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Working at production speed


Over the past couple of years I’ve concentrated on getting the
quality of my work up to a consistent professional quality. I’m past
the point where I’m excited (and surprised) when something works on
the first attempt. I now can think through what can go wrong ahead
of time and plan accordingly.

And when something does go wrong, I can fix it. And the difficulty
of my work has progressed. All well and good.

The next step is to get my speed closer to “the standards.” I
realize that it will take repetition and practice. If I had to make
a living doing repairs today, I’d be living in a tent and eating
rice :wink: I don’t do a lot of repairs (I do mostly custom settings),
but today I was putting sizing balls into a 18k ring (with gem
protection, not removal) and was curious about how far behind
"standards" I currently am.

So, first question… how many minutes should it take for a decent
bench jeweler to install sizing beads/balls? Second question… is
there a reference chart somewhere that I could use as a benchmark
for my speed progress? Thanks for your help and for your daily
contributions. I look forward to them.



Jamie, we usually use “speed bumps” instead of balls but the
principal is basically the same. We will be in the 30 to 45 min
range (probably closer to the 45) which includes a very thorough
refinish and QC check at the end.

Hope this helps. Tim

So, first question... how many minutes should it take for a decent
bench jeweler to install sizing beads/balls? Second question... is
there a reference chart somewhere that I could use as a benchmark
for my speed progress?

I am sorry to say that you are on the wrong path! Einstein said -
“things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler” We can
paraphrase it - “things should be as fast as possible, but no
faster” Quality of work overrides everything else. Speed comes not
from working faster, but from avoiding doing unnecessary steps. When
you can work wearing 3 piece suit and a tie, without breaking a
sweat, you are working at the right speed.

leonid surpin



I know of no charts for speed. If you can eat and pay the rent good,
afford an after christmas cruise better, and a steadly growing bank
balance with all of the above even better.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing


Jamie- I’ve worked in some pretty fast paced environments. Places
where we had to repair 20-40 pieces a day. I once worked in a factory
where I was the only native english speaker in production. We cranked
out hundreds of pieces a day.

I found that I learned how to work without thinking or looking for
my tools. It was great training. I’ve also done a bunch of high end,
“take your time” work.

I enjoy having both kinds of work speed. They are both very useful.

I remember back in the early 70’s, SNAG used to have a solder,file
finish, speed competition at their conferences.

Speed is not everything, but it sure comes in handy when you need

As for sizing balls? I could do that in a mater of minutes from
start to finish.

have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer


When I had my own diamond setting trade-shop I put up a sign… here
it is…

“speed, accuracy, price pick two!..”

I hope this is good for this posting…



Where is the balance point? This is a common dilemma that aspiring
jewellery repairers and manufacturers face.

In some environments speed is favoured over quality ranging from
’almost good enough’ to ‘good enough’. Other environments require
quality over speed ranging from ‘good’ through ‘excellent’ to

‘Excellent’ requires excellent renumeration for the time, care and
resopnsibility. If you are expected to provide ‘excellent’ at
’almost good enough’ renumeration then look at your own balance
point in relation to theirs…as you are doing!

If you can deliver ‘excellent’ at speed then the profit is
rightfully yours. Let others determine your balance point while you
are learning, but once you have learned then you will know your own
balance point. While learning on the job you must also be doing your
homework…your own time/speed/quality analysis amongst other
things. Adhere to your homework because that’s what counts for you.

Advice from your ‘employer’ or ‘customer’ must be scrutinized very
carefully. Sometimes they are really looking out for you, but in my
experience this is very rare.

All the best, Alastair


Perhaps you could work this question kind of backwards by finding out
how much is charged for repairs, as in Geller’s book, timing
yourself, and then seeing if you would get your bench pay rate at
that price. If not, you’d have to either speed up or lower your rate.



Two ways to fast shots, and I don’t mean tequilas.

Melt your balls to size appropriately…

  1. Lay it in a dapping hole of the right size, tap just enough to
    make a slight flat, then proceed to solder after layout.

  2. Use a ball bur, again after careful layout, to make two small
    indents in the shank. Lay the ball in and use paste solder. I like
    paste here because sheet solder may jump around and not go where you
    need it, which is inside the hole

  3. Ok its three ways. Lately I like using the laser for shots. ball
    a wire end. Flat a slight flat on the ball. Using the wire as both a
    ’handle’ and a layout guide, laser that puppy in place, cut and trim
    the wire, use a cup bur if you like. I like the laser cuz I’m too
    lazy and cheap to turn on the oxy.

Torching should take 5 minutes plus polishing. Laser is longer,
maybe 15 min for a tricky one. But if it ever needs to be
removed…no scars.

While we’re at it, I typically charge $40-80, more if there are
complicating factors.

But generally speaking, accuracy and finish are way more important
than speed.If you go too fast and screw it up, you gotta do it again
and you’ve lost the speed. The customer will never know, or care, how
fast/slow you are. They do care if you are inaccurate.

Speed is not everything, but it sure comes in handy when you need

Reminds me of job interviews for doing dentistry: I said to them do
you want it done right or done fast?

They mostly wanted it done fast. IF you could do fast and good, you
wanted too much money!

After getting used to the skills needed to do a procedure, it can be
done faster because you are in your comfort zone. Going faster by
skipping steps can get you in trouble doing dentistry or jewelry.

I never go as fast as I can because I enjoy people and talking with
them takes time, especially with all the crap we put in their mouths!

Charles Friedman DDS
Ventura by the Sea