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Production work?

Can any of you talk about your production work week if youare the
kind of jeweler, who produces jewelry in multiples? In other words,
say you make 50 pairs or earrings a week. What do you do Monday? Do
you have a day when the only thing you do is polish? Do you schedule
a day for business, marketing or reordering?

What is this called – a production schedule? What makes it most
efficient? Is there a course or book that teaches about organizing
for a manufacturing process, or do jewelers just basically figure
this out on their own. If so, would you be willing to talk about

I’ve been looking online for on this, but came up empty.


Hi Betsy,

Yeah, in as much as that sort of thing has a name, production
scheduling would be it.

Mostly, it’s just figuring out what needs to get done next. Same
stuff, different week.

There really aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for it. It depends on
what you make, and how long your cycles take, with what machinery
you have (or don’t).

When I was doing a lot of production casting, I’d invest four flasks
on day 1, then do finish work on last cycle’s stuff. Day 2 was
burnout & cast with more finishing on last cycle, combined with
shooting more waxes for the next batch. Day 3 was cutting the sprues
clear, and getting the parts ready for the tumblers, with 2-3 days
in the tumblers, while I was setting the next casting batch.

Rinse, repeat.

The actual routine depended on just what exactly was going on, but
that was the ‘normal’ cycle. The thing you’ll notice was that I
normally had several different cycles going at once: burnout going
on cycle 3, cycle 2 in the tumblers, and shooting waxes for cycle 4,
with cycle 1 in hand finishing, all on the same day. Don’t fixate on
getting one thing done all the way through, do several things in

Look at what you make, and break that down into steps. Figure out
how to minimize those steps, or break them up into chunks that can
be done in stages. (Or by machines) Look hard at tumble finishing.
(Talk to Judy Hoch (who reads Orchid) she literally wrote the book
on jewelry mass finishing.) If you’re doing earrings, do all 50
ear-wires all at once while you’re set up for it, then do all 50 of
the next thing, etc. Get all the parts done, and then assemble


1 Like

Jayne Redman teaches a workshop called “Making Multiples” directed
at a good bit of this. fabulous workshop, highly recommend it! Here
is her website, which has a tab that shows her workshops:

I find that it works best for me if I plan out which things are
similar. So I make all my ear wires at the same time for however
many orders will be using the same, or similar, ear wires. Then I
make all my headpins, etc. Once I have all the components made or
gathered if they are purchased, then I set aside time to make all of
Earring Style one, then all of Pendant Style one, etc. By grouping
similar things together, you are only setting up your work station
for that once, and using all the tools etc. while they are out.

So I do sort of a marathon and get all of a similar sort of work

Some things may be different, but if they are using similar
elements, or I put them together in a similar fashion, then I try to
do them together. So all my simple silver soldering steps together -
using the same torch set up, etc. Then if I’m doing copper soldering
or cold connections I do all of that similar type of thing together.

Hope that makes sense! Jayne is REALLY good at clarifying ways to
make multiples of things in a much faster, simpler, easier way. You
don’t sacrifice quality, but if you can make five of something in
the time it used to take you to make one, you can really cut your
costs. So part of what she does is teach ways to make jigs and
modify tools and make tools, etc., that help you work better and

I’ve actually taken it twice and really learned more each time. Well
worth it if you can get to one of her workshops!

Feel free to contact me off line if you want to discuss more. I do
production in a small way, not in a big way, as I have learned I
much prefer making unique one of a kind pieces. but the production
sales cover the bottom line bills. then my OOAK is my gravy :wink:

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio

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

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
finishing operations.

Judy Hoch

Just finally put out this deco styled ring that it and the customer
have been driving me nuts - a little relaxation here and I’m not
quoting anybody because I’m not sure we ever got the original

Production design begins with the product being made. You start with
the finishedproduct and work backwards. Another form is making a
custom piece with a clear goal in mind and deciding what must be
done to get to that goal, but this question is about "true"
production. So, you start with your finished piece and then you
break it down into processes. In most cases, and certainly in our
business, each process represents a tool. You want to execute each
process on the whole batch at the same time. It is a factthat making
1000 pieces at a time can drive you insane, so you might do them 100
at a time, all the way through, but that’s psychology, not

What you need to do is figure this out like you could almost write
the steps on a sheet of paper, and that’s pretty much how simple it
is. Mark sheet, cut sheet, stamp circle, dome circle, drill hole.
There’s really no sense in dealing in examples because every item is
going to need it’s own production design and you just need to figure
it out. I’ll evengo so far as filing all the left edges and then
going back and filing all the right edges, so I don’t have to turn
the work and change position. Iknow a guy who did florentining on
batches of rings - he’d do all the lefts, the base cutting, on all
the rings and then go back and do the top cuts on all the rings.
That way you get a rhythm, same thing, over and over, then turn it
around and do the same thing, over and over.

Just figure it out - cut, flatten, fit, solder, set, polish. Then
try it. You mayfind you need to tweak the system, break one step
into two or vice versa. You may also find that some fifteen minute
thing is turning into 100 hours on the whole batch and try to
rethink THAT. It’s how Ford inventedthe production line. One guy
screws on door handles all day long. Boring but effective. John D.

The best work I’ve seen on understanding production scheduling is
(drum roll, please) a novel.

It’s called “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” and it’s by
Elihu Goldratt.

The focus is on bigger manufacturing concerns but the principles
work for any business manufacturing anything.

Good read, too.

David Wendelken