How to go faster?

I’m curious if there are tips or tricks that y’all use to get faster at making jewelry. Do you find it useful to batch create ring shanks ahead of time? Some finishing tricks? I’m trying to be more efficient to get these orders done.

Mostly silver with 14k and brass accents.

This is a tough question, because there so many possible variables. How many objects? 5,10,50, 100+? How complex are they? How many components? What’s the finish? High polish? Satin/matte? Oxidized? Cast? Fabricated?

When I work on say 20-50 pieces of jewelry I strive to do it in an assembly line concept. I might break it down into groups of 10 to diminish monotony. (doing all 50 at once can be really boring) For instance, with finishing castings, maybe I’ll file all ten objects. Then sand them all. Then polish them all. If I mess one object up. Rather than slow down the whole process, I’ll often set it aside to deal with later and keep going on the rest of them.

Many jewelry artists strive to keep their equipment close and organized so there’s less wasted time.

Another helpful tip is to do your tasks with a timer. Then try to constantly improve your speed.

Whenever possible take advantage of mass finishing techniques. Various tumblers and media.

Finally, one of the things that I’ve discovered is that it’s one thing to be an excellent craftsperson. It’s a whole other thing to be an excellent craftsperson and to be fast. Being fast and excellent is way harder.

Like I said, there are endless variables so it’s hard to generalize. Let’s see what others say. It’s a big topic, but one that all of us can benefit from.



This is a great response with so much good info. I thank you so much.

A lot of the work we do is with slightly irregular and non-calibrated stones so all of the bezels are made to fit each stone.

Even just measuring out the bezel material is an interesting challenge.

I think that there could be an amazing app using our phones ability to measure things to take a picture of a stone that is a regular and the app could automatically generate a circumference for that stone.

Each piece requires so many steps!

This is an example piece for reference. Maybe someone can find smarter ways to do it.

My steps:
Silver back plate cut and stamped.
Two bezels formed and soldered.
Brass rolled and curved into a semi circle.
Ring shank cut to size.

Prepolish bezels and solder to back plate.
Cut and fit brass to mate with bezels and lie flat.
Prepolish again including brass.
Solder brass down to back plate.
Cut out excess back plate.
Cut out scallops in brass.
Sand, file and polish.
Solder open ring shank to back.

Magnetic polisher.
Prepolish where needed.
Set stones.
Final polish.

Any ideas where I’m being inefficient would be greatly appreciated.

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I try and use the process my father taught me most of the time. I make several patterns of bracelets in various sizes. Typically when getting ready for a show I will cut out wire for six bracelets at a time. They may be different sizes but they will always be the same style. The consistency of the process limits errors.

I cut the stock to required lengths for the finished sizes I want. I will usually buy sterling as dead soft so I generally don’t anneal at this step.

If I am soldering on these pieces I prep the joints and I flux and solder the work.

The style of my bracelet determines the next steps. If I am twisting I’ll anneal the metal and pickle. If I am doing hammered surfaces Ill anneal, pickle and polish.

But I complete each step on all six before I move onto the next step. And this follows for every piece of show stock I make whether bracelets, earrings, or rings.

Don Meixner


I think Jeff and Don have given some good pointers for speeding up your production.

I began my career in a production shop. The owner was a third generation jeweler form France, who prided himself on the quality of his jewelry line. We used all the production techniques at the time (1973) that were available, but with very tight quality control. As an apprentice, it took time and a lot of repetition to develop my skill and speed. Going faster without the quality wasn’t an option. The owner, and the shop foreman, were both excellent jewelers and set a very high standard.

When I set up my own custom design studio, I tried to apply many of the production techniques that I had learned to my new business, but I found that many didn’t apply if you’re doing one of a kind type work. What did apply was the quality of the finished piece of jewelry and having a satisfied customer. The many hours of repetition, developing my skills, so I have an eye for what is a quality product, and how to make it, served me well, even if I wasn’t the fastest jeweler in town.


Some of my work over the years ~


I just remembered a story I heard when I was still in school and selling part time for a large jewelry manufacture.

Ben, who was an excellent jeweler, very meticulous, and a holocaust survivor, wanted a raise and went to the shop foreman to asked for one. The shop foreman, a Brazilian who had worked for H.Stern and Co. told him he was too slow to justify a raise, but he would set a challenge for him, and if he could make the piece of jewelry before the foreman, then he would get his raise. The Brazilian drew out a beautiful pin, the design was something that would be very typical of a H.Stern piece of jewelry, complicated with many stones.

Ben, being very meticulous did a very nice job making the pin. But the shop foreman had finish his pin long before Ben, and of course it was beautiful and just as well made.

“Finally, one of the things that I’ve discovered is that it’s one thing to be an excellent craftsperson. It’s a whole other thing to be an excellent craftsperson and to be fast. Being fast and excellent is way harder.” JeffG

I’ve learn over the years that some people just have a knack for what they do ~


If I was to pick two tools that have transformed how I work and sped things up more than others. One would be a jewelry-based microscope. The other would be a precision micro welder.

The microscope has improved my accuracy immeasurably. I do as much as I can under the scope. Much more than just stone setting and engraving. I file, polish, carve waxes, some times I even solder under the scope. Plus it improves my posture, because I have to sit up straight.

With the welder about 10 years ago or so I had a solo jewelry exhibition in a local jewelry store coming up and not a lot of time to make everything. I was able to borrow a PUK 4 for a couple of weeks to see how it could help. By the end of that two weeks I decided that I had to do whatever it took to get one.

I learned that the micro welder, didn’t replace my torch, but it made fabrication go immeasurably faster. First, I pretty much eliminated third hands and tweezers. I could hold parts together with my fingers, spot weld them into position and then solder afterwards.

If I wanted to solder a bail on for instance, I’d spot weld it in one spot, which became a pivot point so I could adjust the bail into perfect positioning before soldering.

With oddly shaped cabochons, I could form the bezel around the stone. Keep the stone in place and tack the bezel onto the base plate before soldering. Then pull the stone out and solder the bezel perfectly without any distortion.

I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t live without this technology. Most jewelry tool companies have zero interest, 90 days same as cash for existing customers. I put 25% down on a PUK 4 and spread the rest over the next three months. After 4 painful months, I owned it.

Those are two technologies that have greatly improved my speed and accuracy.

There’s lots more out there. Ultimately, buying new (and maybe expensive) technology becomes a business decision where you have to weigh pros and cons.

I don’t know if that helps, but looking at your work, they are things that helped me.




This is really helpful. I have a microscope and it is something I could never give up now. I will look into the micro welder. As I’m trying to do as high quality work as fast as possible, it makes sense to leverage the best tools available. Thank yo!

Since making jewelry is a hobby for me and not my living, speed has never been one of my primary motivators. I now will sometimes take 2 days to make a bracelet fabricating one day and polishing the next. In between I may have other tasks in my shop, a trip to the post office, a bike ride or, as is the case today, watch the last episode of Shogun. When I did shows I would make multiples of the same design in different sizes. There was always a chance for time related efficiencies doing more than one of anything. Since a lot of my bracelets start with the same design, multiples of multiple designs can also be done adding to this efficiency. There are some tools that I would say have improved my efficiency such as a flex shaft, rolling mill, pulse arc welder and tumblers, but in general I can’t think of tools as having a big impact on my efficiency. For me it is slight incremental changes in process over time doing the same piece over and over. Don and I do several identical designs. This is because we both learned from our father. While the final piece made today may look identical to one made 20 years ago. A couple hundred pieces later, the process, for me at least, has changed. I might do a solder joint a little differently. My stamping might be in a different location making it easier to clean up any marks it leaves on the finish side. I might secure a piece of small twisted wire inside a larger piece of wire differently now than 20 years ago. How I secure a piece to be soldered might be different. I really love the heavy titanium third hands that I have as they make this a lot easier. I pre-polish separate pieces a lot more prior to soldering them together. Along with pre-polishing is the use of boric acid and alcohol to prevent fire scale from forming on the pre-polished pieces. This list goes on for me and all the changes that make me more efficient are mostly small and incremental…Rob


Thank you for sharing all of that. I will look into the heavy titanium thirdhand as the one I have could not be construed as such.

I definitely think pre-polishing is a remarkable aid in accelerating production. I use boric acid and alcohol, but I’m still getting firescale at times. I wonder if it’s because I’m using a liquid flux that is washing it away.

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Two things that make work faster.

  1. Design your pieces to optimize the tools and experience that you have. For example - if you have many identical shapes, have a custom pancake die made and stamp them out. If you don’t have a press, someone can stamp them for you.
    A textured back plate is easier to finish and keep looking nice. So texture a larger piece of metal and use that for several pieces.
  2. Design your work to take advantage of mass finishing techniques. A slightly matt or satin finish can be readily obtained with fine media in a vibratory tumbler. The same process cleans your work in preparation for patina application. Burnishing, followed by fine media, followed by burnishing, followed by dry media polishing yields a reasonably good high polish. Some sub-set of these processes preps your work to do a really nice hand done high polish. Judy H

If you can, and it won’t impact either the color of structure, use a lower melting point solder…Rob

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I’m reading this discussion with interest. I’m a hobby jeweler and what you might call a jewelry scholar who tries to look at, say an Arts and Crafts period piece and tell whether it was fabricated or cast and exactly how it was done. When I spend my money, it has to be for something I really do need. And I might buy a knock off, thinking that by the time the knock off goes south, I will have made enough pieces to pay for it. When Jeff mentioned the welders, I immediately wondered whether an old sparky type welder would do the tacking that he talked about…those are about $100 vs some thousands for the PUK welders and other high tech stuff. Same issue with the cheap Chinese welders on ebay at about $1800 vs ??? for a name brand PUK. Not sayin’ one is a better choice than the other, it’s just a Joe Friday kind of calculation…“Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts…” -royjohn.

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Great points. Currently I’m the Smith and my wife is the designer. At this point it’s more important to make me struggle and for her to be free in her design process but I think adjusting the designs could make fabrication easier.

I just got a hydraulic press at a yard sale so I’m eager to make some pancake dies at my next open schedule moment.

Thanks Judy. I forgot about pancake dies. They open a world of design possibilities as well a being a great time saver. I make mine out of 16 gauge soft steel and have started to use Jayne Redman’s rotational working system. It is a real time saver as well as saving wear and tear on my hands…Rob


I don’t want to make Brennan’s thread be about welders. It’s about how to work faster and more efficiently. I described two tools that have transformed my workflow the most. But I could have also said a hammer handpiece, jet set basic, a graver’s ball or benchmate, silicone/pumice wheels (that grind metal but don’t damage most stones). There’s so many ways to improve efficiency

I would never recommend that anyone buy an expensive tool without doing a pile of research, and getting hands on experience before purchasing to prove that it’s what you need. For me, I never would have bought the PUK if I hadn’t been able to borrow one for two weeks, get to know it really well and see that it improved and changed my whole fabrication thought process. I had no idea before then how it would be helpful for me.

It’s kind of weird, with the PUK’s and Orion’s you’re not buying a welder, you’re kind of buying a computer that powers a welder. At their essence they’re TIG spot welders. But unlike regular TIG welders, their systems calibrate more or less power and how the energy modulates for almost every metal that is used in jewelry making. It’s super interesting to see how the wave form and power changes for different thickness of sterling silver and how that is different from different thicknesses of gold, steel, or platinum for instance.

The other issue is safety. I’ve talked to the owners and CEO’s of PUK and Orion at trade shows a number of times. They’ve convinced me that their systems are designed with operator safety in mind.

I’ve never used a low cost knock off, but I would want to make sure that I couldn’t get electrocuted or damage my eyes because of arc welding light.

I’m not saying knockoffs are bad, but I’d want to make 100% sure that they are safe and effective before purchasing one.

Sparkies are awesome! We have an old one at where I work, but I’ve never found Sparkies to be very precise. The ear post or whatever goes in the general area where I want it. I’ve never figured out how get a Sparkie to weld exactly where I want it.

Like I said this thread isn’t about welders. It’s about how to improve speed and efficiency. I’m sure folks have many great suggestions for Brennan, including low tech ones like maybe how to make the perfect sanding stick.




I wish I was faster too…I am a turtle…(no offense meant to turtles! they are amazing)

and…even being a turtle, I still need to remind myself to “pay close attention”…“be deliberate”…



Yes, I agree, Jeff…but if I understand it right, it’s about improving speed and efficiency to lower costs and improve revenue, isn’t it? Obviously, if the PUKs and Orions, etc. are being sold and the companies are still in business, and improving the welders all the time, they must be doing something right. The late Jeff Herman, the dean of American silver restorers prior to his death, said that he could do things to restore silver pieces with the welder which couldn’t be done any other way. So far better craftspersons than I have weighed in on this. I wouldn’t disagree…those tools have their place. To enlarge the discussion beyond the welders, one could look at Steve Lindsay’s graver setups. They are elegant and lots of engravers use them. There are also knockoffs of that system, which probably don’t work quite as well. And there are old school people using hand powered gravers. There are lots of people sharpening those gravers with some kind of sharpening system, but there were lots of people in the old days who sharpened by hand. There are Dar Shelton’s pancake dies, which are great from the reviews they get…and then there are everybody else’s…which may be hardened…or not.
I imagine by now some people’s eyes are glazing over…they can stop reading here…if you have a head for figures, to get a real answer for what you should spend your equipment budget on, you have to include the time value of money in your expenditures for any tool item. You have to look at your depreciation year over year and what your tax guy (in my case that’s me) says about the TVM calculation and the depreciation. How long is this equipment going to last? How much revenue is it actually going to bring in? How much time is it going to save? Should you buy it to make item X or do as Judy H suggested you might and design item Y which you could make without the expensive tool?
In a word full of sophisticated marketing techniques, I am increasingly skeptical of anything I have to buy on credit. I am also very skeptical of anything bought from a jewelry supplier, because for some things, their markups tend to be higher than what you can buy from other suppliers…check your sandpaper, your vibro-tumbler, your pliers, etc. I’m skeptical, but I’m not telling anyone else what to do. If you have a room full of bench jewelers lining up to get time on the PUK welder and you use it 8 hours a day, it’s probably paying for itself and then some. If you talked about a PUK welder and thought about buying one and all of a sudden you got a message about one being on sale, maybe Alexa was listening…LOL… -royjohn


royjohn…I have a lot of tools. Many are just the basic tools needed to do what we do. In some cases I started with what I could find and eventually replaced them with better built and more expensive tools. Other tool purchases were made to explore new design opportunities that I couldn’t explore with the tools that I had. Some became staples in my shop like my rolling mills and 20 ton press. Others were purchased to make things go faster. As an example, I started doing lapidary with all SC media. I eventually purchased an all diamond based set of tools. Yes, there are times when SC is the best way to go. I polish some Jade on a well worn 600 grit dry belt. Then there are the tools purchased just because I wanted them. My Knew Concepts saw frame is an example. It works well, but I have gone back to my simple frames as they work for me and feel better. I have many examples of this type of purchase in my museum of little to never used tools. Then there is the PUK. I was dazzled by the possibility of doing the kind of things that Jeffery Herman did. He and I had long conversations about it. My accountant depreciated it according to standard accounting procedures and it has a prominent place in my shop. I use it a lot and it allows me to do things that I couldn’t otherwise do opening new design opportunities. Was it a good way too spend $4,500? It probably wasn’t, but I don’t regret buying it. I just wish that I had made the trip to visit Jeff when it was planned, but Covid got in the way and now he is gone. My jewelry business is a hobby business. As such, I only ask that it support itself and break even at the end of the year. As a result, I am able to make purchases that someone making a living from their jewelry might not be able to make. I joke that I have bought all the cheap tools and only have expensive ones left. They include some kind of laser, a faceting machine, a small CNC mill, the list goes on. I am a curious guy and it is this curiosity that I am constantly fighting with when I make purchasing decisions. Sometimes they work out and other times they don’t. I always enjoy reading your posts. They make me think and write longer than necessary posts like this one. Thanks…Rob