The Studio – Jewelry Blog by Rio Grande

Jump Rings and Coils, Oh My!

Jun 29, 2011
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Krista Klein
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At the beginning of May I turned in my box cutter for a T-shaped Allen wrench. I said goodbye to the forklift and hello to the coiler, the hammered ear wire machine, and the eye-pin slider. Let me be plain: I transferred from the Receiving Team to the Machine Operator Team.

I had worked on the Receiving Team for more than a year, and it was a fun position that kept me busy. Why then, would I trade my spunky old team for a new team I knew so little about?

All in a day's work

Truth is that I loved my old job, but I had gotten to the point where I wasn’t learning something new every day. Don’t get me wrong, Receiving is far from boring, and there’s tons of opportunity to move around to other areas. One of the coolest things about working at Rio Grande is the ability we all have to resource shift and it was during some resource shifting that my interest in the Manufacturing area began.

For an hour or so every few weeks, I was invited over to the Machine Ops area to shadow an operator while they made crimp beads. Many of you may not know that Rio actually makes many of the products we carry. I learned firsthand about the large number of products we manufacture while I was offering my time to help in Machine Ops.

When one of the operators went on leave, they needed some extra help, and I found myself being introduced to the swager, the bull block, and the tube saws.

One day while I was helping out, the blade on the tube saws started making a nasty noise. It had been a while since I’d held a wrench during working hours, but I began troubleshooting the problem and I remembered how much I loved working with my hands. It was the daily challenges I enjoyed. One thing I noticed was how quiet these Manufacturing guys were. Other than giving instructions on how things worked, there wasn’t much conversation. They were totally focused on the tasks in front of them, the findings they made, and the machines making them. When my period of helping out was up, I was happy to get back to my loud bunch of receivers.

When the Machine Ops job opening came up, I hesitated to apply at first. I thought, "No way, I love my team." Having nine or ten different people doing essentially the same thing on the job sure makes for easy distribution of responsibilities. Our meetings were the fun kind of crazy, and most everyone liked to celebrate birthdays with either Kim’s famous salsa or a quick cake from the store. Would there be salsa and cake on the other side of the building?

Then I noticed how often I was looking for other things to do, like writing for the blog, or resource shifting, or exploring other areas at Rio Grande. I wanted to learn more.

Would pushing myself outside my comfort zone be beneficial? Could I let go of my rowdy team and settle into a quieter one? The business culture of Rio Grande encourages associates to do more, learn more, achieve more, and I decided that I was hoping for that too.

A time-lapse video would have showed me glued to this machine for 16 hours (two eight-hour shifts), just trying to get it right!

Now I'm one of four machine operators that manufacture findings; well, actually I’m learning how to manufacture findings. The plan is to start in the wire room, master all those machines, refine my techniques, and then move over to the presses. It’s been more than a month, and I’m still refining and mastering.

Right now I’m just producing scrap; I really had no idea what kind of trials were waiting for me in the wire room alone. There are so many ways to make jump rings!  Unfortunately, there are even more ways to mess them up!

 

Now that's small.

A small beaker cup filled to three inches is about 30,000 coils, but we still need 70,000 more.

Eventually I was able to make the coils, but not as quickly as an experienced operator.

I confess my determination is both an asset and a hindrance. Had I chosen to ask an experienced operator to help me figure out why the material wouldn’t move through the coiling fingers, I might have had success sooner.

I think that going from a team of nine or ten outspoken individuals who consistently demonstrated their team-playing capabilities to a small team of four people who work primarily on their own has been a little jarring for me. I’m still working on that, but I’m looking for opportunities to open up the conversation.

So, has there been salsa on this side of the building?  Not yet, but yesterday Mario, a Machine Ops teammate, got a Norwegian birthday cake! Yum!  (A member of the Findings Development Team had the skinny on the birthday and she baked the delicious cake! Thank you!)

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Carving Wax Metal Clay Molds: A Video with Mark Nelson

Jun 27, 2011
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Molly Therese Bell

Our own Yvonne Padilla uses molding compound and carving wax to create textures from inspiration she finds everywhere. In the following video Mark Nelson demonstrates this exciting method for trasferring texture to metal clay pieces:

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Eleanore Macnish: A Celebration of Color, Texture, and Delightful Detail!

Jun 23, 2011
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Molly Therese Bell

Eleanore Macnish is a jeweler and lampwork bead artist who’s unique, large-scale pieces are filled with charming, unexpected details. Eleanore uses a variety of metals, gemstones, found objects, and glass beads of her own making to hand-craft stunning, wearable artwork. . .

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Rio Grande’s Jewelry Book and DVD Contest: Announcing the Winners!

Jun 22, 2011
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Spencer Baum
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Thanks to everyone who entered our Jewelry Book and DVD Contest! We had a whopping 145 entries and we were glad to learn more about the books you love!

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Finishing Techniques: A Video with Mark Nelson

Jun 20, 2011
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Molly Therese Bell

What’s the best way to showcase a piece of jewelry fresh off the bench? Add shine and a gleaming finish to your work by polishing, burnishing, or tumbling. . .

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Wayne Meeten: Two-Time Grand Prize Winner of the Saul Bell Design Award

Jun 16, 2011
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Mike Schelle
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Wayne Meeten sits with his shoes and socks off, his blue jeans rolled neatly at the cuff, sipping a glass of orange juice. He’s looking at me a bit incredulously about a question I asked. He had just finished describing his training in jewelry and metalsmithing, and it was quite the mouthful. . .

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JCK Las Vegas 2011: The Recap

Jun 15, 2011
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Spencer Baum
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JCK 2011 is in the history books, and what a show it was! For those of you who were in Vegas and visited the Rio booth, thanks for stopping by. For those who weren’t able to attend, here’s a taste of the show for you. . .

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Mokumé Gane Washer Ring: A Project with Mark Nelson

Jun 13, 2011
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Mike Schelle
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With a Swanstrom disc cutter, a mallet, and a ring mandrel, you can create simple, beautiful rings in minutes. Make a continuous, seamless ring from a sheet of mokumé gane, the Japanese alloy metal made with several layers of gold, silver, and copper. . .

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Eddie’s Tips: Sorting Scrap Saves Money

Jun 9, 2011
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Eddie Bell
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I was 13 years old when my father first let me sit at his jewelers’ bench. I was so excited I can remember the moment like it was yesterday!
I was helping him bezel-set a diamond by tapping a punch as he guided it around the bezel. I asked him to teach me to set stones. To my surprise, he got up and sat me down to start learning the basics right then and there. As it turned out, it would be a long time before I set my first stone. . .

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A Recap of the SNAG 2011 Conference

Jun 8, 2011
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Yvonne M. Padilla

Last week the 40th anniversary of the SNAG conference was celebrated in Seattle, Washington. It was an amazing conference, and with over 900 attendees the energy level was intense. . .

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