I enjoy reading the Orchid Digest every morning while drinking my
first cup of coffee. I experience a sort of wistfulness every time I
read the last post of the day, wishing there were more. I have only
posted a few times over the years, and decided that starting today I
would become more active, contribute more often, and participate in
the process, instead of just watching from the sidelines.
First, a little bit about myself. I am a solitary studio jeweler,
love tools, working with my hands, and learning new things. I have
been making jewelry for a few years, and have developed modest skills
in fabrication, wax carving, stone setting, engraving, and enameling
through the reading of books, taking classes and workshops, and
So! Today, my post is about a really great book, piercing, graver
sharpening, and how grateful I am for the generous sharing nature of
This post contains a few bits of I have collected, which
I have found to be helpful and which have provided some "ah ha"
moments for me! Often the answers to seemingly simple problems can be
quite elusive for me!
The really great book is titled “Jewelry Concepts and Technology”,
by Oppi Untracht. (I love to collect books on jewelry making,
metalsmithing, jewelry history, etc)
I have read this book, cover to cover, at least twice. It is 840
pages long, and I must admit a bit tedious at times, due to the
massive amount of very minute, detailed it includes. What
I have found is that although I have read it many times, often when I
run into a specific problem or issue, if I look up the topic in this
book, the answer will just “jump off the page” at me, as if I am
reading it for the very first time. I am sure I read the same
the first two times, but my brain must have just filed it
away as general as it did not have the significance that
it later does when I look up a specific topic.
For example, I was having trouble piercing. The saw blade kept
"pulling" off to one side of the line I wanted to pierce. The main
thing I always remembered from various instructions about piercing
was to properly tighten the saw blade when inserting it into the saw
frame, making sure it was tight enough and made a “pinging” sound
when plucked, and also to use proper lubrication. So my focus was
always on making sure the saw blade was tight.
However, I read (on page 80 of this book) that “If it (the saw
blade) is under too much tension in the saw frame, it will tend to
twist and work away from the cutting line, and if you force it to
return to place, it may break”
What a revelation for me! My saw blade was just “too” tight! I love
this book! It has also helped me to stop and realize that I tend to
"bulldoze forward" repeating the same process, expecting to correct
the problem, and so helped me to be conscious of the need to stop and
think about “what is happening” and try to figure out “why”.
Another example is when I was having trouble sharpening/ polishing
gravers by hand, for bead setting. I was once taught to first use an
oiled India stone to sharpen the tip, followed by polishing on a
piece of crocus paper charged with red rouge, which was glued to a
square piece of glass.
While bead setting, the tip of my #52 round graver would
consistently break off in the metal when I went to lift the bead. I
could “feel” when it snapped off. I could not figure out what was
happening. So, again I returned to the book! I read (on page 292 of
this book) that “In good graver sharpening and polishing practice, an
India oilstone is used first for sharpening, followed by a fine
grained Arkansas stone for polishing”.
And later “If a graver is used directly after being prepared only by
a rough stone, its point may quickly break”.
This provided a probable explanation! The coarser polished surface
of the graver must have been more prone to breakage than a finer
polished surface! I love this book!
I was determined to master the art of hand sharpening gravers, and
spent years trying, but I could not overcome my inability to keep the
graver aligned properly, and eventually purchased a power hone, which
is now one of my most valued pieces of equipment and worth more than
every penny spent on it! It was not until I made the purchase that I
realized what it felt like to use a properly sharpened graver, where
it slides through the metal and cuts like butter with just a whisper
These types of little tips are sometimes elusive, but when
discovered, can make such a big difference, so I thought I would
mention this book and these few tips here. Thank you to everyone who
shares their knowledge and art!