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Efficient cutting for 14 ga sheet metal


I could use some advice on a way to more efficiently cut 15 - 20
pendant shapes (2x3" roughly each) from 14 gauge sheet. I am about
going crazy from sawing by hand – it takes me a long time and time
is money (and I’m typing with my left hand because my right wrist is
so tired it’s all spazzy.).

The largest jeweler’s metal blade I could find in Tucson was #5. My
husband suggested ordering a #7 (.019" thick and 30 teeth per inch)
and using our skillsaw (on a Shopsmith). We tried it but it snapped
blades within a few minutes and the cuts were imprecise so lots of
extra filing work.

Any ideas? Should I use thicker blades, more teeth per inch or fewer
teeth per inch?

Buy an exerciser for my hand/arm?

Hire a starving student with big arms?

Thanks in advance.

I don’t know the sape of pendants you are cutting, but depending on
shape, this type pneumatic/eletric shears may be helpful.


    I could use some advice on a way to more efficiently cut 15 -
20 pendant shapes (2x3" roughly each) from 14 gauge sheet. 

Hello Roseann,

I make men’s buckles out of 14 gauge brass so I’ve encountered pretty
much the same problem you have.

I’ve tried the heavier blades, all the way up to #10, in my
jeweller’s saw for this kind of work and can report that the #10s
make pretty short work of annealed 14g plate, especially with a little
glycerine soap as a blade lubricant. Those blades do leave pretty
substantial cut marks though so cleanup is still quite necessary
unless you’ve got a particularly smooth hand with the saw.

I’ve often wondered about looking into a powered solution to this but
have never pursued it.

Trevor F.

I could use some advice on a way to more efficiently cut 15 - 20
pendant shapes (2x3" roughly each) from 14 gauge sheet. 

14 Ga. is too thick to cut with a blanking die, I used to use a
Dremel scroll saw to cut heavier pieces 20 ga up to 10 Ga. it was a
two speed, and could use regular Jewelers Saw blades.

The cut did leave something to be desired, even on the slow pseed
left enough filing.

Now there are cheaper imports that offer variable speeds (Ryobie)
comes to mind and also Delta (a little bit more expensive) the
slower stroke speeds will give a lot more control when making curved
cuts, also a 5 or 6 cut should work on 14 ga.

The other thing I didn’t like was the stroke length was only about
3/4 to 1 inch and even if I didn’t crowd the blade they would only
last a few pieces. I used to attribute that to the stroke speed
though which even on low was still 1500 S.P.M. way to fast. I
believe slowing the stroke down and not crowding the blade you could
get acceptable results,

Also the Idea of a starving student sounds good, unless board is
included, I’ve heard they can consume mass quantities of food.

Kenneth Ferrell

Hi Roseann,

I could use some advice on a way to more efficiently cut 15 - 20
pendant shapes (2x3" roughly each) from 14 gauge sheet.

The easiest way I’ve found is to take them to a shop that does
’water jet’ cutting.

To have them water jet cut, you’ll have to make a full size 2D
drawing using a some form of computer drafting/drawing program
that’s able to output the drawing in a DXF format. The water jet
cutter is a large XY plotter that uses a jet of water & usually a
garnet grit to cut the piece from the sheet of metal.

The thickness of the metal is really no problem. I’ve had 8 ga
(.128") sterling & 18Kt cut on one. I’ve also seen stone & 6" thick
steel cut by one.

Odd 2D shapes are not a problem. If the part can be drawn, it can be
cut & the cuts are very smooth.

There are several shops in the southern AZ area that can do this
type of work.


I’ve been reading the Orchid stuff but never replied - I hope this

Re: The question about efficiently cutting many pieces out of 14
gauge sheet metal.

I don’t know what materials or shapes you are cutting but here is
what I do.

If the material is not overly precious, the gain in speed can offset
the relatively high level of waste.

I have been woodworking and making jewelry for over 40 years and I
sometimes press tools into service across the boundaries of their
intended use.

I use my woodworking bandsaw - with the finest and narrowest blade I
can get - still a far cry from a jeweller’s saw blade - but it works.
I often leave extra material so there is room for a couple of
quick-and-dirty rivets to hold several thicknesses together - or I
might cut a long strip and fold it over a time or two or three so as
to make multiple layers.

If the shape has lots of tight curves and corners, too tight for
the blade to follow in the conventional manner, the bandsaw blade
can be used perpendicular to the line, like a file,to chew away
material close to the finished line. Works fast! But either way,
don’t try to cut right on the line. This is a rough-out step.

There are some drawbacks and some solutions.

The first and main one , as mentioned above, is the waste of
material. Unless you invent a clever way to collect the chips, most
of the waste will be unrecoverable so I use this rough and ready
trick mostly with copper, brass etc. Only sometimes with silver.

Second - compared to jeweller’s saw, you get rough edges. To save
lots of timeand filing I use a Delta benchtop 1" belt/disc
combination sander- a quite inexpensive machine - to smooth and
refine edges. Again, this can be done to multiple pieces
simultaneously if you clamp them together. Not only the face of the
belt, but also the edges and the curved bit at the top where it
passes over the wheel, can be used to get into a lot of corners and
eliminate lots of hand filing. Belts can be gotten in a wide range
of grits - I have some down to 600 grit and I think they come even

Third - There is a tremendous build up of heat from the friction both
in the sawing and sanding. That requires some extra time and/or other
countermeasures, i.e. frequent water dipping etc. When sanding with
multiple units held in clamps, you can hold the clamps instead of the
workpiece and that is a help. But sawing is a @#^&()_(&^%$!!! I
don’t ever want to use gloves around moving machinery - so I cope
with patience.

Like anything else -these methods take a bit of practice but they do
work for me - especially with large-ish pieces and thicknesses such
as you describe.

Incidentally - For years I often wondered why slow-speed electric
scroll saws wouldn’t work for this kind of work as they can easily
hold jeweller’s saw blades. I asked a bunch of jewellers and nobody
could figure out why it wouldn’t work so I decided to give it a try
and I bought the smallest Delta benchtop model. Suffice it to say
that it DOESN’T work. Blades break and work gets picked up and
slammed down out of control. So machines can’t do everything - which
is a good thing for artists and craftspeople in the end. Also good
for folks who like peace and quiet most of the time.

I hope this helps.
Martin in Victoria BC where things are just loverly


my suggestion is to contact Dar Shelton at Sheltech. He can run
them off for you on the hydraulic press. You can find his contact
info at, as well as more about the kinds of
dies he can make for you. He can certainly make a blanking die of
the pendant shape and even do the stamping for you. His charges
have always been reasonable and it will certainly save your precious
body. At the end of it, your hand is saved, you have a die master,
and your shapes are done, requiring only minimal cleanup.


In another response to this thread; it was mentioned using a small
blade on a bandsaw. My vote would go for making the investment in a
Hegner (or another brand is RBI) scroll saw. There are many blade
options available (spirals to tungsten carbide grit rods, etc) As a
woodworker and enameler, it is a very handy companion for metal
working. Don’t just take my word for it…


I could use some advice on a way to more efficiently cut 15 - 20
pendant shapes (2x3" roughly each) from 14 gauge sheet. I am about
going crazy from sawing by hand -- it takes me a long time and
time is money (and I'm typing with my left hand because my right
wrist is so tired it's all spazzy.). 

Hi Roseann,

Is this a design you frequently find yourself making, over and over
again, or just a one-off project? If it’s the former, the simplest
answer I can think of would be to contact a local machine shop or
tool and die maker, and ask them what they’d charge you for creating
a metal die andpunch setup for their 20- or 50-ton press, then have
themdo all of the “heavy lifting” from that point on, each time such
an order came in. (Even if it’s not a big call item,you may want to
save yourself from the risk of repetitive motion injuriesand go the
mechanized route, anyway. Either way, good luck to you!

Douglas Turet, G.J.
Lapidary Artist & Designer
Turet Design
P.O. Box 242
Avon, MA 02322-0242
Tel. (508) 586-5690

Thank you to everyone who provided excellent advice on-line and off.

I apologize for not indicating the pieces are all different, so the
stamping would not work.

Here’s what has worked, and a synopsis of the great advice:

  • Electric shears came up a number of times; you can order them in
    sizes to cut up to 14 ga. They are about $100 - $200. A few people
    reported distortions using them. I have not bought them or tried
    them, though I have access to an air-driven set of “nibblers” though
    I suspect it will be too jagged an edge.

  • Scroll or fretsaws (which I did try and blades snapped) were
    reported by several to not work but ideas were aplenty for why not
    (slow speed seemed like a good idea, especially since you can use
    jeweler’s saws in them). Several wondered if the speed was TOO slow
    and the mechanical movement hung up too much (the human hand/brain
    combo makes minute adjustments for this).

  • Duh - I didn’t anneal the metal first, and glycerine soap worked
    well as a lubricant (thanks for that tip!).

  • I finally tried the good old electric jigsaw and it worked great,
    though the base plate did chew through the masking tape and scratched
    the surface a little – can sand it off with a bandsaw. The waste is
    minimal (about 1 mm).

Desert Rose Designs

I've often wondered about looking into a powered solution to this
but have never pursued it. 

people -

it was the thought of such a nice lady chained to a bench sweating
over a saw & 2 gross of blades cutting out 20 pendant shapes that
goaded my conscience into giving away a secret for cutting thicker
metals. on first encounters with ads for jeweler’s saw blades i
wondered why the quantity was usually a gross. ah, then i tried to
use one & found that every half of an inch of result requires one
blade. first mystery solved. second mystery: why do people subject
themselves to such sisyphean masochism?

secret: what i cannot cut with my solder scissors or blue handled
micromark metal cutters (which is about up to 14g) is use my 9"
ryobi bandsaw with the 1/8" metal blade. surely you can find a
friend with a bandsaw. or just wander around your area carrying a
sign “got bandsaw?” (& your water bottle) until you find someone
with pity & a bandsaw. but before traipsing into the stranger’s
workshop, first use a template with a slightly larger than needed
outline* of the shape & mark the 20 shapes in equally spaced rows on
the metal. you can map out a ‘wavelike’ route to saw around one side
of each shape in a diagonal route from one top corner to the
opposite bottom corner of the metal sheet. next cut around the other
side of each shape on each strip which separates it from the strip -
then trim around the tops & bottoms - easier than the tight circuits
required for cutting out each individual shape.

so you can finish by grinding/sanding the shapes to smoothe the
edges - i use a 220 or 320 grit psa sanding disc on a quicklap -
much easier than filing. good luck -


who had a good friend who, when given a 5 yr life expectancy
prognosis, married the dullest woman he knew "to make the time seem
longer’ - honest! his answer to my question of when he suspected that
his first (of 5) marriages was going bad: “when she dyed her hair
red & became a stripper” - honest!

A pancake die would work for 14g no problemo. They’re harder to make
because it’s rather hard to saw 3/32" tool steel , even with a
motor-assisted saw. A saw which is really only good for the bigger,
simple stuff in thick steel. Just doesn’t have the control of the
manual one. Someday I have to get going with scanning designs and
wire edm-ing more of my dies but my body parts are holding up well ,
and I digress…

Whether or not a blanking die is a better option than waterjet
cutting is debatable ; it depends on the jet-cut prices and the
design. 15-20 pieces may not justify the cost of having a die made ,
and it may cost as much to set up for jet cutting . Pancake dies
will work for as thick of metal as you want to cut and as big a die
you want to make. The biggest one I’ve done (with edm help) is for
a 3-d scalloped leaf that’s 9" by 10". That’s the leaf, not the die.
The die is 1/4" thick and about 12" by 18" with hundreds of holes
drilled in to reduce weight . But that’s small compared to their
original use, cutting parts for airplane wings, and I digress again.

Dar (aka Dave Shelton)

My comments pertain to using a woodworker’s scroll saw to cut metal.
I have been using a Hawk Model 220 VS Precision Scroll Saw( ) in my studio for over a year and am very
pleased with the results and the increase in my efficiency. I have
bursitis in my shoulder which limits the time I can use the
jeweler’s saw to about 20 minutes at a sitting.

I have used the saw to cut 1/16" tool steel on an angle for blanking
dies; up to 14 Ga. sterling, brass and copper sheet; and up to 3/8"
acrylic sheet. I have used it to cut intricate pierced overlays,
roughing out sheet and cutting 1/4" rods. I use either Rio’s Laser
Gold or Hercules jeweler’s saw blades ranging from #6 to #8/0. The
saw has a variable speed control so you can mimic the sawing speed
of a jeweler’s saw and you can do much faster roughing out. The Hawk
saw table is aluminum and I put a 1/16" sheet of Delrin on it to
eliminate drag on the piece being cut. I cut a Teflon-coated cookie
sheet in half and mounted it under the table to catch sweeps. It
catches about 90%. RBI does not give much data for cutting metal
and you are on your own to figure out what works best. The
variables aRe: type of metal, metal thickness, saw speed, blade
size, blade tension, cutting rate, and operator skill. You will
break blades, but I’d rather buy blades and cut down on my labor
costs. Broken blades leave 3-3.5" pieces that can be used in a
jeweler’s saw frame.

I like being able to guide the metal with both hands, and you can
make very accurate cuts into tight areas. The saw has a bellows
that blows away the metal cuttings. With a fine blade, I can reduce
the time spent filing edges. The saw will grab the metal and slam
it down. This usually happens when the blade is worn or the
operator is forcing the cutting rate. I have not found heat build up
in the metal to be a problem, but RBI attributes broken woodworking
blades to heat build up in the blade. The Hawk saws range in price
from $800 to $1200. I recovered my investment in the first year of

I have an upcoming project of cutting 5" x 1 3/4" strips of 14 Ga.
sterling, and I’m going to try using my metal cutting band saw. I
will catch the cuttings on a cookie sheet clamped below the blade
with a Vice-Grip welder’s clamp.

Dick Sherer, Franktown, Colorado

I received several emails that are easiest to answer together.

Blades: I was introduced to Rio’s Laser Gold blades in a hydraulic
die forming class to cut tool steel. I liked them and decided to use
them on the Hawk saw. Prior to that, I used Herkules white label
blades for general work. Rio’s catalog gives about their
blades I have not used metal blades made for
other scroll saws and cannot comment on them. I suspect they would
be less versatility than using jeweler’s blades.

Blade Life: I’m lucky if I get 1/2" of cut on O-1 tool steel being
cut on an angle. On sterling 24-14 Ga. I can get 2" or more if I am
patient. You can increase your efficiency by setting up several
blade holders with blades for larger jobs.

Blade Lube: I use bee’s wax

Blade Speed: The Hawk saw is rated for cutting at 300-1750 strokes
per minute but you can slow the blade down to zero. This is very
useful for reentering a cut. I work at about the same speed as I
would use a jeweler’s saw and get my fingers as close as 1/2" away
from thew blade without fear of cuts. I am not that familiar with
the Craftsman or Delta saws to compare, but RBI has some information
on their site about other saws

Saw Configuration: The hawk has a plastic foot hold down on a
vertical adjustable rod. I don’t use it. The key hole size in the
table is important. A large key hole will allow thin metal (22 Ga.
or thinner) to bend down and bind against the blade when there is
lack of support for the metal, i.e. trimming an edge. My second
Delrin table top had a 1/8" hole which has enlarged with use to a
slot about 1/8" x 3/8". I think this happened when I was cutting
some 1" wood with a skip tooth blade.

Operator Skill: My initial tendency was to force the work into the
blade to cut faster. Slow Down! Let the blade do the work! Your cuts
will be smoother, more accurate and you will have fewer broken
blades; however, it does get boring.

For what it is worth, I experience a different feel of the metal
with two hands on it that I didn’t notice with one hand holding the
metal and the other working the jeweler’s saw.

Dick Sherer, Franktown, CO

Hi Gang,

message split

Regarding the ability to cut out many pendant blanks from 14 ga.
material, some folks had recommended a bandsaw. The recommendation I
didn’t see was a diamond bandsaw. This saw is water cooled (drip
system) which dissipates the heat and can cut curves like a
conventional bandsaw. The embedded diamonds actually grind the kerf,
rather than cutting with teeth. Mine was in the neighborhood of $400
when new. I use it most for cutting preforms (blanks) for cabochons
from gemstone slabs. It’s awesome for that purpose… much better
than a conventional trim saw for several reasons (just ask me). Also
used by some for cutting glass for stained glass and tile for
decorative tile work.

message split

All the best,


Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio
Charlotte, NC (USA)

This saw is water cooled (drip system) which dissipates the heat
and can cut curves like a conventional bandsaw. 

Dave, are you talking about a ring saw? (I use it for shaping fused
glass, never thought about it for metal).


Sorry this is so late, for some reason my responses keep getting
kicked back so I’ll try again.

Dear Roseann,

Take a peek in the Rio tools catalog on page 151 letter “E”. Unlike
most scroll saws this saw is designed to hold jewelers blades as
well as traditional scroll saws blades and in my opinion would work
quite well. It also has two speeds for greater control. However,
like all sawing techniques, it will take practice and no doubt there
will be a few blades sacrificed during the learning curve.

Blade size is very relevant to the thickness of metal being cut. The
thicker and less teeth per inch the more aggressive and the less
detail achieved but a greater amount of material removed, so a
quicker cut. The finer the blade, or more teeth per inch, the better
detail achieved but less metal is removed. Here again take a peek on
page 167 of our tools catalog, we’ve taken all the guess work out.
The chart describes what size blade works best for the gauge of
metal to be cut and which # drill bit is best suited for piercing
work. For instance your cutting 14 gauge metal, the chart recommends
a #6 blade, however if you have a great amount of detail I
personally would use a #5 or even a #4 blade sacrificing time to
achieve accuracy. One more thing, try rubbing a generous amount of
good lubrication on not just the blade but on the metal following
the design to be cut. I know it’s our product but honestly for
cutting with a jewelers saw or piercing I love Bur-Life and have yet
to meet it’s equal.

I hope this helps and my apologies for all the shameless plugs but I
feel it’s good info to have and to share.


Thackeray Taylor
Rio Grande Technical Support.

Hi Thackeray,

I have bought and tried several scroll saws over the years and have
not found any of them to be a good jewelers metal cutting tool. Have
you personally tried this model? I have been looking for a power
jewelers saw for years but have yet to see/ try any that really
work. The scroll saws I have looked at are great for wood and
plastic but just a waste of space for metal. There are several
interrelated problems: 1. the short stroke of the scroll saws which
is typically about .750" (18mm) this means that the blade only is
used in that small area and it wears out the blade fast. 2. The
blade is dragged up against the metal being cut on the upstroke
which further dulls the cutting edges that are already getting too
much wear due to the short stroke. 3. Speed on most of the scroll
saws are way too fast for metal which also adds to the blade wear.
So almost all of these saws I have tried have broken blades right
and left and I can cut almost as fast by hand due to the poor blade
utilization and tie spent changing blades.

So if you have a solution to this problem then great but I would
like to hear about your personal experience with it not that it is
carried in a catalog and can hold jewelers saw blades.

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160

Member of the Better Business Bureau

Dave, are you talking about a ring saw? (I use it for shaping
fused glass, never thought about it for metal). 

Hi Silani,

No, but it is similar. A diamond bandsaw uses a flexible stainless
steel (in this case) loop that is driven like a belt by a couple of
wheels. The blade is maybe a couple millimeters wide (including the
diamond coating on the leading edge) and maybe 4 mm deep. The blade
itself flexes as you turn the material, which allows you to cut
curves as the blade tries to return to the true running position. I
hope this makes sense!

Another Orchid member made me aware (thanks, John) that replacement
blades are available from Harbor Freight. While investigating that…
our local Harbor Freight store doesn’t stock them… I discovered
they also have a saw for only $149! I quoted on an earlier post a
price in the $400 range. Even if you’re not interested in buying the
saw, there is a good photo:

Hope this helps!

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio
Charlotte, NC (USA)

I have a Hegner and a Delta scroll saw. I have not used them a lot
for metal, but the Hegners balance makes it a lot easier to follow a
line. The problem of the stroke can be addressed somewhat by adding a
"table" to the top of the saw table. This allows you to use an
additional area on the blade.

Charles Friedman DDS
Ventura by the Sea