Many designers come up with their designs by working with
materials in their hands though some can design completely in 2D
via sketching. Things take shape and evolve as the work progresses
and beautiful designs come into being. The trouble is that the
resulting hand carved piece can easily be knocked off in CAD once
it is realized.
A skilled CAD designer, with enough time and motivation, can copy
most things except, as previously mentioned, the very subtle,
detailed, idiosyncratic modeling that only skilled hands can
You’ve raised some good points regarding the differences between
hand-carved wax models and waxes created with a CAD system. I tend
to agree there’s a certain element of personal style that’s
impossible to duplicate in CAD.
However, I disagree with you on one thing. I don’t think it’s all
that easy to knock off a design in CAD. It’s easier for me to create
something from scratch from my own imagination than it is to sit
there with a loupe, millimeter gauge and someone’s half thought out
instructions and try to duplicate an existing piece of jewelry, which
is what I’m often called upon to do . The customer expects me to
"make it look just like the model I sent you, only better".
What they really mean is they want the stone settings to be more
precise, the symmetry to be exact, the wall thicknesses consistent
and lighter, etc.
It’s true that a jeweler who works only with CAD misses out on the
intuitive feeling about design that comes with handling traditional
materials during the design process, but the process itself can as
unique and individualized as you want it to be. Ideas can evolve and
take shape much the same as they would if you were sketching by
hand…maybe even more spontaneously…by moving a few control
points, you can dramatically change a shape, getting a completely
different look with just a few clicks of the mouse or strokes with a
pen on a tablet and then do ten different variations in a few
moments,while seeing the changes in full 3D…
I’ve read comments (not from you) that discount the validity of
CAD’s artistic value because the “operator” is supposedly just
clicking on shapes from a menu or choosing parts from a library. Even
if they do use a program that has automated jewelry builders and
menus, they can still work freehand in it, And if they want to make
jewelry that looks like it was created from a menu. or copied
from the Stuller catalog, there’s nothing wrong with it if that’s
what they know how to do to make their customers happy,
However, designing with stock profile curves and so forth is only
the beginning of what can be accomplished.
A talented jewelry designer with an expertise in CAD, can realize
more of their creative potential and discover new design ideas
because they’re working with a different, (and some would say, more
Where the hand carver has a niche is in artfully crafted, subtle,
But what’s often overlooked is that there’s no reason why you can’t
start out a wax as a CAD model and then be detailed by hand. I have a
friend who does custom design and model-making for the trade. He
cranks out an enormous amount of work for just a one person
operation. He’s proficient in ArtCAM and CNC milling and he’s also a
skilled wax carver.
Strictly from a cost-effective perspective, when he gets a project
that he used to carve by hand but didn’t like to do because it took
so long, he now prefers to build the base structure and some of the
detail in ArtCAM Jewelsmith, creating a very precise model in terms
of the overall form, (and doing the parts that CAD excels in, perfect
symmetry intricate Celtic weaves, micro pave’ settings, etc), leaving
enough extra material in the specific areas where he intends to
carve by hand. He takes on jobs that would be too time consuming or
difficult to do sole by hand or solely with a CAD program…because
he has both skill sets, he’s got the best of both worlds and uses
them to his advantage, accordingly. Maybe that’s why his work is in
such high demand.
And from a non-mercenary artistic perspective, combining CAD and
hand carved technique opens up creative possibilities that many
jewelers may not have even considered. Wax components can be created
in CAD and detailed or textured by hand or combined with hand carved
elements resulting in production jewelry that retains the makers
personality and style while overcoming whatever hand-carving skills
they may lack or can’t do in a timely fashion
Of course, it helps to have your own CNC machine if you’re using that
method. because if you’re hand carving detail on a CNC milled wax and
something goes completely wrong, you can just put a fresh piece of
wax on the mill, run the same toolpath again and then go about your
other business, coming back a half hour or so later, to start over.
I just bought Rhino and Flamingo. They arrived yesterday, but I've
been too busy to load it and begin playing since I'm trying to get
organized before I leave for Tucson. I procrastinated making the
commitment to buy them because I guess I saw them as taking me
away from the bench, which I love. But the more I thought about it,
it just became more and more obvious that CAD is another powerful
tool and to ignore it is to be at a disadvantage.
It’s great that you’ve taken the initiative to get Rhino. You’re
getting into it at a good time because Rhino 4 has some powerful new
tools which are going to simplify the process and change the way even
the most seasoned CAD jewelers work.
I have a feeling many jewelry designers have a curiosity about CAD
but can’t justify the cost or think the learning curve will be too
formidable. I’ve mentioned this before on Orchid, but I think MoI is
a great program to begin making jewelry with CAD.
Michael Gibson,who invented and developed Rhino is developing MoI
(Moment of Inspiration) this tme,with the artist and designer in
mind…it has tools that an artist can easily manipulate with a pen
and tablet and the interface is very cool, very user friendly and
easy to get around in…does this sound like a bit of an
exaggeration? It really isn’t, but I guess I’m just very enthusiastic
about MoI! I’ve posted a few video tutorials on the MoI forum and
intend to do more when I have time. It’s not a full blown CAD package
yet, but what it it does so far, it does very intelligently and
efficiently. I’ve been urging my jeweler friends to give it a try.
It’s free to use while it’s in Beta and when Version 1 comes ,its
going to be priced lower than most other programs in it’s class.