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Wire/bezel stock survey


#1

Orchid members,

I am trying to conduct an online survey to get a rough idea how many
goldsmiths out there are making their own gold and silver stock by
pouring their own ingots and using a rolling mill and drawplates. The
answers to the questions below can help me with some research I am
doing involving the steps needed to produce hand-made wire stock. I
appreciate any Orchid members can give me which will help
give me a clearer picture of how this process is perceived, and
perhaps an idea of what percentage of metalsmiths out there are
making their own wire, bezel, and sheet stock and what percentage are
ordering it ready-made. If you are one of those who DO manufacture
your own precious metal stock for your fabrication work, please help
answer these questions:

  1. What part of the process do you find the most difficult?

  2. What are your reasons for making your own stock?

  3. How and where did you learn to produce your own stock, and
    how long did it take you to become proficient at it?

  4. What machines or tools work best for you, and which are
    problematic?

  5. How do you feel your finished product compares to factory
    made wire or bezel stock?

  6. What products do you make yourself that you cannot find
    ready-made for purchase?

If you DON’T make your own stock, and prefer factory-made
wire/bezel stock to work with, can you answer these questions?

  1. Do you consider the hand-made wire making process overly
    difficult, unsafe, or time consuming?

  2. Do you feel the hand-made product is inferior in quality
    to purchased wire and bezel?

  3. Do you feel that there is a wide enough variety of wire
    shapes and bezel stock offered by mail-order companies to
    fulfill your fabrication needs?

  4. Would the costs of purchasing a rolling mill, drawplates,
    ingot molds, etc.be prohibitively expensive for your business?

  5. Do you ever use the rolling mill or drawplates to modify
    purchased wire or bezel stock for your particular needs?

Any additional comments:

I appreciate any submitted, and will try to summarize
the received and present it to the Orchid membership when
completed. You are welcome to contact me off-line at:
@Jay_Whaley

Sincerely,
Jay Whaley UCSD Craft Center


#2
     1.  What part of the process do you find the most difficult? 

Patience. I often must focus on not rushing through any part of the
process to get to the end result of what I see in my mind as
finished jewelry. I sometimes find it difficult to “make haste
slowly.”

     2.  What are your reasons for making your own stock? 

The same reason I cut most of my gems from the rough. I derive
intense satisfaction from taking raw materials and making something
that another person likes enough to part with their hard-earned
money. To me, it’s the highest compliment.

     3.  How and where did you learn to produce your own stock,
and how long did it take you to become proficient at it? 

At home in books, mostly. Also from asking questions of everyone I
meet who does it. I had a conversation just today with our
old-school bench jeweler about refining platinum sweeps. Because I
learn as much as I can before plunging too deeply, proficiency did
not take long…a few days with each metal to get the process right.
Years to become expert, though.

     4.  What machines or tools work best for you, and which are
problematic? 

They all work well, but I suppose the tool that works easiest for me
is the rolling mill. Hardest is usually hammering. This is where I
sometimes want to rush, and so, lose focus. I take extra time when
hammer forging.

     5.  How do you feel your finished product compares to factory
made wire or bezel  stock? 

As good as any, and better than some. Once a good ingot is made,
forging and annealing bring the crystal structure of the metal to a
nice, dense condition. I can work it into any shape and hardness
from dead soft to “harder than a chemistry exam.” What could be
better than that?

           6.  What products do you make yourself that you cannot
find ready-made for purchase? 

Practically everything. I usually cut stones for "best effect,"
which usually means nonstandard or non-calibrated sizes and shapes.
For example, instead of wasting a lot of factory made bezel wire
that is wider than necessary (by filing, sawing, etc.), I can
usually roll and shape precisely what I need with very little waste.
In turn, that waste is saved for the next time I cast an ingot. It
spends a little money in terms of my time, but saves a lot more in
fabrication charges for factory-made sheet, wire and bezel.

While these materials are all available for purchase ready-made,
they are usually not available in the sizes/shapes I need. And even
when they are, I just prefer to do it myself. Trade-in value for
scrap is low, and I save a lot by reusing scrap along with new
grain. So I guess it’s a question of both economics, and the thrill
of doing every step from scratch.

James S. Duncan, G.G.
James in SoFl


#3

For the 30 years I have been goldsmithing I have produced nearly all
of the precious metal stock I use from scratch in the studio. The
ability to make what you need when you need it, in what amount,
quickly and efficiently, and on a moment’s notice, is an integral
part of goldsmithing. For most traditional goldsmiths, this is
primarily how the work is accomplished.

Aesthetically, I find this to be one of the real joys of
goldsmithing. Alloying and amalgamating the metals to the desired
karat and color, pouring the ingots and fabricating the stock is a
satisfying and rewarding experience. It also promotes a better
knowledge and understanding of the working properties of precious
metals than merely assembling prefabricated parts (not that there is
anything wrong with that) and it is one of the best ways to learn and
master the processes of annealing and forming non ferrous metals.

I learned this on my own early on in my career and before I had the
benefit of any formal training. Fortunately for me it was in part due
to financial limitations which caused me to learn to use and reuse
every bit and scrap of metal to the utmost. It did not take a long
time to become proficient, and I feel it is definitely worth the time
and expense needed to acquire this skill set. The main items
involved are: an adequate torch, ingot molds, a rolling mill,
drawplates, and preferably a draw bench. In my opinion the quality of
stock one can produce in the studio is perfectly suitable for any and
all jewelry fabrication.

To make this ability more readily available to others, I will be
teaching a workshop focusing on exactly these skills. “Studio
Essentials I - Working in Precious Metals” will be a 2 day workshop
presented at Metalwerx scheduled for May 20 - 21, 2006. We will be
working with 18kt gold, producing sheet, wire, and tubing. For more
info about this class please contact www.metalwerx.com or write to
me offlist.

As artists, when we learn new techniques and broaden our skills and
repertoire, we also become more creative, and we enjoy our work more.

Michael David Sturlin
www.michaeldavidsturlin.com


#4

Hi Jay,

I make my own stock of fine silver wire and shapes.

  1. perhaps the most difficult is taking the large ingot and rolling
    it down to start Or maybe drawing that last skinny piece thru the
    drawing plate.

  2. I make my own stock because I

    a. have alot of scrap
    b. need particular shapes and sizes of wire for plique a jour
    enamel

  3. I read books and just tried it.

  4. I do this all manually

  5. I am very pleased with my own product because I would rather
    produce it than pay the prices by the foot for the manufactured
    product.

Hope this helps

Jennifer Friedman
enamelist, jewelry artisan, ceremonial silver
Ventura, CA