

Stay safe with whatever you choose. You want to be able to do this for a long time and do not want accidents to shorten that period.


Fred Zweig

fullmetalgeek's picture

From my understanding ALL

From my understanding ALL tanks can leak, are propane B tanks more prone to leaks that Acetylene?

I live in an apartment, so an outdoor shop is not an option.

Do you know if the disposable tank set up can be upgraded to a B tank set up? I noticed that the regulators on those hoses are different than the standard ones on B tank set ups, do you just need a new regulator if you upgrade, or is it new hoses and regulators?

Rich Waugh's picture

If you have natural gas

If you have natural gas supplied to the property you're living on, then you cannot have propane except for an outdoor charcoal grill, per the National Fire Code. Propane is heavier than air ahd settles in low areas, and a pilot light or spark from natural gas water heater or stove or motor could ignite the propane causing a large hole where your house used to be.

Natural gas with either air or oxygen will do everything you want to do. Little torch for soldering and brazing, an air/natural gas torch for enameling, a soft-flame air/gas torch for fine powder enamels, and a forced-air/natural gas annealing torch. All of the above can be run on standard utility-supplied house pressure natural gas with the right orifices, air or oxygen supply, etc. No need for acetylen or propane, unless you want to weld. If so, then you'll need acetylene, which the Nat'l Fire Code allows indoors, with or without natural gas on the property. Go figure.

fullmetalgeek's picture

I live on the top floor of a

I live on the top floor of a town home and everything up here is electric, I think the water tank is run off of gas, but I don't have access to it.

Does the fire code take issue with the small Benzomatic tanks that plumbers use? o.O

jason hutcherson's picture

geek be careful

torches just shouldn't be used in your living space unless your living space has concrete floors and excellent ventilation. even then i wouldn't risk it because you gotta sleep there. if possible look into a new place with a garage or a basement. this was a key factor in our choice of the house we're about to buy. if it's not feasible to move then you may want to look into renting a little work space. a lot of larger cities sport artist co-op's where industrial work spaces are leased to groups of artists for fairly reasonable rates.

as to further advice on setting up your shop, what is it you're trying to make?

visitor's picture

Compressed natural gas

Compressed natural gas (by far the safest fuel gas) is available from welding suppliers. B tanks refers to the largest owner-acetylene tank, as compared to MC tanks, the smallest. The B and MC, refer to the vehicles those tanks were once attached to, providing fuel to run the headlights(lamps), bus, motorcycle, not sure what happened to the A size,(auto). The propane equivilent of a B tank is called a turbo tank. Small disposable tanks are not economical to use when compared to the cost of refilling small owner tanks.

visitor's picture

I don't know what you have

I don't know what you have to do to pay the bills, but what about trying to get a job in the trade? Jewelry, welding, what have you, the smaller the shop the better. Besides learning a lot, most employers (myself included) would let employees work on their own stuff on their own time. It's a cheap bennie.....

Stefani's picture

shop set up

I have a small jewelry shop and enameling oven, a polishing set up and etc. I then have pneumatic tools and a compressor I pull out on a concrete pad. I use a small oxy-acetelyne setup currently because it was cheaper and portable. So that is how I do both jewelry and steel and bronze work. Get grant money. You would be surprised the help you can get to buy equipment for art related stuff if you look. You must have a portfolio from the sound of it.
Hope this helped a little.

Kimberli Matin's picture

...boy I'm with Jason about

...boy I'm with Jason about the torches in the living me the shivers just thinking about it. I know a woman who uses a corner of someone's garage. Possibly you could trade for something like that?

fullmetalgeek's picture

Torches in living spaces

Honestly, it depends on the living space and the sort of torch.

A small napp gas tank that bead makers use? As long as you are aware of it and secure it, I don't see the harm.
A large tank for large scale casting, or use with a cutting torch? Most likely a time bomb (especially with a few of the girls I went to school with...)

To lay all concerns to rest, I am NOT setting up a forge and large metal shop in the middle of my bedroom.

What I am attempting to set up is a soldering and enameling station. And I'm certainly not putting it in my bedroom, let alone somewhere I can't ventilate it properly.

Thanks for all your input guys! It's been really helpful to hear other peoples ideas :-)

visitor's picture


I had setup similar to yours (no enameling, tho). I had my propane tank in an enclosure on the patio and had a 15 foot feed hose to my torch, just inside the door in my work area. When i was done with the torch, it stowed outside in the enclosure. Look for a welding supply house for longer hoses

Rob Sigafoos's picture

Yoz- I got rid of the

I got rid of the acetylene a couple of years ago and went to MAPP gas. Now that that will no longer be available, I switched to propane and am very happy with it. Like Jake, I do all my welding with a MiG and TiG. If you would like to try out oxy-propane at some point, please feel free to stop by. My shop is about 1 1/2 hours north of you (although we have a house in Baltimore).

JaniceF's picture

home studio

Late to the convo..but anyway. . . .

I'm in Ellicott City - not sure where you are - your profile says you aren't accepting emails or I would have gone that route.

I have set up a small scale studio in my basement. I use a smith little torch with disposable oxy and propane. Its my understanding that the set-up can't be switched out for non-disposable tanks. You'd need to buy the different set-up - but I could be wrong about that.

I solder in my basement and do everything else that is small scale - fusing, keumo-bo, tinkering with some enameling and granulation, resin. I don't have a specific ventilation system but I have windows and a door and a fan when I need it.

Good luck to you and you can contact me through my profile should you want. Locally there is: (blatimore base) (meets in carrol county) - a new metalsmith stuido opening


visitor's picture

Regulator settings

I am just staring out with a studio setup and have oxypropane with regulators.
Can you advise me on what the ideal pressure settings should be for soldering silver?

I have tried about 6 on the propane and 12 on the oxy.

What do you use?
Joy in South Carolina

visitor's picture

Oxy propane pressure settings

Depends on what torch you are using. With the micro torches, oxy/propane can be a bit difficult to lite, as the O2 wants to blow out the flame. Once the gas is lite, open to O2 valve VERY CAREFULLY and slowly so as to not blow out the flame. You could lower the propane a bit and up to O2 a bit.

John Dach

klucciel's picture

Studio Set Up


Do you have a preference on techniques that you used in school? That can dictate allot, so you do not waste money on start-up. It is expensive to get going, but you can always add along the way. Set up your basic things

1) soldering area with fire protection. There are portable steel booths with sides available or that can be made at a local metal shop. Also, some form of ventilation(Kitchen hood, etc.)
torches: for soldering small, for med-large; for anealing
2) sink area
3) lots of outlets, on several circuits
4) good lighting
5) good work bench, shelving, etc. check out college salvage stores near you. You get the best stuff that can modified or used as is cheap.
6) draw plates, one of the best tools I ever made out of a long 7ft piece of wood glued together to form a U for support. I bolted on a boat crank at one end and a four nails at the other to hold the draw plates. And just buy a wire pulling pliar to connect to the cable, with a loop at the end, and you have a seven foot wire drawing crank.
7) Other Equipment is based on your need: rolling mill, die-press, drill press (a must), long belt sander or thin type (great for clean-up on hollow fabrication), flex shaft (a must), hand shear, sand bags, stumps, Buy used
8) All basic hammers, stakes, pliers, etc.
9) Heavy duty vises, to hold things, also one from a milling machine comes in handy with nylon sheet to line it.

I started out with a prestolight and a B tank (similar to the Smith at most universities). I have four torches that I use now, depending on the application. The Smith, Little Torch is great for small stuff and welding too. But you have to get oxy/acet or oxy/propane.

If you are torch-firing, I love to use the basic Smith or prestolight set-up for small stuff. Maybe a kiln down the line.

Blessings, Kim to's picture

studio set up

Out of all the people that answered the queston, I felt like yours was the most complete. I had a very similar question posted asking all what I needed to add to my studio to be able to solder. I already have a micro torch, a pickle pot, a fire brick and flux, can you think of more item I need?

visitor's picture

I've had my

I've had my metalsmithing/jewelry studio in my basement for about thirty years. It has a walk out door, the space is large and there is a fireplace that I often leave the draft open on for additional ventilation. I use acetylene
/air because I did not like the idea of propane puddling in the basement. I can't weld with this setup but can anneal copper and silver big enought to make vessels as well as silver soldering for jewelry.


rparus's picture

oxy/acy to air/acy

I currently have a oxy/acy setup w/ a smith torch using b tanks. I want to convert it to air/acy. Would anyone know if this is possible or would I have to buy a air/acy torch?

marilyn's picture

I think that you will have

I think that you will have to buy the torch head and tips. The hose that was used for the acetylene and regulator will probably work ok. If you buy a set that comes in a blister pack, order some bigger tips as well if you are going to be annealing larger things. It is all that I have used for more than thirty years. I ordered mine from a local welding company and do recomend the PrestoLite setup. I think I can get more variation in flame size without changing tips.


Frederick Gassmann's picture

Starting a metal studio...

I am opening a copper holloware studio March 1st. So I understand you having questions about where to start when starting a metal studio. The advice from the other members regarding deciding what exactly you want to do, welding, casting,forming,Etc. Is the first place to start. The space you choose and the start up tools you choose will directly determine and maybe limit the choices of work space you have. I put in long hours researching the cost per sq.ft. and found a space that was the most economical in the Rochester,NY area. Second was I networked with people and found a sculptor who wanted to share a space to decrease cost. We met several times and talked in length as to what our individual needs were and what we expected. We realized that it was a great plan and then proceded to talk to the building manager to let him know what processes we were going to use and did that cause a need to added fire insurance. Luckily no. But it was a question that needed to be checked officially. The space will be utilitarian in form and function. My work bench and tools will be mobil in order to be able to adjust the space for specific needs. When bronze or copper casting then the space is cleared for use. All the work spaces are multy function, multi use capabilities. I can use the work space one day for holloware and the next for soldering, and the next day for patination. And another day for open studio to sell to the public.
The location of the studio is also withing the ARTWALK area of the City of Rochester and is easy to find for the public.

You need to put a lot of time into making these decisions and to be flexible. If you are in an apartment then Local ordinances do not permit storage of flamable or combustible fuels to be stored there so you are going to be forced to find a safe space dedicated to your craft.

This is what I have found to be useful in opening my studio and I hope you can use what I have shared.


Jean's picture

I would suggest looking

I would suggest looking through the Bench Exchange at Ganoksin for ideas. The users there have posted some really great photos of their own bench set-ups. It won't tell you what you need to do your own work, but may give you some good ideas to work with.