How often do you "start over"

How often do you make mistakes that require you to start again from

I’ve noticed that I have to scrap a wax (even after 8 hours or more
of work) more often now then when I started carving 5 years ago.
Takes me an average of three attempts these days to produce a carving
I’m happy with. Not sure if its because I need better repair skills
or if I just have higher expectations, but I’m definitely giving up
and starting over a lot more when things go wrong and it always seems
to happen in the final stages when the carving is the most delicate.

Same thing with fabricated work too, though to a lesser extent.

I know you professionals out there can’t afford to start over again
like hobbyists, so the question for you is how often do you wish you
could start a piece over again?

Ben Steiger


How often do you make mistakes that require you to start again
from scratch? 

I’m not sure if your situations are similar to what was happening to
me. I was thinking of myself as “Miss 90%” because that is about how
far I would get on anything. At the 90 % point, the piece would just
start to look “not right”. Inevitably, I would push it too far and
break it in some way or just quit and throw it in a drawer. Things
took me so long to complete.

This phase passed eventually. Often, when I finish a piece, I put it
somewhere out of my sight. That way, I can’t pick it apart trying to
improve it.

Kim Starbard

Hahaha… I keep having the same experience, and then realize I need
new glasses :)))

your expectations are higher and now you know the difference and you
would rather be dissapointed now before more time is wasted burning
out and casting -


Ben, The big secret is to know when to stop…You are probably a
perfectionist, and think one more stroke of the file or set this
stone just a bit lower and this piece will be perfect…The best
lesson I ever learned was at Revere Academy, Ed Freidman taught the
class and told us repeatedly no matter what skill level, you will
always make mistakes,I know that sounds like a small thing, but
hearing those words from a master like Ed was profound, my work
greatly improved along with my confidence.

hope this helps
Lisa McConnell

Not very often, honestly. On occasion I have done a dry run of
sorts. Tinker with an idea or procedure in some less costly material
to find those unforseen problems that crop up late and ruin the
piece. Right now I’m doing a complex piece in platinum where the
ramifications of a mistake will be expensive. So I did a dry run in
14K. Sounds weird I know…considering gold expendable.

But I admit once in a great while I DO make a major miscalculation.
An expensive mistake is a great teacher.

But then again, the mark of a craftsman can be covering his mistakes

Actually those of us who price our work right can afford to start
over again because we’re being paid properly. So there isn’t any
time that I wish to start over; if it’s screwed up I DO start over
and do it again. I’m not being paid to produce shoddy jewelry after
all, I’m being paid to produce a high quality product. If that means
doing it over again, then that’s what I do. In terms of how much it
happens: On true custom pieces (an entirely new design) 1 in 7; on my
own work 1 in 15.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

part of the trick is using ancient and basic tools : alcohol
lamps,hand carving tools heated in a flame, and using a variety of
waxes for the variety of purposes…start simple then build once
proficient in simple…if you scrapped less initially- makes me wonder
if you were paying more attention initially…don’t be hard on
yourself, keep it light, and fun,. It’s not your livelihood so take
your time…

and start from scratch.: take all the things that frustrated you and
melt em in a can, pour em into some sand you’ve molded into a form
you like with good wicking anchored to the bottom (with a dab of
sticky wax) and make a sand candle- use that for the flame to heat
the carving tools, dicern annealing temperatures of metal,as an
attempt at decorating your shop, or as an emergency light source!..


I know you professionals out there can't afford to start over
again like hobbyists, 

Oh, Ben? How so? The short answer is that you are more normal than
you might think. The long answer you might find interesting. I’m a
special order jeweler, which means that I make whatever is needed,
and almost everything is different. I’m also pretty much the
troubleshooter around here, so people bring me their problems - today
someone asked me if I can make a watch case in my back room. He
didn’t mean something arty, he meant a real watch case in gold - I
said no because I can’t. I know that many people here seem to be
making really custom stuff, and it’s real nice work, but they are
manufacturing their own line, really. That’s a good thing. I get
people throwing all sorts of stuff at me, though - I just fixed a
broken brass doorknob for a guy, or it might be a big diamond in
platinum with lots of detail, and coming up is a bale for a beach
rock. Everything is different. So, that’s some background. I do know
how to do most everything, in a way. I can sit here and tell you how
to make a setting or use some method without breathing hard, and most
people only think what they want is unique - I’ve probably made it
before. But those are only the parts of the work - how to solder, how
to make a cushion setting. Putting all those parts together into a
piece of jewelry is still the goal, and sometimes we all miss. Not
allowing enough room for stones or carving, not starting with enough
weight in the stock is a common one. Ditto not leaving enough height
for the culets of stones. I designed a catch for a bracelet (the
turquoise and pearl on my site) that was needlessly complicated, and
it took me two months to get it right - I had to rebuilt the entire
link at one point, because it was overworked. No, Ben, you are more
normal than you think - pros just try to avoid getting into a jam,
and wisdom helps there, or we try to adapt to what occurs instead of
scrapping something, but it still happens. I’ll tell you though - the
first thing I do when I get a complex piece is I sit down and think
about it. Sometimes a week - I think about it till I have the entire
piece, and a plan, clear in my mind. Then I start to work. And I, too
will go exploring. You’d be amazed how much copper I use - to make
some mockup so I can get a feel for the length or size - or just
knock out a wax so I can see how the curves are going to interact
with each other. I call it 3d sketching - they’re not mistakes,
they’re sketches. Then I’ll know what to do, and make the real thing.
Some of the fabulous and famous pieces you’ll see began as a plaster
model, to get all the details straight, and then the real thing gets
made. Sometimes the pros are no less klutzy as you are, they just
know to step back a bit instead of just tearing into it.

At the point I realize the outcome is not going to be exactly what I
want, I start over. It is just part of the the process.

Doing custom work, fabrication, repair requires that I approach the
solution, but not be attached to which process will provide the
desired results. I might start making a wax, and then realize I can
fabricate and get better results, or vice versa. Sometimes I figure
out a solution to a design or technical problem after many starts,
then years later, presented with a similar problem, I go through all
the steps I did the last time, knowing I have done this before, but
not being able to remember what the solution was, and I just have to
accept that I have to keep trying different approaches until I come
across the appropriate method, again. I take this into consideration
when I estimate and give an estimate with a range to take this into
consideration for the labor.

The deja vu nightmare hell of repetition has motivated me to take the
worst case scenario into consideration. Sometimes it is trial and
error. Enough error over time resulting in low or no pay for labor
made me think differently.

If I cast a ring, I cannot charge the customer for recasting the
ring. But I can take into consideration more labor for the time it
takes to figure out the solution. Sometimes a customer went somewhere
else, and the other jeweler/jewelers cannot do the job. It takes some
work and problem solving to achieve a result, and I get paid well for
my effort.

There are always situations that require me to have humility. As
skilled and as smart as I think I am…

Richard Hart

I find that the waxes I carve always look beautiful in wax form
until I see them translated in the metal & sometimes wonder what in
the world I was thinking?

Mary R

Perhaps one could say that I start over very frequently, since I tend
to tie a silver “prototype:” ring just before doing a gold or
platinum one, but it’s seldom that I’ll actually put a piece in
progress out of its misery and move on. I try to keep my students on
track, but if a wire goes in the wrong place and I can’t fix it, it
just gives it an interesting difference from the others.

My most dramatic incident of backing up and starting over, though,
was years ago – I had just thirty two inches of triple-twisted
platinum wire, and was making a ring for myself that should have
taken thirty one inches. I got almost to the end and it was a
quarter of an inch short. Very frustrating, a holiday weekend, even
if I wanted to order more, and it was only for me, anyway, so I
untied it completely, annealed it, stretched it another two inches
(several annealings) and started over with the same pattern. I ended
up with a quarter of an inch left over… go figure.


Hi Ben,

I think “starting over” is a learning process in striving to create
an excellent finished product. The pain is worth it as long as
learning takes place and as long as the “starting over” occurs
earlier and earlier in the whole process.

I don’t wish I could start over a project; if I cannot rescue it
then I start it over! My only wish is that I could have picked up
where I went astray much earlier. I trace back to where the wrong
decision was made and why, and do all I can to understand it and
figure out how to not repeat it.

One of the biggest pitfalls is to find myself designing by trial and
error in making a finished piece. This can happen stealthily in the
communication and concept stage. The exact design must be clear to me
and the customer before I start, and I must have a good idea how I
will accomplish the design with the skills and resourses available to
me. With those two in the bag then starting over can be narrowed down
to a mistake in the execution (I pay), or the customer changing
his/her mind (customer pays).

Designing directly in the wax or metal is a path I long to explore
as many others have done, so I hope they will give you their

Regards, Alastair

I missed part of the thread, but if we’re talking about bench work…

  1. During the time study we did for the price book, we found 10% of
    all METAL work had a problem. Wrong size, stone fell out, something
    was melted or broken.

  2. On wax work we found 25% of ALL WAXES DONE in a year had a
    problem. Redo, make it thicker, make it thinner, the casting machine
    threw up (and this one never happened to you!) and we made it in the
    wrong color.

That’s all figured into our price book

David Geller

I start over once in awhile. When I see an error that their is no
reasonable solution to.

I like to think of a Lalique Glass blower. It may take hundreds,
maybe a 1000 times before he or she can blow a PERFECTLY shaped
goblet every time. Imagine all the shattered Crystal that never
makes it to the party. Sort of sad but definately worth the effort.
I’d probably settle for a second. But they don’t sell any. LOL.

I have learned to appreciate my mistakes. As I learn most from see
and doing. My mistakes teach me more than anything. As in life in

All I can say is “do it again”


I never start over, I fix a problem. That was the first thing I
learned when working. When I ran into a problem I asked how to fix it
and I did. The earrings retailed for $1800 - Can’t start over or do
over, just fix it.


I can honestly say, very rarely. When I am starting a new project, I
always do a dry run, making a sample part of the item in copper.
This serves two purposes, it shows me that my method of manufacture
in metal is workable, and it also gives me an idea on actual
manufacturing times. One major benefit of this method is that I have
a growing box full of copper patterns that remind me of the jobs
that I have made over the years. I have been asked if I will ever
produce a book, showing my work from a career of 46 years in this
trade so far, does anyone on orchid have any experience on selecting
a suitably interested publisher for such a project. I have kept
records of all of my work and have written a 50,000 word biography of
my work life so far, along with a collection of over 100 high quality
photographs of my unique work. I recently wrote to a well known art
and craft book publisher in the USA, namely “Thames & Hudson” and
have not yet received a reply. Any advice from Orchid members would
be greatly appreciated.

Peace and good health to you all
James Miller an English goldsmith.

Earlier this year I found myself in a creative slump. I was cleaning
my studio when I looked into my “parts” box, where I put the
remnants of unsuccessful projects, and parts I’d accidently made one
too many of.

I was able to see these things with a fresh point of view, and I
started putting them together with stones and other pieces in ways
I’d never thought of at the time. I salvaged several new pieces from
the rejected parts, and shook myself out of the creative doldrums.

Sometimes a failure is only a failure at the time, and parts, at
least, can be salvaged later.

Janet Kofoed

until I see them translated in the metal & sometimes wonder what
in the world I was thinking? 

Have you tried the gold and silver colored waxes from Wolf Wax? Maybe
that would help.


Have you tried the gold and silver colored waxes from Wolf Wax?
Maybe that would help. 

I have never heard of them - I use only Kerr hard green wax & can’t
work with anything soft but I’ll look into it

Thank You
Mary R