Online Articles

How to Create Consistently Sized Granules and Shot
May 3rd, 2022

On the Ball Creating a handy measuring tool to guarantee same-size granules and shot By Helen I. Driggs It’s easy to create evenly sized granules or shot without the time-consuming hassle of measuring or weighing tiny pieces of metal. With a quick trip to the hardware store, you can create this handy measuring tool in […]

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Pulse-arc and Laser Welders: How They Work
April 3rd, 2022

How the Welders Work The difference between pulse-arc and laser welding technologies When deciding on the best type of welding system for your business, you should first get to know the two technologies so you can understand how they work. Pulse-arc welders use electricity to weld. Most systems have a pen-type tool that contains a […]

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Creating a Gemstone Shield for Retipping Prongs
April 3rd, 2022

Beat the Heat How to protect gemstones when retipping prongs with a laser welder By Fabio Penuela Being a jeweler is a rewarding profession as we get to create jewels that people will wear and treasure for years to come. However, every piece we make will be exposed to wear and tear over those years, […]

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Tips for Reusing and Repurposing Broken Sawblades
April 3rd, 2022

Second Chances Ideas to help you reduce, reuse, and repurpose broken sawblades By Helen I. Driggs My parents grew up during the lean years following the Great Depression, so I learned not only Yankee ingenuity, but also their waste not, want not frugality and clever ways of using outdated, worn-out, or otherwise unwanted objects. These […]

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Choosing the Best Welding System to Meet Your Needs
April 3rd, 2022

The Passing of the Torch How to choose between pulse-arc welders and laser welders By Shawna Kulpa Tired of your torch? While torch soldering remains a great, low-cost and effective way to weld metals at the jeweler’s bench, you may be interested in upgrading to a faster method that requires less cleanup. As a jeweler, […]

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Podcast: Tips for Working with Gemstones
January 18th, 2022

Tips for Working with Gemstones with Joel McFadden Airdate: January 18, 2022 Breaking or damaging a gemstone is every stone setter’s worst nightmare. In this podcast, jeweler Joel McFadden, a renowned setter and frequent contributor to MJSA Journal, shares insights and techniques that can keep a gemstone intact and securely set—and a customer happy. Watch Video • Listen […]

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Tension Setting a Colored Gemstone
January 18th, 2022

No Pressure A guide to faux tension setting a colored gemstone By Joel McFadden Modern and eye-catching, tension settings are a popular choice among today’s consumers. While diamonds can usually be tension set without any problems, the same cannot be said for many colored gemstones as they simply cannot withstand the amount of pressure the […]

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Tips for Avoiding Gemstone Mishaps
January 18th, 2022

De-Stressing Setting Expert advice on keeping cool when working with gems By Shawna Kulpa There’s an old saying in the jewelry industry that jewelers need to relax more—after all, even with the most nerve-wracking jobs, no one dies at the end of the day. It’s just jewelry, right? Well, kind of. While there is no […]

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DIY Jump Ring Vise
November 4th, 2021

An Open and Shut Case How to create a jump ring vise for speedy chain making By Helen I. Driggs I’ve been making lots of chains of late, and this handy little portable jump ring vise makes opening and closing them a speedy snap, because you don’t have to put your pliers down to do […]

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Aaron Willoughby’s Tricked-Out Studio
November 4th, 2021

Bench Envy How Aaron Willoughby keeps things dry and nearby in his workspace By Aaron Willoughby Editor’s Note: Aaron Willoughby has been making, teaching, and designing jewelry and metal art for nearly 20 years. He relocated from San Diego to Sarasota, Florida, about a year before the COVID-19 pandemic, which gave him time to get […]

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Organizational Aids for Jewelers
November 4th, 2021

A Little Place for Your Stuff Jewelers share their favorite organizational aids By Shawna Kulpa To quote the late comedian George Carlin, “All you need in life is a little place for your stuff.” Of course, he used that line to kick off a five-minute routine about how people have too much stuff, but he […]

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Using Wooden Dowels at the Bench
October 15th, 2021

Dutiful Dowels How wooden dowels can help bench jewelers By Helen I. Driggs I always keep a decent supply of wooden dowels, chopsticks, and skewers on hand and in as many diameters as I can find. I hunt for them in hardware stores, craft stores, and woodworking suppliers, and it’s amazing how many times a […]

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Advice for Finding and Buying Tools
October 15th, 2021

Tool Up Jewelers share details about their tool buying habits Sponsored by: By Shawna Kulpa There’s no denying it: Jewelers love tools. But the process of filling a workshop with the tools and equipment needed to make jewelry day-in, day-out can be intimidating. How do you learn about the tools out there and what they […]

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Inside a Tinkerer’s Toolbox
September 26th, 2021

Making an mini anvil with standard hardware supplies By Helen I. Driggs My dad was a machinist, so I’ve had an inordinate fondness for hardware stores since my childhood. I spent many happy hours in his shop tinkering with nuts, bolts, switches, and wires, and these days, I find myself passing many hours in my […]

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Bench Envy: Jean Menden
September 26th, 2021

Building a dream studio from the ground up Jean Menden of J. Menden Silver in Clinton, Minnesota, had a small home studio that she had long outgrown. When she and her husband sold their home and moved to a lake cabin in 2019, she took advantage of the situation to construct her dream workspace. She […]

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Turn Over a New Leaf
September 2nd, 2021

A guide to mastering wheat pattern engraving By Joel McFadden With its vintage, handmade look, the running wheat pattern is one of the most common ornamental engraving styles in jewelry, especially on rings. In addition to being popular, the pattern is also a great place to start when you’re learning to do engraving. To practice […]

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Beginner’s Guide to Cuttlebone Casting
August 20th, 2021

Old School Casting A step-by-step guide to cuttlebone casting for beginners By Tony Deluca Cuttlebone casting is an ancient casting technique that can create unique textures using the calcified remains of the cuttlefish. It can be used to create both simple and complicated designs, but most jewelers use the technique for the wonderful wood grain […]

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Give It a Push
August 11th, 2021

Soft metal setting punches for flushmounts By Helen I. Driggs Back when I was learning to make jewelry, flush setting, also known as gypsy setting, was the style of setting I wanted to learn the most. It seemed like a magical type of setting, with the stone sitting below the surface of the metal. Plus, […]

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Bench Envy: Tom Okner
August 2nd, 2021

Tom Okner’s spacious jewelry operating room By Tom Okner, M.D. Editor’s Note: Dr. Tom Okner, a retired ear, nose, and throat specialist, took up metalsmithing and jewelry fabrication as a hobby 25 years ago. His first workspace was a general-purpose work bench he set up in his home’s basement in St. Paul, Minnesota. Over the […]

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A Well-Dressed Mop
August 2nd, 2021

Make a rake to revive a compound-caked polishing wheel By Helen I. Driggs Taking care of your textile polishing wheels will extend their life and also reduce scratching caused by hardened or dried-out polishing compounds that can cut deep ruts in your work. I made a rake, or mop dresser, out of some glued together […]

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On the Fly
July 1st, 2021

Creating an impromptu jump-ring jig By Helen I. Driggs It never fails: Students will always ask me to demo something that was not technically on the menu, and when I am far from home, I’ll inevitably need to scramble. I was recently asked about making a large quantity of jump rings and, of course, at […]

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At the Bench: Waste Not, Want Not
September 24th, 2020

Waste Not, Want Not Recycling bench scraps to create ingots By Christine Dhein Clean filings and scrap can be recycled in the workshop rather than being sent to a refiner. This saves money by eliminating shipping costs and refining fees, and conserves the resources required by the refining process. Regularly brush the sweeps drawer and […]

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Bench Envy: Jim Grahl
September 24th, 2020

Bench Envy Jim Grahl’s studio is a mix of old meets new By Jim Grahl Editor’s Note: While Jim Grahl of J. Grahl Design in Balboa Island, California, loves technological developments that have made certain tasks in jewelry making easier, he sees no need to replace the trusty older tools and equipment that fill his […]

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The Little Things: Selecting the right findings
September 23rd, 2020

The Little Things Findings hold the key to fully realizing a jewelry designer’s vision By Shawna Kulpa It’s the little things that matter in life…and in jewelry too. After all, the most beautiful earrings in the world are useless without some type of finding to secure them in the ear. And what good is a […]

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A Guiding Line
September 23rd, 2020

Soldering block markups for precision placement By Helen I. Driggs It seems that no matter how exact you think you are (or used to be), the older your eyes get, the harder exactness becomes. I’ve always had issues lining up things on my soldering block due to a vision problem, and lately I have had […]

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Heads Up
September 23rd, 2020

Building a custom four-prong head By Joel McFadden Although industry suppliers have made it easy to order pre-manufactured heads and have them delivered the next day, sometimes you can’t find the right shape or size for an uncalibrated gemstone. Luckily, creating your own custom head for the stone can be easily accomplished. 1. The first […]

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Crystal Clear
September 23rd, 2020

Keeping clean while polishing under a microscope By Fabio Penuela One of the most important steps in making jewelry is polishing. After all, could you imagine handing a finished piece of jewelry to a customer without first polishing it? Every piece of jewelry needs to be polished, and nothing is better than polishing a piece […]

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Shop Layouts
July 24th, 2020

Shop Space Three designers explain their shop layouts Compiled by Shawna Kulpa When setting up your jewelry studio, it’s crucial to consider not just your current needs, but also what changes might come down the road as you grow and evolve your line. Your tools and equipment should be organized for efficiency and flexibility. In […]

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Tool Testing 4
July 24th, 2020

Supra Cutters Made of high quality ball bearing steel at 63-65 Rockwell hardness, these 4.9 inch (125 mm) long cutters are available with semi-flush, flush, or full-flush blades. They feature a no-scratch/anti-glare satin finish, a hardened steel nut to resist high cutting load, and stainless steel dual leaf springs. The rounded ergonomic handles have a wide, […]

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Bamboo Burs
July 24th, 2020

Repurpose a skewer for precise polishing By Helen I. Driggs Sometimes a commercial polishing wheel or attachment just won’t get where you need it to go. For those times, I use bamboo skewers from the kitchen gadget drawer to create instant polishing points and attachments for my flex-shaft. I’ve created a whole collection to use […]

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Stick to It
July 8th, 2020

A bench jeweler’s guide to glues and epoxies By Shawna Kulpa It’s that time of year when jewelers start updating their tool “wish lists” so they’re ready when their loved ones ask what they’d like for the holidays. Those lists are likely filled with laser welders, 3-D printers, diamond scanners, and maybe even a fancy […]

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Bench Envy: Jo Haemer
July 8th, 2020

Jo Haemer’s bench combines the best of two worlds By Jo Haemer Editor’s Note: When jewelry maker Jo Haemer is asked about the most important tool she owns, she often says it’s her workbench, and it’s not hard to see why. She and her husband Timothy Green have three custom made workbenches in the home […]

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Break It In
July 2nd, 2020

Simple modifications for a new bench pin By Helen I. Driggs It’s nice to splurge on a new bench pin every couple of years, and after making some basic modifications to an off-the-shelf pin, it’s easy to quickly get busy working again on the pristine surface of a new one. Over the years, I have […]

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Video: Red Flags in Jewelry Repairs
July 1st, 2020

Before taking in a repair job, look for these potential problem signs Some repair jobs are simple, and some only seem simple: Many times, one repair is a signal that other problems lurk below the surface. In this video, learn how to identify some common “red flags” to help you uncover all of the problem […]

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Get Into the Groove
July 1st, 2020

Giving a new purpose to old cross-lock tweezers By Helen I. Driggs At the end of every semester of my jewelry classes, I always thoroughly clean the student soldering station and often discover a supply of cross-lock tweezers that have become warped, annealed, rusted, bent, deformed, or otherwise ready to recycle. This is one of […]

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Scroll It Up
July 1st, 2020

Creating a homemade engraving table By Fabio Penuela Used to further enhance the beauty of finished jewelry, hand engraving has been around for ages. But thanks to today’s technology and some new techniques, engraving is a bit easier to accomplish these days. There are now specialized tools that not only will securely hold a piece […]

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Back From the Dead
July 1st, 2020

Can damaged gemstones be resurrected? By Nancy Attaway Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from “Back From the Dead: How to Resurrect Dead Gemstones,” a paper by Nancy Attaway and Stephen W. Attaway, Ph.D., which was published in the proceedings of the 2018 Santa Fe Symposium on Jewelry Manufacturing Technology.  When faced with a chipped […]

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Hold It Right There
July 1st, 2020

Practical and unique ways to store tools and supplies By Shawna Kulpa It’s no wonder that most jewelers are tool junkies—it can take a lot of tools to create beautiful works of metal art. But all those tools and supplies can mean a lot of potential bench and shop clutter. Which is why most jewelers […]

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New Kid on the Block
July 1st, 2020

A safe, secure way to drill oddly shaped parts By Helen I. Driggs Teachers are always on the lookout for safe ways to help their students accomplish potentially dangerous studio tasks involving power equipment, such as polishing, grinding, and drilling. This easy-to-make drilling block helps to hold small, sharp metal parts of any shape or […]

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Petite Bezel Burnisher
July 1st, 2020

A useful tool repurposed from an old bur shaft By Helen I. Driggs I collect and save every piece of tool steel I find at garage sales and flea markets along with any other steel I generate in the studio with the purpose of finding a new use for it. For example, a mini burnisher […]

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PVC to the Rescue
July 1st, 2020

Repurposed plastic shop helpers By Helen I. Driggs I try to practice the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) daily, and I consider it my duty as a global citizen to repurpose and reuse everything I possibly can. Plastics are something I try to avoid purchasing or discarding, so when a recent kitchen remodel led to some […]

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In a Tight Spot
July 1st, 2020

A tip for polishing jewelry on the go By Helen I. Driggs Because I travel a great deal to teach jewelry classes, I’ve created a travel toolbox that combines a light weight with TSA-friendliness while still enabling me to complete jewelry-making tasks on the fly. When I’m doing demos far from home or when power […]

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Made From Scratch
July 1st, 2020

Jewelers cook up their own tools By Shawna Kulpa For jewelers, making homemade tools is almost a rite of passage. Some do it because they have limited funds and resources (especially if they’re just starting out). Some need a tool they can’t find anywhere, to increase their functionality and speed. Others want something aesthetically pleasing […]

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Laundry List
July 1st, 2020

Tips for repurposing clothespins at the bench By Helen I. Driggs Simple wooden clothespins are great to have around the shop for random acts of holding, guiding, clamping, and bonding. The wood is easily modified, and a bag of pins can be had for a modest sum at your local dollar store. Here are my […]

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At The Bench: Hammer It Out
July 1st, 2020

  Hammer It Out Making A Romero fold brooch By Charles Lewton-Brain Foldforming is a system of working sheet metal using simple tools. It lets you make complex shapes, textures, and surfaces rapidly. There are 10 main types of foldforming techniques, each of which offers dozens to hundreds of variations. Here, I will demonstrate one […]

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The Straight and Narrow
July 1st, 2020

An easy method for straightening wire By Helen I. Driggs Coiled wire is easy to store and ship, but have you ever wasted time trying to sort out an interlocked and messy pile of unspooled 28-gauge wire only to inadvertently create bends or kinks in it? Once you unhook the end, most spooled wire has […]

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The Comfort Zone
July 1st, 2020

A taping tip for ergonomic bench tools By Helen I. Driggs Using tools incorrectly or tools that are uncomfortable to hold not only makes working unpleasant, but also can lead to repetitive stress injury. To prevent tendon, bone, or nerve damage, it is important to choose tools to fit both the job and your hand. […]

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A Slippery Slope
July 1st, 2020

Securing curved stones for easy drilling By Helen I. Driggs I use recycled ceramic china, beach pebbles, sea and river glass, and pottery shards in many of my cold connected pieces, which means I need to drill holes—a lot of holes. Very often, pebbles, glass, and ceramic shards are curved, making it a challenge to […]

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Small Wonders 
July 1st, 2020

Quick and efficient accessories for small part pickling By Helen I. Driggs Ever spent way too much time trying to retrieve tiny jump rings, links, or other small parts out of a hot acid bath using too-large copper tongs? If you make a lot of chain or work with a lot of findings, the time […]

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The Littlest Fixes 
July 1st, 2020

Tackling chain and finding repairs head-on By Shawna Kulpa Ask most jewelers about repairing a chain or finding and they’re likely to offer you their best Charlie Brown impression: Good grief! And it’s an expression that’s somewhat warranted, given the risks involved in working on the tiny links of a delicate chain or applying a […]

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Keeping Tabs
July 1st, 2020

Floating objects in a metal frame By Helen I. Driggs Bi-directional tabs are a decorative way to secure delicate objects that have very pronounced curves or are thick, round, or otherwise a challenge to mount securely on sheet metal. I like to create extra-long decorative tabs with my saw that will encircle the object much […]

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Unexpected Tools
July 1st, 2020

Non-jeweler’s tools give fabrication a new twist By Helen I. Driggs My background is in graphic design, so I have spent lots of time in traditional artist’s supply stores. I have discovered quite a few tools that do double duty at my jewelry bench and in my painting studio that are especially suited to pattern […]

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Goin’ Fishing
July 1st, 2020

A step-by-step guide to fishtail settings By Joel McFadden SKILL LEVEL: ADVANCED One of the most popular setting styles today, fishtail settings are one of the few setting methods that show off melee really well. It gets its name from the fact that when viewed from the side, the prongs flare out into two sections […]

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In and Out
July 1st, 2020

A step-by-step guide to knitting chain By Munya Avigail Upin Making your own chain is a great way of helping you distinguish your work from the competition. One of the easiest ways to make your own is to knit one. Although this style of chain is often referred to as being woven, there is no […]

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Tooling Around
July 1st, 2020

A look at a few jewelers who refuse to use tools the way they were designed By Shawna Kulpa Jewelers love their tools. . . but they’re rarely content with using them without alteration or even for the original intended purpose. They file and grind and shape and cut until the tool will do what […]

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Down the Tubes
July 1st, 2020

Creating hollow rivets, step by step By Helen I. Driggs All rivets have the same function—they are plugs of metal that are manipulated with tools to fill a hole or holes in other objects in order to hold them together. They’re a great way to attach materials that cannot be soldered or welded together. Hollow […]

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Painting a Picture
July 1st, 2020

Rendering emerald cuts and heart-shaped stones By Rémy Rotenier In previous issues, I’ve demonstrated how to render round gemstones. Now, I’d like to demonstrate how to use many of those same techniques to render two very distinct and popular gemstone shapes: the emerald and heart-shaped cuts. While seemingly simple shapes, they analyze the light in […]

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Get Your Ducks in a Row
July 1st, 2020

A step-by-step guide to multi-row pavé setting By Joel McFadden Multi-row pavé is considered the ultimate in diamond setting as it involves completely covering a surface with small round stones secured with only small prongs left in the gaps between the stones. Good pavé relies greatly on the eye and skill of the setter because […]

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No Math Needed
July 1st, 2020

An easy way to create equal divisions By Helen I. Driggs Dividing something into equal parts is something jewelers do all the time. For example, you may have to set stones equally around a ring band or a bangle, or position prongs around an already fabricated object or sawn shape. Or, maybe you need to […]

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Repairing Jewelry
July 1st, 2020

Tips from the Ultimate Repair Guide Compiled by Shawna Kulpa and Tina Wojtkielo Snyder Tip #1 When taking in a chain for repair, David Geller of JewelerProfit suggests laying the chain on a copy machine and making two copies. Staple one to the receipt that you give to the customer and put the other in […]

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Tool Testing 3
July 1st, 2020

Supra Pliers Made of ball bearing steel hardened to 45 Rockwell, these Supra flat-nose pliers feature a no-scratch/anti-glare satin finish, a lap joint with a fine-pitched screw for ideal joint adjustment and symmetry, and stainless steel dual leaf springs. The rounded ergonomic handles have a wide, soft, comfortable gripping surface. Overall length is 5 1/8 inch. […]

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Tool Testing 2
July 1st, 2020

Bonny Doon Urethane Heavy Forming Hammer Created from two hardnesses of urethane, the faces on this heavy forming hammer deliver the power of hydraulic force to shape metal. Each head conforms to the surface being struck, spreads out across the metal, and then bounces back to its original shape. It delivers the force to more […]

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Tool Testing 1
July 1st, 2020

Cosima Buffs Developed to reduce by half the pressure needed while polishing, Cosima buffs are made with silicon-coated cotton fabric designed to produce nearly no dust during the polishing process. Suitable for polishing metals at low speeds (1,400 rpm), these 20-layer miniature buffs are available in diameters of 20, 22, and 24 mm. The buffs […]

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Tool Testing
July 1st, 2020

How selected bench tools performed in three jewelers’ shops Compiled by Tina Wojtkielo Snyder Editor’s Note: Want to know how to make a bench jeweler’s day? Send him a box full of new tools and tell him that if he plays with those tools for a month, you’ll let him keep ’em. That’s just what […]

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Think Outside the Kitchen
July 1st, 2020

Kitchen equipment that can be used in the shop. By Shawna Kulpa Like a kid in a candy shop, a jeweler gets giddy with goose bumps when walking the aisles of hardware stores and tool supply shops. But did you know that you can get just as much of a thrill poking around your own […]

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Tips for Taking in Repairs
July 1st, 2020

Compiled by Shawna Kulpa The key to taking in repairs is good communication. To help ensure that the information passed along the communication chain is accurate and clear, savvy jewelers advocate using an explicit set of guidelines that apply to every repair order, from inspection to documentation to pricing. The following is a collection of […]

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Tips for Soldering Bezels
July 1st, 2020

By Jo Haemer Soldering is considered an art by most jewelers. And many would also agree that within that art, one of the trickier skills to master is soldering bezel settings. Try the following tips when working with bezels: • When you’re trying to solder a bezel closed, is there anything worse than having it […]

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Shipshape Shop
July 1st, 2020

Equipment maintenance guidelines Compiled by Shawna Kulpa You pride yourself on your pristine shop. Your equipment is laid out for maximum efficiency, your tools are stored in a logical, user-friendly manner, and you can monitor workflow effectively because you are so organized. But when was the last time you replaced your flex-shaft’s motor brushes? Or […]

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Sizing Rings
July 1st, 2020

The Ultimate Repair Guide Compiled by Shawna Kulpa and Tina Wojtkielo Snyder Ask a seasoned bench jeweler how many rings he or she has sized and they’ll probably give you a figure in the quadruple digits. The following is a compilation of tips and tricks to help you perform this mundane task better and faster. […]

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Retipping Prong Settings
July 1st, 2020

The Ultimate Repair Guide: Three Techniques for Retipping Compiled by Shawna Kulpa and Tina Wojtkielo Snyder Prongs get damaged or worn out regularly, providing a steady stream of setting repair work for most bench jewelers. Setting repair may entail retipping or repairing prongs, or replacing the entire stone setting. When possible, jewelers usually opt for […]

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Pearls of Precision
July 1st, 2020

Crafting a custom pearl necklace By Gregory Crawford “Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” I often recall those words from “Mission Impossible” as I approach a design project. The pearl necklace “mission” shown here presented some interesting and subtle challenges. The following are the client’s specifications for this understated but highly symbolic piece […]

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Lean and Mean
July 1st, 2020

Tips for making thin metal designs safe and strong By Charles Lewton-Brain When precious metal prices are high, it’s natural for jewelers to turn to thinner metals to keep their costs down. However, there are two issues to consider when working with thin metal: designing for maximum strength with minimal material, and dealing with the […]

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In a State of Flux
July 1st, 2020

By Shawna Kulpa When you’re working on a last-minute project, there are few things more frustrating than getting ready to solder a joint and discovering that your bottle of flux has dried out. When a member of the Orchid e-mail forum was facing this problem, he turned to the forum for advice on how to […]

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Flip Your Lid
July 1st, 2020

By Shawna Kulpa Every jeweler’s had it happen: You get a ring in for repair, fix it up nice, and drop it in the ultrasonic for a quick clean. Everything’s going along swimmingly—until, that is, you pull the piece out and discover that it’s now missing several small stones. You look in the ultrasonic and, […]

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A Different Kind of Polish
July 1st, 2020

By Shawna Kulpa When you work with open flames, caustic chemicals, and sharp tools, keeping a first aid kit nearby is mandatory. Alongside the bandages, antiseptic wipes, and yards of gauze, there’s one other thing you may want to keep stocked in your shop’s kit: clear nail polish. Seattle-based jeweler and metalsmith Andrew Cooperman learned […]

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Cook Off
July 1st, 2020

Tips for cleaning tarnished sterling silver jewelry By Tina Wojtkielo Snyder As more designers and manufacturers continue to turn to silver as an attractive precious metal option, the amount of silver jewelry in retailers’ cases is growing. And with that added silver inventory is the added issue of dealing with its inevitable tendency to tarnish […]

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Ultimate Tips for Cleaning Jewelry
July 1st, 2020

Compiled by Shawna Kulpa and Tina Wojtkielo Snyder When a jewelry piece comes in for repair, the first thing you should do before attempting any bench heroics is clean it. Here is a collection of quick tips for cleaning up some common items brought in for repair. • Because they’re worn continually, watch bracelets can […]

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Wood Craft
July 1st, 2020

Modifying your bench pin for maximum performance By Charlie Herner She’s always there for you, welcoming you each day as you approach your bench, ready to take on any task. She’s your loyal and devoted bench pin—and chances are you’ve customized her to suit your needs. The following are snapshots of my and my fellow […]

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With a Twist
July 1st, 2020

Optimizing a saw blade for cutting wax By Alan Revere While many jewelers work directly in precious metals, many also work with wax, carving models for casting in silver and gold. Working with wax often requires tools specialized for carving, sawing, filing, and finishing material that is softer than metal. However, several tools typically used […]

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White Hot, Part 2
July 1st, 2020

Tips for sizing, welding, and engraving palladium By Chris Ploof Editor’s Note: If you’re just starting to work with palladium or interested in taking the leap, you should know a few critical details about its working characteristics. Palladium isn’t difficult to work with; it’s just different. Combining some gold habits with some platinum habits is […]

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White Hot, Part 1
July 1st, 2020

Tips for soldering and annealing palladium By Chris Ploof Editor’s Note: If you’re just starting to work with palladium or interested in taking the leap, you should know a few critical details about its working characteristics. Palladium isn’t difficult to work with; it’s just different. Combining some gold habits with some platinum habits is the […]

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What’s All the Hoopla?
July 1st, 2020

Making hoop earrings from tubing By Gary Dawson During the social hour prior to an evening dinner at last year’s Santa Fe Symposium on Jewelry Manufacturing Technology (SFS), I was speaking with an interesting fellow about the snacks and the upcoming menu. We discovered that we had a lot in common about our love of […]

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That’s a Wrap
July 1st, 2020

Using Tesa tape and a laser to resize eternity rings By Roland Auer When reworking or resizing a piece of jewelry, you must often bend delicate parts and surfaces. In the case of the two rings above, I had to remove one of the diamond settings to size it down, bending the entire ring to […]

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Thai Tool Tricks
July 1st, 2020

Thai tool tricks: Thai chasers creatively solve their tooling needs By Charles Lewton-Brain I was recently in Chiang Mai, a city in northern Thailand, where I spent a month visiting silversmiths and chasers to document their work. The city is teeming with chasers, and there are whole temples covered in metalwork. The chasers work mostly […]

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Taste Test
July 1st, 2020

How effective is your ultrasonic? By Oliver Passe Your ultrasonic cleaner is one of the key players in your jewelry shop, always standing by to remove polishing compound from a ring after re-sizing or to clean the schmutz off a client’s tennis bracelet. But how do you know if your ultrasonic is performing to Olympic-gold-medal […]

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Super Tools
July 1st, 2020

Four designers share their favorite modified tools By Shawna Kulpa Down on your bench, look: It’s a file. It’s a bur. It’s Super Tool! At first it seemed so ordinary. You went to use it for a project you were working on, but for some reason it didn’t work so well. Maybe it didn’t allow […]

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Split Lapping
July 1st, 2020

Tips for split lapping your way to a fast and effective finish By Brett Gober Since revealing that the split lap is my Secret Shop Weapon in the July 2011 issue of MJSA Journal, several people have told me they tried using a split lap but gave up in frustration. Split lapping does require more […]

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Something Borrowed
July 1st, 2020

Jewelers look outside the industry to stock their tool box By Shawna Kulpa Jewelry supply houses are a treasure trove of tools. Flip through any of their catalogs or comb their websites and you’ll find page upon page of useful, functional tools and equipment—all designed with the jeweler in mind. But what about those times […]

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Settin’ Pretty
July 1st, 2020

Top tips for successful stone setting By John Shanahan Ask any experienced jeweler, and they’ll tell you: it takes stones to become a gem setter. You literally have to put hundreds of stones in their place, time and time again, to be able to reach a point of consistent quality. Along the way, as with […]

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Piercing Discovery
July 1st, 2020

Repurposing broken saw blades By Alan Revere Remember all those saw blades you broke when you started out at the bench? If you’ve been wondering why you saved them, wonder no more. You can actually use the tips of broken blades to drill holes. My friend John Cogswell, a contemporary metalsmith in Clintondale, New York, […]

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Quick on the Draw
July 1st, 2020

Drawing and shading a round gemstone By Rémy Rotenier There is nothing like a convincing free-hand sketch. Although computer-aided design (CAD) is a wonderful tool. I don’t believe any program or computer will ever replace the magic of bringing a design to life by hand. Jewelry design is so visual that being able to draw […]

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Prying Pliers
July 1st, 2020

Transforming flat-nosed pliers into prong-pulling pliers By Jimmy Butts Pliers are very useful tools at the bench. However, there are times when they should be modified to best fit the job at hand, such as when you have to adjust a setting or remove a stone to move it to a new setting. This is […]

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Powerful Plastic
July 1st, 2020

Creating plastic dies for small production runs By Roland Auer When producing large earrings like the ones shown here, finding a way to make them smooth and lightweight (without putting endless hours into the project) can be a challenge for a goldsmith. Unlike large manufacturers that have the budget to invest in developing the tooling […]

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Pastel Perfection
July 1st, 2020

Creating stellar prong settings on a massive shank By Roland Auer When composing settings for big gems on a ring shank, it looks best if the settings integrate seamlessly with the shank as opposed to looking tacked on. Without using a CAD program, it can be tricky to place the prongs in the right positions […]

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The Perfect Polish
July 1st, 2020

Tips for hand finishing By Jim Dailing Though mass finishing procedures continue to improve, it is nearly impossible to match the beautiful polish obtained through hand finishing. The following are a series of procedures, suggestions, and products that should help you achieve the perfect polish. Eliminate Surface Inconsistencies Every surface (whether cast or fabricated) is […]

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Natural Glamour
July 1st, 2020

Setting diamond slices in stamped gold settings By Roland Auer When working with diamond slices, you can create very unique pieces of jewelry. But because diamond slices are very thin and usually not entirely homogenous, you must take care not to break them when working at the bench. Setting diamond slices in faceted gold settings […]

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Making the Cut
July 1st, 2020

Putting a bench myth to the test By Ann Cahoon Editor’s Note: This article is excerpted from “Bench Myths,” a paper presented at the 2014 Santa Fe Symposium on Jewelry Manufacturing Technology. To download a copy of the paper, visit santafesymposium.org. Because sawing is one of the most fundamental things jewelers do at the bench, […]

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Just Gems
July 1st, 2020

Crafting coral earrings with unseen settings By Roland Auer In Europe, it’s common for customers to request a pair of earrings that consist of just gemstones. They want a pure gemstone appearance with no distracting elements, such as metal settings. Many jewelers will explain to customers that it’s not possible, as every stone needs a […]

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Video: Making a Hollow Construction Ring
July 1st, 2020

Presented by Chris Ploof Chris Ploof Designs In this video, jeweler Chris Ploof demonstrates the fabrication of a hollow construction ring, employing skills including hollow forming, filing, fitting, and soldering.  This video is a companion the MJSA Press book Secret Shop Weapons, in which more than 30 acclaimed designers and jewelers reveal their favorite tools that […]

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Hut, Hut, Hike!
July 1st, 2020

Using a tripod stance for stabilizing jewelry work By Alan Revere The truth is, there are not many ways that playing football is like making jewelry—except for one: the importance of stability. There is nothing more solid and stable than the center on a football team. He lines up in a tripod, with two feet […]

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