Q: I just got a small inexpensive rolling mill, and I'm starting to figure out how to use it. Can you suggest anything to do with it I haven't thought of? I've already managed to roll out a tenth of an ounce of fine silver into a eighth-inch piece of wire six inches long in less than 90 minutes, annealing every few passes.
Q: I've got a Sparkie II "fusion" (capacitive discharge) welder, and I've been having trouble attaching nickel silver findings to my copper parts. Do you think it's these metals in particular that are the problem, or is something wrong with the machine?
Q: I bought a PUK arc welder as a cheap alternative to a laser welder. It’s good for jewelry assembly, but I’ve been mostly disappointed with it for other common tasks. Unless the stone I’m welding next to is a diamond, it’s likely to get damaged by the arc. It’s useless for repairing glasses frames, and doesn’t seem to work well for 18K yellow gold. Will a laser welder do the rest of these things better?
Q: I’m thinking of getting a laser welder for silver, gold and platinum, but I was wondering—does it require the use of flux, which seems to be irritating my lungs? And do they exhaust their own fumes, or do I have to provide an extraction system as well?
Q: I’m making a series of octagonal salt shakers in sheet silver, and I need to score the lines where the metal folds so the proper angles are produced. It’s not hard to do this on narrow bands of silver, but lines several inches long are another story. Short of purchasing an expensive scoring tool setup for the flex-shaft, is there a simple way to do this?
Q: I’ve got a Dremel tool, but I was wondering if it would be better to get a traditional-style hand drill with a crank, or one of those bow drills with a rope, for drilling holes for jewelry.
Q: I’ve got a Foredom hammer handpiece, and was thinking about buying the diamond and carbide tips for it. I was also looking at the Badeco tips, which are supposed to fit my handpiece, but don’t seem as sharp. Which should I get?
Q: I’m looking at getting a power engraving tool, mostly for bright-cutting and raising beads, but I’m torn between the GRS System 3, Gravermax, and Lindsey setups. I’ll only be using it every once in a while, so a lower price is attractive.
Q: I got a gold testing kit, but I used up all the little tubes of gel it came with. Can this magic goop be purchased in bulk so I can do away with those nasty tubes? What is your solution?
Q: I currently am using an air/acetylene Prestolite torch but would like to add a propane/oxygen torch to my toolbox. Can anyone offer insight into any differences between the Smith Little Torch and the Gentec Small Torch? Are the differences only the color and the cost or is there something more substantial that I am missing?
Q: I’ve got an older Foredom flex-shaft, but the foot pedal doesn’t work well anymore. It’s basically either on or off now, and the top speeds seem to have disappeared. Can these be fixed, or should I replace the whole thing?
Q: I already have a Smith Little Torch, but I’m thinking that getting a ProCraft electric soldering machine will make my life easier, especially when soldering posts on earrings. Or am I deluding myself?
Q: I have been using a flex-shaft and a small (#60) drill bit to drill holes in 20 gauge copper. I ding the center of the hole first, but it seems to take forever to get through the metal on most occasions. Am I doing something wrong?
Q: What’s the deal with the draw tongs I bought, with those wide jaws, big teeth, and hooked handle? I tried to use them for drawing some .35 mm fine wire and gave up in disgust. A regular pair of vise-grips worked a lot better.
Q: I make jewelry, and so far I’ve been dipping things into a solution, rubbing it with steel wool, then polishing everything by hand using a flex-shaft, but it’s slow. My question is: do I really need a tumbler? Would it give my work a more professional look?
Q: I’m thinking of getting a rolling mill, but I was wondering if I should get the kind with grooved rollers, or just flat. What are those grooves really good for—making square wire, or half-round stock, or what?
Q: I’m trying to get my air-acetylene Little Torch to burn hotter, and I thought I’d try oxygen rather than compressed air. Would it make sense to generate my own oxygen by electrolysis of water?
Q: I just got some old jeweler’s tools with a bunch of gravers that had handles a lot longer than the standard ones I’ve seen. They have a slot down the middle, a string wrapped around the handle, and a screw. The handles are longer, but the metal part sticking out is shorter than on normal gravers. Are they used the same way?
Q: I want to buff small metal items like flatware and jewelry items, maybe even watches. I got a flex-shaft machine, but I could use some help in figuring out how best to use it. Is this the right tool, or should I have bought a bench-mounted machine? Do I need to sand everything first, and if so, what grits do I use? Do I need to keep changing the angle I buff at? What do I do about all the dust and lint it throws everywhere? How big should the wheels be, and am I supposed to change speeds for different compounds?
Q: If a tool selling for 20 percent of the price can accomplish 80 percent of everything I want to do with it, then what’s the matter with that? This is, in engineering parlance, known as the Pareto Principle, or the 80:20 rule.
Q: Looking on the charts, at “total heating value after oxidation,” propane is 19768 BTU/lb. and butane is 19494 BTU/lb., but in every other category butane looks hotter. Which is really going to heat my jewelry items faster?
Q: I’m wondering which model of Foredom Flex-shaft handpiece to buy, the #30 which can take 1/8″ or 3/32″ tools, or the quick-change handpiece which only accepts 3/32″ shank tooling. Any advice?
Q: I am considering buying some drawplates, starting with a round or multi-shape plate. I have heard that the best drawplates are from Italy, is this true? Would it be best to purchase a tungsten plate or one made from tool steel?
Q: I want to start carving waxes for jewelry, but the official tools are so expensive! I’d like to get started with some basic home-made tools; any suggestions on what I need to do? Also, I’d like to rig up a wax lathe for turning small round jewelry parts—any suggestions on how to do that?
Q: I’ve heard of a process for sharpening files that involves dipping them in acid. Do you think that will also work for burs? I have a lot of dull ones, and they’re expensive to replace.
Q: I’ve been told that acetylene was necessary for jewelry soldering, because natural gas and propane just don’t get hot enough. Is that true? Would I need oxygen to use anything else besides acetylene?
Q: When I was traveling I bought a hand-pumped drill that looks like one of those things Indians used to start fires. Is it an antique? Does anybody still use them for making jewelry in the developed world?
Q: I’m thinking of buying a bench grinder for my studio, so I can grind the edges of silver shapes and do some tool shaping. I wonder if I can also use it for polishing. Is this the right tool, and if so, which ones do you recommend? How much horsepower do I need, how fast should it go, and is variable speed important? Do I need a hood and fans for dust collection?
Q: I’m moving to Europe from the USA, and wonder if I can make my electrical jewelry equipment work over there, since they use 220v 50hz power, while all my equipment was set up to run on 110v 60hz.
Q: I’ve got a tank of acetylene that hasn’t been used in a long time. I think it’s about half full, and I don’t plan to use it. But I’ve heard scary stories about people blowing themselves up by transporting acetylene in their cars. How can I trade it in safely?
Q: I’m trying to prioritize the safety hazards of my jewelry studio. What’s more dangerous, being near electromagnetic fields from electrical lines, vacuuming up spilled jewelry investment, or exposure to the germs that lurk in my studio’s bathroom?
Q: I like using these tight white gloves with a thin grip coating when I’m polishing. I like them better than using those thick, bulky rubber covers on individual fingers, but I’ve been told they aren’t as safe—what’s the problem?
Q: I just heard about a dust explosion in a sugar factory that killed a lot of people. Is there anything similar to worry about in the dusts we jewelers generate?
Q: Do we jewelers really need to feel guilty about our environmental effects? I haven’t done the math, but I doubt that a jeweler’s use of fuel gases amounts to as much in a year as an SUV uses in a week.
Q: I’ve just started working with platinum, and I know I need some extra eye protection from the hotter torch temperatures involved. Are those blue cobalt safety glasses the best ones to use?
Q: How hot should the oven get when burning out jewelry investments? How hot should the mold be when you cast sterling silver? Why have my castings been coming out black and pitted, with little pinholes?
Q: Does anyone know how to prevent causing dings in metal (such as silver or Nugold) while doming? I domed a piece of Nugold with a white plastic pear-shaped mallet in a hard wood dapping block and am having a heck of a time removing the dings! The mallet is round on both ends.
Q: Does niobium come in tubes? (I ask because I would like to avoid a rivet in a ring if I can help it.) If so, how workable is it? For instance, could I buy a tube whose inside diameter is close to what I need and then use a ring stretcher to shrink or enlarge the tube diameter? If so, how many sizes: ½, 1, 2? Can niobium be annealed easily?
Q: How does one go about coloring the reactive metals like titanium, niobium, or tantalum? Aside from grinding and polishing the metal surface first, what do I need to do to get those iridescent colors I’ve seen?