Tag Archives: Projects from Students

Catching Up on Things…

So, yeah. You may have noticed I’ve been otherwise occupied for some time now, as I’ve been dealing with a few real life issues in my family. But good news: we are out of the woods and into the light now. Sorry for abandoning you, but as they say: family first!
Last weekend, I was very busy teaching all-day and two-day workshops at BeadFest Spring, and I’m sad to report it’s going to be the last show of a 10-year run for that particular event. I must say I am kind of sad to see it go, because that’s how I made the connection with the publishing company I work for, I met my current boss, and got my “dream”job as an editor for Lapidary Journal.
I did love April in Oaks every spring — even when it rained, or snowed, or was too cold, or too warm — because I love meeting new students and starting the warm season energized, inspired and ready to work. But, don’t despair! The annual August BeadFest Show is and will still be on the books, and for sure I will be teaching there every year.
On that note, this is my usual post-BeadFest debriefing, where I answer any and all questions that came in after class from students (so far) and I will continue to add to it through the rest of the month to capture any stragglers. So, without further adieu…

Q: Hi Helen,
I attended your amazing cab making class on Saturday at Beadfest. I planned to order diamond drill bits from the company I usually order metals and materials but when I checked into it I learned that they are very weak on lapidary supplies 😦
Can you recommend a couple of suppliers and which bits you find to be the most durable and reliable. Also, do you have any experience with Diamond Pacific’s Pixie Grinder/Polisher. I know… it’s hard to take a lapidary machine named “Pixie” seriously… but now, thanks to you, I REALLLLLY want to work with stones and the big boy Genie is to much $$$ at the moment. My guess is I should save my pennies for the real deal and not mess with a machine built for rock hounds living in an RV. It’s definitely time for the Spirflame torch to find a new home and make room for new equipment.
Thanks a bunch!
— Gina

A: Hi Gina!
I Like LASCO Diamond for shaped diamond tips for the flex shaft, and the Crystolite brand “Triple Ripple” Diamond Drill Bits. I like The Gem Shop, Inc. and Kingsley North as a great all around Lapidary suppliers, and don’t forget — Diamond Pacific is a full service lapidary and jewelry suppler as well.
For my hands, the Pixie is way too small. I owned a used one for about 6 months, and like all DP equipment, it’s fabulous, really well made and durable. My only “problem” was the petiteness of it  — I could span 4 wheels by stretching out my hand from thumb tip to pinky tip, and needless to say, I went right for a Genie and never looked back. I will be teaching Lapidary again at BeadFest in August, so stop by and say Hi!

Q: Where do you get metal and tools?

A: My favorite suppliers for metals and general metalwork and jewelry making tools are varied. I do have regulars, though:

Metalliferous in New York is always worth the trip for metals, tools, beads, supplies, discontinued parts, findings, chain and other needs. the Store and Mail Order Department is at: 34 West 46th Street; 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10036

Allcraft Tools, also in New York is another not-to-miss vendor. They have a website in progress, however I always suggest calling: 800-645-7124. If you want to go, they are located at: 135 West 29 St.; Suite 205, New York, NY 10001

Rio Grande is a large jewelry supply house located in Albuquerque, NM. They have all the major brand name tools and are well stocked in precious metals and materials for the serious hobbyist to the professional bench jeweler. Their online store can’t be beat when you need something right now. Get on their mailing list for a thick fully illustrated catalog, and browse their giant library of tip and trick videos, tool use videos and instructional materials as well as call the live tech support team during the day. 800-545-6566

That’s it for the moment, guys! Thanks for coming to class and I’ll blog again as soon as I get my studio straightened up… Ciao!


Metalsmith Chronicles: Part One

I truly can’t believe how fast time goes by! I have been screaming busy since my last blog. Sorry guys/gals! To make up for the fact that I appear to have abandoned you, I think I will blog today and tomorrow — to catch up and get into your good graces again! I will start with the teacher/workshop/classes front and then switch over to what’s been cooking on the day job front. BeadFest Spring was totally great, and thanks to all my students (and my sister) for coming, learning, helping and having fun. Some of you have even stayed in touch, sending me pictures of what you’ve been up to.

Check this out, an email from a great student who signed up for my class Rotary Tools: Advanced Techniques  at Bead Fest Spring, in April.


Nancy Oliver’s “De and Rekonstructd” Pendant


Hi Helen!  Thanks for a great
 Shaft class. I call this
Helen’s pendant De
 and Re-konsructd.
Ha ha.

– Nancy Oliver

I love it when students follow-up and send me photos of where they are headed after spending time with me. That’s the best part of teaching, and I always smile when it happens.
Teaching in a hotel or convention center is never easy, and I always suffer lots of anxiety hoping I remembered to bring all the tools and materials everybody needs to have a good time, learn what I hope they learn, and best of all have fun doing it. This year (so far) has been just a dream on the teaching front. It’s been so much fun there is probably a law against it somewhere! I am looking forward to BeadFest in August, and because I had such a grand time this Spring I went ahead and proposed 6 new classes for 2015, including a Two-Day Metals Intensive. I’m keeping my fingers crossed on those, so keep an eye on my “Teaching Dates” link (above) for updates…

The "Helen Driggs Portable Workbench" aka hunk of lumber and a C-Clamp...

The “Helen Driggs Portable Workbench” aka hunk of lumber and a C-Clamp…

Todays tip: Recently, I have developed a great workaround for anyone who intends to take classes in a convention center. Typically, those tables are not the easiest to work on because they are either too thick, have too thick a ledge, or are downright wobbly as a work surface.
All you need to combat this is a hunk of  4″ wide x 3/4″ pine board and a 6″ or 8″ C-Clamp. First, securely clamp the pine board to the table, so it extends like a diving board. Then, clamp your bench pin and flex shaft to the pine board, instead of the table. Works every time.
Here is a photo shot by Kitty (my most-excellent  Sister/Teacher’s Assistant) of me using this method of working in class. Not a bad solution for about 8 bucks!

So, that’s a quick one for the teaching updates, I promise I post a bit on other super-fun travel news shortly. Sorry for abandoning you all…