Master the Jeweler’s Saw: 14 Tips for Sawing Metal Jewelry in Intricate Custom Shapes
Using a jeweler’s saw is the essential skill required to create intricate, custom metal shapes for jewelry making. It can feel intimidating, with all the knobs and those teeny, oddly fragile blades, so some expert advice can go a long way toward improving your sawing ability. Here are 14 expert tips for using a jeweler’s saw to help keep your sawing in line (see what I did there?).
- Don’t push the saw blade against the metal. Hold the saw’s handle lightly and allow the saw to glide smoothly up and down. The teeth will do the work–you don’t have to push it. That’s one great way to break the blade.
- Another sure way to break a blade is allowing it to be loose in the frame. Use the jeweler’s saw tension knobs to ensure the blade is taut enough to create that “ping” noise like a string on a musical instrument when you pluck it.
- Most saw blades break while turning a corner while sawing metal jewelry. To improve your chances, saw in place as the blade turns. Also, turn the metal instead of turning the saw, which puts tension on the blade and snaps it.
- For best control and flexibility, Michael David Sturlin recommends gripping the saw handle with your thumb and index finger; then wrap your other fingers around the handle for stability while sawing metal jewelry.
- Start sawing metal jewelry with the blade at a slight angle; then move it to a vertical position. You’ll have better luck and results if you brace your work on a bench pin.
- Reader Diane Brooks provided this tip for sawing metal jewelry that bears repeating: Place a scrap of mat board used for framing pictures (or similar thick paper board) between the bench pin and the metal you’re sawing. It will help you in several ways. Starting the blade in the mat board prevents the metal from skittering around when the blade bites into the metal, and it cleans the blade as you saw. It also supports the work over the hole in the bench pin so it doesn’t collapse and bind the blade, and it results in fewer broken blades.
- Another way to start sawing metal jewelry easily: Using a quick swipe of a triangle file, create a V-shaped notch in the metal where you want to begin sawing. It will hold the blade in place to get you started.
- Need to cut a piece of metal that’s larger than your saw frame? One solution is to use pliers to twist the saw blade 90 degrees so that the saw frame is perpendicular to the axis of the saw cut. With the saw frame off to the side, you can make cuts of unlimited length, as long as the width of the sheet isn’t greater than the saw frame depth.
- The cutting motion is in the elbow, not the wrist. Hold the saw frame lightly, keeping your arm and body relaxed, and saw using long, even strokes. This will provide better control over the cut and also help you maintain that ideal bobbing, up-and-down gliding motion for sawing metal jewelry.
- When you want to saw the same design out of or in two pieces of metal for earrings and such, use rubber cement to glue them together and saw both pieces at once. Apply rubber cement to one side of both pieces of metal and let it dry. Then put them together and add your template on top, if you’re using one.
- Reduce broken blades by using a blade lubricant like Burlife, beeswax, or Gemlube to lube your saw blades.
- Understand that the blades will break, and the good ones snap just as often as the bad ones. Buy saw blades in bulk and don’t fret when they break, because they will! I’ve had one blade last for months and then five break in one project. It just happens–that’s why they sell them in packs of a gazillion.
- Start with a 2/0 saw blade for best all-around use (22-gauge sheet and thicker) when sawing metal jewelry, and move on to a 4/0 saw blade (for 24-gauge metal sheet and thinner) once you get the hang of it. A 6/0 saw blade is best for more advanced, intricate work.
- Saw out all of your interior or “pierced” designs before sawing the outer shape of your metal. Doing this ensures that you’ll have more surface area of the metal glued together, keeping your pieces in contact while you do the more intricate interior cuts.
Ready to learn to saw one-of-a-kind metal shapes, to create any shape in metal that your mind can imagine? Take the leap from metal shears to jeweler’s saw for sawing metal jewelry with expert instruction from Thomas Mann, Noël Yovovich, Michael David Sturlin, and more with our Master the Jeweler’s Saw Collection. You’ll get a DVD, two video downloads, a book, and a web seminar download, all focused on sawing–plus a digital issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine dedicated to jewelry tools like the jeweler’s saw. Only a limited number of our Master the Jeweler’s Saw Collections can be offered at such a special value, so don’t hesitate to get yours!