[Kickstarter Project] Old world tools

I’m a 14th generation jeweler. You?

Nothing about making a profit, just something about old world

When I was very young my father had our family tree traced back 500
years, I and my brother are 14th generation jewelers and I have a
cousin who would be 15th. It goes from Atlanta to New York and my
grandfather came from Russia, going further back to Spain, France
and England.

I started learning the bench at the age of 10 during the summers,
starting work after school when I got a car at 16. Later opened my
own shop/store August 1974 and had it for 25 years before branching
out to the consulting field. When I sold it (still going strong) we
did about 1.8 million and 75% of that coming from my price book.

My younger brother took over the family business and still has on
display some of the old tools that my grandfather owned as a
jeweler. For a torch my grandfather used a blow pipe. Can you
imagine sizing a ring with a flame and you blew through the pipe for
a hotter flame? (The two pictures I got off of Google image search,
they are close but not exact)

My father and grandfather were diamond setters in New York. To drill
a hole he used a hand cranked drill, like a hand mixer you’d use in
the kitchen. Can you imagine drilling 50 holes this way?

The reason for this post today is to share with you some video of
how things were made 75, 100 or more years ago. There’s a jeweler in
Virginia named Hugo Kohl who is building a workshop museum so to
speak. He has bought from many different areas and some defunct
manufacturers the tools and dies that were used to make jewelry many
years ago, probably in my grandfathers era.

With jewelers using laser welders, cad/cam machine, wax growers I
just thought you might like to see a small glimpse of how it used to
be done.

Go to this site to see a short video.

David Geller

Old setting tools

Old setting tools are my forte’. I have a “Pump Drill” and a 75 year
old graver just used to carve out holes for the "Rose & Mein-cut"

The name of this tool is a “Bull-Stick”.

Imagine carving out holes to suite those odd-shaped diamonds,
tedious and exacting! This was before carbide burs came into fashion,

Hi Gerry,

Bullsticks aren’t as dead as you’d think. That’s what I learned to
use in college in London, 20 odd years ago. I still use mine on a
semi-regular basis.

It’s not nearly as tedious as you’d think. Exacting, I’ll agree.
Besides, it really is the only way to deal with stones that aren’t

You can still buy them, they’re just an oval graver with a weird tip
grind. Same way that a spit-stick is just an ongilette with a funny

Speaking of old tools, I don’t know what the British trade is like
these days, but when I was in school there, they were still drilling
out their plate settings with bow drills, and soldering with mouth
blown blowpipes. Probably still are, many of them. If you’re used to
it, it’s not as cumbersome as it looks, coming to it cold. The only
problem with blowpipes is not hyperventilating, and/or being able to
solder something larger than a medium sized brooch without passing
out. On the other hand, the circular breathing required is great
training for the bagpipes.

As long as we’re on the subject, what’d the rest of you all think
about the kickstarter project, to set up a ‘hands on’ stamping shop?

I’m trying to figure out what I think. On the one hand, I absolutely
applaud his mission to preserve those old dies, and keep up the
tooling and knowledge needed to run them. On the other hand, his
proposal is to set up a public ‘hands on’ shop, sort of a living
history museum, with the tag line being ‘made by me’. Except it
isn’t. The visitor may have loaded the die, and pulled the trip, but
that’s all the input they had. The guys who truly “made” that piece
were the ones who made the dies, however long ago.

He’s talking about wanting to celebrate hand craft, except he’s
using the very tools that killed it as a large-scale vocation. Yeah,
the tool-and-die guys were very good indeed, but there were far
fewer of them required, compared to the manufacturing craftsmen from
before the big stamping gear came in. Of course, the reduction in
price democratized the availability of quality design, so that’s a
good thing. Like I said, I’m trying to figure out what I think.
There are a great host of pros and cons to work through here.

Anybody else have any opinions on the subject?


Anyone else have opinions? Yes. I can speak from experience with as
you say “big” stamping gear.

Let me put it this way, If, like me you had the chance to buy up a
complete stampers workshop, the machinery, fly presses, press tools
dies, catalogues and price lists from its inception in 1851, would you
jump at the chance or turn it down to continue making everything by
hand? Especially as the cost was scrap metal price plus 10% with the
promise that you would use it? Its a no brainer, if you have the space
to install it all.

Tools wether old or new, open the door to new products, if you are
innovative enough in your designs, and have the marketing skills to
capitalise on your new tools.

I used a few of the old dies, but mainly comissioned new designs to
suit my chientele and sales outlet, and accepted comissions for
production runs up to 2500 off.

This cannot replace however the one off comissions that most
jewellers here seem to make.

And the one major constraint, you have to fund the up front die
costs. you then better be sure youve the design right, if you dont,
its an expensive mistake.

To give just one example.

Near here we have the world’s largest steam fair, the Great Dorset.

Id been showing my work there along side the craft area, for some
years to good effect, (they have 50,000 visitors over 5 days) I asked
the organisers if I could bring my drop stamp and mint a plaque for
the event at the event.

I comissioned the die, prepared a couple of hundred blanks, and set

Well, I didnt stop minting for the 5 days, ran out of blanks at the
end of the 1st day, had to go home and blank out avery bit of brass
and copper sheet I had in stock. Finished up minting 1000 that sold
off the hammer.

If you have the right product in the right place at the right price
it can work very well.

Mind you, your working in a public place, effectively demonstrating
your skills and equipment.

Thats pretty demanding, so you better have your act well polished!
Everything you have has to say something.

Interesting from the marketing point of view.


Gerald I must be old because I still use a Bull stick although only
occasionally! The tool I still use quite often for those awkward
stones is a half round graver sharpened like a Bull Stick. It’s
smaller than the bull Stick and you can cut a bearing any shape you
like. I’ve been using it over 40 years now. If you want one for your
collection contact me off list and I will send you one. I still have
my Archimedes bow drill somewhere. We made the drill bit by breaking
the eye off a needle and sharpening it. It’s amazing how fast you
can drill a hole with it. I will admit that I haven’t used it in 38
years or more I have kept up with more modern techniques :))

Chris Hackett