OK, we're coming into "Work a little, rest a little", mode here. With
all this talk about speed, I thought I'd throw some things out there.
These are fundamental things, and largely apply to any kind of work -
wax, fabrication or otherwise. I would guess that a good percentage
of Orchid will know all of this, and more will know some of it,
already. Also, understand that these are hard-and-fast rules, until
they're not. If you have reason to break them, then that's what you
should do. I guess a list format is best..
1) Understand the difference between roughing and finishing and don't
confuse the two. By finishing, I mean detail, not polish. A
figurative carving is a good example: First you make the shape, then
you give it life. There's no way to say, but you might do the
in 1/2 hour and the detailing might take 6 hours. And don't rough too
much - leave room for later. First you rough, then you finish. No
matter what medium.
2) Use the biggest, baddest tool you can, but not too much. This
applies especially to files and burs. If you try to cut down a wax
tube with a weenie little needle file or a dental tool, you'll be
there all day. Use a jeweler's saw with a #5 sawblade, and whack it
off. In the finishing step you'll use the needle files..
3) Pretend you're a factory even if you're not. Use production
methods always, make it a habit. You may only work on one piece, but
often that piece will have 20 parts or processes on it. This means:
4) Work in piles. Have a pile of parts, pick one up, do the work, put
it in a finished pile. Then take that pile and do the next step on
it. If you have 15 bezel rings, make 15 bezels, solder them onto 15
5) Do one process at a time, don't get ahead of yourself. If it's to
solder, round and flatten 25 flat jump rings - put all the seams
together, solder them all, round them all, and then flatten them all,
and then file the flats, then the outer edges, then the inner edges.
1 tool + 1 surface = 1 process. Work systematically.
6) First do the lefts, then do the rights - don't turn your work
round and round. You might think engravers act like they have a
pencil, but they don't, largely. If they engrave "KICK", they do the
stroke of the K, the I, and the other K, turn and do the two upper K
strokes, then the lowers, all the serifs, etc. If you need to file
out a ring top or such, file left, left, left, all the way around.
Then go back and go right, right right all the way around. And then
go back and do a stroke to tie them together. If you were in a car on
a twisty mountain road, and a linear thinker, you would have to start
at one end and go to the other. Since you're in an airplane, you can
go "flick, flick flick" for the left curves. etc. This is a HUGE time
saver, and also gives consistent work.
7) Don't do anything you don't need to do, and don't do that until
it's time to do it. Hand in hand with this is, look ahead. Years ago
someone said to take stock from the rolling mill and sit down and
file it out. Huh? I'll take raw stock from rolling, cut it to length,
bend it into a band, solder, round, file the inside, stamp it, and
ONLY THEN will I file the outside. If you have a NEED to finish it,
then by all means do, but not just because. Why would you put a huge
effort into polishing a ring top when you're going to hammer set a
stone into it? Why would you spend an hour to get a wax to a
superfine finish (fine, yes, superfine, no) when you're going to take
a file to it after it's cast? It's just walking into freshly poured
concrete - don't do it. Part of this is looking ahead. Be able to
say, "I don't need to do THIS right now because I'm going to do THAT
later on." Conversely, and equally important, is, "I DO need to do
this now, because I'm doing THAT later on."
8) Work smart is easy to say, maybe not so easy to do. If you need a
band with 4 balls on the surface, are you going to try to carve away
wax to a level surface, leaving the balls behind, or make a band,
on a lathe, nice and neat, and then wax or solder the balls on after?
IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW the piece came to be, all that matters is what
it is in the end. That is gospel, realizing that more work is
supposed to make more piece - that's craftsmanship. Absolutely nobody
is interested in how much time you wasted doing something the "wrong"
9) Buy a steel rule with millimeters, a good set of dividers (not
that junk - get a drafting one and put a point where the lead goes),
a scriber, a center finder, and a good MM gauge and USE THEM. I would
no more work on a wax without N,S,E,W center lines marked out than I
would put an icepick in my ear. With those lines, you can do anything
with reasonable confidence and precision. Without them, you are
stumbling in the dark. This goes for fabrication, too.
10) Don't listen to anybody, including me. That does not mean don't
learn. Many times (many) I've heard someone say, "Do this, this,
this, this, et al", and I've just picked up a hammer and gone Whack!,
and it's done. Engrave this in your brain: IT DOES NOT MATTER HOW
MADE. The only thing that matters is what it is. It's your jewelry,
make it how you want. If that means whacking it with a hammer, and
you get that long and involved result, then good for you. I could
make you two identical rings in two widely different methods, one
taking 2x the time, and you could never tell the difference, nor
would you, the buyer, care much. Books, especially, have these lists
of processes - Then do this, then do this - they have to because
they're books. Rise above that and just make it. Don't think of it as
a recipe, think of it as a snapshot in time - a mental image. I could
count on one hand the things that just must be done to formula -
granulation comes to mind - mokume. Otherwise, the only thing that
matters is what's in the showcase. Now, if you don't put in 3 hours
of engraving, it won't be engraved, to be sure. But how you do that
engraving is nobody's business but your own.
11) Finally - there's probably more, but it's enough. Although on
some level we make jewelry with our hands, we actually make it with
tools. I know all about being "Tool-Starved", and that acquiring more
and better tools is a long process. First: Electricity is your
If you want to go handmade and power-less, that's fine and up to you.
Otherwise, your 1/5 hp flexshaft represents two strong men working
you (1 hp = 10 manpower). Use them. Use big files for big work, small
ones for small, rough files for rough work, fine ones for fine. On
and on. As you gain more tools that are suited to the jobs you do, it
will be easier and easier, and thus faster, to work. Matching the
tool to the work is probably #1 on the list for efficiency.
12) Actually one last, maybe most important thing. Don't agonize over
it, just make it. This doesn't mean that beginners and novices aren't
slow and uncertain or anything like that. I'll set out on a piece
a vague plan at times and have to sit back and ponder the next step,
too, sometimes. But try to have a vision, and execute it, and then
when it's done, call it done and move on to the next piece. By the
time you get to polish, all of the important things are over. If it's
crooked, it's gonna be crooked. If the ring top is too low, it's
gonna be to low.
This is, of course, related to a recent thread about wax carving. I'm
not writing this, really, for the people who were a part of that
discussion. This is for the newbies and lurkers and such who most
likely were reading and wondering what it all means.. And a final
thought for those folks: I AM fast. I'm probably no faster than my
peers, though - they're fast, too. If you watched me work, though, I
wouldn't seem to move any quicker than you do. Do not ever think that
speed in this sense means "rushing". It just means working