James has been a goldsmith for 49 years and created fine pieces for Asprey, Garrard and Kutchinsky. He has personally trained two apprentices in his time at the bench.
1.Always have a rigid bench peg to pierce on; a flat level side for piercing and a bevelled side for filing. When piercing hold the saw frame gently without gripping the handle tight and while holding the saw upright. With it’s frame at approximate right angles to your eye line start cutting the metal across the bench pin with the blade running between the 'V' cut of your bench pin. When piercing I cut mostly with my saw frame held between 45 and 90 degrees of my sight line. I was taught that it is always better to see where the blade is going, rather than where it has been. The saw blade will do the cutting on it’s downstroke so try not to use too much forward pressure.
2.When preparing pallions from a strip of hard silver solder I first clean both surfaces of the solder strip with a scraper or fibre glass brush. I pierce three cuts length wise along the solder strip for a length of about 10 mm. I then use my shears to cut across the solder strip at 1mm intervals which gives me nice tiny square pallions of solder, ready for use. These small square pallions have been partially pierced and so have two nice square sides that are easy to grip with tweezers.
3.To hold a circular bezel on a circle with binding wire for soldering I first wrap the wire across the diameter with the loose end of the wire bent up at a right angle and central to the item. Then I turn the item through 90 degrees and wrap the wire across the diameter again, using the bent up section of the wire as a centre mark. I repeat the process at spaces between the quarters and finally twist the wire in the centre to secure. This gives you eight sections of wire at equal spaces around the bezel, secured by one twist in the centre to prevent the piece moving during soldering.
4.To hold joints and metals together for soldering, I make small clamps from strips of 1mm thick or thinner, stainless steel sheet. I buy a small sheet of basic SS and then pierce 80mm long strips of about 4mm width and then bend them into the clamp shapes required using pliers. For small and delicate jobs I also sometimes file points on the end to suit tight fitting areas. Using these types of clamps keep joints firmly together as sometimes joints that are not secured will separate when heated.
5.To prepare a rub over bezel setting I first shape the outer bezel and then file the top edge flat. Using a pair of dividers I scribe a line at a distance from the top edge that equates to the required rub over size plus the thickness of the stone seat. For this photograph I have pierced a washer to serve as a stone seat, but you can also just use a jump ring, round tube or wire shaped to fit for a stone seat inside any other shaped bezel. I use a scorper to cut down to the line a few times around the circumference of the bezel so that the cuts throw up tags of metal along the line. These tags are used to support the stone seat washer while it is soldered in place.