Ok what do you all think of this program? worth it or not?
My opinion: Not. You can buy enough books and equipment to teach
yourself everything they will for a lot less than $900. They list
supplied equipment, but I doubt the rotary tool they supply is a
brand name, such as Pfingst or Foredom. You can likely get the same
one they'll send you for $69, complete with handpiece and foot
pedal. It's probably similar to the PTA model I use.
They also send you "soldering equipment." You can buy a Hoke torch
for around $50. A Meco Midget or Smith Little Torch goes for in the
neighborhood of $150. And I doubt they'll send you gas/oxy tanks and
regulators through the mail. But they don't exactly say they'll be
providing you with a torch at all. Add gas/oxy tanks at around $300
or so. Less, if you go the air/acetylene route. One tank, one hose,
one handle, several tips.
Actually, I just looked at their program outline and instruction
modules. They'll have you working with brass sheet and a propane
torch, graduating to sterling silver near the end of the course. You
can get a propane torch for a few bucks almost anywhere. In fact,
you can probably get a Hoke torch for around the same price. After
the intro to soldering, the course covers cuttlefish bone casting.
That should be loads of fun with a propane torch. Hey, one project
even includes some simulated garnets. Another utilizes actual CZs.
In another, you can make "craft" earrings.
Thinking about it, I'd say you could get a real torch, tank & hose,
rotary tool with bits and abrasives, files, pliers, saw, blades,
tweezers, pickle, solder pick, bench pin, solder block flux(es),
tongs, some very good books and instructional videos for a good deal
less than $900.
They also offer toll-free technical support. That's a plus, but I
think you can get all the help you need right here on Orchid.
Check out the Ganoksin archives for instructional books in The
Selected Jeweler's Bibliography.
My favorites are the books by Jinks McGrath and Tim McCreight.
An even better option may be an instructional video. Rio Grande has
some that are great. One in particular (well, three, actually) is
The Complete Repair Jeweler. This three-tape (or DVD) set is done by
Ed Friedman and Marian Macy. The first tape covers take-ins, and
whether or not you should even bother with a repair in the first
place, testing metals, and more. The second covers rings, mostly.
Sizing, tightening settings, reshanking, etc. Removing and handling
stones, prong retipping, and more. Tape three shows you a lot about
chains, worn mechanical parts, such as clasps, etc. Hinge repairs,
catches, earring conversions, and more.
The above video set doesn't simply talk about repairs and soldering,
Ed and Marian actually perform the repairs as they talk about them.
They discuss pitfalls in repairs, annealing before working,
replacing patinas, etc. Ed does a hand-florentine on a simple ring
after repairing it. Price? $69.95 for the set. Okay, so it won't
make you a repair and soldering god, but neither will the Education
Direct place. With them, you'll learn more basics, but you can
easily get those from any book on jewelry making or silversmithing.
Maybe it's because I'm a self-taught fabricator, but I believe you
can learn the skills on your own from books and yes, even video. At
your own pace. With better tools. And for less than $900.
Just my $900.02
James in SoFl