Professional Jeweler Archive: Success Is in the Detail

March 2002

Professional Bench/Manufacturing Up Close


Success Is in the Detail

As far as Troy and Sharon Vinson are concerned, the detail and quality of the jewelry they produce is of paramount importance. Here's one example


Troy and Sharon Vinson of Troy Vinson Jewelers, Fort Worth and Granbury, TX, have built a big customer base for corporate jewelry, gold badges, family crests, service organization rings and lapel pins, and custom-order pieces requiring exacting detail. As a result, Troy, a member of the Jewelers of America Board of Directors, and Sharon have:

  • Employed a full-time die maker on the premises.
  • Provided die-making equipment such as a pantograph, vacuum/injection wax machine and engraver tools.
  • Dedicated part of their 1,500-sq.-ft. shop to die-making.
  • Procured casting and finishing equipment for quantity runs.
  • Developed retail price lists for items routinely requested, including replica badges for police and fire departments.

The following photos show the process of die-making on the premises at the Vinson’s Fort Worth location.

Vinson’s die maker, Calvin Todd, first draws the design – a mandolin – on bond paper. It’s oversized so the details are easily visible. The piece will be reduced in the pantograph portion of the die-making process. Todd overlays the drawing with a sheet of plastic about 1.5mm thick.
Here Todd uses engraving tools to cut the mandolin design into the plastic sheet. The process requires him to trace and retrace the lines of the mandolin until the groove is deep enough for the pantograph’s stylus to follow.
Todd secures the completed plastic template on the pantograph table and positions the swing arm with the stylus that will trace through the engraved detail on the template.
The stylus of the pantograph arm traces the outline of the mandolin from the plastic plate. The arm is connected to a tool that cuts the design actual size into an Aims alloy block. The block will become the mold into which wax is vacuum-injected.
The oversized design is reduced to actual size as it’s engraved into the 8mm thick Aims alloy plate with a carbide bur.
Once the process is completed by machine, Todd hand-engraves finer detail into the block. Using a microscope, he captures all the features in this final step of making the die.
The die is now ready for vacuum-injection of the wax:

A. The mold is placed against another Aims alloy block face down. A hole drilled into the block provides a path for the wax.

B. The mold assembly is secured on the vacuum chamber and placed over the wax vacuum-injection spout.

C. A vacuum is created through a tube and increased when the domed bell jar (D) is placed on the horizontal table. The wax is injected, pressure is released and the mold cools.

Once the wax has cooled, the die is lifted from the top of the mold assembly.
The wax model is pushed out of the larger mold block and is ready for casting. The wax shrinkage is none to minimal.
Here is a four-piece die created for another project, an emblematic ring.
After vacuum-injecting the wax and allowing it to cool briefly, the top portion of the mold is removed.
The other pieces of the mold and die are disassembled, and the ring is ready for the casting process. Notice the bezel for the center stone has been created in the die.

After the pieces have been cast, they are prefinished using a magnetic finisher. The detail is so crisp and precise in the cast reproductions they appear as though they were generated by the die-striking process.

For more information about this process, contact Troy Vinson at (817) 377-8555, troyv@flash.net.

By Mark B. Mann, Director of Trade Programs, Jewelers of America

Featuring Troy and Sharon Vinson, Troy Vinson Jewelers, Fort Worth and Granbury, TX

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications