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Starting A Club – Using a Rockhound Approach

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I have been an avid reader of Ganoksin for many years. I got interested in casting, 18 years ago, while working at a Lockheed facility in Texas. Lockheed sponsored a recreational facility which included a Rockhound Club. The club met my needs in the beginning for casting but their focus was on Rocks and treated precious metals “as a means to an end” to show off the rocks. I was on the other side and relished what could be done in precious metal casting and fabrication – gems to me were an enhancement on the basic precious metal (neither position is an absolute). As a result, I started to purchase equipment for my home workshop. I’m currently retired and dread the day when my daughter will try to dispose of everything like it was a fire-sale. Entering this hobby in my early 60s I need to think about how to gracefully exit.

The thought that has been running around in my head is to recreate the environment of the club where I got my start and then simply donate all my equipment, thus giving me a place to continue to work/teach and engage in the fun and provide a legacy for myself and others.
ANY assistance that could be provided to help me along the way would be greatly appreciated. Perhaps someone out there has done what I’m thinking about and either documented successes/trials/tribulations or can draw from their memory to assist. The other possibility is that perhaps there are among the population individuals who can make recommendations on governance of such an organization (without getting panties in a bunch and legal aspects). We have many bench jewelers in the area who could probably be coerced into providing their expertise.

Location would be best served in Rockwall County Texas near zip 75087
Initial Metalsmithing equipment would include Large Vulcanizer, Small Vulcanizer, Large Burnout Oven, Small Burnout Oven, numerous investment cans with rubber bases, 3 Wax Injectors (1 air assist 2 manual pots), 2 Benches with drawers and storage, 1 soldering station (homemade), Smith Torch complete with tanks (propane and Oxy) and regulators, vacuum station with pump and spring mounted table and two large bells, small jewelers lathe, dual spindle buffer with hoods, two drum tumbler, 1 large & 1 small vibrating rock/metal polisher, several toolboxes, antique jewelers Drill Press, Antique Lap, Digital Temperature Controller for all equipment. Several hundred (700-800) vulcanized molds, 2 large storage cabinets with roll top access 3 ft X 6 ft, 4 drawer lateral cabinet converted for bulk item storage, two folding tables.

Initial Lapidary equipment would include – 10-inch trim saw, raytech GSP-8A lapidary Gem Maker, bunches of rocks most unknown many exhibit southwest type, tumblers and polishers already mentioned in metalsmithing.

Members would have their own hand tools
Members would buy their own metal and gems
Members would purchase mold material if needed.
Need to establish a replenishment policy for consumables

A thought I had was to approach our local industrial park and see if they would be willing to invest in the startup and perhaps ongoing maintenance for the club. Any thoughts

Regards and Thanks in advance
Ron Wade

Have you looked into a local mineral club? Check here:

I belong to a club in the Southeast Federation and we own a building and equipment but not for casting. We teach it but don’t have the ability to cast onsite. Perhaps your local club could help you out.

Found two in or near Dallas:

Hi Ron,

Have you looked into the maker space in your area? I know the one in my community would love to have a casting setup.

Good luck!

Thanks for the research. I’ve checked out the various clubs and all are outside a comfortable range. They are all a minimum of 30 minutes away.

Having said that, I got some interesting ideas on organization, dues, fees, classes, etc. The most interesting was the Arlington club which as a building use fee of $3/hr. With today’s technology RFID access being so affordable this could be a very viable option for member access. I understand that equipment can be RFID controlled as well so that you would have to qualify on the equipment in order to be able to start it.

Thanks for the information
Ron Wade

Pam6 – Yes I have checked it out. I went to the opening and talked with the co-owners. They are primarily sponsors for the HS Robotics Club in Rockwall. Although they have a GREAT setup it is two very large areas that are suitable but very crowded. The other issue was one of governance and ownership. Once equipment is put into the environment it is solely under the control of a few people and not membership oriented. The fees are also out of my price range of $50/mo. These issues are what is leading me to believe that a sponsored site or a membership type is the best alternative.

Thanks for the suggestion.
Ron Wade

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A few thoughts from an old rockhound who is familiar with rock clubs and with casting, as well as some clubs which have workshops and some that don’t. My first reaction is that you have bit off a lot to chew and focused on casting rather exclusively. My experience is that many rockhounds, cabbers and faceters are not interested in casting, so you may or may not have a quorum for what you propose in Rockwall. I don’t know how many would come there from Dallas. You can look at the offerings at the Wm Holland School and the Wildacres School, both in the Appalachians. These offer summer courses to the gem and mineral clubs of the Southeast. They teach all kinds of things, but there isn’t a focus on casting as opposed to bead stringing, cabbing, faceting, geology, gemology , wire wrapping and jewelry fabrication. There is also a close parallel to what you want to do in Nashville, where the Middle Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society runs two workshop/schools, one in Nashville near the airport and one in Murfreesboro. These schools are in senior citizen centers and this is a great help in dealing with expenses and space. Their class scehdules are available on line and I don’t see one class in casting. Folks like to work with their hands and make things and casting is a little too technical and takes too long for many. You can learn to make a silver pendant in a weekend and then build on your skills from there, whereas casting is more complex generally and not something most people could continue at home easily. So I would check to see if other folks are interested to the degree and focus that you are.

Speaking as a former club member and with experience with clubs in the Southeast, you face dealing with stakeholders who have been in the club for years and who have their decision making positions staked out. Many oppose change and some make money with their teaching and small workshops and might oppose a free workshop for all. Others seem to oppose just out of some kind of perverse negativity. You have to acquire space and insurance as well as equipment and many don’t want to do it. If you can find a group of younger, newer people, perhaps you will have a quorum for change, but perhaps not.

You also have a large wish list of stuff and there isn’t a need for all of that to start. For casting, one burnout oven, one casting setup, a few hand tools, a flexshaft, a torch and perhaps a buffer (more or less) and you are good to go. You will find that some come to this without any experience and they don’t have hand tools, so it makes sense to provide these in a kit that can be checked out and used and returned. Most people do not want to spend $200 on tools to try something like this out. As I say, you will find more people interested in silver and copper fabrication than in casting. And the fabrication can be started with a few pliers, a few files, a butane torch and a few other hand tools. Polishing can even be with emery papers and polishing sticks. Once people catch the “bug” they may want everything you specify and more, but not to start.

Once you have done battle with the Senior Citizen Center Board and the Rock Club Board, you may feel it’s better to start up at home. A couple thousand would get you going in casting and I could show you have to do it for half that or less if you wanted to build equipment or search for used stuff. As far as saddling the kids with selling it all, this happens every day and is a bargain for someone at your estate sale. If you are getting into lots of stuff, you can identify someone that your kids can donate it to or who can assist with the sale. Perhaps you will identify a protege and gift it to him/her oon your exit from the hobby. Let me know if I can help further, as I have a fair amount of experience in the hobby end of this.

I may of be of assistance to you Mr. Wade, you can reach me by mail or phone, or here for that matter but that is the slowest route.

I am a private collector, occasional fabricator, and my interests in your endeavor is multi faceted if you will excuse the pun.
(409) 750-1776

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Hello Ron,
If you are interested in starting a guild for metal jewelers, the Florida Society of Goldsmiths has posted our bylaws and chapter guidelines on our website at These legal documents will be needed to start a corporation, and we are happy to give anyone information to get started.

Please price insurance before anything else. It is not unobtainable, but many people only think of the liability last.

If I can be of further help, just email me at
Jean-Marie DeSpiegler


What a wonderful thing for FSG to do!

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you and apologies for the lengthy reply. First let me clarify what might be a couple of misunderstanding (my bad in composition) – 1) The list of equipment is what I’m going to contribute to the endeavor, it is all currently in my garage shop – 2) I’m not really targeting teaching as the primary motivation, I’ll certainly teach equipment safety, mold making, and intro to casting; pewter, silver, and gold. – 3) I have enough lapidary equipment to engage a beginner but that’s not my skill set for teaching. I’m sure that classes will grow especially if I can engage the community.

Response to “A” – That is not my experience. I think it is a matter of perspective from the “rock” side or the “metals” side. Probably one of the reasons why Precious Metal Clay has had so much success.

Response to “B” – Got some interesting ideas from the Wm Holland School website. And, the Wildacres School sounds phenomenal and not very expensive. Maybe I’ll make this a vacation trip for the spouse and I in the motor-home.

Response to “C” – Looked it up and found valuable information including they offer Delft Clay Casting, just a minor step to investment casting.

Response to “D” – Yup, yup, yup. Perhaps it is good to start from the ground floor since there are not any established organizations in my community.

Response to “E” – Excellent suggestion

Response to “F” – Looking at that as an option. Currently spousal resistance. No $$ needed

Response to “G” – LOL I’m not interested in a fire sale. Mentorship or protege investment YES

Response to “H” – I have put your contact info in the file and will certainly call upon your expertise as the occasion merits.

Regards and Thanks RLW
Ron Wade

Jean-Marie DeSpiegler,
NO PUN INTENDED – However the website is a GOLDmine. Reality says that I’m probably not interested in the guild concept (not discarding it) since it is somewhat of a tangent to my goal. However, the resources on the website will be invaluable regardless of the direction chosen.

Thanks and complements to FSG for the diverse documentation available.

Also have saved your contact information and will contact you for future assistance as needed.

Thanks and regards RLW
Ron Wade

Betsy Lehndorff,
After a review of the links on the website, I couldn’t agree more.

Regards RLW
Ron Wade

Purple_prose – Brandon,
Thanks for the telephone conversation, and the follow-up messages. Since we are a considerable distance from each other I don’t see an immediate ability to assist each other. The pictures you sent are fascinating. Good luck in your endeavors and I’ll keep your information on file and contact you as needed.

Regards RLW
Ron Wade

Hi Ron,
You might find interest from a craft or senior citizen’s center. From what I see, as I said, the faceters are not interested in metalwork. I say this because I ran an annual show for faceters for five years (still going on now with other organizers) and never could get any interest in stone setting classes going. You will also find that most rockhounds are satisfied with the belt buckles and bolo tie settings that are sold in rock shops and jewelry supply stores. Not all, but most. And, as I said, you don’t find many casting classes at the summer schools or at the Donelson Fifty Forward School in Nashville. they give about whatever there is a demand for, so no classes means little demand. I’ll just reiterate that if you can show folks how to solder and cut metal and polish it they will be overjoyed to make simple jewelry and they can do this with a simple butane torch ($25, Lowe’s) and don’t have to melt and pour metal, which many will find somewhat scarey. I would also disagree that Delft Clay is most of the way to centrifugal or vac casting. Lots more to either of the latter. Precious metal clay is popular because it is easy. You cannot offer people a really easy stepwise route to professional jewelry casting and there’s the rub. I have thought about doing a wax carving/build up class and then showing folks the vac casting part. Then they don’t have to do the melting and the investing. Kind of like a raku pottery party. These are very popular because there is all the drama of the red hot kiln, only someone else professional is handling it.

If you have the time to spend a week at Wm. Holland or Wildacres, do so. It is a cheap immersion experience. If you belong to a local rock club you get priority in reserving a place in class and a cheaper rate at Wm. Holland (I think your club has to be part of the SEFMS and maybe Wildacres the club has to be part of AFMS). I didn’t find the food at Wm. Holland to be great, but that was several years ago.

So if I understand you right you have collected all this equipment and now want a place to share it with others. That’s very commendable, but I don’t know if you will find someplace willing to let you lend your equipment…they might want it donated. What if you donated all this and started classes and no one came? What happens then? I have friends who have donated pipe organs to churches with the stipulation that if the organ isn’t used, it reverts to the donor.

I’d be tempted to keep the casting part at home and get a yard barn for it if needed and maybe do a wax carving/buildup class somewhere and see if there was a demand for more. IDK if you are going to get a lot of students if you don’t have a lot of experience with this. Casting is finecky and it is easy to get blowouts and porosity, etc., which would frustrate you and the students.

I do admire your lack of trepidation…do let me know how it goes.

Very Best,

Thanks For the follow up, and the honesty. Maybe we will cross paths some
ways down the road, and I’ll shake your hand good sir.

Brandon Haynes

Thanks for the kind words about the website! We have some incredible volunteers and the group was based on sharing information and education workshops. We welcome everyone and are reaching out to lapidary groups as well for information sharing. Please pass the word and enjoy back issues of our newsletter on the site as well.

A note about Wildacres Retreat. They are non-profit religious retreat that rents to other non-profits, like FSG and Ringling Art School. All of the hands on jewelry / sculpture classes are offered by art groups, not Wildacres. Due to the expense of hiring the best teachers, the prices may be different from what you see for room and board at Wildacres; but they are still a great value!