Productivity Hints

Hello All, With Christmas well behind us, it seems like it might be a
good time to ask if any of you have any tricks for being more
productive and getting through hectic times at the bench. I’m looking
for hints on time management, work organization, or tools that
increase your productivity for an article I’m writing for AJM
magazine. Anybody find a certain bench set-up cuts down on wasted
time? Any tips for minimizing interruptions? A tool you’d recommend
for increasing your productivity? A way of addressing something that
makes you unproductive?

I’d like to hear how you guys make the most of your hours at the
bench. If the list is interested in the responses, you can reply to
Orchid, or you can e-mail me directly at or phone me at
(508) 339-7366.

Thank you in advance, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Suzanne Wade
Phone/Fax 508-339-7366

Hello Suzanne,

My productivity tips are psychological ones.

First of all: recognize your personal style and capitalize on its

For example: I have a limited tolerance for repetitive work so I don’t
beat myself over the head about it. To maintain an adequately
productive routine I allow myself to skip about from one thing to
another. On the one hand I’m indulging what might be perceived as a
weakness but the “trick” is that I pre-select the Tasks that I flit
between so that they lead to a pile of finished work at the end of the
week. Admittedly, I might “lose” a bit of time compared to someone
who is more methodical, but the point is that I get the work done.

Second tip: Making lists may be helpful, but if you do, at the end
of each day give yourself positive feedback, not negative.
Congratulate yourself on the things you have crossed off and don’t
even look at items you didn’t get to.

Colleen in New Brunswick

Other psychological productivity hints: I divide large tasks into
smaller parts, and set myself goals of parts at a time; that way I
can allow myself natural break points so I don’t leave a task in the
middle. Also when I’m done with a task I set up for the next one
before quitting. I am much more likely to start something if I can
just begin it and don’t have to do all the setup first. Janet Kofoed

Other psychological productivity hints: I divide large tasks into
smaller parts, and set myself goals of parts at a time; that way I
can allow myself natural break points so I don’t leave a task in the
middle. Also when I’m done with a task I set up for the next one
before quitting. I am much more likely to start something if I can
just begin it and don’t have to do all the setup first.

Janety Kofoed

Great tip! I do the same thing, both with my jewelry/lapidary
projects as well as my writing projects. As soon as a process begins
to take on a feeling of “work” or, more to the point, “drudgery” I
take a break from it by switching to another project. In the case of
my writing, as soon as the text stops flowing smoothly from my brain
to the page I switch to the another manuscript.

     Admittedly, I might "lose" a bit of time compared to someone
who is more methodical, but the point is that I get the work done. 

In my case, the point is that I never lose passion for a project and
never suffer from the classic “writer’s block.”


Hi Suzanne. As a retailer and trade shop, I do a lot of repair and
sizing during and after the holiday season. Though I haven’t found a
simple method on custom work, here are a few things I do to help speed
up production with repairs and sizings:

I line out all the work that needs to be done for the day on a table
next to my bench. This gives me a good mental picture of the type and
amount of work that needs to be done. It also gives me time to
visualize the ways in which I will perform harder tasks. I also draw a
quick sketch of each item on a post it note and attach it to the
repair envelope. I make a note of any damaged or treated stones and
other things that may have been overlooked by the person taking in the
job so the customer can be notified before any work is done to the
item. If any stones are loose I tighten them now. This saves time by
preventing a stone falling out in the ultrasonic; resulting in dumping
the solution, digging the stone out and then resetting it.

The jobs are laid out according to what needs to be done. i.e. all
sizings together, all chains, all retipping, etc. I like to get the
toughest jobs finished first. This gives me mental relief knowing
those are out of the way and I can coast through the easy jobs without

All the dirty jewelry goes into the ultrasonic and are cleaned while I
work on the new items.

I like to do all the cutting, fitting and soldering at one time and
then all the filing/grinding, sanding and polishing at one time. I
have seen jewelers who like to do one job at a time from start to
finish, but this seems incredibly slow to me. This cuts down on the
number of times I have get up and move from one station to another.
(maybe that’s explains the jelly roll I’m getting) : ) Also, I don’t
have to wash my hands as much.

It helps to be extremely neat and organized at the bench. "Every"
tool has a place and when I am through with that tool, it goes back in
its proper place. I have a rack for my tweezers (made from a coat
hanger) attached to one bench drawer and another rack for all the
pliers on another drawer. The tweezers and pliers hang neatly on the
racks and I don’t have to sort through stacks of tools to locate a
specific one. The same is true for burs. Each bur goes back into its
own spot after use. Each evening when I am through, I sweep the bench
drawer out. This saves tremendous time if a small stone is dropped the
next day (no sifting through sweeps). A few other things: I use mostly
the pick soldering method. I have a large ceramic soldering block in
which I group piles of solder pallions on .For example, yellow easy
goes on the bottom right corner of the block. Yellow hard goes on the
upper right corner. White hard goes on the upper left and white easy
goes on the bottom left. When I need a certain color and hardness
solder, I know exactly where to go with the pick or tweezers. An
electric torch lighter (torch mate) comes in very handy. This neat
tool allows a free hand when lighting the torch so the other hand can
be grabbing tweezers or the solder pick or the flux brush. I have two
holders (made from copper sheet) screwed to the bench top that holds
the heat resistant soldering tweezers. One is mounted in a horizontal
position and the other is mounted in a vertical position. When a ring
is prepped for soldering, the tweezers slide quickly into one of the
holders. This eliminates the third hand type holder and holds the
tweezers much more securely. This is very handy for soldering or
unsoldering heads because force can be applied to the ring without it
moving around. I hate to hand file rings after sizing them so I use a
rubberized abrasive wheel on the polishing lathe. This wheel grinds
quicker than a file and leaves a finely sanded finish. A finish that
can go straight to tripoli. The only things I file are the insides of
the rings and areas not accessible with the abrasive wheel. A piece of
cardboard placed under the wheel catches all the grindings which are
easily dumped into the bench tray for recovery. A few favorite tools:
Gravermax- great for bead setting and saves hand fatigue. Programmable
temp controller for burnout furnace. I burn out at night and cast
when I come in to work the next morning. If im in a real pinch for
time on casting, I use a special dental investment. I can invest,
burnout and cast in about 1 hour. See my web page for details on this. Overall, I think organization is the
biggest time saver. Im not sure what other jewelers do in a day, but
it’s not unusual for me to do 70 or 80 jobs in an 8 hour work day.
Can’t wait to see what others have to say. Great topic!!! Regards, Ken

Here are some bench tips that help me: I’ve taken some of the wooden
block from my kids toy box, I drill holes in them and use them to
hold dremel bits and keep them in ready reach. I put self adhesive
hooks on the side of my bench to hold saws, stryckers, stuff like
that. I keep eveything in clear plastic boxes so that i can see
things more “clearly”.(Ha!) I pre-cut solder and put little pieces in
plastic bead boxes, then I label them ie. IT,M,E, 22K, 20K 18K…i
keep liquid flux in small hair coloring bottles on the bench and just
squirt as needed. I try to line things up for production such as
links to fuse, and I try to complete an entire aspect of one task
begore moving on to the next thing (ie, fuse all my links before
starting to weave a chain).As far as wasting time, i am constantly
struggling with managaing my home (where my studio is) my three
children, three dogs, and my business. I really try to keep
boundries and complete certain tasks before moving on to more fun
things. Often I have to make myself do a housekeeping chore (ie,
laundry) before I go down to my studio. I also let my kids do their
homework in my studio while I’m working. At least we’re together in
body that way. Good luck with the article! Oh, one last thing. I’m
certified in the use and instruction of Precious Metal Clay (PMC). I
find silver PMC is a great medium for making prototypes for casting.
You end up with a metal prototype from which to make molds but the
work is alot quicker than fabricating from scratch. There is a new
PMC product (PMC+) that is fired in only 20 minutes. I wrote an
article about it for Studio PMC (

article about it for Studio PMC  (

Dawn - are you sure that is the correct URL? I got a web
management company. thanks gregor

As one who is also PMC certified . . . I need to ask. . . don’t you
find the cost of PMC to be high??? Prototype??? I would think that
you would be much better off (cost wise) casting from scratch.

article about it for Studio PMC

I think the site you are looking for is Laney

Hi Everyone! Does anyone know where we can buy PMC for the least
amount of money? I imagine like many things Rio is probably the most
expensive source.


Right now, Rio is about the only choice, they are the exclusive
distributors. I’m going to be taking a certification class in a
couple of weeks, so may be able to find out more at that
time, and if interested will be happy to post any tidbits I learn.

Thanks to everyone for all the great I’ve learned from
this group. M

"The Boutique is now open"

For PMC in this country, Rio is the ONLY source. However, there is a
competing product available from Swest–Art Clay Silver. It is
similar in price, but is made a little differently, and only shrinks
about 10%, so it is more like PMC+, Rio’s new product. I have tried
all three, and the ones that shrink less have less binder, so are a
bit touchier to work with. Swest, being the underdog, is more willing
to send samples, give price breaks, etc. Hope you have a good time
with PMC–if you have worked with clay or polymer clay, you should
have fun. Otherwise, it can take some getting used to, but it is an
amazing material. --Noel Yovovich

Hello Suzanne, I wasn’t here for a wile,so sorry for the late
answer.First of all,im looking for quality instead of production.If
your quality is good … you sell.Before you produce you have to
plan first.If your planning is OK,well your production will be
fine.Don’t accept to much work at ones.If you do,well you better have
a good shedule in order to follow your planning.My humble opinion
about the whole deal is that people try to make to much money at
ones.They get behind on there shedule and the way which is beeing
taken to often is cut down on quality without noticing it.Keep your
customers happy and your production within your limits.That’s not my
secret,but that is the advice a share with lots of other people in
any business. Pedro

Laura, Rio is probably the only source of PMC. They cooked it up with
some people at Mitsubishi, and therefore own the right to reproduce.
As a competitor, I could bellyache and badmouth, but I’ve gotta tip
my hat here. Rio has the staff who are motivated to seek these things
out. They are based in a major metropolitan area, which is the usual
breeding ground of innovation. It’s a rare bumpkin that comes up with
great developments.

Dan Woodard, Indian Jewelers Supply Co.