When I undertake any project, I prefer to: 1) Gather written intelligence, that is, online research or books
OK, but try, instead, grabbing a hammer or saw or other tool, and
just trying it out. See what it does and what you can do with it. You
may not right away learn the right use, but you’ll learn more in the
end, and in less time. After you’ve worked with it a bit, THEN ask
about the problems. But if you spend all your time researching,
you’ll never get anything made. Remember that jewelry making
specifically is NOT engineering, though a bit of engineering is
involved. Much of this is art, intuition, and brainstorm. If you
expect to always know, before you make a thing, what you’re going to
make, and don’t allow the possibility of serendipity, You’re never
going to get very far in the creativity department.
2) Gather human intelligence, that is, opinions from other people
Again, OK. But consider. If you grab a tool and try it, within an
hour you’ll have amassed a pretty good idea of what works and what
doesn’t. Even with the wonder of Orchid, you have to wait until the
next day, then spend a couple hours wading through the mass of info.
Instead, I’d suggest a single info source aimed at beginners to
intermediates. You don’t need higher level info that this at this
point. I’d suggest Tim McCreights “complete metalsmith” as one such
good starting book. With this, you can get the basic info on the use
of a tool or technique in the five minutes it takes to read that few
pages in the book. Then get your nose out of the book and get your
hands on a tool. Your hands need to learn this every bit as much as
your head does, and your hands won’t learn from a book.
3) Formulate a plan of attack to develop certain skills
OK. I hope you don’t spend more than a couple seconds or minutes on
this. You’ve figured out what you’re going to try to make or do. What
happens now is you choose the most likely method that you already
know about. It doesn’t matter yet, at your stage, if there are other
methods, since you still need to master the basic ones. As you get
better with the basic skills and more comfortable making things with
those skills, the next ones to add to the toolbox in your head and in
your hands will become relatively apparent.
4) Check the plan against my network of mentors
Oh Geez. You don’t need our permission either to try something, or
to make mistakes. You learn just as much or often much more, by
having to try several methods before something works, that you do by
getting precise instructions and following them to the letter without
any variance. Get the confidence in yourself to just try your plan.
If it works, you’ll feel great. If it doesn’t you’ll have learned not
only one thing that doesn’t work, but also why. This is important
knowledge. And if your mentors are here on Orchid, you can often go
through several of these trial methods in the time it takes to await
an answer from the internet.
there are exceptions, of course. If you plan to try to use a tool or
method about which you know nothing, other than the fact that it’s
known to be actually dangerous (to you, not to the metal, which is
allowed), then perhaps making sure you know the safety info is
Again, if you choose the wrong method to make something, this is not
effort lost. Often it’s more instructive than doing something the
right way the first time. Doing it wrong often suggests the right
way, and you’ll then understand much more about why it’s the right
One simple example of this is your plan to cnc mill a thin cavity in
Tufa to cast a thin ingot in silver. Way overworked. Try carving a
simple channel with a knife or nail head or whatever. You’ll be done
before you’ve even got the cnc code written. Melt a bit of metal just
with a torch in a small crucible, and try to pour it. Probably, it
won’t work the first time. OK, that took ten or 15 minutes, max. Try
to see what didn’t work right, and modify the method. In an hour or
two you’ll have taught yourself to make small ingots. THEN, if you
find they’re not so great, then you ask Orchid for ideas, once you’ve
run out of them. The time you spend on this will be no more than what
it takes to wait till the next day for an orchid answer.
Spend a whole lot less time planning and thinking and analyzing, and
a whole lot more time just trying. Playing. Experimenting. With a lot
of this, there may be no wrong answers, and no always-right ones
either. I know you are trained as an engineer, and that’s good. But
you’ll be a better jeweler and artist if you learn specifically to
give a whole lot less of the task to that left brain of yours, and
much more to the right brain, and to the little kid in you that
remains in all of us, even into old age.
5) Execute the plan in my laboratory, what you call studio.
yeah, I know. The freezing shed. For now, move into the kitchen. You
don’t have to bring the torch. Instead, bring a clamp-on bench pin
(c-clamp and piece of wood), some sheet metal and your saw and some
files. You can make a helluva lot of jewelry with just these for now.
If you have a smallish reasonably portable torch, you can even do
small soldering work here. No, not your big oxy/acetylene welding
rig, but a small propane plumbers torch, or one of the small butane
torches. That’s enough to solder a bezel on a small pierced pin
design, or close up the shank on a band ring, etc. Use the range
hood for ventillation if you like. You can even set a soldering board
directly on a range burner with the hood overhead on. I know this
isn’t what a kitchen THINKS it was designed for, but you’re doing
exactly the same things that the device (stove and hood) normally do,
except on different materials. Metal instead of a steak…
6) Compare the intended plan against the results
But don’t obsess. Often, plans can be changed in mid stream if
something seems a struggle. learning to adapt your plan as you learn
what’s working and what’s not, is very useful.
7) Record the lessons learned
Don’t make too big a deal of this, unless specific data like
temperatures, etc, that might be forgotten, are involved. Most of
what you learn in jewelry making, is what your hands and head learn
together. Once you’ve learned these by doing them, you won’t much
need written notes.
Hope that helps.