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Jewelers Share the Bench Tools They’ve ‘MacGyvered’ to Use for Something Else

Our readers know how to improvise.

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IN ADDITION TO his trusty Swiss Army Knife, the title character of the MacGyver TV series was rarely without a flattened roll of duct tape in his back pocket, a few paper clips, chewing gum, strike-anywhere matches and a flashlight. While the guy knew how to handle himself, thanks to his elite military training, spoke a dozen or so languages (fluently) and could relate to kids like a big brother, it was his knack for assembling tools from everyday items in the heat of the moment that made him a lasting cultural reference point. In our recent 2020 Big Survey, we asked jewelers, who we know from our years of covering the industry share this talent for inventiveness, to tell us about a single-purpose bench tool they had successfully “MacGyvered” to use for something else. They may not all share his Hollywood looks, but their answers show our readers know a thing or two about jury-rigging a viable solution when the clock is ticking.

FOR JEWELRY JOBS:
  • “Drilled a ‘channel/groove’ on the inside of tweezers so that they can easily hold earring posts while working on them. Regular tweezers/pliers have the grips inside that leave marks.”
  • “Washing-machine motor to mix casting investment.”
  • “Turned nail punches into bezel-setting tools.”
  • “Channel-lock pliers. We ground the teeth off, polished it flat, and use it for stone setting.”
  • “I use regular nail clippers to pull prongs away from stones to remove them from the mounting.”
  • “Turned a broken burr into a burnisher, a prong pusher, and a stone-pulling tool.”
  • “Spoons to curve pins.”
  • “Making a pair of parallel pliers open wider for large stones.”
  • “Reworked dental tools for wax carving.”
  • “My goldsmith turned a stone-setting burr into a porosity killer.”
  • “Rubber gloves to open antique pocket watches.”
  • “I took a pop bottle and cut it away to use as a shield when spraying Firescoff.”
  • “Epoxy: Use it to fill rings in instead of ring guards.”
  • “I am most proud of my files. I helped with the foundry to make the iron bloom, forged the bloom into wrought iron, made file blanks, cut the teeth myself. Yeah. That is truly geeky.”
  • “A nail from my toolbox, painted in glitter. It’s our ‘magic nail,’ used for those pesky customers who say, “My earring post still isn’t straight!’”
FOR NON-JEWELRY JOBS:
  • “I have used the plastic containers that laser solder wire is wrapped in for headphones.”
  • “Club soda is so much easier to open with a wrench.”
  • “A bench microscope to remove splinters.”
  • “I have found my torch makes an excellent fly killer if I can get the flies near enough to it.”
  • “Used a watch band hole punch for an extra belt loop.”
  • “Jeweler’s loupe to read labels.”
  • “I borrowed my shop’s ingot mold to hold a wire so I could ‘float’ earrings in a photo. It just became part of my tools, and when I cleaned my office during shut down, I gave it back (5 years later). The shop was thrilled. They thought they had lost it.”
  • “Diamond tweezers are great letter openers.”

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Jaki Cowan, the owner of Sollberger’s in Ridgeland, MS, decided the time was right to close up shop. The experience, she says, was like going into the great unknown. There were so many questions about the way to handle the store’s going-out-of-business sale. Luckily for Cowan, Wilkerson made the transition easier and managed everything, from marketing to markdowns.

“They think of everything that you don’t have the time to think of,” she says of the Wilkerson team that was assigned to manage the sale. And it was a total success, with financial goals met by Christmas with another sale month left to go.

Wilkerson even had a plan to manage things while Covid-19 restrictions were still in place. This included limiting the number of shoppers, masking and taking temperatures upon entrance. “We did everything we could to make the staff and public feel as safe as possible.”

Does she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers thinking of retiring, liquidating or selling excess merchandise? Absolutely. “If you are considering going out of business, it’s obviously an emotional journey. But truly rest assured that you’re in good hands with Wilkerson.”

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