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CAD/CAM design for the small shop?


I have been fantasizing about CAD/CAM wax carving for years, but the
$5000.00 for design software, hundreds of hours to learn it, and
$25,000.00 forthe mill have seemed totally out of reach. So I
continue to do what I can with wax carving and build-up by hand and
photo engraving in magnesium for some designs with numbers and 2D
graphic designs. For 2 or 3 rings, I actually paid other people to
do the 3D design work for me, and cut mea wax pattern. But at around
$300.00 per job, it’s not something you have done 10 times a month.

So I am thinking it is time to purchase a design program and learn
to use it, then send my digital file to someone who can mill it and
send me the wax patterns. I still can not afford a mill of my own.

So who in the industry does this for jewelers? I know Stuller will
mill a wax and cast it for me. I prefer to do the casting myself.

If a supplier exists that would cut me waxes from my digital files,
who are they? And which design program would they suggest? Most of
my designs are going to be artistic carvings; animals, dragons,
snakes, flowers, etc. Some will involve letters and numbers; not
exactly School Rings, but similar.

Hopefully, the company I am looking for will read this and respond.
Paul The Jeweler

And which design program would they suggest? Most of my designs are
going to be artistic carvings; animals, dragons, snakes, flowers,

With this type of designs, you will have a hell of life if you
wanted to do it with CAD only. You need a sculpting software first:
Blender ( - free), “Moment of Inspiration”
( - US$295) or ZBrush ( -
US$700)… and others.

Here is a guy demonstrating and explaining his whole jewellery
creation workflow workflow on the ZBrush forum:

To get your feet wet, at very light costs, you could use Google
SketchUp or Blender for the design work and use a service provider
like Sculpteo to get a plastic model to cast.


Paul we do this at Cadsmithing Check for details
and contact info


Hi Paul the Jeweler,

I want to tell you that you your fantasies are more expensive than
they need to be.

I recommend a tabletop CNC milling machine, the Taig 2019 ER/CR which
can be had new for less than $3000.

A drive box can be obtained or constructed using a Mechatronics
4-axis controller board and a 33 volt filtered power supply, cost
there about $400.

I also have have BobCad and BobArt, which can be had new for less
than $2000. BobArt especially will trace vectors from JPEG images and
turn them into milling machine commands.

This will do everything you want, with an accuracy to .001 inches.

Luck to you,
Andrew Jonathan Fine

Theres a whole load of things that need to be considered with this

First, if you are a capable wax modeller/carver, you need to think
ab= out whether you are making one-offs or multiple copies of each
item. For any given design, if will take you as long to do the
design on a computer as it will by hand (or you’ll pay someone quite
a bit of money to do it). The real benefit is having a library of
CAD files to access later - but you might do as well to make a metal
master from each of your hand-made waxes, which will achieve a
similar result.If you do decide to buy the software, then you’ll
have to pay someone to mill the designs. If you are in the UK, have
a look on - there are some design and milling services.

Otherwise, you could try someone like Weston Beamor - they also do
rapid prototyping, AFAIK. If you live somewhere else, hopefully
someone else can advise you.The big problem with that strategy is
learning what works well as a milled wax pattern, and more
importantly, how a design on the screen translates to a physical
object. It’s hard to learn anything without seeing the results of
your work and adapting them as you go - if you do this, you might as
well stump up the money for the mill and the software - even if that
means a loan or hire/purchase agreement. After 6 months, we had
milled about 200 waxes, many of them were test pieces, and others
were jobs that took several attemnpts to get perfect. As we’d been
quoted UKP 60 per wax to have them milled, that would have been UKP
12,000 - half the cost of the mill!Once you have your waxes, they
aren’t necessarily that good - sure, they’ll be geometrically
perfect, but you’ll have plenty of cleaning upto do on them,
depending on how well they’ve been milled. After you’ve broken a few
fragile designs while scraping the surfaces, you might start to
wonder why you didn’t make it by hand in the first place.My final
warning is that CAD takes you away from the bench, and has you sat at
a computer, checking emails, using twitter, playing solitaire, or
whatever weakness you have in addition to designing jewellery. Beware
of this, because it is dangerous.In conclusion, we have CAD/CAM, we
use it a lot, and it is really useful and cost-effective - but it
isn’t that good, and it’s only really worthwhile because we aren’t
experts at wax carving. While imagination is only limited by the
curves you can carve, you might suddenly find yourself giving up on
an elegant design because you can’t find a way of creating the
complex mixture of curves that were so simple to achieve by hand.

This post was written on a laptop with a month-old baby on my chest.
Sorry if it isn’t very well written!

you might suddenly find yourself giving up on an elegant design
because you can't find a way of creating the complex mixture of
curves that were so simple to achieve by hand. 

CAD has a definite place in this business now, so I’m not bashing it
at all, but this is a good story to think about.

A friend on mine fancies himself a jewelry designer, meaning that he
helps people pick out rings for the stones he sells, and gets other
people to do real design for him. Nothing wrong with that, but he’s
fooling himself abit, too. So, one day he showed me a design to be
made into a brooch, very simple, and he talked about having it cut
by computer, etc., etc.

Thing is that he has “CAD-brain”, which I just made up. :slight_smile: The
design was nothing more than a wire bent into a certain shape and
soldered ontoa background with a bit on gingerbread trim - twenty
minutes work, tops.

Doing it on computer means getting that curve just so and all the
rest, and more importantly it would cut in such a way that it
wouldn’t ~actually~ be a wire. It would look like a wire from the
top, but not the sides… All in all just the worst possible way
to do the job - plus it still needed casting and all the
rest…Yes, I just suggested someone use CAD on a very complicated
job, but it’s not for everything and that’s good to remember…