Check out this list of 19 jewelry making tricks and tips for preparation, cleaning, setting, how-to’s and more.
1. Cleaning stones
When doing re-mounts often the stones we have to set need to be cleaned before we can set them. A quick and easy method to clean them at the bench is to place the stones in the palm of your hand, and sprinkle table salt over them. Then rub together with your finger. The abrasiveness of the salt will clean the toughest gunk off the stones, and the 2 to 2 1/2 hardness of salt makes it safe for even colored stones.
2. Mixing Paddles
The plastic coffee stirs from McDonalds make excellent paddles for mixing epoxies. And the best part is you get one FREE with every cup of coffee!
3. Millgrain Wheel
Place your millgrain wheel in the handpiece of a Gravermeister, GraverMax, or GraverMate. This makes it easier to use and you will be more efficient.
4. Setting Colored Stones
When setting colored stones with an uneven pavilion in clusters or as side stones, set the thicker portion to the outside of the mounting where it will receive more abuse. If the stone is set with the thinner edge to the outside it may become chipped while wearing.
5. Makeshift Jewelry Holder
Take a warm ball of Jett Sett (the plastic substitute for shellac) and place in a 2″ X 3″ plastic bag. Spread it out to fill the bag approximately one sixteenth inch thick, then fold the bag in half to 2″ X 1 1/2″. When hardened trim off the top of the bag. Then, when you have a ring shank or other jewelry that is too thin to hold tightly, place the jewelry between the two halves of the bag and insert in your ring clamp.
6. Annealing While Gold
When annealing white gold, use a bushy flame and heat the gold to a red color. Then, hold the metal at this temperature for several minutes by playing the flame across the metal. Heating the metal for too short of a time will not completely anneal the metal. Refiners anneal white gold in ovens and hold the metal at annealing temperatures for a half hour. Always allow the gold to air cool slowly. NEVER quench white gold, as this will cause it to become brittle.
7. Flush Setting
When flush setting use a burnisher with a flat tip rather than a rounded tip. The rounded tip will not allow you to burnish the metal at the point of contact with the stone, which may cause difficulty tightening the stone.
A flat tipped burnisher makes full contact with the metal allowing you to burnish the metal tightly against the stone. A pointed tipped burnisher works well on diamonds, however the pointed tip may scratch softer colored stones.
8. Coin Pendants
When a customer brings in a coin pendant with the screw stripped, clean the threads from the pendant with a Krause bur then fit a wire in the hole and rivet it closed.
Do Not solder the wire in, actually rivet the ends down. The tubes are soldered to the frame and will move or come off easily if you try to solder the wire in. Also if the customer ever wants to change the coin you can cut the rivet head off and replace the rivet.
If a coin is loose in a coin frame, take a piece of wire and roll it out with a rolling mill. Then cut pieces to wedge between the coin and the frame. The length of piece and thickness depends on how loose the coin is.
To keep from marring a coin when pushing down on the tabs to hold them in, make a pusher by inserting a wooden dowel rod in a graver handle, or make a pusher from the plastic handle of a tooth brush.
9. Aligning Wedding Sets
To help hold wedding sets together in perfect alignment while soldering together, hold the rings together in your fingers. Next, place a small amount of super glue between the rings at their top. Then clamp the rings as you normally would and solder the back of the shanks together. If any glue remains when finished soak in acetone to remove.
Note: before performing this procedure make certain your soldering area is well ventilated. When heated super glue will emit toxic vapors.
10. Power Burnisher
To make a power burnisher, remove the screw from the end of a flex-shaft mandrel. Insert a screw eye in its place and solder together using silver solder.
To use, place in your flex-shaft and hold the rotating screw eye against your metal. The edges of the screw eye will burnish any soft metal, and you can watch your progress through its opening.
11. Time Saving
Keep your workbench organized, then you will not waste time looking for tools.
12. Clamping Pearls
Use a wooden clothespin to clamp pearls while gluing. A hole can be easily drilled through it to accommodate an earring post, and a ball bur can be used to carve a recess to help hold the pearl.
13. Channel Setting Diamonds
When channel setting diamonds, color the inside of the channel with a black felt tip marker. Then when placing the stones in the channel, it is easier to see the space between the stones and to keep them even. If any ink remains after your done soak the jewelry in alcohol.
14. Burs and Drills
When using burs and drills keep the cutting edge cool. To do this, always use a lubricant while using your burs and drills. You can use oil based or solid wax based cutting lubricant. This helps keep the cutting edges cool prolonging tool life. In addition, it helps the metal chips flow away from the cutting edge preventing the teeth from clogging.
15. Preventing Damage while Polishing
Place a piece of cardboard from an old box under the polishing wheels. Just lay it on the bottom of the cabinet under where the wheel turns. This will cushion and possibly keep from damaging the piece of jewelry that “gets away” while polishing. A piece of kitchen type carpet works well also.
16. Cutting Polishing Time
Increase the size of your polishing wheels from the standard 4″ wheel to a 6″ wheel. This will cut polishing time by over 1/3. Changing to a 6″ wheel from an old wheel worn down to 2 or 3″ will cut polishing time too less than 1/2. This is due to the surface area of the wheels. Although spinning at the same speed, more surface area moves over the jewelry in the same amount of time there by polishing faster.
17. Wood Lap Polishing Point
Placing a section of a bamboo skewer in your flex-shaft can make an excellent wood lap polishing point. File the protruding end to a point, and use your favorite rouge. The bamboo skewers are approximately 3/32″ in diameter, which makes them easy to use in a quick-change hand piece.
18. Polishing Small and Difficult Areas
A small cotton buff for your flex-shaft can easily be made to polish recesses and other areas that are small and difficult to access. First, take an old ball bur small enough to fit into the area. Then wrap cotton around the bur by holding the bur against a small piece of cotton while turning slowly in your flex-shaft. Apply rouge to the cotton and use to polish the area.
Drill a 3/8″ hole in the center of your muslin buff wheels. Then place on the tapered spindle of your polishing motor. This larger hole will allow the wheel to move up further on the tapered spindle. You can then place an inside ring buff on the remaining tapered spindle. You can then use both the inside ring buff and muslin buff wheel with out stopping the motor and changing the buffs.