Love, Shear Love: 5 Reasons I Love Using My Metal Shears for Cutting Metal
I thought my affection for metal shears was odd until I heard famous foodie Andrew Zimmern’s thoughts on kitchen knives. When student chefs ask which knife is his favorite, Zimmern said, he answers, “my scissors.” With this blog brewing, his answer felt like validation. I feel free to admit that I prefer my shears to a saw most of the time!
Lexi Erickson Made Me Do It
When I was a student learning metal jewelry making from Lexi, the first thing she had me do was saw out a circle. By the time I was done, ages later, my arms were both achy and jelly-limp at the same time. To add insult to injury, when I asked why someone didn’t sell circles already cut, she said they did! Circles, stars, flowers . . . of course, you can buy a metal blank in nearly any shape you want. But she said I needed to learn how to do it myself, and she was right. I don’t remember how many of her saw blades I broke. Eventually I learned how to saw faster and better, but my arms still feel like jelly when I’m done.
I’m so glad that Lexi made me learn to cut metal the hard way. But now, I’m so glad there are metal shears.
5 Reasons I Love My Metal Shears
1. No Broken Saw Blades! And no changing saw blades, no adjusting tension, no finding readers to see which direction the little teeth are going. Shears are good to go, straight out of the packaging.
2. Easy to Use and Familiar! (for beginners) As the jelly arms and broken saw blades from my first sawing experience can attest, there’s a little bit of a learning curve with a jeweler’s saw. You have to learn how to grip it, how much pressure, how fast the rhythm. Before you can even get started, you have to learn how to insert the blades. (Sure, you’ll need to learn these things eventually–every jeweler should.) But with metal shears? Shears are basically scissors, and most of us learned to use scissors in kindergarten or before. Cutting with scissors is a familiar technique that we’ve known almost all of our lives. So there’s little to no learning curve with using metal shears or scissors to cut metal.
3. Time Savings! The first few times I made my Silver Flower Ring, sawing out the layers took ages, increasing my labor time/cost. In order to get this design to a more affordable price and improve my profit margin, I needed to lower that labor cost. One way I did it was to switch to cutting out the petals with metal shears.
I use a 1″ wide strip of silver metal sheet instead of larger, square sheets of metal. So instead of sawing out the petals, I’m actually using metal shears to trim away the excess. (I later turn those bits into decorative silver balls, using every bit of the metal in one design.)
4. Easy Modifications! Even when I do saw out metal shapes, I keep my metal shears handy for small tweaks or modifications. It’s much easier to trim or refine the edge of a metal shape with shears than with a jeweler’s saw. I rely on metal shears to alter or customize purchased blanks, too. (I also use small curved and angled files for this purpose–they make quick, easy, consistent curves.)
5. Easy to Transport! There’s not much difference in the amount of space these tools take up, but metal shears are simply more portable than saw frames and blades. For me, it’s much easier to put metal shears in a bag with my other pliers than it is to transport a jeweler’s saw and blades to a class or a playdate.
Devil’s advocate: It’s true that using certain metal shears or metal scissors might create a rougher edge on your piece than sawing. But for me, the time saved from using shears more than makes up for the finishing that you may need later with a file or sandpaper etc. Extra finishing work, that is–because you’ll have to file and sand metal edges, no matter how you cut it. (Haha . . . cut it. See what I did there?)
Sure, I’m being a little bit facetious when it comes to my love for metal shears–but only a little. Some of my reasons are really digging down into the details, but let’s face it, details matter. When you’re doing something as important as working with fine metals or creating special jewelry, details matter!
I’m not saying there’s no need for the jeweler’s saw in your studio. Every jewelry maker should know how to properly use a saw and pierce metal. But when you have simple shapes, quick or preliminary cutting to do, using metal shears makes sense.
Of course I value my jeweler’s saws, too. I understand that they have their time and place, their special capabilities that metal shears can’t do, such as piercing (above). You can learn more about piercing and how to properly use a jeweler’s saw in some of my earlier blogs, below. And if you agree that metal shears are pretty handy, I recommend Joyce Chen-style shears and Xuron’s metal scissors (non serrated).
Learn more about cutting metal: