I’ve been a bench jeweler for 18 years. A few years ago a carpal
tunnel injury forced me to seek another way to continue working as a
creative person. During the last year or two, I’ve transitioned to
CAD-CAM jewelry design, having completed my training at M-2 Systems.
I use Rhino, Matrix and ArtCAM as my design tools, and recently got
a Modelmaster CNC milling machine that will cut jewelers wax,
butterboard or Alumilike ( an aluminum composite material). Not quite
the seasoned expert yet, but I am already producing successful models
for myself and clients on a daily basis. I’ve recently mastered two
sided parts, so I’m able to make a model with a precisely hollowed
out back, or different design motif on the underside, rather than
just a flat surface… The Modelmaster can also cut an Alumilike metal
mold, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’d like to ask those who have a
broader experience in CNC milling about techniques to accomplish
designs that require undercuts and galleries, I’ve know it’s
Some may disagree, but I would venture to say that about 70% of all
jewelry designs lend themselves to CNC prototyping. While it doesn’t
do everything, it has some distinct advantages.
As opposed to rapid prototyping, CNC models have ultra smooth
non-striated surfaces, minimizing loss of detail and cleanup in the
casting. The process is typically less expensive because a CNC
machine takes less time to produce a model that a rapid prototyping
machine… The difference between 1 hour and 5-8 hours can add up
Cutting in butterboard (which is a high density synthetic material)
can save a few steps in the casting process. Rather than burning out
a wax-like plastic and then casting, finishing, and rubber molding,
butterboard can be directly molded using a silicon mold, retaining
crispness of detail and avoiding some shrinkage as well.
I will still send .stl files I’ve created, to rapid prototyping
service bureaus for certain designs that can’t be milled. I also have
resources for casting and finishing.
I can work from an existing master model to make various sizes or
specific modifications, or create a model from a sketch, or other
visual image. As long as you know the dimensions and particular
design you want, I can usually accomplish it. If you have your own
CAD design to mill, I can do that as well.
By emailing photo-realistic images of the CAD design, from any
visable perspective, I’ll be able to show you what it will look like
before it’s actually made, thus eliminating any unwanted surprises.
I’m very excited about being involved in this method of making
jewelry. As others have said, it will never replace the traditional
artisan, nor should it, but it can be a very valuable and powerful
Please contact me if you think I can be of help.