The Road

Remember this?


Well, I had to start over and finish it right.  But it was worth it.  It’s a Gentleman ring I dubbed “the Road Agent”  for a client with a custom-shaped gold obsidian stone.  It turned out great and has this amazing subsurface gold highlight when the light hits it.

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This whole thing brings up the point of mastery, which is something I am constantly talking to my artist friends about.  What is it and are we (or is anyone) that thing?  The skullsmithing industry is a small community.  We all pretty much know each other and most of my instagram is occupied by makers that I follow.  Everyone seems to be a true master of the craft.  But the truth is that I know for a fact that we all regularly and frequently screw up multiple aspects of projects.  Problem with social media is that you don’t see that stuff, usually.  And I get it.  You don’t want clients thinking you’re incompetent.

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But the more I think about ‘mastery’ the more the prospect of imperfection comes to light.  Because the more I learn, the LESS CONFIDENT I become in the craft.  I’ll knock out what I think is a series of absolutely awesome pieces and then screw up something as simple as a stone setting or a comfort fit.   Take that along with discussions I’ve had with other artisans that have what I’d call “mastery” and I’d say that mastery and humility come hand in hand.  In other words, if you’re walking around thinking that you’ve GOT THIS then you’re probably a journeyman at best.  If you’re walking around thinking “holy shit there is so much to learn and all of my contemporaries are so inspiring” then you might be approaching legitimate mastery.

I think this is why most artists I know walk around thinking that at some point they’re going to be ‘found out’ and everyone’s going to realize they don’t know they’re shit and it’s all going to come crashing down.  What’s actually happening is that they’re reaching that peak.  Mastery.  And to call it a ‘peak’ is actually yet another fuck up of mine because I don’t think “mastery” is a place.  I think it’s a path.

So, I’ll leave you with a custom skull ring (full jaw) I finished for a client a few weeks ago that might be one of the finest sculpts I’ve ever made.  Path to mastery, right?

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…and then…..

I completely screwed up a wax for a totally similar piece that I should have been able to do perfectly.  This is for a client who is getting multiple pieces from me.

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Luckily, I’ve been able to send him finished pieces while we begin remaking this one.  In the meantime, yeah, whooops.

So yes, I’m a master skullsmith.  Yes, I screw up all the time.  Yes, I will end up putting a perfect piece in your hands at the end of it.   Here’s to all the other skullsmiths out there and the next time your silver throws too cold and totally destroys your wax tree, remember that we’re all in the same boat.  I’ll leave you with this shot of a skull I put together in Zbrush.  I’ll be casting this soon to begin working on a new Deaths Head line that will be uber-realistic skulls set in slightly smaller rings:

In my hands I hold the ashes……

It’s taken me months of design, carving, redesign, recarving, and redesigning yet again, but I’ve finally finished what I consider to be the ultimate square gemstone ring.  The Leonids master cast is finally finished and set with kingman turquoise straight outta the mouth of the mine.


I’ve talked about the design in the previous post, so I’ll just get straight in to how proud I am of the final product.

She’s going to be for sale in January, though I have sold a few pre-orders that will be shipping in the next three or four weeks.  Running at $495 a pop, she’s sporting a full 28mm in height and features two hand-carved skulls on either side of the shank.  We can knock a tooth out or two if you want them to look banged up or we can round out the eyes for more of a sugar skull look.  Room on the foreheads of each for initials or whatever else you want.

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On the back of the shank, I’ve put in a single eye and a bone crossbar.  Kind of morbid?  Maybe, but this bad motherfucker is the sculptural embodiment of some of the themes of Blood Meridian (probably my favorite novel)  and I wanted it to be as elegant as it is brutal.


Like I said before, I’m getting the stones direct from the mine, so turnaround time is a little slower than usual.  I’ve sold 6 of my first batch of stones in pre-order and I’ll probably sell the next group just as quickly before these finally go up on the site in January.  Color and inflection of the stones will vary and I’d caution you guys to be careful with these.  They’re tough as hell, but turquoise is a more delicate stone and if punching things is a regular part of your routine, I might suggest ordering a Jupiter from me instead so you don’t crack and screw up these gorgeous baby-blues.  Or at least take it off first.


Cleaning out my jewelry box


I’m a jade guy.  I wear a lot of it.  But I USED to be a turquoise guy and I have to say it’s still my favorite stone to set in a skull ring.  But I have too many pieces I don’t wear anymore and something’s gotta go.

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So I’m going to sell these two puppies.  Polish ’em up, clean ’em up, and sell them.  The Big Voodoo is a size 11.5 and that Little Voodoo is a size 9.  Solid sterling, of course.

Email me at or message me on twitter @MT_Maloney and let me know if you want to buy one or both.  $125 for the big one and $100 for the little guy. Call it $210 for both. Shipping on the house.  I used to wear the big one on my ring finger and the little guy as a pinky ring.  

Pinky rings are badass anyway and a skull ring pinky ring is almost drop-the-mike time.

Apologies to my international clients, but I can’t send these overseas with shipping costs.  

The Shield.

Took me about two months to finish this one.  Had a hell of a lot of detail to work out and I wanted to make it exactly perfect or Patrick, my awesome client. Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 10.10.45 AM This was all about the badge.  We worked a design together that would be definitively NEW YORK for the shank and wouldn’t compete with the shape of the badge.  It’s a big ring, like I like ’em. Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 10.11.15 AM I’ve been toying with the idea of offering a shield line of rings for cops and other law enforcement agencies, but the problem has always been that for the most part you can by cheaper, mass-prodcued rings depicting simple agency shields and insignia.  But Patrick’s idea was so personal and his emphasis on the badge looking substantial was such that I couldn’t pass on this project. Screen shot 2015-02-19 at 10.10.57 AM We also worked in his service years onto the side and his initials on the back.  The result is a super heavy piece unlike any other cop rings I’ve been able to find out there.  Solid sterling too. Gonna please, I can tell you that.

Back in action



Yes, I’m back on the bench.  Happy to be back, too.  Got a lot of projects wait-listed from motorcycle club rings to wedding bands to full custom jobs to the good old fashioned custom skull rings.

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A couple of things will be changing in 2015.  I’m going to pace myself a bit better, not rush multiple jobs or take on more clients at one time than I should.  I got into this business to focus on individual clients and when I’m knocking out 20 or 25 rings at a time, that just isn’t happening.  So don’t be disheartened if you contact me to place an order and I ask you to hang tight for a few weeks.  I’ll get to you.  I just think your project deserves my full attention.  If you doubt my intentions, know that I was invited to create rings for the Sons of Anarchy season finale event and I declined because I wanted to deal with individuals like you guys.  Yes, I’m Jerry Maguire.

Speaking of individual clients, this post is largely for Dylan who has asked me to make a custom Tiki ring with a gemstone.  I’m feeling the amber.

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I picked up these stones on Lamma Island a while ago, but I only have a few left.  I still have one of the bright yellow ones from the far left and the four transparent stones on the right.  This isn’t cheap amber.  Not that resin, assembled shit you get in the states all the time.


This is Lamma.  I get off the ferry here after about a 45 minute ride from Hong Kong island.  It’s a tiny little fishing island and I hike right over the mountain to Yung Shue Wan to visit the Lamma Island Amber Shop.



Cool right?  This shop is tiny and set into a dark corner of this tiny little road called “Main street.”  I’ll usually swing by this great joint called Lamma Grill for a whiskey and the closest thing to a great American cheeseburger you’re gonna find and then find this shop which is practically GLOWING like a gemstone.

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The place is run by Udo and his wife.  That’s Udo below selling amber in Tibet in ’92.

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I freakin’ love this place.  I spend a lot of time looking through their stock and their finished jewelry.  I’ve made a few skull rings with their amber set into the eyes.  Just a great place.  I wish I could just import from these guys regularly, but the demand for amber just hasn’t quite caught-on in the US yet.  So what I usually end up doing is swinging by to pick up gifts for family and friends.



So yeah, if you’re ever in HK, catch the ferry at pier 4 to Lamma and visit them.

So Dylan – let me know what wer’e gonna do.  Drop me a line.  And I’ll catch the rest of you cats in the next week.  Stay tuned.

Torc and beans.


I am so sick of this shit.

I didn’t ask for much.  I just wanted a solid sterling silver men’s torc bracelet.  It’s a great modern look.  If you don’t know what a torc is, its not your fault.  It’s also called ‘torque’  and the most common incarnation today is worn around the wrist.  Back in the day, though, the Celtic people would wear giant versions around their necks.   Badass.

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David Yurman did a great one – made traditionally with woven cables of metal (which is where it gets its name)

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Awesome, right?  Well as often happens with awesome work – there are about 10,000 hacks out there right now doing the exact same thing that Yurman did.  They all have twisted wire, but now sport cheesy gemstones at the caps and are made of shitty metals instead of silver or gold in an effort to sell jewelry to people who don’t want to pay for jewelry.

All due respect to Yurman’s design, I wanted something solid.  Something kind of like this:

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….but maybe a bit thicker and heavier.  I have an average sized wrist and I thought a 7mm wide band in sterling couldn’t be too much to ask.


Nobody….I mean NOBODY makes one of these in the US.  I spent time on every freakin’ shopping site I could find.  I even got a freakin’ ETSY account, okay?  Nobody makes this.

Sure there are a couple dozen good makers in the UK, but I didn’t wan to get killed on the currency change and shipping.  I also found thousands of examples of sterling silver plated versions of cheaper metal….you know….just in case I want it to rust off of my hand in a few years, or better yet, snap like it’s made of fucking plastic when I’m trying to get it on my wrist.

Get it on my wrist?  That’s right.   Because almost every single one of these is about 2 freakin’ inches in diameter.  None of them would fit a grown man who doesn’t want the circulation cut off in his hand from the spandex-tight fit of these shitty dime-store trinket versions I found all over Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy.

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SWEET!  This one has magnets in it!  In case I was failed by my public education and I think this jewelry will make me healthier.  I’m telling you, these were all over the place.  I also found some sculptural  stuff that was pretty cool, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

I found actual quality sterling silver torcs on Etsy, but these dudes were making them 3mm in diameter.  WAY to thin.  I even had a maker respond to my question about band diameter with “they’re 2.5mm thick.  Perfect weight for a bangle.”

“Are you shitting me?” was my response.

“No, they’re already real heavy.”

I’m telling you, this interest in lightweight and inexpensive product has fucking ruined men’s jewelry in the United States.  You know what else is inexpensive and lightweight?  Paper.  Why don’t you wear a fucking paper bracelet and a yarn ring to match.  Or a ring pop so you have something to eat.

I know the grass is always greener, but the UK gals and guys are doing it right.  You can find good, solid sterling pieces over there with clean, classic designs.  Not just torques (torcs, or torqs) but solid bangles and linked chains.

You know, I encountered the same thing when I first started looking at skull rings.

All the best makers of realistic non-death metal rings were in the UK and New Zealand.  So I hooked up with Dana Ruth and learned how to make jewelry and just fucking made my own.  Enough people liked it that I started making them for other people.  Enough people wanted them that I opened up my custom studio.  Turns out, I wasn’t the only person looking for a ring like that.




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So the question now becomes, am I the only person who wants a solid, badass, men’s torc made in the USA and sized to fit an adult in sterling or gold?  The balls on either side need to be at least 14mm and the band should be 7mm at the thinnest.

We’ll see.  I’m going to make mine.  Then, I’m coming back for you.



What’s in a Sugar Skull?

No NEW work here, but finishing up John’s Purple Gaze ring got me thinking about all the sugar skulls I’ve done recently.  Figured they’d need a post all to themselves.  

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Yeah, we all get that this comes from that Day of the Dead aesthetic, but it goes way beyond that for me.  A good chunk of my sugars don’t even use that particular style.  “Sugar Skull” has come to classify really ANY ornamentation to the surface of the skull, in ANY style.

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Sometimes we go detail-heavy, sometimes we keep it simple.  Sometimes the style is Latin, sometimes it’s Japanese, sometimes it looks like a microphone or a mess of thorns……

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The only thing these suckers have in common is that the ornamentation is kind of riffing on the sculptural planes of the skull itself.  In other words, the trick isn’t to ignore what the surface is doing, but rather respond to it.  I’d say “kinda like jazz” if I knew anything about jazz.

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Keep in mind that ANY of my rings can get this sugar treatment.  

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Done all kinds of line work and central imagery.  Thick, thin, wobbly, sharp, clean, cragged…..

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But these rings work best with some kind of central imagery as an anchor.  A cross, a star, whatever.  It keeps the surface from looking too busy.  When I work with a client on a sugar skull, they tend to have specific ideas about what that central image should be.  The rest of the treatment is built around that and frames it up nicely. 



Okay, enough for now.  This could go on and on and my intent here was to create a post where I could send people who had questions about how the sugar treatment looked.  Remember, this is not to be confused with the Boss Voodoo which is carved from scratch from a block of wax for each client. The result is equally ornamental, but the process (and price range) is totally different…..

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Those are examples.  HUGE ring.  Heavy too.  Just like the sugar, they’re very detailed and work best with gemstone eyes. 

We’re a few weeks away from the new Jupiter Skull, so stay tuned.  

Hong Kong Bound

1 Comment

Your boy here is going back to Hong Kong for a while, so I’ve got to warn everyone that all orders received after Wednesday of this coming week probably won’t be delivered until the beginning of August.  Bummer, eh?    Not really.  Especially if your ring requires jade.   If you want to order, go ahead and get in touch with me and we can at least start on the designs.

I’ll probably be sketching your piece out in a place like this:

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…which is the kind of joint I usually eat in when I’m out there.  That photo is actually where the wife and I had our anniversary dinner.  I’m not kidding.  I don’t know how to explain how great Hong Kong is to people when they ask about it.  Just imagine yourself living in the movie Blade Runner, but with amazing food and no cyborgs to kill.

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I’ve had a few clients in Hong Kong over the past year.  I’ll be hanging around Ivan’s at night or smoking hookah on Cochrane St near that Lebanese joint.   Any of you who spot me out there and approach me to order get yours on the house.

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That’s me an Ivan.  Cool dude.  I’m looking forward to doing shots of his wife’s vodka back in his walk-in freezer in a few weeks.  Also going to visit my pal the Savate fighter who bounces in Central and the calligraphist and philosopher who lives on the side of the mountain in the new territories near the 10,000 Buddhas monastery.  Yeah, pretty much everybody out there is straight out of a movie.

Anyway, stay tuned.  New stuff on the way.

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I’ve had it with these clowns.

I usually don’t do this, but sometimes the detritus just starts to become suffocating and I need to pop a valve open.  Once again, my day has been fucked up on the highest level by the legendary stains over at….we’ll call it OOPS.


As you can imagine, I have a lot of suppliers who send me silver, stones, tools, all kinds of stuff.  Well you’re all now on notice that I’m not taking shipments from these goofballs anymore.  If you want to work with me, you’re gonna go FedEx or you’re gonna go USPS.

Seriously, these clowns are hated by everyone.  I went to their facebook page expecting to be the asshole.  As it turns out, I’m not the only one who’s discovered the canyon of incompetence that is the OOPS company:

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…yeah, they’re ALL like that.  The section is conveniently tucked away into Facebook’s “Comments by Others” section, but they’re there.  All of them.   It’s like a fail salad.

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Kinda funny if it didn’t impact my clients.  For example, I have a client waiting on a class ring with green and yellow stones in the eyes.  Well guess what?  Who knows where the fuck those stones are now because they were shipped with OOPs.  This delays me setting the stones, which delays me finishing the ring, etc, etc.

I’d guess the stones are probably with this guy:

“Stop eating my sesame CAKE.”

You kind of get the impression that these douchebags are incompetent pretty much everywhere, but I can tell you first hand that the Atlanta office has got to be the crown jewel in the kingdom of idiocy and apathy that is OOPS.

At least the facebook reviews are glowing.

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These are all within the last 24 hours and there are SO many more that mention the NAME of this company, which I’m trying to exclude.

So what’s the point?

It takes a long time to make these rings as it is, okay?  My clients are patient, patient people to wait as long as they do for these projects.  The last thing I need is a third party shipping company screwing with my time table.

So yeah, I’m pissed.  It happens.

Now what do we do about it?  How can we make this into something constructive?

By saying “FUCK YOU.”  That is: I’m going to be giving away a FUCK YOU ring for the cost of shipping.  It’s a Mystery Cave, Big Voodoo, or Little Voodoo (your choice) with “FUCK YOU” written across the forehead, on the shank, or inside the band.  First person to send me their ring size along with a cool photo of them with that big old middle finger extended in a classic “FUCK YOU” bird (something I can post on the blog, so no nudity you filthy animals).

Yes, your ring has to say those words.  Sorry, no opt-outs.  If you win and you want the ring, it’s getting those magical four letters somewhere on the ring.  We can be creative, though.  I’m open to using initials only if we must.

So send me your emails.  Again please make sure you’re cool with me posting the picture on my site!  I’m looking for creativity as well as punctuality.  I’m not just taking the first shot I get, but rather the first shot I get that soothes my rage with it’s coolness.

In the meantime, I’ll sooth myself with one of these:

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The Funhouse and Maximum Overdrive

While working on a few new King Skull orders, I was able to take in a pair of horror icons.  The Funhouse was first.

How to summarize this film……

Talking about Funhouse will make it sound so much more meager than it actually is.  This film is a masterpiece and it’s kind of a select club that actually knows about it and appreciates it.

We open with one of the creepiest sequences ever captured on celluloid as this kid: (or a kid that looks just like this)

…gears up in a rubber mask and goes on a John Carpenter-style first person stalkfest through his own bedroom (not sure how that works) but ends up crashing in on his sister taking a shower.   The confrontation that ensues is reeeaaalllly uncomfortable as her brother plunges his rubber knife into her naked upper groin over and over again.

If that isn’t creepy enough, we then get to meet her boyfriend and it becomes immediately clear that this chick just surrounds herself with all the best people.

So she and all her friends end up going to an amusement park – or a carnival or whatever:  one of those traveling carnivals that visit the finest small towns in the outskirts of cities everywhere.

What this particular carnival doesn’t have in giant smoked turkey legs, it more than makes up for with creepy mutant animals and sideshows.  Aaaand what happens when teenagers on a double date are surrounded by mutant animals, smoked turkey legs, trash, drunks, creepy homeless men (and women) a crazy-looking Irish guy screaming “ALIVE, ALIVE, ALIIIIIVVE?”



“Wow, this place is fucking disgusting.”

“Hey, let’s sleep here.”

“Rock on.”

On the backside of the slope of Mount .Great Decision Making, they all spend the night in the Funhouse.  Things are going as great as you’d expect until they accidentally watch a mutant ride-operator with a split head, white hair, red eyes, and a voice that sounds like Mr. Bill get a handjob and then strangle a fortune teller to death.

If that’s not what it says on the back of the video box, it should be.

For the rest of the film, we get the standard series of stalking, murderstyle scarefests until the survivor(s?) escape.  We enjoy every minute of it.

This is one of those films that I like to look at through the other side of the mirror.

You’re a nice old carny, barking at a carnival in bumblefuck Southernsville when 4 kids decide to stay over illegally in your place.  They burn it down, kill everyone you know, and ruin your life, but not before most of them get killed as well.    What a raw deal.

I should mention also that this masterpiece is directed by Tobe Hooper.  Victory.

How do you follow a film like that?  It really is a great freakin’ 80s horror movie.

Here’s how you follow it.

Maximum Overdrive.

Bunch of trucks come to life and kill everyone while AC/DC plays Hells Bells.  Is this every 13-year-old’s fantasy or what?  Well in the 1980s it was.  When I heard about this film, I kicked myself in the face and my friends and I played air guitar for like 6 hours.

I don’t want to spend too much time on this film because it will just ruin it and make it sound stupid.  All I can say is that if you like Emelio Estevez, trucks controlled by alien souls living in a tail of a comet, and AC/DC, you need to watch this film.

This film has some great moments, no question.  If you can get over the retarded story, the character types are a lot more interesting to follow than in some of the other teenage films.

In fact – and this just occurred to me- this is exactly like Tremors.  I mean EXACTLY like Tremors.  Somebody should be suing somebody.

The best scene in the film is the one when a random guy we’ve never seen before opens the double doors of the truckstop, breaking all the windows while screaming for no reason “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON IN HERE?”   Think I’m making it up?

Let me clarify.  We’ve never seen that guy before and he’s gonna be dead in five minutes.  AWESOME.

Lots of great Deathrace 2000 style death scenes in this film also.  Just has to be watched in the right setting.  If you’re coming off of something like The Shining, you’re going to hate this.  But if you’ve been watching the Critters series and pop this bad boy into your VCR, you’re going to love it.