Practice Easier Diamond Setting – Tools Explained in Details

by Gerry Lewy on December 9, 2012

Diamond Setting Tools Explained in Details

I have been asked of my choice of tools, on many an occasion. This is from my new group of students every semester, or even some folks on another jewellery resource Educational programs….

Well after some careful deliberation, I have compiled a detailed list of some necessary items that every setter should have within arms reach. All of these items should be, as I just stated, “within arms reach”.! Not forcing your hand or your fore-arm to mess up some diamonds laying systematically on your bench. But your tools should be carefully laid out, basically, on the side of your bench-top.

My personal choice of diamond setting tools and why!

Tools that are needed for easier Diamond Setting!

  • Optical Visor w / #5 lens attached
  • Saw frame with adjustable frame length
  • Saw blades of number # 4/0
  • Oil stone, double sided, “Arkansas”, 8 inches in length
  • Bud burs, 3/32” shaft, numbers # 006 – # 012
  • Ball burs, 3/32” shaft, numbers # 006 – # 032
  • UnderCutting burs, “156 C” # 010 – e?
  • Cup Burs, “77 B”, #010 – # 022
  • “High Speed” 90 angled bearing cuts, 1.3 4.0 mm.
  • Wooden Bur boxes,
  • Pillar files, wide, #2 – #4 cut, 20 cm’s. in length
  • Triangular files, #2 – #4 cut, 20 cm’s. in length
  • Blue Gray pumice wheels, #180 grit, tapered and flat edge
  • Pink Pumice wheels, #1000 grit
  • Emery paper disks, (medium grit)
  • Pliers, small sized, with pointed jaws
  • Pliers, Large sized, pointed jaws
  • Side Holding, metal ring clamp
  • “Setters Hold-It” mini vise
  • Pin Vise
  • “Tube Setting” clamp
  • Wooden ring clamps
  • Nylon Brushes
  • Lubricating oil, light consistency
  • Emery Paper (as described)
  • Polishing paper (as described)
  • Paint stirring sticks
  • Onglette, gravers # 1, and # 2
  • “Flat”, gravers # 39, # 40
  • Bench grinder
  • “Round”, “Small”, “Mushroom” wooden handles
  • Ten Power loupe
  • Pair of Safety glasses
  • Plastic Peg Board
  • Elbow Cushion
  • Thumb guards
  • Mixture, of Bee’s Wax and Charcoal
  • Florescent light bar
  • Hand held Hammer
  • Metal punch
  • Brass, Copper and Steel pushers
  • “Ergonomic” chair
  • Steel, Ring Mandrel
  • Flex-Shaft, handpieces
  • “Flake Shellac”
  • “Ultra Sonic” cleaner
  • Steam Machine
  • Electric Hammer
  • Alcohol lamp

Diamond setting tools explained:

We all sit on chairs, yes, but comfortably? Almost! I will buy the best secretarial chair that is on the market, for the resting of my “tush” nothing is just good enough.

If I have to sit for many hours a day and I must give support to my lower back and lumbar regions. What I will spend on this chair will make me that much more money down the road.

The fluorescent light bars are generally one of the most overlooked pieces of apparatus. If you cannot see what you are doing, well then get off your chair and get another trade! Lights and chair, should be foremost in any ones occupation. I use a three bulb fixture at my bench, I usually pay the few extra dollars, why? How can I see if the beads are over the diamond, not too mention if any inclusions are in the diamond. When I am buying replacement bulbs, I buy “15 Watts / Cool White” colour and then I purchase two more for reserve. I never spare the dollar! There is, and will be, an eye-strain on you, if one of the bulbs are not working.

My dear readers, these few items are just the basics, so now lets start the reading material.

The constant ‘flickering’ of the remaining bulbs do pulsate at 15 times a second, not seen by you, but your eyes do pick up the bulbs’ internal neon gas pulsations. The result is a tiring eye-strain, and the subsequent eye-twitching from younot a good sign! Therefore each bulb has to cancel out the other bulbs “unseen” pulsations! This is the reason you must not keep looking at a monitor computer screen for long periods of time.

In closing, buy a “three bulb fluorescent light fixture” instead of the cheaper, two bulb mechanism. Then you will be a happy camper/setter! Now that I’ve lightly touched on these few items, lets now review the original listing of “Diamond Setting Tools” in greater detail. At this juncture, let me just state that these are now my own preferences, not anyone else’s. So sit back, relax, read and above all..LEARN !

 “Disclaimer of Chosen Tools!”

I might use the correct names of manufacturers during this detailed selection of tools. There are other manufacturers with brand names, but the choice is yours to make. I will only suggest a setting tools that I am currently using. Do not take “my choice” as the only tool as your new preference. Experiment, modify yours, now you have base to start from.

I am not here to teach you, the reader, but I am here to assist you in making the right selection when purchasing the correct tools. If I make your purchasing easier and making you the more informed buyer, so be it. Then my writing assignment has been worthwhile.

If I show you some easier techniques in setting along the way and you learn them, fantastic! Also if I am writing in too much in detail, well that’s what this discipline is, full of details. I’ve only now touched the surface GNL !

Optical Visor.
I suggest now that I would normally use a number #5 lens, why? If you prefer a number #7 you will have to bend over the bench peg closer to see. This will give you neck strain, and upper back pain will shorten your work time at the bench. I notice that some setters are using only number #3 lens. This again is not strong enough and the focal length is too far. You might be having to keep the “setting object” at a greater distance.

Saw Frame
This well used item should be finger tightened, not with the pliers bolting device. If you must tighten the saw blade, only “finger tighten”. You might purchase a saw frame that will allow you to extend the length of the frame to make sure you are grasping the blade fully. You should oil the blade holding clamps.

Occasionally clean out the inside of the grasping areas of the blade, as dirt collects in these jaws and do not allow full gripping action.

Saw Blades.
I will only use #4/0 blades because for the thickness and the number of teeth per inch. I always buy one gross, (twelve dozen). In case of an emergency if you only have 12 units you might break a few at one setting and be totally short during the off hours of the local tool supply store. Buying one gross could be cheaper for you too!

Arkansas, Oil Stone.
Here is the correct name of the right tool to use. Buy only a “two- sided” stone. Each side has the same grit and texture on BOTH sides. When the one side is ground down with ridges from your gravers, turn it over and “voila! new stone again.

Wooden Bur Boxes.
It is here I use many boxes, one for each selection of precision type of burs, 1.0 – 1.2mm twist drills, large bud burs (#031 # 045), large round burs (#030 #050), large undercutting 156C, and then two boxes of new & old, H.S.S. 90 angle bearing cutters. Six boxes in total within arms reach. They are in well placed in separate drawers under my bench cabinet. There should be a fine layer of padding in each box, try and keep them well oiled, rust is not a good friend of steel burs..:>)..I know!

Lubricating Oil.
No big deal, I use either “Norton” or “3 &1” oil that can be found in any local automobile or hardware supply store. If failing this, try ordinary motor oil, with a slightly heavier viscosity. Keep all of the drills and burs well lubricated, I am not asking you to do this, but pleading with you. These little steel burs just love to be well taken care of.

Half ground-off, large round burs”
What is this little item? A half round, ground off the top part of the curve bur is used as a Cabochon fitting bur. The gentle curve on the bur, should be the same angle as the sides of the Cab. Stone.With this new designed bur, there will be no wasted metal being removed as to ensure the correct inside concave angle to the wall of the bezel. Nylon brushes” I use two kinds of brush, one is very common, how about a simple toothbrush and a “paint-brush” with a 3/4 inch width. This soft bristle is used only when you are cleaning gold eject a with the diamonds still sitting loose in the gold. This will clean the surface but not jar the unset stones. When you are cleaning the bearing cuts in larger claws, you could use a toothbrush with more of a stronger bristle. Not too mention that before each diamond is inserted into the gold for beading or claws setting all refuse,. MUST BE REMOVED! The reason, is that if the gold dust is in the receptacle, and after setting you put it in a sonic-cleaner and remove the dust.

Pumice wheels
When I finish setting, I will always look after my finished setting project with a thorough inspection. It is a part of my “quality and pride”. I always entertain the idea that someone else will inspect my setting and be critical. I don’t wish to ‘just set and walk away’. The pumice wheel is what separates the “setters of quality”, to just setting. I will buy $400.00 per year, just on purchasing pumice wheels. There are two kinds of wheels in question, Flat Edge and the Tapered Edge. Each of these two designs are very essential in cleaning the gold. I will use these to prevent severe polishing to clean my work. If I want sharp edges on my claws, the only method is to enhance the design is with these two little 3/4 inch, #180 grit, pumice wheels. Their colouring is a “bluish gray”.

Emery Paper Disks
The disks I am comfortable with are “Moore’s Discs, Adalox- Medium Grit”. I find that the finer grit do wear away to the paper base too fast. The “Course Grit” take too much off the gold at one clean-up. Now with the “Medium” grade, you are able to control the sanding process. Do not speed up the motor speed to just to remove any marks on the gold. I would use a slightly slower speed, this way you can moderate the cleaning on the finer sections near the diamonds.

Pink Pumice Wheel
Another pumice you could buy is a “pink coloured” wheel. This is used only for trying to assist the polisher to get into areas where he can’t with his buffs and lapping wheels. This wheel has a grit of #1,000, instead of the #180 grit as described before. It will not clean, but it is used only for polishing fine minute details that a file, sanding disc or buffing wheels can’t get near. You should be selective in the type of wheel shape you need, fine point or the flat edged wheel. The results are absolutely, fantastic!

Metal Ring Clamps
Many years past I bought some metal ring clamps. Bad move! I found that my hand could not perspire. When you are gripping sometimes with tension, the hand has an awful means of getting rid of the sweat, but with wood there is not effort in accomplishing this natural action. Metal can be heavier and cooler to the touch. The “locking devices” can interfere with the hands or fingers. So who wants this? As for wood, the “general well being” of the hands is more pleasing to the setter. There is one kind of ring clamp around, it has a “screw and hinged” (similar to a door hinge) device in between the wooden clamps bars. Do not buy these! The life of the clamp is measured in days..:>( Why? When you attempt to push the ‘triangular peg’ further into the clamp, just to secure the ring, the clamp actually breaks apart..Good-bye clamp! I know, I have one of these for display purposes only!

Ten Power Loupe
There are again, many brands and designs on the open market. I would suggest a “Triplet Magnification Loupe”. This style of apparatus has three lens in the eye-piece. The other kinds are just hand magnifiers, nothing else. There is a common aberration of the lens with these mediocre styles of lens. Basically, you get what you pay for!!!! The better kind is what a good setter should look into. Try and steer away from anything stronger that 10x power, it’s a waste of your precious money! For an honest, dependable magnifier, use the kind I prefer, a “10x Triplet”.

Elbow Cushion
If you don’t work without an elbow cushion you will endangering your little bunch of nerves in the elbow slot. This area is called the Ulnar nerves, if you are continually leaning on them, you will definitely find that your fingers are tingling and some numbness will occur. I use rolled-over three ‘face towels’. It works and after 53 years of setting, there is no damage to my left elbow, yet!

Plastic Peg Board
This is one of the most simplest space saving requirements for any jeweller or diamond setter. Simple, basic, clean to use, and orderly. Did I say orderly? I have only 5 of these little pads on my bench top. I never allow loose burs of any size, to clutter my working area. It is here, that I use these boards to hold my burs in sequential order and each of these boards have only two shapes of burs. I know at a moments instance where each bur will be located. For an estimated $12-15.00 each peg board, its money saved in time lost in locating one bur among hundreds. My bench top is now neat and orderly!!!!

Bench Grinder
You can buy any of these 3,450 rpm, 5″ inch wheel grinders at most hardware stores. I have mine at arms reach and close by my bench. Along side of this, is a little receptacle of water to cool down the gravers I am grinding. I prefer to keep the wheels’ rotating axis at eye level. This is for better viewing and not be in a position to hold my head lower or again cause neck strain.

Safety Glasses
One of the most overlooked safety features we completely ignore is the safety for our eyes. Why? for goodness sake. Do we not have only one pair of eyes? If these are damaged, what can we do then?I once saw a stone setter sit at his bench some years ago and was attempting to cut somegold. One of the shards of gold “hit” his cheek and then subsequently glanced upwards and damaged his cornea. The agony of the pain was so much that I personally took him to the hospital Emergency Room. There was no long lasting tissue damage, thankfully. When I am using the bench grinder for example, I wear two kinds of glasses. My Opti-Visor and also my close fitting to my face, bi-focals. My eyes are too precious to harmed by hot granules of corundum and steel being ejected off the rotating grinding wheel.

Thumb guards
Now this seems like a simple excuse to add more words to this page. If you are a novice at using the Onglette gravers, trust me on this extra implement for thumb safety. If you go to any office supply store, please, for the protection of your “thumb pads”, buy these little rubber protectors. They are cheap as, but they will definitely protect your thumbs’ skin. As my own thumbs skin is now thicker, the need is not so great to use them, but at times when I am bead raising for long periods of time. These guards are a real necessity! The reason is that the thumb has a tendency to move under the sharp knife edge of the graver causing line carvings in your thumb!

Small Nose Pliers
Many of my students go to their local hardware or hardware store and pick up some cheaper pairs of pliers. Why buy the expensive tools if you can use the cheaper non-jewellery store supply? “Here Gerry, here is what I just bought “..I say “good for you, now lets modify them and shorten those long nosed jaws”. I always believe in modifying the initial design. I will observe their introduction in using the bench grinder in modifying the pliers’ jaws.I will ‘finish off’ the rough edges from the rough grit of the wheels. You should also do this with a emery paper of #1 grit. This will become smooth to the touch!

Longer Nosed Pliers
I would use these pliers only for hard to reach and delicate areas not easily accessible aswith the “short nosed version”. If for some reason the outside of the pliers are rounded, I would use this section for reaming open a bezel and to almost stretch the ” bezel walls” further apart. Another idea on pliers, KEEP THE INSIDE OF THE JAWS SMOOTH AND CLEAN. With a carborundum cutting wheel, or as its called a “cutoff” disc, make little grooves near the tip or points. This way when you are pulling in the pliers tips while in motion won’t slip off and damage the claw while securing the stones.

End or Side Cutter Pliers
These cutters can be used in lieu of the sanding disk. You will have more control as to the length of the claws that should be shortened. I use only “Lindstrom”, very strong, the jaws maintain their cutting edge. I have two styles, one is a side cutting and the other is a front cutting. You can use either, what ever you are comfortable with, is best for you. Do not use any of these cutters on very thick claws. Maintain the fine cutting edge with a sanding disc and always make sure the jaws close together. After a while, just clean up the edges and maintain a proper overall appearance.

The weight of a comfortable hammer is about 85 100 grams, but with a wooden handle. You should notice here that the “swinging action” from the wrist must be light enough but with enough downward force to give strength in the hammering action. The “front face” of the hammer is very important, it should and must be cleaned off regularly. If there are any pits or defects in the “face”, these will be easily transferred on to the Gold or Platinum bezel. Clean with an Emery #1, then emery #2..then Polishing paper #2/0 then lastly, Polishing paper #4/0. You must check this at least once a week under setting normal conditions.

“Side Holding” metal ring clamps!
These ring clamps must be metal as in this style along with a metal screw. The ring will never get loose during the setting procedure. I use this clamp when I am ONLY setting stones on the side of the mount and then the locking screw is plier tightened, the ring will placed in a horizontal position. No movement, no slipping, no way !

This metal flat faced apparatus is one great holding device. I use this for pendants orvery thin tennis bracelets. It has two ‘side-moving’, front securing plates, that can be re-arranged to suite your individual needs. Very handy to have.

Pin Vise
Again this little device is used on very small delicate “one of a kind” items, with ‘claw galleries’. I modified the vise with two little pins that are brass soldered into the top. These little pins have small grooves cut in to hold and securely grip the item while setting. This is also “finger tightened” and with a quick release!

“Tube Setting” Holder with a wooden handle.
I use this for tube bezels as in earring studs or individual settings before soldering into pendants. Each individual holder kit comes with a wide selection of various chucks with different sizes of holes. This is very handy to have around on your bench.

Circular, Bracelet “Spring” Clamp.
This is mainly used to hold Tennis bracelets from widths of 2.75 mm’s 8.00 mm’s. These are one heck of a life saver! These are made in metal and with 5 locking screws to hold the jaws together. This is a “must buy”, trust me!!!!!

Steel Ring Mandrel (with a recessed groove)
When is this used and how? This little item is used when you are hammering on white gold for instance. It frees up one of your hands, as when you are applying the ‘reciprocating’ hammer. You can have the hammer blows’ deal directly to that “impact spot” on the gold and at the same time holding the diamond securely. If you wish to select a wooden clamp two things occur, you have to have one hand to hold the clamp, and then the wood will absorb the direct hammer blows! If you are securing the mandrel into the bench, you now have ‘two hands’ literally free to do your setting. Try and obtain a mandrel with a groove along its side, in case one day you have to set a stone with a protruding Culet. When the Culet is resting on the steel mandrel you might wish you would have bought a grooved item and now you start looking for another stone.

Metal Punch
This little item should be in concert with the hammering procedure. If you are trying in vain to localize the “hammer blows” into a very confined area, you should have many of these items at the ready. I only have 6+ punches, all different sizes, lengths and thickness, some with wider faces, but all are rectangular shaped.They are made from old ‘concrete-nails’, old file handles, dental steel and old bead-burnishers. How long? At least longer than the length of “three of your ‘holding’ fingers, closed together”.

Oil Receptacle
This item should be situated next to your working area. What I use as a container, is a glass electrical fuse but with the brass insides removed. Place a small piece of cloth in the glass-container to hold the machine oil. These can be bought in any hardware stores.

Brass, Copper and Steel Pushers
Three separate entities, each with its very own character and each of them cannot be interchanged with its uses. I use on many an occasion a copper pusher to stabilize a diamond before the beading is done. Another tool is a Brass pusher, to “Gypsy Set” a diamond on the Gold or Platinum. Make sure that the “face” is flat and without any noticeable marks or defects. The reason being is that these marks can be transferred onto the gold and will be rather difficult to remove.

Brass Pusher
You can your purchase this 1/4″ or 3/8″ inch diameter rod at any electrical supply store or automotive shop, in the “welding section”. Once you have a good size round wooden handle that fits your palm of your hand, drill a hole that will now receive this brass rod. I would now shape the tip, so it looks rectangular in shape. How long should it be? As while you are holding it, it should not extend further than your tip of the middle finger. Remove all marks on this ‘new’ hand-made tool. This my be used for securing diamonds prior to bead raising, moving over Gold in Gypsy Setting (a.k.a. “Flush Setting”! Pressing down Platinum, do not use steel on this metal, highly unadvisable. It can be used to “lightly” push over soft gold claws.

Copper Pusher
The description of purchasing and its building, is the same as in the Brass Pusher. The uses for this tool is as follows. Securing softer stones in the setting e. g. Emeralds, Aquamarine, Blue-Topaz, Turquoise. Why? This metal of Copper is, ‘softer’ than the aforementioned, Brass.

Steel Pusher
Now here is the more durable all purpose heavy claw and Gypsy Setting metal pusher.I have made many of these it old file handles, old bead burnishers, concrete nails and sometimes for the dainty little securing device, an old bur modified H.S.S. undercutting bur. The first thing you, the setter should attend with is the fact that this item should have a serrated edge on the front face of this tool. Why? when you are pushing over and claws, this tool will not slip off and cause damage to the stone. You should use a propane torch and make it ‘red hot’ and this way it losses its original ‘hardness’ and it’s now, soft steel. Once it is ‘soft’, it is now possible to shape the “tool tip” to a thinner rectangular shape. The reason being, is that all of the pushing power is now localized in to a smaller area. I prefer to make a serrated edging on the face of this particular tool. This method is only good for the steel pushers, as this should not be used on ‘softer’ stones, Mohs scale

All files should be of 20 cm’s in length with Pillar # 1, # 2 cut Triangulr # 2, # 4 cut. All of the following files are of the same length, that is, 20 centimeters. I will use onlyt he metric system in measurements. The width of the Pillar files I generally use is the 12mm size (1/2 inch wide). Now that we have decided which files to use, and described their measurements, lets go and explain each of their uses. Let me first explain why this wider “Pillar” file is better, as the narrower one is sometimes used. You will notice on the narrower file there is a great tendency for the file to bend during the forward filing stroke. This does not lend to good filing habits. You do not have enough “strength on the downward” pressure action for the removal of the metal. Why must you always compensate for action taken by a file that is not up to par ? This is one good reason why the wider “Pillar” and thicker file, is more suitable for my filing motions. I also use an indelible ink marker number at the base of the file to indicate what grit this file is. I use this “marking” system on all of files for easy retrieval during a “rushed setting” job. Why would you start rummaging through all of your files looking for just one item to use? In the process of filing, I would use the rougher number #1 cut, and then switch over to the number #2 cut for the final cleaning and removal of unnecessary amount of gold. For trimming, I am now ready for the next file!

Triangular Files!
So what can the Triangular file do that the Pillar can’t accomplish? For one thing it can get into areas where a thicker Pillar file can’t get to. It can do intricate trimming, filing end-bezels on baguettes, trimming solitaire and Engagement claws, filing ‘shared’ claws below the setting areas. How about fancy cut “Vee” claws on Pear and Marquise stones, reducing the sizes of thick claws before using the 77 B (cup burs). Not too mention, just cleaning up plier marks on claws (if any!) For this purpose of cleaning, don’t use the #2 cut. Realizing that the #2 cut will leave further serrated files marks wherever you touch the metal. On this point please use the #4 cut of all files, for all the final cleaning.

Bud Burs
I suggest using only #005 -> #009! In this series of explanations I will show you, the reader, that there is a total different use for these burs. I use a small bud bur to ‘deepen and accentuate the separation’ between ‘shared claws’ that are opposing each other. You are basically making the claws ‘longer’. This bur will take the place of a very thin file, if none is available. If claws were not in great detail after casting I will use these burs again for this very delicate cleanup. These burs are called my “Buddy-Burs”. I even sometimes use a thin bur, e.g. #006 to initiate a bearing cut in small earring claws and allowing a quick placement for the 156C undercutting bur. Slightly ‘move’ a hole in one direction if it was incorrectly drilled opened. I will then lean the cutting of this small bur, just on “one side of the hole” and make the cutting wider & larger than the hole that is now being “moved”.If I have a ball bur that is either too large or too small for the diamond, and this happens often. I will use a bud bur and use the many angles of this bur, and gradually open up the base of the hole, to now facilitate the ‘in-between’ size of the diamond. With all of these helpful hints for this bud bur, now you know why I call this my “Buddy Bur”!!

Round Bur
Using only sizes #006 -> ? Yes, we all know what a round bur can do, there are some other uses also and here are some! When preparing a channel setting, I will use a smaller bur than the diamond. This way it’s to make a ‘seat’ for the stone to sit on, and clear a path for the next step of the channel setting. When I am to prepare a large “4 claw setting”. I will always use a large round bur increase the depth into the gold. This is to prevent the Diamond Culet in not touching the base of any Engagement ring. In a “free-form” ring, I will generally use a smaller round bur to make sure that there is no ‘little extra’s’ of gold laying around the setting area. I will most of the time speed up the little round bur to simulate polishing or grinding the metal prior to setting. This will give the “polishing stage” an easier chance to clean and finish the hard to reach areas. Even if there are some minor ring ‘details’ that need to be pierced through from a poor casting, I will use the finer #007 round bur, to accomplish this “clean up”.

“Under-Cutting” Bur!
a. k. a. ” Bearing Cutting” Bur! #156 C! Hart Shaped Bur!
Using bur sizes of # 010 -> ? The main purpose of this bur, is to create a ‘groove’ in the metal, this to bear the “weight” of a stone. This so called groove will make a place for the Pavilion of the stone to sit in the claw, in question. The size of this bur is to the diamond, should be no more than 75% size of the stone to be set. The corresponding height should not be more that 30% from the claw tip. All measurements can be made visually. While making a bearing cut, it is imperative to keep the shaft of the bur vertical at all times during the ‘grooving’ process. If this is not done, you will not have the diamond sitting in this ‘bearing cut’ correctly and sufficiently to have you classed as a quality setter.

If any of the teeth of any bur have “shiny edges”, this bur is worthy of being thrown away!

This being said, the “shiny edges” mean, that the sharp teeth are worn down will not cut gold sufficiently. They are only sliding around the claw, or the hole. One of most well used implements is my “oil receptacle”, this gives the metal a chance to be removed while rotating against the metal. If you speed up the motor you will definitely heat up the bur. The resulting action will soften the ‘hardness’ that was made for us to use. If you are not sure if the bur is cutting, look through your 10x loupe and check for build-up of gold on the bur and make sure that the teeth are sharp! When ordering burs of any size, I don’t just buy one a “six pack” of burs. I usually buy two dozen of EACH size and stock up! If the need being, that over the week-end if I am running short, I have an abundant supply in reserve.

“Flex-Shaft” hand-piece
What good is a correctly sought out bur, if you don’t have an easy to use, comfortable lightweight, hand-piece? I have two styles at my bench, at arms reach. These are two Foredom tools, one is a “Micro-Motor”, and the other is a lightweight, plastic handled “Push *n Pull” quick release, all maintenance free! If these tools are well looked after, there is a good chance that you can have a comfortable relaxing time doing your setting.

Reciprocating Hammer
a.k.a. “Electric Hammer” This little invention is a boon to many setters who do not have the power in the hand to keep pushing over the metal. It comes with variable tension adjustments and can hammer over metal on the softest stone; Emeralds, Turquoise or even ultra soft Pearls!The care given to these stones is a learned level on how this modern tool works, its applications are endless.

The needs will over-shadow the initial investment. I buy only the best there is on the market, mine come with a ‘flex-shaft’ handle for easy usage. I prefer the Bedaco, why? It has all metal parts in its inner construction. Almost maintenance free, this is important! There are some less expensive ‘hammers’ around, but they have a mixture of plastic and metal, “penny-wise and dollar foolish”. I will not mention them in this article! I have two “Bedaco” hammers, one for the office, and the other for my school room. I never lend out my tools, neither should you! I did once, and it cost me ‘mega-bucks’ for the repair bill.

This being said, when can you use this? I find that the best affect is when you are hammering on a steel mandrel. The subsequent ‘hitting’ is not absorbed into the wooden ring clamp. While hammering on the mandrel, you are now freeing up two hands for the setting. As in the wooden clamp, you are tying up one hand just for holding the clamp. This can be unwise! I rarely use the stronger heavy hitting action this hammer comes with, hardly ever. I will re-shape the “hitting anvil” to a flat surfaced, rectangular shaped, blemish free, mini-tool.. This anvil must be softened by you, shaped with a file,”re-hardened”. With this new tool & tip, you will have years of great setting, worry free!

Steam Machine
A setter with his own steam machine? Not too uncommon in this office of mine. I use it for heating up the alcohol to facilitate the easy removal of shellac off my settings.To remove minute polishing particles that may be overlooked in the ‘sonic-cleaner’.No, I don’t always use it to heat my coffee once its cold, well sometimes I might..:>)Another use, is to just clean up the residue from inside of the small areas of where the stones are sitting. I prefer steam of 40 lbs. Pressure for a thorough cleaning.

Ultra-Sonic Cleaner
The best machine in my office, it has its own heating element and a hand made lid to prevent heat escaping. It is a sure bet that after this cleaning session in this machine no stones will be loose. In this machine, all the grunge of polishing and gold particles will be nicely removed. It separates all of the alcohol and shellac that was held in suspension. It will also attempt to remove all gold dust UNDER the diamonds, if there were any. It will test the security of the stones of your setting.

Alcohol lamp
Just what every setter needs, this a very simple item to explain. It consists of a Bunsen burner or alcohol lamp. This following igniting substance will not leave any residue on the jewellery when being heated. Its called “Methyl Hydrate”, do not buy Isporol Alcohol. This will definitely leave a black residue and will give heat, but the smudging will be hard to remove. Keep the wick covered at all times, it evaporates.

This is one good friend of mine at my bench, trust me! I use this compound constantly to hold intricate, odd-shaped items that are to be set. I will, when heated, with the burner support all ‘the areas’ to be set with this substance. When it is heated it oozes, and is very hot. Do not let this ‘oozing’ drip onto your skin, it burns and I have enough old blisters on my fingers that can attest to this fact ! To remove this shellac, melt it off with the burner and leave in a jar sitting on the hot steam machine surface. This will rapidly remove all of the shellac and next you can do the clean-up and testing with the sonic-cleaner, or steam machine.

Here is a quicker way, put your glass jar with the alcohol into the sonic-cleaner, both the heated solution, along with the alcohol vibrating will hasten the removal of the shellac. This works all the time when you are rushed to get things done fast! The forms this shellac comes is in a “flake consistency”, or as in a stick. I prefer the Flake type.

Flex-Shaft Motor
One thing I have to say on this matter, full r. p. m. is not required ! What are we really looking for ? We are looking for maintenance free, how slow will it work? What’s this slow? it all depends of the foot rheostat, we will never in all of our setting days “rev” up the motor. The correct length is as follows; does your hand-piece hang freely off the bench pan? ! Do all of the plugs have “three prongs” for electrical safety?. When you secure the motor to the wall or metal post, the shaft should end up resting along side your setting hand.. (right or left) ! Do not leave too much room for your leg to stretch out to activate the foot rheostat.

The height of the motor and with the hand-piece should be of enough length so it is not again touching the bench pan. This length should just be above your bench pan, so this way it won’t damage the bur tip as it is not being needed.

Do not let the tool shop retailers sell you on highest possible speed, we do not need this! Buy extra “bushings” for the motor. Grease the inner shaft with a heavy duty grease, not oil, this will prevent noise and heating of the shaft. Clean the very end tip of the rotating shaft end as it connects to your inside of the hand piece. Dirt often collects here.

Onglettes #1, #2
Flat, #39, #40

Polishing and Emery Papers
Emery #2, #1
Polishing #2/0, #4/0, #6/0

How to prepare your ‘papers’ to a wooden, hand board !
This is going to be a lo-o-ong description of all the above requirements, so take your time and read.slowly!..:>)

If you go to your friendly hardware store and look around for some wooden paint stirrer sticks, buy only 4 (four). That’s all you need for this exercise. Start with the edge of the wooden stick at the very end of the paper and watch that both are aligned equally. Score the other edge that will be bent over with a small pointing device, but do not tear the paper. Keep turning over the wooden stick, score and turn again, score the paper till all of the paper is wrapped around the stick. Tie up the two ends with elastic bands or adhesive tape. Do not staple or use “binding wire”, this will mark the gold, if just in case you are sanding rings with these new sanding boards in the future. Do all of the wrapping with the next three series of papers. Try and achieve sharp edges to the now wrapped paper boards. Now this is done, we can go to the next level of smoothing out our gravers. With your Emery paper #1, now slowly smooth out the beveled areas near the forward section of your graver and keep the “barrel shape”. As you will need this concaved angle for future cutting work. Try and work out most of the ‘deep factory roughness’ on the Onglette blade. The use of a 10x power loupe is much needed, why? To observe if most of the scratches are being removed during these initial smoothing stages.

As you are smoothing out the roughness, do not “flatten out” the soft contours on the blade, this is so-o terribly important!

Now lets got to the Emery paper #2, a bit smoother but still not finished or maybe half way, continue to do your gentle smoothing and now try to remove the last remaining gouges left from the factory in the making of this precision cutting tool. Go over again all of the two sides of the Onglette blade smooth till you can see some improvement on the sides, near the knife edge on your graver. Do not even attempt to “remove” the knife edge or sand it down. If you do, you are ruining the cutting blade for which it is was originally been made. I would suggest that you hold the graver with your hand and gently ‘rock’ the graver and keeping the emery board still, but resting the board on your bench peg. Let your graver do the rubbing or twisting as your require. Let the “board” be nearer to your eyes, for easy examination, as the need is required. The “finishing” is always done with a forward action and taking longer strokes. You are also “finishing” the whole exposed length of the graver at this point, (handle to point), not necessarily the area you need right now!

Do not, or never use a sanding disk to ‘cut corners’, it just don’t work, you will leave deeper gouges in the steel. Please remove this idea from your mind.

I prefer only “Muller”, “Lyons”, or “Grobet” gravers and prefer to keep my selection to a minimum. I am very satisfied with these manufacturers. With the “High Speed Steel” (hardness), the chances of the knife-edge being damaged, is kept to a veritable minimum. Now that we have finished the “Emery” section of preparing the graver, lets now proceed to the next level of cleaning, “the Polishing Papers”. We will now be using Polishing Paper #2/0.

Now with this paper we do not have to smooth the blade so deeply as we are now going to GENTLY rub and shine the steel to a finer finish. In keeping with this, all the basic work is done.

Now its time to carefully use a finer grit of paper to get this tool to be more of a precision cutting tool. Repeat the same technique in finishing as with the emery paper, but remember that we are now just smoothing out the steel to a higher luster as from before. The soft angular motion is still much required on the lower barrel shape. Watch very carefully that no “flat areas” will be made, anywhere!

Keep the soft rolling action on both sides of this graver. If, in this section of cleaning, you notice some little areas of scratches that were overlooked, go back to the Emery Paper. “Smooth out” further as the polishing will not be able to clean sufficiently,..the papers are made very differently!!!!
Now you can go the next and almost final stage of poling and that’s with the Polishing Paper #4/0. Use the rolling action but lots more gently and you will see a brighter finish emerge, the finish is akin to the Hubble telescope finish..:>) Do not roll-rub heavily, if you are ready here is another little technique. Use a soft leaded pencil rubbing on this #4/0 and the grit is now smoother to a finer #6/0 style of paper.

Instead of buying another sheet of polishing paper, this pencil rubbing is sufficient in its results. This area must only be applied to the needed areas of the graver. You need never to apply this finish to the top section of the graver near the widest section, only the areas need the refining is at 2-3 mm’s above the knife edge design. If you see that the paper is shredding that means that your graver is digging in to the paper too deeply and at the wrong angle!

Now that we have touched lightly on how to apply the preparation to the gravers. This method is the same for “Onglette and Flat” gravers, bearing in mind, that practice is the next thing you all must learn, but this is left to you! I don’t teach experience, sorry!
One more thing, the real difference with all of these papers is the grit, but what is Grit? Glad you asked, it’s the separation of the silicone nodules on the paper. The separation means the closer these nodules are, the finer the paper you will be using, all must be used in sequential order!

Hence; Emery #1, then #2P olishing #2/0, and lastly #4/0 with the help of a pencil rubbing simulating a #6/0 paper, got it? When you are “rough cutting” no labourious refining or polishing of gravers, is required.

Bees wax “pick-up”
Well, how do we pick up the small diamonds or gemstones? I was taught to mix ordinary bee’s wax and fine shavings off of the charcoal block. Place this new mixture into a little metal scoop and heat up to a liquid consistency over the alcohol flame. Once this is thoroughly mixed up, drop this liquid in to a container of water. Now you can roll the bees wax in your palm of your hand and touch up this sticky substance with other very fine charcoal and you’re ready! If you still don’t know how to do this, buy your own in any tool supply store.

This is only an introduction to the some of the tools I generally use. I could have kept on going for a few more items, not including their specific description. If I completed these, I would have about 5-6+ more pages.

Again, my dear readers, this is only an introduction. Every year, more tools are being introduced into the market, modifying what is in my list. As stated in my pre-amble, these are only my choices. You, the setter/jeweller, may have your own type of tool to use and if it makes YOUR life easier, fine! I just offer other options.

Hope you enjoyed reading about my bench of tools. Thanks for the reading!

Gerry Lewy

Gerry Lewy

With over 42 years experience as a stone setter, Gerald N. Lewy, president of Gemz Diamond Setting, is known throughout the diamond setting community as 'Gerry the Cyber-Setter'. Gerald Lewy started his 9-year apprenticeship with a jewellery manufacturer and tutored by a gentleman 'setter', in Haddon Gardens, London England. Gerald has redeveloped himself into more than a master setter; his purpose is now to be a teacher of the art as well. If you have any questions on Diamond / Stone Setting you can contact him through this blog
Gerry Lewy

Gerry Lewy

With over 42 years experience as a stone setter, Gerald N. Lewy, president of Gemz Diamond Setting, is known throughout the diamond setting community as 'Gerry the Cyber-Setter'. Gerald Lewy started his 9-year apprenticeship with a jewellery manufacturer and tutored by a gentleman 'setter', in Haddon Gardens, London England. Gerald has redeveloped himself into more than a master setter; his purpose is now to be a teacher of the art as well. If you have any questions on Diamond / Stone Setting you can contact him through this blog

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat Wilson December 27, 2012 at 4:03

Dear Gerald, thank you for sharing your knowledge, I thought I had a well prepared work table till I got here. I also read two other articles and have printed all three for future reference, and sharing with an apprentice.

Blessings and have a good new year.

Guy December 25, 2012 at 4:03

Thank you for describing all the tools.
great post!

Peter Brasser December 11, 2012 at 4:03

Gerry, I have to say that not often I come across a person who is so generous and detailed as you, sharing all that knowledge with us.

Thank you Gerry!

silver December 10, 2012 at 4:03

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

Andrew December 10, 2012 at 4:03


Is your book still available?

Umesh.G.Chavan December 9, 2012 at 4:03

Thank you Gerald for the informative BLOG on the details of the tools used in setting. It was a pleasure going through it.

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