My name is Brad Smith. As background, I'm a studio jeweler, lapidary, author, and jewelry instructor in Santa Monica, CA. Currently, I'm also President of the Culver City Rock and Mineral Club and Show Chair for their Fiesta of Gems Show coming up on June 28 & 29. If you're nearby, please stop in and say hello.
I've done a lot of rockhounding since moving to California and joining the club. Liked it so much that I started the LA-Rocks discussion list to find more field trips to join. It's a good forum to hear what's going on around LA and to to get questions answered about lapidary equipment.
My journey into rockhounding quickly led me to the lapidary shop and cutting a lot of gemstones. That of course, led me to a silversmithing class, and the combination of the two has been one of the pleasures of my life ever since.
With that as a brief introduction, let me get to the subject of the material that I'll sharing with you. Many rockhounds make jewelry to show off their work, and what I'd like to do is to pass on some tips to improve your skills and help you be more productive. These are tricks of the trade for improving quality and saving time from my 18 years of teaching hundreds of students.
Every profession has it's tricks and Tips. Here's some of mine.
When bezel setting a cab that has rather sharp corners, have you ever had problems pushing the metal down at the corners? It's a common problem often causing a wrinkle in your bezel.
In order for a bezel to capture the stone, the top edge of the bezel must be compressed and become shorter to lay down onto the stone. With a round or oval stone this naturally happens as you push and burnish the bezel. But when setting a stone with corners, the tendency is to push the long sides of the bezel down first. No compression occurs along the sides, and all excess metal is left at the corners. Compressing everything there is difficult. Often the only way to remove the extra metal at the corner is to make a saw cut and fold the two sides in to touch.
If you want a smooth bezel all around the corners, the simple solution is to set the corners of the bezel first. Then push in and burnish the sides. In this way the necessary compression is distributed along the length of all sides and not forced to occur at the corners. With the corners set first, the top edge of the bezel can easily be compressed along the sides.
Cutoff wheels are inexpensive and in a Foredom or Dremel do a great job cutting or shaping steel. You can use them to sharpen tool points, cut piano wire to length, make slots, and sharpen worn drills. Other uses include modifying pliers and making your own design stamps.
My preference is the one inch diameter size. Be sure to hold the wheel firmly so nothing moves to break the disk, and definitely wear your safety glasses. Those are little flakes of steel coming off the disk.
BTW - Cutoff wheels are poor at soft metals like copper, silver and gold. Soft metals clog up the cutting edges.
"Bench Tips for Jewelry Making" on Amazon.
Multiple five star reviews. Written for beginner to advanced jewelers, the book is filled with tips to improve soldering, how to avoid common hazards, suggestions for making your own equipment, and sources for inexpensive tools, plus over 80 close-up photos that show you exactly how to do it.