How to use a jeweller's saw

Thursday, May 30, 2013

When starting out in the wonderful world of jewellery making there comes a point when you need to cut some metal to advance your skills

When you decide that you want to advance your jewellery making skills, piercing metal is the first step in traditional jewellery making techniques. This skill is not hard to learn but it does take a lot of practice to be really good. Piercing can go from being the ability to cut out a really simple shape to the most intricate filigree style work.

Andrew is a professional jeweller and for over 20 years has been designing and making precious metal jewellery from his shop and workshop in South Wales. His latest venture is a great on-line resource for all jewellers. 




Cookson Gold

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0121 200 2120

Which saw frame?

Cutting Petal Lines

After browsing through tool suppliers catalogues, you see a piercing saw but which type should you go for, fixed or adjustable frame? For a beginner I think a fixed frame (on the left in the picture) is better as it is lighter to use and is in fact, still my saw of choice today. The adjustable frame saws are heavier but useful if you want to re-use broken bits of saw blade, although these 'bits' are usually more brittle to work with anyway. The blades are graded from 8/0 to 6, with 6 being the coarsest blade. To gauge what size blade you need for your project, three teeth from the blade must be in contact with the metal at all times. This is so that the metal does not 'chatter' and makes sawing much more accurate. To help you with choosing blades for various thicknesses of metal there is a free downloadable table available from or from other Internet sites on the web. With all this said, however, I usually keep a 3/0 blade in my saw, which seems to work ok for me on most jobs. 

Blade meets frame

Blade Meets Frame

Now you have your new frame and a few dozen blades, what's next? The blade has to be fixed under tension and 'tings' when plucked. To achieve this you need to take a blade and clamp it in one end of the saw frame, making sure that the teeth on the blade are pointing outwards and downwards towards the handle. The frame needs to be slightly compressed and I do this by putting the handle against my chest and rest the other end against your bench peg or table top. With the saw compressed, clamp the other end of the blade into the frame so the blade is held in under tension and pings when plucked.

Make the first cut

Make The First Cut

Firmly hold your sheet of metal on the bench peg with the area you want to cut out directly over the 'V' shape. Tilt the saw forwards slightly and using your thumb align the blade against the metal on the waste side (the waste side, is on the outside of the cutting line you have drawn). Gently pull the saw down to start sawing, keeping the metal pressed firmly against the bench peg so the metal doesn't jump up and down. It is important to also keep the saw vertical.

Sawing a shape out

Sawing Shape Out

After the first cut return the frame to an upright position. For all cuts there should be very little forward pressure, pull the frame downwards, dropping the elbow but keeping the wrist fairly rigid. If your blade binds or 'chatters' lubricate it by running it through beeswax, you can expect to break a few blades when you first begin to saw as it takes practice to learn how to get your hand, wrist, and forearm to work together. Use the full length of the blade too, don't just jerk it up and down. To get the perfect straight cut, always look a little ahead of where you are sawing. Its like driving a car, you always keep your eyes ahead of you and not right in front of the bonnet. Also don't saw directly on the line of your design, always saw on the waste side, but only just.

Curves and turning corners

Curves And Sawing Corners

To cut along curves gently turn the metal and not the saw; you should always be cutting forward. With right angles keep the blade moving up and down but not pushing forward and gently turn the metal on the spot with the saw still going up and down. When the cutting line is straight ahead again, add a little more pressure on the frame and resume sawing as usual. The best tip to encourage you to look after your blade that I always give to anyone whom I instruct. "Imagine that you have just spent days making the saw blade, treat it with respect because if you break it, it will take you a few more days to make another".

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