At the beginning of lockdown I treated myself to a ring carving kit from The Workbench London. It seemed like a nice way to support small business, learn a new craft and keep me distracted during a very weird time!
The kit consisted of a ring sizer, pencil, craft knife, two types of sandpaper and two blue wax ring blanks. Instructions are provided online via video and they give you some guidance on what techniques work best but essentially you’re left to your own devices to design something!
I did two different designs with the ring blanks and ended up loving them both so I sent both to be cast! I opted to have them both plated in gold too.
A few weeks later, they returned! They actually came back super tight – I think the playing may have made them smaller but I’m no expert! The girls very kindly offered to resize them for me so I sent them back for a little adjustment. On their return they were a much better fit!
I made quite simple shapes here. I used their technique for a faceted ring which comes out really lovely and shiny. For the my second, I wanted I raised thin flat edge which I then added ridge down the sides. If you’re looking for inspiration, I’d recommend following their Instagram feed and stories which always feature amazing designs!
Whilst I was waiting for the rings to come back, I spent some time googling for other ring casting services and came across Cast Experience. They offer a very thing to The Workbench in that they normally run in person classes and also offer a at home kit!
I was pretty much from the first two rings I carved that I thought it was worth trying them out!
Their kits work slightly different in that you purchase a carving kit and then purchase your casting on top of this. The casting you pick would vary depending on the size of your piece. What I think is the main upside of Cast is that you can cast other types of jewellery besides rings. They offer castings for pendants and earrings too!
I ended up casting three more rings with Cast. My carving skills improved so much from my first couple that I couldn’t resist!
I made a twisted skinny ring – it’s an illusion of being twisted so you have to carve in the angled ridges. For my sewing, I made a coin ring with a melted surface (which the boys behind Cast very kindly helped me with). My last one was an Art Deco inspired ring with the intersecting rectangles and skinny band.
I liked the way in which their site worked in that it tracks the casting process and keeps you in the loop!
So my pros and cons of both kits:
The Workbench London is a nicely laid out simple kit with good instructions and inspiration. They clearly know what works for amateur ring makers and you can see how successful people are using their kits with the finished results on their Instagram. The rings are finished to a lovely standard and I loved the rich yellow gold tone and lustre of the metal. I have a feeling the team behind the brand work really hard making sure each ring is adjusted and polished to a very high standard to ensure the best possible result.
Cast Experience gives you a much greater scope for design. I also think their kit is better as includes multiple carving and polishing tools which definitely help a lot. I like the fact you can purchase the kit by itself so you can try out carving without the commitment to the bigger cost of getting it cast. However, I don’t think the finish on the final ring is as nice. It’s a lighter yellow gold and the shine isn’t quite as lustrous in comparison. They’ve very much just cast what’s there and made no improvements to the finish of the waxes or in polishing to compensate for the amateur-ness of the carving. (I may just be completely reading into this too much but it’s how I feel about it!).
Cost wise, if you’re just going to make one or two small rings and it’s going to be in silver, I’d stick with The Workbench London. Two silver rings would work out to be around £160. Conversely, Cast would work out at around £149. Not much difference in cost for a pretty large improvement in finish. However, if you’re casting in silver with gold plate or making a chunkier style ring (think signet ring or even my art deco ring), Cast works out way cheaper. It’s worth doing the math to see what’s better for you! It’s also worth taking into consideration how good you think your carving is. The Workbench London polishing methods may compensate for a less skilled carve.
Either way, I very much spoilt myself with my ring making. I definitely can’t justify anymore jewellery purchases after these excesses!