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Bench Test Basics


#1

Howdy all,

I’ve been working on my own for 15 years or so and feel like I know
what I’m doing. With a baby on the way (cross your fingers - we’ll
know soon) I feel like it may be the time to take the plunge and get
a bench job (regularincome).

What I was wondering is have I got the skills. I’ve worked almost
exclusively with silver and while I’ve set a few stones I heve yet
to even retip my wife engagement ring which wore out years ago.

So what should I expect from a typical bench test. Thanks for the
help

Chas Hofmeister


#2

If you can work with silver your going to find gold a pleasant
surprise. When I give a bench test I interested in eye/hand
coordination, meeting the criteria/guidelines of the project (ie.
8mm band size 7, exactly), stone setting, work ethic and
personability.

Work on your stone setting if you have limited skills in this area.
It’s amazing that the majority of people we interview have
no/limited stone setting skills. As most jewelry has stones we only
hire those who exhibit some knowledge of stone setting and show
potential for growth. Ie.; prong sets, hand made bezels (no bezel
wire!) We prefer perfection over length of time when it comes to any
task. Speed comes with experience.

Get a couple pieces of gold if you can so you know how it’s going to
react under the torch, clean-up, etc…

P.S. Re-tipping is a breeze!


#3

I’m currently giving bench tests and I can tell you what I’m asking
people to do. It’s all pretty simple. I’m having them make up a
sterling silver hammered half round band and then sizing it up after
it’s finished, make a plain rectangular wire 18k band which is cut
in half afterwards and then having them solder posts on. Then, if
they get to it, I’m having them solder jump rings onto the ends of
some chain links. Most of the people I’m testing are relatively
inexperienced (as I’m only looking for a part time employee) and I
can’t say anyone has come through with flying colors. But what I’m
looking for when they are here is not so much just what they can
actually do (I can teach anyone how to do stuff the way I want them
to) but how they approach the jobs, how well they deal with working
with different materials, how willing they are to try different
approaches, how well they “see” (can they tell when the band is
straight or crooked?) and how well I think they would fit into my
small operation (do they make strange noises while they’re working?
talk incessantly?, etc.). The hammered half round band I’m having
them make took me 13 minutes from start to finish. But I’m more
concerned with whether they can make it RIGHT, rather than fast
(although it would help if they were fast). I’m sure, however, that
every jeweler has different ideas for what they are looking for.
Personally, I’m a little befuddled by the tales of bench tests on
actual jobs the jewelers have in from customers (hence the question
that crops up occasionally of should I get paid for the bench test).
I would never hand over a repair for an actual customer if I didn’t
already know EXACTLY what the jeweler was capable of.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#4

Hello,

Ive taken a few bench test in the past few years and i would say to
try not to stress about them. First off, be completely up front with
your experience level and a bench test is usually ment to help
solitify where you are. Most of the work ive done was anything from
a simple chain repair (probubly gold), a sizing up and a sizing down
(concentrate on quality not speed!!!) Maybe a setting or retipping.
If they ask you to do something and you don’t feel comfortable let
them know. If you have any other questions feel free to ask.

Kjell Hansen


#5

Daniel,

I would never hand over a repair for an actual customer if I
didn't already know EXACTLY what the jeweler was capable of. 

I agree whole heartedly on this…I have done only one bench test.
The guy had me work for 4 hours on his various repairs. Needless to
say I did not get paid for my time. I did get offered the job but
didn’t take it. Opened my own store instead. Much happier.

Some store owners take advantage of a jeweler with their bench
tests. A good jeweler won’t work for these people very long anyhow. I
forget who said it on this list but to try and quote: “Bad employers
eventually end up with the employees they deserve”.

Mark


#6

Hi Mark;

I forget who said it on this list but to try and quote: "Bad
employers eventually end up with the employees they deserve". 

That’s my quote, or at least I was the one, I believe, who posted it
here. I’m certain I stole it from someone else long ago. :slight_smile:

That “stump the chump” bench test may not necessarily indicate a bad
employer. You’ll get very different expectations from the employer
depending on whether that person has been a bench jeweler themselves
or not. A smart interviewer/tester will give you a few typical jobs
and check for quality and speed, and maybe a wierd job just to see
what you’ll do with it. If they give you an un-doable one, tell them
you can’t do it. If they respect your good judgement and honesty,
great. If they don’t, that’s a good reason not to want to work for
them. It’s miserable working for people who think they know your job
better that you do when they don’t. Also, good indicators of what to
expect are, what kind of shop space do they have, what equipment have
they invested in, and what are they offering for pay and benifits.

David L. Huffman


#7

Hi Chas,

I've worked almost exclusively with silver and while I've set a
few stones I have yet to even retip my wife engagement ring which
wore out years ago. So what should I expect from a typical bench
test.

If you came to our shop, I would try to assess you skill level in the
initial interview. I’d ask what you can do, go through a list of
tasks, if you said you can do it I would ask you detailed questions
about how you do those tasks. By the end of the interview I would
have a pretty good idea of what you think you can do. When you came
back for the bench test I would have work that matched up with your
stated skills, and some that stretched them a bit. I’d be looking at
the basics, how you saw, solder, file, hold your tools, your working
position, etc. I would also be keeping an eye on your interaction
with the other goldsmiths and office people.

If I didn’t know anything about you I would give you stock or scrap
merchandise to work on (it would all be gold). I would have you size
it, assemble something, repair something, set a stone… I would be
trying to give you a range of work to get a better idea of your
abilities, both you ability to do the work and you ability to deal
with problems. I always keep in mind how uncomfortable a strange
bench and shop are for people, not to mention the pressure of trying
out for a job that would have you working in a new metal. I’m just
looking for indications of your skills.

If I think you have the basic skill set we need, and you are
trainable, I will then have the rest of the shop interview you
(informally) to try to be sure that you would get along with all of
us (that’s a big part of the job). If everything is good we make you
an offer.

Good luck,
Mark


#8
You'll get very different expectations from the employer 

IMHO the very best thing any and all people can do for themselves if
they want to step up to working in shops is to get up to speed on
the rolling mill and drawplate thing. Very few shops stock sheet
metal - there’s no need for it, mostly, and some may stock heavy
sizing stock or heavy wire for drawing to size, but most shops make
their own or at least customize what they do stock as needed. I
realize how convenient it is to just pick up a piece of sheet metal,
but most jewelry just isn’t made that way - it’s rolled, pulled and
hammered to the specific size that’s needed for the work. I’ve sat
there and watched would-be jewelers ask, “So where’s the sheet
metal?” and have a panic-ed, lost look on their face when they’re
told - “No Gottee…”

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#9

Hello Daniel,

I would never hand over a repair for an actual customer if I
didn't already know EXACTLY what the jeweler was capable of. 

I also wondered the same thing! Such a bench test would potentially
be a costly “experiment!” Thanks for sharing with us what you ask for
in a bench test.

Judy in Kansas, where the Saturday football game was very, very
satisfying!


#10

John,

Very few shops stock sheet metal - 

I’m sure there are areas that don’t but I, for one, can never
understand wasting a lot of my creative time (and production time)
rolling metal down to what I need. In a rush situation when I’m
desperate, occasionally when I end up with something that isn’t what
I use normally I might or in a karat/color I don’t use a lot of and
don’t want to invest more into, but with today’s ability to buy
perfectly formed sheet in any size and get it overnight if necessary
why bother? No matter how much time I spend rolling it never comes
out as well made as Hoover’s does anyway so I actually end up with a
lot less waste using their sheet than making my own. And the time I
save more than makes up for any minor extra costs incurred.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#11

Having been a bench jeweler for over 30 years, I would have to agree
with John Donivan about the neccessity of learning how to use the
rolling mill and drawplate to make your own sheet and wire stock. He
is right. Manufacturing shops just don’t normally have a huge
selection of sheet and wire, ready-made, to work with. It would be
prohibitively expensive to stock such a selection. A shop
specializing in custom jewelry work will normally work with ready
made findings, hand-made wax models for casting, and fabrication,
using sheet and wire. If a shop can’t buy exactly what they need from
a catalog, the jeweler will need to make it in the shop. The speed
and efficiency of the bench jeweler is crucial to the business. If
your job is to carve waxes, you’ll need to learn to do it accurately
and fairly quickly. If the custom job requires some fabrication, then
you have to grab the raw material, melt an ingot, and produce what
you need with a rolling mill with speed and accuracy. I simply don’t
agree with many metalsmiths who feel that making their own stock with
a rolling mill is “too labor intensive”, or a waste of time. With
experience, you can get REAL fast with the rolling mill, and produce
custom stock for the specific job you are making, with minimal
waste. Honestly, it is far faster for me to go ahead and make the
specific stock I need in my shop( any carat or color) than pour
through catalogs, then wait on “hold” for the salesperson to take my
order. …That’s not counting the shipping time and waiting in the
line at the post office for the package. I would also like to make
the comment that although my years behind the bench were extremely
valuable to me, and gave me a myriad of experiences, it was very
brutal in many ways. Working all day behind a workbench is hard on
the hands,eyes, shoulders and neck. In the early 80’s, when I was the
busiest, I really needed my weekends off, when I had 2 days for my
bruised and battered hands to heal up so I could do it all again the
next week.

Jay Whaley UCSD Craft Center


#12

John,

Very few shops stock sheet metal - 

I’m sure there are areas that don’t but I, for one, can never
understand wasting a lot of my creative time (and production time)
rolling metal down to what I need. In a rush situation when I’m Very
few shops stock sheet metal…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#13
I'm sure there are areas that don't but I, for one, can never
understand wasting a lot of my creative time (and production time)
rolling metal down to what I need. 

Daniel, I’m very happy to read this, as I don’t have either the
particular skills or the inclination to roll my own stock (when I
was a full-time potter, I didn’t dog my own clay, either, though I
did formulate and mix my own glazes, but I digress…)

If I ever decide to look for a job as a bench jeweler, I’ll come
apply at your store!

Noel


#14
I'm sure there are areas that don't but I, for one, can never
understand wasting a lot of my creative time (and production time)
rolling metal down to what I need. 

Daniel, I’m very happy to read this, as I don’t have either the
particular skills or the inclination to roll my own stock (when I
was a full-time potter, I didn’t dog my own clay, either, though I
did formulate and mix my own glazes, but I digress…)

If I ever decide to look for a job as a bench jeweler, I’ll come
apply at your store!

Noel