I have taken a few metalsmithing classes over the past few years (3 classes to be exact) and I found them very challenging. I took my classes at Lillstreet Art Center here in Chicago which is a little farther from my house than some other art centers but I heard it was the best place to go. So, I took two 10 week classes there and I still felt a little lost and I think it's because I didn't have much time to practice. And though the center did offer plenty of open lab hours, they always conflicted with my schedule. So, I decided that maybe I should give up on metalsmithing.
Then, this year, I started communicating with Tamara Gentry (who makes beyond awesome jewelry) on twitter (@TGenDS) who happens to be one of the metals instructors at Lill and she assured me that I would learn in her class. So I thought maybe I would give it another go and signed up for her 5 week course. And lo and behold I did feel like I had a better handle of the techniques after the class ) though my cutting skills were still in need of help.) I then decided that the best way for me to really learn was to buy some of the basic tools and practice at home. So I got online and started looking for kits and some were a little costly so I decided to look for individual items and see if I would come out cheaper that way. And I did! I found a saw frame, v-slot bench pin & clamp, and bur life lubricant all on riogrande.com for a grand total of $29.10 (most kits were going for $40+) And I already had saw blades so I didn't need to buy any more right then. Next I'll need soldering equipment and maybe a tumbler but I won't worry about that now. I'm going to just focus on cutting out shapes and making little earrings and pendants and I can use the Dremel rotary tool to polish.