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Disc Cutter Use

I have read some previous posts on Orchid re this subject but would
appreciate some clarification if anyone is willing to help. I have
just bought a disc cutting set which has three circular sections one
above the other. (most illustrations I have seen only have two) The
base is solid, 2nd section up has holes which correspond with cutter
diameter, obviously the cutting surface and top section also has
holes which correspond with cutter diameter. The cutters reach the
base plate but have a thickened portion above top plate which will
not allow them to pass further into the holes…obviously this end is
the end to whack! …so to speak… hope this description makes
some sense and I don’t sound like a complete idiot! So - the
questions…

Firstly, there seem to be quite widely varying opinions on thickness
of sheet (sterling silver) which can be cut. My tool supplier
advises 0.8mm but perhaps as much as 1.0mm. In reading (Jewelry -
Contemporary Design & Technique - Chuck Evans) the author advises 16
gauge which I believe is approx 1.29mm. So I am more than a little
confused.

Secondly, should metal be annealed? Thirdly, again in reading the
referemces suggest “The cutter should be backed with a piece of
hardwood or annealed copper to prevent possible damage to the
cutting punch” - any advice?

Thankyou in anticipation!

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I have just bought a disc cutting set which has three circular
sections one above the other. 

Hello Kim,

It sounds like you and I have the same design of cutter. I really
like mine but I’ve found you do need to work with them a bit to get
to know how they work best. Here are a couple of things I’ve done and
do to get the best results:

  • definitely anneal your metals first. Much cleaner cuts and less
    brutality required when it comes to the whacking part of the job.

  • yes, absolutely do protect the cutters from striking that bottom
    plate. I have used a sheet of copper foil down there but it gets
    chewed up pretty fast and doesn’t seem to provide much cushion for the
    incoming disk.

  • these days I’m just using a chunk of thick carboardy material, like
    the stuff used to make cheapo shipping boxes for jewelry or the USPS
    Global Express envelopes. You want something without pattern or
    grain on it because that pattern will get pressed into your incoming
    disk (annealed = soft = very impressionable :slight_smile: ).

  • as to thickness of sheet I’ve cut stuff as thick as 2 mm but it
    takes a lot of “whack” to get a clean cut and … well, who needs to
    go there. 1.5 mm seems to be a comfy upper limit for me, 1 mm is
    easy-peasy.

  • FWIW I use a 3.5 lb dead-blow hammer with a hard plastic face on it
    for most of my thicker/larger disc cutting. Of course that’s pretty
    much overkill for smaller disc or thinner material so I step down
    accordingly for those.

  • another trick that seems to allow me to cut discs with a short,
    sharp blow is to set everything up, then rest the head of a square
    wooden mallet on the head of the particular cutter I’m using. So now
    I’m aiming to hit the face of the mallet (big target) and not the
    head of the cutter (little target).

  • don’t forget to keep your cutters oiled! You want them sliding up
    and down as smoothly as possible. It makes things a little messier
    but things get ugly if those cutters start sticking and/or spot
    rusting.

Good luck and happy disc cutting. As ever your kilometage may
differ.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com

Using the Bonny Doon hydraulic press instead of a hammer or mallet
makes cutting discs much easier, especially when cutting thicker
sheet. There is no shifting, double striking or bouncing. The cutter
goes down straight so you are less likely to bend or break your
smaller cutters like you would with a glancing blow. With the cutter
going down straight, there is less wear and tear on both the male
and female parts of the disc cutter. There is less wear and tear on
you since you won’t be swinging a heavy hammer or mallet.

As soon as you cut through the metal (you’ll hear a “sproinging"
sound for want of a better description), stop and release the
hydraulic pressure. Since you aren’t whacking the cutting post with
all your might, you’re not slamming it home on the disc. There will
be less damage to the tool and the resulting disc. NOTE: If you’re
using a manual hydraulic press, as opposed to an electric powered
one, just release enough pressure to drop the platen so you can
remove the cutter assembly out. Then when you go to cut your next
disc, you won’t have to do much cranking to apply pressure. Also, I
put my cutter block on a piece of clean, smooth 1/4” thick Plexiglas
so the disc drops to the Plexiglas instead of the press platen. My
discs don’t get textured or scratched.

Donna Shimazu

Thanks so much Trevor, I do like to do my homework so to speak and I
genuinely appreciate your assistance. As I said in my introduction, I
really am very much new to jewellery (now about 3yrs in) but hooked
of course!

:slight_smile: Kimmyg
www.northcoastbeadmakers.com

G’day;

I have made a series of shape cutters for sterling sheet. But having
put the sheet in place, between the positive and negative dies, I’d
never give it a bash! My method is to put it in a bench vice, tighten
to grip it, then tighten fully with a swift turn of the handle, and
that gives a nice clean cut without spoiling the dies.

Cheers for now,
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ

G’day yourself!

I have made a series of shape cutters for sterling sheet. But
having put the sheet in place, between the positive and negative
dies, I'd never give it a bash! My method is to put it in a bench
vice, tighten to grip it, then tighten fully with a swift turn of
the handle, and that gives a nice clean cut without spoiling the
dies. 

Sounds like a good idea John, only thing is the set I have is quite
heavy and would not be something easy to manoevre in and out of the
vice. By the way, just read your “Making a Wire Die” on
Touchmetal…obviously you are very clever! Unfortunately, I think
making my own tools, at this stage, is probably a bit too much!
Maybe I could take all the dies out of the tool and then try this
method!!! Hmm… any wonder I never sleep! So many
possibilities!

:slight_smile: Kimmyg; kim@kimmyg.com

Using the Bonny Doon hydraulic press instead of a hammer or mallet
makes cutting discs much easier, especially when cutting thicker
sheet. 

Thanks Donna, must investigate the press. Sounds like another item on
my endless shopping list of tools for jewellery! Next thing HAS to be
rolling mill though, I don’t think I can manage much longer without
one!

Kimmyg
@Kim_Griffith

Using the Bonny Doon hydraulic press instead of a hammer or mallet
makes cutting discs much easier, 

Yah, but my 3# sledge hammer sure does the trick.

    Using the Bonny Doon hydraulic press instead of a hammer or
mallet makes cutting discs much easier, 

Yah, but my 3# sledge hammer sure does the trick.

another good method, slower and perhaps more precise than the
sledge, and cheaper than the bonny doon, is a heavy duty machinists
vice. A tad trickier to position the punch and metal in the jaws of
the vice as you start to tighten it down, but it works fine.

Peter

I use a 2 ton arbor press.I think that a new one is about $80 plus
shipping. It weighs about 100 lbs. particularly useful when the ram
can be hit with a sledge thus generating several extra momentary tons.

The disc cutter set I have is about 9kg though! I know I need to do
weight training but wasn’t planning on doing it in the workshop! (LOL) :slight_smile: Kimmyg

If you’ll forgive a somewhat belated addition to this topic I’d like
to add one small thing I tried and found useful.

In the course of this discussion it was mentioned that a hydraulic
press, or even an arbor press, make a good substitute to simply
whacking the cutters with a hammer. I have neither press but I still
don’t particularly fancy the hammer approach. So today I tried a poor
man’s version of the press idea and it seemed to work fairly well.

This is probably only useful for cutting small disks or disks through
thin sheet … but here it goes:

  • set everything up as if you were going to whack your cutter with a
    hammer.

Set the disk cutter on the edge of your work bench so that the
specific cutter you are going to use is touching the edge of the
bench.

  • take a LARGE C-clamp and position it so that the screw part of the
    clamp is under the lip of your bench and the fixed part is sitting in
    top of your cutter. I used an 8 inch clamp.

  • tighten the C-clamp. As it starts to build pressure make sure that
    it is as centered on the cutter as possible. You want the building
    force to be in a vertical line, so that the upper clamp, cutter and
    screw are all aligned vertically.

  • slowly screw the clamp tighter and tighter.

  • if everything is set up right you should build up pressure and then
    get a POP! as the cutter shears through and drops your disc out the
    bottom.

One advantage of this is that as soon as the disc is cut there’s no
more pressure. The cutter doesn’t travel any further and your disc
doesn’t get rammed down onto the lower plate.

FWIW I think that next time I’ll try a larger C-clamp, say a 10
incher. I think a longer arm on the clamp screw would make for a more
controlled procedure.

As ever, safety first: wear your goggles, etc, etc.

Cheers,
Trevor F.
in The City of Light
www.touchmetal.com

Sounds like a great idea and much more practical with the size of
the disc cutter set I am using! Will try in next few days! Thanks
again Trevor! :slight_smile: Kimmyg

Regarding using a disc cutter, if you don’t have a hydraulic press,
a vise works great. The bigger the better. Similar to the C-clamp
idea, it stops the pressure when the cutter has cut through the
sheet. Large vises are quite cheap through supply houses like
Harbor Freight, etc. and you can use them on the biggest discs you
need to cut. Make sure the cutter assembly is “balanced” evenly in
the vise jaws so it won’t come out when applying pressure. Use
your safety glasses! —Jay Whaley UCSD Craft Center

Sometimes I don’t understand, it seems that people make things more
complicated than they need to be. Help me understand, Please. I have
used circle punches for years. I put cardboard under it, or I do it
on a stump. I recommended a 3# sledge on line. I value my tools, it
don’t abuse them. The time people spend devising their own method
would seem to make the process of making jewelry longer. A bonney
doon press is over kill for punching discs. Even if you have one, the
set up would be a waste of time to me. I roller print metal, or cast
thin sheets of cuttlebone, turn them upside down, positioning the
pattern for what I want viewing from the bottom, I put the punch in
from the top while upside down, which holds the metal in place while
I turn it over, then slam it with the sledge. The only time I have
problems, is when I don’t hit it hard enough and the hammer bounces,
and marks the metal. You know how hard to hit the punch as a matter
of course, after a few times. I have done 1.5mm to 2mm thick silver
with no problem. All the best, Richard Hart

I have had a little play with 1.2mm well annealed sterling and as
you say, had no problems except when I didn’t hit the hammer hard
enough and it bounced, perhaps the softer approach might work better
with the finer punches which are obviously more fragile as the set
arrived with a spare of each of the smallest sizes…of course, I
am no expert, just a beginner right at the very beginning! I have
been most thankful for all posts, there are some great
sugggestions… thanks for your practicality though Richard! :slight_smile: Kimmyg

    I have made a series of shape cutters for sterling sheet. But
having put the sheet in place, between the positive and negative
dies, I'd never give it a bash! My method is to put it in a bench
vice, tighten to grip it, then tighten fully with a swift turn of
the handle, and that gives a nice clean cut without spoiling the
dies. 

Hi John and Kim,

I was reading this line and like the vice idea to punch shapes. This
just a thought. If you had a spare heavy duty vice laying about and
say support beam or a barn beam. You could mount the vice
vertically! Either close the vice up or down. To your taste which
way. That way you could sit the die and punch on one jaw and then
just tighten down. Without having to hold the die with one hand and
tightening with the other.

Just a suggestion for the college guys that usually doesn’t have a
big tool budget.

Jim Zimmerman
Alpine Custom Jewellers & Repair
http://www.handengravingcanada.com

Note From Ganoksin Staff:
Looking for a disc cutter for your jewelry projects? We recommend: