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Setting bullets and blades

I’m hoping that someone could give me some tips on setting bullets
and blades. I set my first 2 bullets yesterday and came up with
limited success. Any help would be appreciated. Donna in cold and
snowy Maine

The Silver Sorceress

To Donna in very cold Maine,

are you really setting bullets, if so they do sell bullet setting
tools for this, I know because I myself am familiar with re-loading
different types of bullets.

If you want to discuss this further, please feel free to contact me
at: during the day, monday-friday, 8:00am-3:00pm


Richard Lucas…

I’ve set lots of bullets and blades. I frequently use tubing (either
bought or hand made) for the bullets.

The secret of setting blades is to have a bezel that is a close fit.
If the bezel is too large, saw it open on the solder joint, file/trim
down to a better fit and resolder. If the bezel is too small, gently
use a forming hammer to slightly enlarge it.

Blades that I have cut and polished are not always the same curvature
on both sides, so it’s important to make sure that the bezel fits
snugly on both sides.

Finally, for blades and some tall-domed bullets, I use epoxy (Hughes
330) – also know as “cold solder” to set the stones. Let the epoxy
set over night. The go back and mechanically set the bezel with your
setting hammer or bezel pusher, just as you would set any other cab.

Works for me.


Virginia Lyons

Hi, Awesome Orchidians

One traditional aspect of bezel setting stones that amazes me when I
am teaching …

How many smiths have either learned from books or been personally
taught that to hand make a bezel they must FIRST either measure it or
put a string or piece of paper around it to define its length…

It is so much simpler to take the bezel wire and wrap it tightly
around the actual bullet, blade, etc to define the length. Then while
holding the bezel wire in place to scribe where the joint will be…
after just a few times one becomes VERY competent at adding or
subtracting to create very accurate bezels.

Learning to eyeball making 90 degree square cuts in bezel wire
requires a few practice sessions and one can master this as well.
After just a few sessions 90 FEELS right on or off and again
eliminates another step. Using the correct scissor to cut bezel wire
without curling or other distortion is also important.

Hope this helps adds pleasure and convenience to your bezel

I have some new awesome psilomelane cabochons up at:

All the best in all things,

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Hi Ms. Sorceress! Or should I just call you Silver? :wink:

I acquired a whole bunch of bullets and blades last year, and am just
getting around to using them. I’ve set a ton of cabs before, but not
these shapes. The bullets I have are approximately 6mm in diameter.
The key word is approximately, since individual pieces may vary .5 mm
either way. I spent some time looking for 6 mm inside diameter
sterling tubing without success. I considered making tubing or trying
to draw some larger tubing down in a hardwood drawplate I would have
to make myself.

I finally settled on making conventional bezels from fine silver, and
have about 30 of them on my bench to solder now. I just did the
calculation (6mm x Pi), plus a mm or two for the thickness of the
metal. I wasn’t extremely precise, since I’ve got a number of stones
in slightly varying sizes… I’ll just try 'em until I find one that
fits. I’ll probably pair up stones and bezels after they’re soldered.
If I had two specific stones as you describe, I would wrap the bezel
wire around the stone, scribe and cut specific bezels for each stone.

I think they key is going to be to burnish the silver well down on
the stone. Also, work alternating opposite sides of the bezel so the
bullet is set straight.

I don’t see setting the blades as being much different, other than
the calculation for bezel length ((L+W)/2xPi). Although I don’t
usually do it, I would consider using epoxy if I have concerns about
whether the bezel will hold the stone securely. Given the steep sides
of the stones, this is my only concern. Of course, you could use some
extra-wide bezel to get a better hold, but you don’t want half the
stone covered with metal!

I’ll let you know if I encounter any new insights as I tackle these


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Hi Virginia,

What is the advantage of using tubing instead of bezel wire for

— Virginia Lyons

As an aside for the mathematically disadvantaged, I have successfully
measured stones using 1/4 inch Quilters Masking tape, when measuring
for bezels or wire. This works very well with odd shaped stones.

The tape, is not easy to find, check fabric stores.


With setting bullets and tongues, one of the chief issues is going to
be the taper of the cabachon; is the taper vs the height of the stone
enough to enable you to set it soundly with conventional methods.
This is in part an issue of leverage; the security of the setting will
be compromised if the stone is too tall in proportion to the taper of
the bezel. The opinions of others in past threads proclaim that this
is pure heresy, but I say it again, if the taper of the stone in
proportion to the height is not enough to hold it securely, you may
want to think about securing the stone with a good, waterproof epoxy.

Lee Einer

I agree that fitting the bezel directly around the bullet or blade is
the way to go. I’ve set a lot of both types of stones and, in terms
of shaping the bezels, I treat these stones the same as any other

I use a flush-cutter (not a scissor) to get the all-important 90%
angle when cutting the bezel wire, then a flat file to remove the
slight bur that’s been left by the cutter. This way I don’t have to
worry about curling or distortion in the wire and it’s much easier to
visualize the 90% angle.

Setting the bullet or blade is the really tricky part and a good,
tight-fitting bezel is essential; you don’t want to have to push any
more metal than absolutely necessary. First, I do recommend using
epoxy, especially with bullets which are straight-sided and do not
taper. No matter how well you push in and burnish the metal, there’s
just no taper to hold the stone. Also, before gluing, rough up the
bottom and edges of the stone with, for instance, a diamond grinding
bur on the flex shaft; this will create a toothier surface for the
epoxy to grip. (Sorry, all you wonderful stone cutters out there who
do such a beautiful job of high polishing the backs of your stones;
there are certainly many times when it’s desirable, but this isn’t one
of them.)

Another advantage to gluing first is that you can get the bullet
perfectly straight before you start pushing the metal. In fact, if
the bezel fits tightly, you’ll hardly have to push any metal at all,
other than burnishing the top edges of the bezel.

Blades can be tougher because the taper makes it difficult to push
the metal in, especially at the corners, and they’re hard to hold onto
while you’re doing the pushing. For those reasons, I again recommend
epoxy, not for keeping the stone from falling out (the bezel should do
that), but for holding the stone straight and steady while you set it.
Incidentally, be sure to use a very thin coat of epoxy and just on
the base of the stone; otherwise the epoxy will squeeze up around the
sides of the stone and create an obstruction between metal and stone
that you won’t be able to close.


   First, I do recommend using epoxy, especially with bullets which
are straight-sided and do not taper.  No matter how well you push
in and burnish the metal, there's just no taper to hold the stone. 
. . . (Sorry, all you wonderful stone cutters out there who do such
a beautiful job of high polishing the backs of your stones; there
are certainly many times when it's desirable, but this isn't one of
them.) . . . 

There is something else that further handicaps the setting of many of
the bullets and blades. That is the practice of so many lapidaries
who in finishing the sides at the base actually remove so much
material that the result is a circumference which is less at the base
than at the sides. In other words, instead of a straight-sided or
slightly tapered stone, there is the effect of a “belly” just where
the bezel should be reduced in setting!

We can cut our own stones to avoid this. When purchasing finished
stones, in addition to checking the contour before purchasing stones,
I suggest making the vendor (who may not actually set stones) aware of
these problems. If the vendor isn’t the lapidary, request that the
message be relayed to their cutter(s).

Pam Chott
Song of the Phoenix

Hi bullet lovers!

We set tons of arches and bullets (and swear at them regularily). I
think the most important thing is to first high grade when you are
picking your stones so they indeed ARE set-able. The walls of the
bullet need to start tapering in within a few mm’s of the bottom so
the bezel can grab the stone. Many bullets don’t taper soon enough and
these are tough to set without the G word. We also try to pick for
straightness, no tilt, so they sit flat in the bezel.

Sometimes we use a open bottom, high bearing bezel for the round
bullets. With this type of finding, you can put it on your flex shaft
jaws and ‘spin’ a bevelled edge to custom fit it before setting the
stone. We have also used the combination of dapping tools to stretch
from the inside out and cup type daps (?) to coax the walls in. All
done before the stone goes in of course.

I’m experimenting with a mechanical arbor press right now and have
successfully been able to easily set cabs but havent found the
correct ‘bit’ to accomodate bullets without crushing them. My father
called this setting technique ‘swedging’…funny word from another

Its my opinion that if the metal has been brought around the stone
until its tight that a light base of epoxy is not unethical…just
helpful insurance. After all, these are not usually extraordinarily
expensive stones. We’ve done lots of stress tests on bunches of glues
and the one we currently think is most dependable is Hughes 220. This
is their amber epoxy, not the 330, which is the water clear and not as
strong. We mix each part on separate little postit notes, weigh each
to get the most accurate mix, and mix well. We used to heat set but
were told that the glue is stronger if it sets up slower. I’d love to
hear if anyone else thinks this is a fact or not. Lastly, we always
rough up the bottom of the stone with a diamond disc (if its not
transparent of course) and clean the stone well with an alcohol wipe
to remove oils.

We’ve set probably thousands of bullets this way and comparatively
few have come back missing a stone. In the closed bottom bezels, I’ve
never yet had a stone come out. (knock,knock)

Happy hammering,


tlee, So how do you ‘spin’ a beveled edge using the flexshaft?

We mix each part on separate little postit notes. 

Not long ago at a rock & gem show, I ran into a tool dealer who sold
thin, flexible 6"x6" square, silicone pads to which, he said, nothing
would stick. I bought one and he was right. You can mix epoxy on it
and, once the glue is dried, just peel it off and use the pad again
next time!


Hello T., If you are considering an arbor press to set bullets, what
about using the plastic material that is used in the Bonny Dune
hydraulic press type of jewelry making? I’ve not done production bezel
setting this way, but the idea sounds facinating. I don’t think it
would crush the stones. Let me know if you want to pursue it.

Tom Arnold

sorry, I lost the original message to can put the bezel in
the flex shaft,or better yet tubing ,with the seat already cut,place
your stone in…pack it down and spin…using a polished burnisher to
push the edge over…good luck

Hi Jerry,

Sorry for being cryptic. We have modified the collet jaws on our
flex shaft so it has a right angle ‘seat’. I put the high bearing
bezel on this seat and open the flex shaft jaws until the finding is
held firm. I then spin it to check for level/trueness. Then take a
file and remove a small small amt of metal to bevel the edge. Then
burnish while spinning for a great finish. point you can even burnish
while the stone is in for a good fit but take care not to accidently
tighten too much since stone still needs to come out so finding can be
soldered to jewelry. Unfortunately this technique wont work on a
closed bottom bezel.

Feel free to email me off list and I’ll get even more illiterate.