Making money as a beginner blacksmith (or even an experienced one) is easier than you would expect it to be. While traditional blacksmithing jobs have all but disappeared due to urbanization, the advent of online retailing and eCommerce has seen a surge in demand for custom, consumer metalworking products.
During my time as a blacksmith, I’ve frequently considered what would be the best product to sell online to make a serious side-income (or even a full-time income). While there are plenty of blacksmithing projects that can make serious money, one type of product has consistently impressed with its sheer money-making potential.
No, it’s not knives, swords, or anything fancy like that.
If you guessed jewelry, you’re getting close.
Believe it or not, wedding rings are an absolute money maker for even beginner blacksmiths. They aren’t that hard to make but can result in some serious cash flow for those who take their time to build a reputation for high-quality ring making.
How much can you sell rings for?
If you go on websites like Etsy (which I consider to be the single best place to sell blacksmithing products online), you’ll find plenty of people selling rings. Many of them sell for relatively small amounts, such as $20 or $30 rings, often with fancy designs.
However, at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve found fellow blacksmiths selling wedding rings for hundreds, if not THOUSANDS, of dollars online. What’s even more incredible is that these rings aren’t that complicated.
There are no fancy engravings. No fancy designs. Often a simple, basic, thick metal ring that’s custom made by a blacksmith will have a lot of demand from people looking for something more minimalistic.
Here’s an incredible example of what I’m talking about. This steel ring sells for around $700 USD. After taxes, shipping, and Etsy feels, that’s more like $600 per ring.
How much time do you think it took the blacksmith that sells these to make one?
It’s actually not that complex. The ring itself isn’t much of a problem for beginner blacksmiths. The real problem would be either the engraved pattern on the ring (which is simpler than you think it would be to make) as well as the custom runes that the smith puts on it.
Once you figure out how to do this for yourself, however, it actually becomes a pretty reasonable project for a smith to make. Total time could take between 3 to 4 hours for a single ring once you get the process down. For $600 per ring, that’s around $150 per hour!
Here’s another example I found that’s even easier. Selling for around $200 USD, this basic, titanium steel ring has no engraving on it whatsoever. Just a simple piece of metal that’s been well forged and rounded a little on the edges sells for this much! It wouldn’t take a blacksmith more than a couple of hours to make something like this if they know what they are doing.
What’s the catch?
The important thing here is that these rings need to be of high quality. Wedding rings are no joke, and your customers are going to take them very seriously. As such, you need to know what you’re doing, and you need to have a pretty high degree of craftsmanship. You also want to make sure that your rings are comfortable to wear. The last thing you want is a ring that doesn’t come off when its put on someone’s finger. Especially since they’re going to have an incredibly hard time taking it off if it gets stuck.
The good news, however, is that you don’t need to be as good as you think. Once you have in mind the kind of ring you want to make (browse around for inspiration if you’re stuck), then go and make a couple of dozen practice rings to familiarize yourself with the process. You can even give some away in exchange for an honest review of your product, something that can help build your store’s reputation on platforms such as Etsy.
How to make a ring
As for how to go about making a ring, there are a few different ways to approach it. One of my favorite YouTube videos on the subject is from Black Beard Projects, who I consider to be one of the top blacksmiths on YouTube at the moment.
In short, you’re going to want to start with a few square pieces of steel. They don’t have to be that big, the smaller, the better. What you need is a small square or block of steel that’s going to be the base of your ring. In the video mentioned above, he uses several thin squares and welds them together, but you can use a single solid piece of steel as well.
Then you heat it up in the forge until it’s orange hot and start hammering away. The goal is to thin out and flatten the metal little by little until it reaches the desired width. If you want a thinner ring, you’re going to need to hammer it more. Be careful, however, as the thinner the metal gets, the easier it is to accidentally crack it or make a big mistake. Thicker is better, especially as a beginner blacksmithing looking to get started.
Trimming down the metal
From then, you’re going to need to do a few things. You’re going to need a belt grinder in order to grind down the metal, but you’re also going to need something that can drill a circular hole into metal. You’re also going to need a saw that can precisely cut metal as well.
Now that your piece is finished from the forge take a pair of compasses (you know, what you used to use in math class) to draw a perfect circle. Doing it freehand isn’t going to cut it, you’re going to want to have a perfect circle.
Once you’ve gone this finished, the next step is to trim away at the excess metal from the outside. Using a powered saw that can slice through metal, you’re going to want to slowly trim off the excess metal. Although the saw is slow to slice through metal, you should still be careful nonetheless not to cut yourself.
Once you’ve gone around and trimmed the metal from the outside, you’re going to want to do the same from the inside. That’s where a high-powered drill comes in. Start off small with a smaller drill head before increasing sizes to get closer to what you’re looking for size-wise in a ring.
Once this is done, all that’s left is to complete the final touches. At this stage, you’re going to want to use your belt grinder to trim down the edges of your ring and make it a bit more rounded. A lot at this stage depends on the exact design of the ring you’re going for. If you want a blockier, straight edge ring with 90-degree angles, then go ahead. If you want a smoother, curved ring that’s more traditional looking, you’re going to want to smooth it down to create that look.
That’s the rough process of how you go about making a ring. As you can see, it does require a fair bit of equipment that you might not have. While a belt grinder is something I recommend beginners buy, having a high-powered saw and a drill will also be essential if you want to make a ring (at least in this style).
Again, there are a variety of different types of rings and a plethora of ways to make them. Practice and experience are your best friend here, as there’s no substitute to actually doing this stuff yourself.
However, if you get the hang of it, I promise you that your newfound ring making abilities can become a big moneymaker for you in the future.