Call of the Wild
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAVID GARDNER
David, most of your designs are for women, how did this idea for a personalized men’s band get started?
Straight from the customer.
We have a great customer out of Houston who gave us the privilege of designing his sweetheart’s engagement ring and wedding band - her ring is magnificent. He came to us desiring a personalized wedding band for himself based on his passion for the big five. My response was that I was familiar with the Big 12 NOT familiar with “Big Five”! He educated me about his passion for ultimate hunting around the world and the group of animals referred to as the “Big Five.” I jumped at the opportunity with no idea how to accomplish it.
What was your first step in figuring out how to execute this concept?
The customer is a man’s man who loves unique things. I knew whatever we made needed to be masculine and durable. We spent next two months capturing visuals of the five animals that would allow for them to be put in a ring in a way that could identify the animal given the limitations of it being on a band. We worked with him and his fiancé to determine the best angle for each of the animal heads. At this point, we still had no idea how to make it.
Tell us about the process.
Once we had the five profiles of the animals selected, we entered them into the CAD (Computer-aided Design) program with the hope of creating a 3D model of each head. Fonz and I worked on the first head. Then it was placed on a band and sent through the computer-controlled milling process to see if the computer could mill a band with a head on it. After countless attempts and failures, I’m happy to say that it worked!
After we celebrated that success, we went to work on the other four heads. The idea was to have a concave band that would allow the five heads to be in 3D, rising up from the concave surface. I’m sure it took 10 mill-runs before we were successful carving a band with the five heads equally spaced around the band.
The next step was to design it into a good-looking men’s band. We designed a creative border, which gave it a rustic feel and gave the animals protection. The tanzanite stones were added because I knew the customer liked them. They also kept the randomness and ruggedness in the design. The last step we added the rough texture to the surface of the band to give it more depth.
How did you get the detail for each animal?
For the final process in creating our model, we switched to our 3D printer. This allows for greater detail on the animal heads. The detail of the CAD mill process is limited by the size of the tool bit, whereas the 3D printer is not. Two of the animals had soft fur texture that wasn’t coming through the process so we switched to a hand technique to add the final surface finish. We developed the detail of the final finishes of the heads on a silver casting of the ring prior to applying them to the finished platinum casting.
What were some “wild” moments you experienced during this process?
In order to experience the success of this particular design, it required us to experience a lot of failures. We had a hard time casting it because the ring is an ounce of platinum. Each cast process would require two days to experience the failure because we would have to start over with the 3D printer! Fortunately, we were improving our technique each time. The third time was the charm - we were thrilled the hard work was behind us. We ended the six-month process hand delivering to the customer in The Woodlands the night before he left on a 6 a.m. plane for a destination wedding. The finished product wasn’t in the store more than a few hours.