While there are many ways to do production work, the methods listed
are two good ways to work.
Here’s a third one. My production work uses common elements and then
adds some parts that are unique to each one. The work looks like one
of a kind but is really assembling parts.
To understand the parts of the job, I make prototypes of design.
Then evaluate what can be standard and how to make it look custom.
For example: I’ve made link bracelets for at least 10 years and they
all look like one of a kind. But they have common elements that let
me get them done quickly.
I made master models of slightly different sizes and shapes of
links, including the nuisance connector bails. Had them cast in
quantity - 20 or more of each. they come into the shop with sprues
clipped and ground. (This is a one person shop and that is a job I
hate.) Into the cut down tumbler they go. After a 4 to 5 hour run, I
retrieve the parts and check for casting abberations - most often
bubbles or flashing. Fix what you can easily, recycle any that take
too much time. (And if there are more than 1%, find a new caster)
Then the links get fluxed inside the box and either dosed with
powdered solder or regular stick solder, this is a tinning step.
Cool, pickle, neutralize, rinse and dry. These links are rectangular
boxes with tidy little rectangular ears.
Then sit down with all these ready to go and place 2 to 5 little
pieces of metal in each box link – reticulation, patterned,
purchased mokume, bimetal, maybe tiny bezels for bitty stones. Just
use the parts boxes for some of the bits, cut the others. Put the
assembled parts on a electric griddle. Then use yellow flux in a
bottle with a needle tip and flux the added pieces. don’t use a lot
of flux. Turn on the griddle to about 200F and let the parts dry very
well. Then move the dried parts to a solder block and gently heat
each one (I use a big tweezer) from underneath to do the final solder
step. Pickle, neutralize, rinse and let dry. Drying the flux keeps
the little parts from dancing when you do the soldering.
I like my bracelets to have curved links so I use my hydraulic
(electric) press to put a slight curve on each link.
Then dump the pile of shaped and soldered links on a table and find
groups of seven that go together. (that is my favorite part) Go to my
bracelet parts bin and select the right length connectors to make
various sizes of bracelet. (Those were cut and labeled once or twice
a year) Put the links together and solder the connectors and a clasp.
Then back to the cut down tumbler for 4 hours. Rinse and immediately
apply a patina of some sort. Rub off the high spots either in the
tumbler for 15 minutes or with a felt stick. wipe dry and put 10 new
bracelets in the bracelet box. These retail for $785 and up each.
they are designed so three of them make a very nice necklace. My
active time for a bracelet is about 4 hours. You can see what these
things look like at marstal.com
I keep a small note card file of sizes, procedures etc for most
things that I make in multiples. I use textured finishes for most
pieces. This design choice permits the use of tumblers for the