A great at-home pickling solution is vinegar, salt, lemon juice, and water. You'd keep it warm, but not hot, in a pyrex container with a lid. A little slow-cooker with a low setting, or a hot plate with the container on it, set to low.
Some other things my instructors suggested:
- a small butane hand torch. These are better than soldering irons and can actually anneal pieces as well (smaller size), they're as little as $7-14 at places like Home Depot, Canadian Tire, etc. (Not sure what the US has for those, but home/auto/etc stores)..
- make sure you have ceramic tiles and soldering bricks for your work space
- set of files (Auto shops have these for cheap)
- try using textures instead of high polish, makes life easier and looks nice (make sure they're uniform textures)
- you can get ring/etc mandrels at auto shops or Sears, called "tapered drifts"
- a variety of pliers including half round, and they should be smooth and have no ridges.. and side cutters such as dog nail cutters
- you can make a polishing machine out of a washing machine motor, apparently. neat. (the kind you put a buff on, not a tumbler)
- polishing you'd do various emery cloth grits, finer and finer, and then go to the rouge etc (you can get bits for your foredom/flexshaft/hand piece that can be used with rouge, just do it all by hand if you don't have the buff)
- don't forget your flux: Dandix, Safe-T-Flux, and Grifflux are all fluoride-free.
Hope that helps!