Waste Not, Want Not

6 Minute Read

By Bradney W. SimonMore from this author

When it comes to recovering precious metal, nothing is worthless. However, if you walk into many repair shops you will find people behaving as if it were. Many people do not realize what a valuable asset their scrap is, and have been pleasantly surprise by the amount of additional revenues received from a refiner when a clean and orderly shop is maintained.

A dirty shop affects profits because of the high value of the metal that is used. Small pieces of gold on the floor from filing, buffing, and other operations in the shop, cling to the bottom of shoes. If the floor is not kept swept, the gold literally walks out the door of the shop. If not collected at the source, golddustis spread around the shop. It is then carried out of the shop on workers' hands, clothes, and shoes.

Bench Sweeps

More precious metal waste is generated at the bench than any other area in the shop. Always use your lap tray to collect metal filings and save these filings in a container to send to a refiner. Some refiners will supply you with a plastic jar with a screw top lid for these sweeps. Any type of container with a wide mouth top can be used; an old coffee can with a plastic lid works well.

To keep your bench clean a procedure needs to be followed. Clean out your lap tray on your bench during the day as needed. Then, at the end of the day, brush off your bench top, empty your lap tray, and, sweep the floor. Doing this while the jobs you worked on during the day are in the cleaner, helps to establish a routine. Perform a more complete job once a month.

Polishing Waste

A timetable for changing filters on apolishing machine varies greatly with the type of dust collection system you have. If dust accumulates on the wall near where the air comes out of the dust collector you have waited too long to clean it out and replace the filter. Changing the filters regularly not only helps profits by accumulating more precious metal dust, but also improves the health of the workers by not having to breathe all the dust and dirt into their lungs.

A sample schedule for a typical table top collector would be to clean out the polishing machine once a week, including vacuuming off the filter. Always vacuum from the side dirt enters the filter, never from the other side pulling dirt through the filter. Then, change the filter every other month.

Floor Sweeps

Don't let gold dust walk out of your shop - sweep the floor of the shop daily and mop monthly. Dump the dirty water from mopping in a sink with a gold trap in the drain. Never dump the water in the toilet or other drain without a trap.

Sink Trap

Precious metal particles are washed down the drain in many shops. To avoid this, install a special precious metal trap in the drain line on the sink in the shop. There are several styles available from tool suppliers. Be certain to purchase one that is made to trap precious metal particles, not just loose stones. For the retail shop, the small drum trap with a separating screen is adequate. Clean this trap out whenever water slows going down the drain.

Used Tools

All broken saw blades should be collected and not thrown away as fine particles of gold become caught in the teeth and can be refined. Also all old emery paper, burs, bristle brushes, rubber abrasive wheels, anything you use to sand, grind, or polish gold needs to be saved with the polishing waste after they are worn out.

Choosing a Refiner

Refiners vary greatly in the minimum fees they charge and the rate of return they give. You should contact several refiners and receive their pricing chart before deciding upon the refiner to use. Find a refiner whose pricing structure fits with the amount of scrap you have to process. Never Pay A Minimum Refining Charge, if you do you are paying too much to get your scrap refined.

Sending in your scrap on a consistent yearly basis has its advantages. You can compare your return from one year to the next to make sure you are getting maximum return on your scrap. By keeping records, you develop a history of your precious metal recovery. This will help you predict what your returns should be, and investigate any major variations.

A typical timetable for a retail shop is to send in the low-grade scrap for refining once a year. This could be done around the first of the year after cleaning up the shop from the long Christmas hours. At that time, send in the high-grade scrap as well. Send both packages together with a note to the refiner, stating that you want the two packages refined in the most economical manner.Depending upon the size of your lots, they will refine them either together or separately which ever gives you the better return.

Enough high-grade scrap is accumulated by the end of the summer to send it in a second time. Usually, not enough low-grade scrap is accumulated to send it in more than once a year. This has worked well for many stores. You need to weigh your scrap and decide what time table would work best for your shop.

I must emphasize that time spent cleaning the shop is not extra time you need to find. It is time you would spend looking for stones etc. if you did not do the cleaning. It is not spending more time it is just spending the time differently. If your bench and shop ate organized and you clean regularly it does not take that much time.

The following are a few tips to help you maximize the recovery of precious metal in your shop.
  • Workers should always wear an apron in the shop. This keeps gold from filing, grinding, and polishing operations from accumulating in their clothes and washed down the drain. Thin leather with a tanned smooth surface is best. Cloth aprons, such as denim, are betterthan nothing, butthey will accumulate precious metal down in the fabric. If cloth aprons are used they should not be washed but sent to the refiner to be burned and the gold recovered.
  • Place a piece of leather or mat board in the bottom of your lap tray. This will aid you in cleaning the sweeps out of your lap tray. Simply pick up the leatherby the comers and dump the sweeps into the container for bench sweeps. This also protects stones from the hard metal bottom of the lap tray, when accidentally dropped.
  • Ashop vacuum cleaner is a necessity. This makes clean up easier, and you will then be more likely to do it. This vacuum is for shop use only, and should never be used outside ofthe shop. Save all bags and send in with the polishing waste.
  • Place a doormat in the door way of the shop. Employees can wipe their feet on it as they leave the shop. This will help in removing particles of precious metal off the soles of their shoes. Replace the mat annually and send the old mat to the refiner with the polishing waste.
  • Ifyou pay the minimum refining charge you are paying the highest price to have your scrap refined. Always accumulate your scrap long enough to get beyond the minimum charge of the refiner. Never pay a minimum refining charge, if you do you are paying too much to get your scrap refined.
  • Do Not sell your scrap to a broker who comes into your store, estimates its value, and pays you cash. His margin more than exceeds the money you would save by cheating Uncle Sam on your income taxes.
  • When accumulating scrap always keep in mind this thought: WHEN IN DOUBT, DO NOT THROW IT OUT

Bradney W. Simon CMBJ


By Bradney W, Simon – © Bench Magazine
In association with
BENCH Magazine is devoted to the Bench Jeweler in retail jewelry stores and small trade shops.

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Bradney W. Simon

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