Scrounging for materials and tools is a central part of my studio practice, and there are great bargains to be found!  In the past year, I’ve purchased a nice amount of silver for about $2/ounce, received several pounds of enamels, and refurbished hundreds of rusty chasing tools.  Luck has a lot of influence, and the generosity of donors cannot be understated, but there are also strategies involved to help make oneself luckier as well. This blog will also promote recycling and reusing by encouraging artists to donate or sell excess tools or materials to others who need it.

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Latest Activity: Jan 4

Discussion Forum

What the cat brought home

Started by Charity Hall Aug 29, 2012. 0 Replies

Summer has reached its peak, bringing a bounty of natural source material. In the warm evenings, our cat, Babu, who is a natural scrounger is often be heard munching on something crunchily delectable---snacks of lacewings, moths, and roaches that somehow make it inside the house.  We let her enjoy the tasty lacewings and juicy moths, but the stiff parts of roaches give her indigestion.  So, I steal from her shamelessly. A quick dissection yields a pair of truly beautiful wings.  The dog has proven less useful. This morning, I saw a mangled grasshopper plastered to the front of my car. Although most of it was badly mutilated, but it did have a…Continue

Tags: ants, cat, roach, Scrounge

Real Primates Make Tools...A Primer on Chasing Tools and Stamps

Started by Charity Hall. Last reply by Charity Hall Jul 24, 2012. 2 Replies

Making your own tools will cut costs and give you absolute control over quality.  Many metalsmiths make their own chasing tools for personal use and/or to sell, and these tools tend to be much higher in quality than mass produced tools. They're easier to use, leave a better mark, and are aesthetically pleasing. While I can usually nudge my college students into making their own chasing and repousse tools, some are more reluctant to delve into the world of tool-making.  This is understandable. Making these tools is not necessarily a quick process, and it takes practice to make a great tool, so if you are scrounging for time more than money, tool-making may not be your cup of tea. Tim Lazure, who teaches workshops on tool making taught me how…Continue

Tags: repousse, Scrounge, tools, chasing, steel

Building Studios and Community in Tucson: Jeanne Jerousek-McAnich

Started by Charity Hall. Last reply by james malonebeach Jun 8, 2012. 2 Replies

When Jeanne Jerousek-McAnich arrived in Tucson in 1976 after receiving her MFA in metals from Kent State University, she transformed Tucson into an artist’s haven.  She initially taught design and drawing classes at Pima Community College, but (in a rare and brilliant move) the City of Tucson soon hired her on full-time in the Parks and Recreation Department to teach community classes in jewelry, lapidary, drawing, and painting as well as some youth classes. Given free reign to create new classes and a posh annual budget of $1000-$3000, she soon began purchasing kilns and equipment to teach classes in enameling and casting and expanding the reach of arts programs for Tucson residents.  Under Jeanne’s initiative, Tucson become a mecca for visiting artist workshops. Jeanne recalls, “I found out that Eleanor Moty - one of my favorite artists - was a sabbatical replacement at the University of AZ. I went down there starstruck,…Continue

Tags: Recreation, Scrounge, and, Parks, Jerousek-McAnich

Concrete to Paper: Tom McCarthy and Francesca Vitali

Started by Charity Hall. Last reply by Tom McCarthy May 3, 2012. 1 Reply

In 2007, Francesca Vitali explored metals for the first time when she took the Necklaces class taught by Tom McCarthy at the Penland School of Crafts.  She’d never touched a saw blade before, but had been creating intricate paper jewelry forms and was looking for a way to incorporate metal.  Francesca, a biochemist, spotted an old plastic pipette tip box on my bench that I used to hold my needle files and became very animated, exclaiming, “This, I understand!”  Undeterred by the many strange tools around her, she knew exactly what she wanted to learn. So, when she told Tom that she wanted to make a small box, he guided her step by step and by the end of the first week, she created a perfect rectangular silver box with precise 90 degree corners to cradle one of her paper forms.  …Continue

Tags: Scrounge, Recycled, Vitali, Francesca, McCarthy

Bee-cology and Science of Scrounging: Greg Corman

Started by Charity Hall. Last reply by Jeanie Pratt Apr 29, 2012. 5 Replies

Greg Corman is a Tucson-based sculptor who works primarily with reclaimed wood, steel, and found objects to create functional bee habitats, benches, tables, and vessels.  His bee habitat sculptures don't attract the common honeybee, which by the way, is a non-native species introduced from Europe and Africa. Instead, they support solitary bees, important pollinators that are non-aggressive and nest in holes in the ground or in dead trees.  There are an estimated 1000-1200 species of native bees in Arizona alone, but many have been hit hard by habitat loss, competition from non-native species, pesticides, etc..Photo: Green Cosmos Bee HabitatSo how does this work? Using reclaimed wood, metal, and paint from a variety of sources, Corman cuts,…Continue

Tags: bees, Scrounge, habitat, bee, Corman

Why Scrounge?

Started by Charity Hall. Last reply by Brigitte Martin Mar 31, 2012. 9 Replies

When I arrived in the studio at East Carolina University to start the M.F.A. program in Metal Design, I carried my little blue tacklebox (the same one I’ve been hauling around since 1997 and still use today). I owned a saw frame, a half-round file, a pair of ACE Hardware pliers, a hand-crank drill, a ball pein hammer, and a few scraps of copper. Everything fit into my tackle box.  I thought I owned a lot of tools; after all, I started learning metalwork from Dindy Reich through the Colorado College Arts and Crafts Program where everything, even saw blades and silver bezel wire, was available for students, and there was really no need to purchase personal tools. So, I was absolutely amazed by the piles of tools that even the E.C.U. undergrads had amassed at…Continue

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Comment by Roxy Lentz on May 31, 2013 at 10:27am

A friend just sent me a link to a group of kids in Paraguay who live in a landfill, and have made an orchestra from trash they found. They sound beautiful. 

 It made me cry. 

Comment by Roxy Lentz on August 15, 2012 at 1:50pm

I love the patina that comes from using a silver plate tray someone gave to the thrift store because it had no value to them, and then, turn it into a beautiful brooch that will make someone happy. It is hard work to use this type of metal because it doesn't "behave" well. Even worse, once I get a patina I love, I have to use cold connections from then on out. I just posted a lot of images of new work made almost will all re purposed metal. 

Comment by Teresa Perry on February 16, 2012 at 7:39am

Thanks Charity, after the whole "Craiglist Killer" movie, I kind of stopped watching that site for ads. I guess I watch too many movies! ;)
The other thing I found helpful is my local Jeweler's Supply. They are a small store, but they buy tools in Lots from retired jewelers & stores going out of business. I have found some great old clamps for pennies from browsing their table of used tools. They often get larger machines in for a steal, too. I also like to give them my business when I can, as they will dicker prices to stay competitive. As a small business owner myself, I am really starting to understand what it means to buy local to support my community.

Comment by Fred Zweig on February 15, 2012 at 8:27pm

Charity,  My schedule is the same as yours and sometimes I am lucky as well.  I once ignored a post because there was no mention of jewelry in the listing at all.  A few days later I checked it out and found that jewelry had been misspelled and when I opened it there were several tools that I was able to acquire.

It takes diligence and a bit of luck!

Comment by Charity Hall on February 15, 2012 at 7:50pm

Hi Teresa,

About once a day, I scan the Craigslist listings for the 'Arts and Crafts' section and the 'Tools' section.  In about the second month or so of scanning, I found the silver purely by chance when I was looking for other tools. At the bottom of the ad, scrap silver was listed as part of this particular lot of tools. I did not know the details until I went to look at the tools. It was a highly unusual find. That said, it is possible to buy silver at less than the regular purchase price if you're willing to recycle it and pour your own ingots. Some of my community college students 'team up' with jewelers in town who would otherwise send their scrap out to refiners for recycling (where they would be paid only 80% or so of its value). They negotiate a price, and both come out on the winning end. 

Comment by Teresa Perry on February 15, 2012 at 5:35pm

I am very interested in how you were able to pick up sterling at such a great price, and where you even FIND these buys! Please send me some information on where to look. I feel that most Ebay sellers are looking to get more for the silver than it's worth, and I never run into great sterling buys like this. With all the sellers out there, you don't know who you can trust. I combed the antique malls looking for a ring, I had a client request a spoon ring, and the sellers there had marked their rings up so high when silver went up, it was ridiculous. I'm going to actually fabricate this "spoon Ring" design myself, because they are so high. Any info on how to find cheap sterling safely would be most welcome!

Comment by Teresa Perry on February 14, 2012 at 12:23pm

My husband is a locksmith, so there is a never ending supply of miss-cut & old keys, door parts, door handle parts, etc. I'm still working on that "perfect idea" to come along for those keys. Lock parts are fascinating to me too, and I have BOXES of them in our garage.
Hubby gets irritated when we are walking along, "all dressed up" to go on an outing, and yet I will still stop to pick up what he calls " dirty junk", but it's something I can't stop. Eventually I will have a use for that found item!
I have found that a regular browse of the local antique malls can be a gold mine for cheap antique tools, and I try to always get down to the Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil Swap Meet each year. GREAT buys on tools can be found there, too.
Toledo has an architectural scrap merchant called "Art & Architecture", there is a ton of things to look through, but often they are a bit pricey. I am always searching for bargains, and sometimes it's easy to waste away the hours just looking.
And I AM a tool junky, too. Something that began in school and just won't let me go. This will be a fun group!

Comment by Randi Harper on February 10, 2012 at 12:25pm

It's our annual sale weekend in Snohomish - "Antique Capital of the Northwest" -there are always great finds - even tho it's "upscale scrounging"!!

Comment by Anne M. Fiala on February 10, 2012 at 12:05pm


I've actually been searching for some old steel erector set parts -- in particular the red funnel like cap/nose. seen in this picture as part HG. Please contact me with any clues! 

Comment by Randi Harper on February 9, 2012 at 5:22pm

Great score Vicki!


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