Machining Jewelry on the Taig CNC Milling Machine

Experiments in Rapid Prototyping, Direct Production and Die Making

By Nick Carter, June 12th, 2007

For the past few months I have been playing with various methods for producing jewelry with my Taig CNC milling machine. Felice and I have been making jewelry for 20 years, but I haven't worked at it much since the kids came along. This changed when we started our store on, which allowed us to show pieces that were a bit unusual (geeky) which wouldn't ordinarily sell in our usual venues. I have achieved a small measure of success (that is, I have sold them!) with the designs shown in this article.

Often jewelers will buy a CNC milling machine for one purpose, to make waxes used in investment casting. I think that in order to innovate or just to use a machine that may lay idle between custom waxes, a jeweler needs to look at tools not for what they know they can do or what they bought them specifically for, but what they might be able to do. So, in the spirit of thinking outside the box I embarked on the series of experiments shown here.

Part 1: Milling Jewelry
Part 2: Engraving Jewelry
Part 3: Milling Dies for Hydraulic Die Forming

My home made hydraulic press.

Bonny Doone makes all the tools for Hydraulic Die forming, but they are sold exclusively through Rio Grande now. The forums and forum archives on the Bonny Doone site will bring you up to speed quickly.

A good starting place for learning about hydraulic die forming is Hydraulic Die Forming for Jewelers and Metalsmiths but it's hard to find a cheap copy sometimes (I bought mine for $20.00 on Amazon, but I see that some book pirates are charging $100 for a copy right's usually available from any good jewelers supply for the $20.00 price)

Also see here for a basic primer.

A selection of dies milled into 6061 aluminum. Using a 1/32" endmill, about .020" deep, from another section about .005 deep that is slightly larger than the 5/8" diameter of the 30 gauge silver blanks I am using.
The left die is wrong. Always mill a mirror image of the stamping you want!
A pair of celtic earrings. These have not sold, but I am out very little on the production of the die. Other styles of this same run (Pi earrings) have sold well. This is why it's so ideal for prototyping - cheap and quick, so you can try a bunch of different ideas.
An experimental die that uses a channel around the die for blanking the piece out. Aluminum will cut other metals!
A copper barrette element blanked and formed with a simple die!
Yes, it's rather industrial, but I've sold a few!

Part 1: Milling Jewelry
Part 2: Engraving Jewelry
Part 3: Milling Dies for Hydraulic Die Forming

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