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Five months into my silversmithing self-taught journey - Now onto graving. Oh god, what have I gotten myself into!?

Hi Lily,
Congratulations on your self taught journey!! I am a fan of taking classes whenever I can and have studied with many different teachers now. I never did any kind of formal jewelry school but definitely love taking classes when I can.
That being said I know that Lucy Walker has online video classes on all of the topics you are mentioning. She has lots of graver instructional videos as well as bezel finishing and bead setting. You could just pay for one month and focus on taking those classes!
Here is the link: https://lucywalkerjewellery.com
best of luck!!
Kim

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Hi Lily,

FYI: Peter Keep calls bead setting “grain” setting

another YouTube search word!

jewellery training solutions:

https://www.jewellerytrainingsolutions.com.au/

jewellers hub:

lucy walker!

julie

Hi,
for practice raising beads, I take a strip of metal and raise beads along the edge…can see how the metal moves/ bulges out…the edge mimics the stone hold edge…how far back to start, how deep to cut, what size beads result, etc…

julie

Hi Lily,

Do not dispair! I should clarify that I think the Arkansas stone and Edenta diamond wheel were good purchases!

Basically, with gravers, we are really talking about two different activities:

  1. the initial preparation:
  • shaping of the body of the graver, to remove excess metal, using a bench grinder, or heatless mizzy wheel in a fle shaft.

  • shaping the face of the graver (ie: 45-60 degree face angle) using an india stone, edenta diamond wheel on a flex shaft, GRS grey coarse roughing diamond bond wheel on flex shaft, etc

  1. the maintainance:
  • the re-sharpening/ pre-polishing of the face…options such as:
    -----using arkansas stones (white approx 550 grit), or india stone (oil)
    ----- using 600 grit then 1200 grit emery paper glued on a hard flat surface like glass
    -----tripoli/ greystar (approx 800 grit) (or the pre-polish of your choice) rubbed onto crocus cloth (usually 800 or 1200 grit…backed cloth…stronger than emery paper) glued onto glass
    ----- GRS blue diamond polishing wheels on the flex shaft

  • the final mirror finish polishing of the face…options such as:
    ----- black, surgical black, or white translucent arkansas stone
    -----rouge or pencil lead rubbed onto crocus paper/ leather glued onto glass
    -----GRS yellow diamond polishing wheel on flex shaft

(crocus paper just being a strong fine 800-1200 grit paper)

below is a link to GRS showing 3 diamond wheels for the flex shaft)
Wheels for Rotary Tools Archives - GRS

you use the tool that will give you the result you want/ accomplish what you want…

  1. coarser grits for fast metal removal when shaping

  2. finer grits when refining tip edge

  3. very fine grits when putting on a final mirror finish (using a flat surface so you dont polish off the corners …maintain crisp corners/ points…and for putting on heels heels keep the tip from diving down into the metal…rather they assist in keeping the graver gliding forward…after awhile you will know how big or small a heel you will need…experiment…i like narrow .50mm

you do not need alot, or fancy products…you just need enough to get the above 3 things
accomplished

my above options were just a few of the many available

Julie

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Hi Lily
I self taught for four years after doing a night class in creative jewellery design and am now at college doing an HND in jewellery making which has made me realise how many things I learnt wrong from self teaching. I am retired due to ill health and was fortunate to have money to invest in my workshop which included a GRS Graver Max G8 which the college use to teach advanced stone setting techniques such as pave, flush setting and edge setting. The GRS helps you to use a graver by making it vibrate with a smooth hammer action. In fact a sharp and bright polished graver when angled correctly goes through the metal like it was butter.

However the key phrases there are “sharp and bright polished” and “when angled correctly”

Now I’ll probably suggest something which may horrify graving purists - but when you are learning this don’t use expensive gravers, especially when you are trying to perfect the sharpening and angles. Forget all that expensive stuff and sharpening stones until you are honing your craft, not learning the basics. For learning this you need the following:

  1. A diamond wheel £4 to shape the drill bits into the angles and shapes you want to use such as squares, circles, oblongs etc
  2. A yellow edenta wheel circa £40 for bright edge polishing
  3. Broken drill bits, burrs etc, any type though HSS are better
  4. The GRS Quick change handle & tool holders starter set

Fit a broken drill bit or burr into the GRS tool holder and use the diamond wheel on a Dremel or pendant / rotary drill to shape it. Don’t keep the wheel on the metal for long or it overheats and becomes tempered. In steel it usually looks a bit brass coloured but any change in colour isn’t good, tempered steel won’t cut through nothing. So short bursts and consistent angles making sure you can always see the bit on the diamond wheel (it took me ages to realise that I was working blind due to the angle I was holding it to the wheel blocked my vision of it on the wheel)

Once you are satisfied with the shape and sharp edge, polish the cutting edges with your edenta wheel in the Dremel or drill (look after this, keep it in the box and it will last a lifetime) and you are good to go.

Get a piece of annealed scrap brass ans start practising, trying different angles to achieve the sort of engraving you want. However when graving by hand even with a perfect tool and angle, you need upper body strength as you have already realised.

Stone setting takes all different types of graver (all can be made from broken drill bits) which are generally more blunt edged for rubover, rounded for burnishing or bright cutting etc. An engraver will have a whole suite of different shaped gravers for different jobs.

I hope this helps, don’t discard all your lovely gravers you will def come back to them, but practice on throwaways!

Sally x

Have you tried Lucy Walker’s YouTube on altering an engraver? How to Prepare a New Graver | Jewelry Making Tools 101 | Metalsmith Academy - YouTube

I love that you don’t want to be an expert at it. And maybe your experience will be different from mine. When I use a technique I want to explore lots of iterations of it - over and over again and then repeat. Because one has a chance to see how it can look when one knows ‘x, y, and z’ really well, if not perfectly.

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Julie,
Oh my goodness! Your replies were absolutely amazing. I disappeared for a bit because I got Covid! It was awful! I didn’t bother logging into the website for a weeks as a result. Anyway, back on topic!

I honestly cannot thank you enough for all of your help. Truly, my gratitude to you in immense!

I’m chuckling to myself as I re-read my original post. I can just see the frustration in my writing. That day I was ready to chuck a few things across the room. Haha…

then arkansas stone (finer grit)
(which one did you get?)

I purchased a little one (not realizing how tiny it was going to be, like 2x1! oops!) that’s marbled colored grey/white. Since I bought it off of Ebay due to the affordability, it came with no indication if it was finer or courser grit… I didn’t realize one would need more than one type of stone when sharpening. Of course, I’ll need to do all the shaping/grinding/polishing first.

I’ve taken notes on all you wrote. All of the links you provided are going to be wonderful. I’ll be watching them over my coffee this morning and taking more notes! I did originally google search “engraving” tutorials as opposed to “graver settings”, but the problem is that Youtube kept giving me page after page of actual engraving designs instead of actual stone settings. Perhaps I didn’t look deep enough. Thank you for taking time out of your day to locate those videos for me. You are truly kind!

I think I’m going to LOVE the Jewelry training solutions video archive. I am subscribed to Andrew Berry’s, but he doesn’t seem to have more than 1-2 videos on the topic.

Onto the continued research with all of those amazing research…! I will go ahead and put out the money for a grinder. When it comes to grinder flex shaft attachments, the only one I could find was from Edenta, but it seems its out of stock and back ordered everywhere. I’ll just have to go with a small larger bench grinder. It probably wouldn’t have been very steady trying to do it with the flex shaft even if I had found a good flex shaft attachment.

Thanks again so much Julie,
Much love,
Lily

Sally,

Concerning being self-taught, generally I’d agree with you. But I’d say I’m not most beginners… I come from a family of professional artists and can very quickly get things right - its in the blood! Haha. I normally seek out the the most professional learning materials, especially when I know I won’t be able to learn from the masters in person. For example, instead of choosing to get the “Ten fun projects” 30 paged Silversmiting usual styled Amazon books that are all over the place; I went straight in for old 1950’s-1970’s college books and actually spent over four months just assimilating that information and reading. By the time I actually dove in I really understood things well. I think I managed to not make many mistakes like most self-taught individuals make because I chose to actually put in months into reading quality material on the subject. Of course, I’m talking about other types of silversmithing that doesn’t include graving.

Funny enough, I did take one workshop from someone who claimed to be a professional. After attending her workshop for silversmithing, I was shocked at how many errors I saw her making. Within a few weeks of attending I was already making things that exceeded her skill level. I’m not bragging, I swear! But I am grateful to all the quality level old school college books I bought for putting me way ahead of the game.

Practicing shaping/polishing with drill bits is not a bad idea at all. While I can’t do GRS equipment (much too expensive), I can do the next level down in the quality department. I am basically committed to just doing this manually and probably will not buy any electric motors until I can afford it. I think learning to do it by hand will help me appreciate the art of these type of stone settings.

Your advice is very much appreciated. Thank you Sally. <3

hi lily,

here is another link:

https://www.instagram.com/p/Cl1blpbrErz/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

julie