I’d like to thank Sheridan Reed for his compliment on my designs in
the AJM article. It’s been my goal to use CAD in a way that doesn’t
compromise artistic vision, I don’t always succeed, but I’m getting
closer this way than I did working at the bench… I’m not sure if
that’s a reflection of my skills as a goldsmith, my enthusiasm for
CAD, or the intrinsic versatility and strength of Rhino!
CAD is an unknown entity to most jewelers, so it’s not without some
trepidation that many of us approach it. I’d also like to thank Tom
Murray for accurately explaining some of the features and
capabilities of Rhino, I also agree with his assessment of McNeel and
Associates, (the company that develops Rhino), they do have an open
ear to the needs of their customers, and develop it based on
customer feedback when possible.
I have to admit though, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the
program, on my first several times attempts…To be honest, I never
thought I would “get it”.
It was only by doing the supplied tutorials over and over, reading
the manual, and asking a lot of questions, did I begin to grasp the
concepts. And, ultimately, making 3D jewelry models forced me to learn
viable modeling strategies.
After learning where all the buttons and tools are (and how to make
them do what you want them to), using Rhino is very intuitive. It’s
sort of like, if you have an organized bench area and experience
with hand tools, you don’t have to sit there looking around for a
particular type of pliers and then figure out how to place your
fingers on the tool, it’s just there at your disposal and you do it.
I’ve customized my Rhino workspace accordingly, placing the tools I
use most often on the pop-up menu and on keyboard shortcuts, right at
But, the way I use Rhino may not be the way someone else is
interested in using it. I tend to follow my artistic inclinations, at
the expense of forgetting the business end of jewelry making… . Nice
shapes might be aesthetically appealing, but unless jewelry has
diamonds and it isn’t very commercially viable. I guess
I’m pretty lucky. As a designer for the trade, my clients have been
very patient with me as I’ve developed my technical skills. And I do
put a lot of stones in their models when they ask for them! I
actually think it’s much easier to make CAD models with stones. When
a design serves to support stone placement, it can be pretty basic
and still look good.
I’m technically qualified to be a Rhino trainer by virtue of taking
the Level 2 training course, but I still feel like I have a lot to
learn. After close to two years, it still astonishes me when I go to
the Rhino newsgroup. Some of the Rhino users are writing scripts
that make complicated operations, a matter of a few mouse clicks.
I’ll never be a programmer, so I feel fortunate to be connected to
group of people who are willing to share their expertise with anyone
who is willing to learn. The Rhino workspace and toolbars are
completely customizable, when I install one of their scripts into a
Rhino tool button, it actually works! It’s very cool to be involved
in something that’s constantly growing and evolving. There is a
camaraderie among Rhino designers much like there is with us on
Orchid. The folks on the Rhino newsgroup will bend over backwards to
help with any construction problem. It’s like it’s an intellectually
challenging competitive sport for them! And one of the veteran Rhino
jewelers is developing a web site of tutorials for anyone who is
Having sung the praises of basic Rhino, I also want to say I have
the utmost respect for Jeff High and the crew at GemVision (the
company that makes Matrix). My comments are not intended to diminish
the fine work they’ve done. Matrix is very good jewelry design
But since Matrix uses Rhino as it’s backbone and I already have some
good working experience with Rhino, I’m personally looking forward to
the release of the new ArtCAM Pro Jewelers Edition. I would like to
be able to create things that you aren’t supposed to be able to make
with CAD, so the tool that will best achieve that result, is the
Ironically, without the luxury of pre-packaged profile libraries
and builders, I’ve constantly pushed the limits of my own creativity.
The pieces I’ve done that excite me the most, are designs created
outside the box of the more conventional methodologies. Out of
necessity, I’ve developed some of my own 3D modeling strategies and
techniques. I guess it’s been part of my nature to resist a
proscribed way of doing things. I notice that I’m recovering from
that tendency, but perhaps, not completely. It just might be part of
the blessing of being an artist.
With experience, any complexity of design is achievable with Rhino,
though not with the expediency of a cut and paste approach.
Conversely, I have a growing folder of my own parts and CAD
"findings" that I can import and modify to fit a particular design.
No sense in reinventing the wheel, as they say.
For a bench jeweler working in a retail environment or a designer
looking to get into CAD with limited time get up to speed, it makes
good sense to get a jump start by getting some initial intensive
training and technical support in a program like ArtCAM, Matrix or
Rhino …in whatever program you feel most comfortable. It’s an
investment, but as Wayne said last week, if you use it, it will soon
pay for itself.