[Feature Product] The Sawing Machine

What if you could saw all day and never get tired? With the Swiss
Made Sawing Machine, and your flex shaft connected to your #30
handpiece, you can use both hands to guide your work as you saw with
a whole lot less effort. The Sawing Machine is an Otto Frei
exclusive. Save 5% on the Sawing Machine today -

Use discount code GHAN on checkout at OttoFrei.com. Discount code
expires September 30, 2009. Part number 134.400.

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I have had that unit for about 2 years (or one that looks exactly
like it). I have not had a good experience with it. The blade seems
to wobble a lot when sawing. I can do better by hand sawing. It may
be that I am not doing something right, but for the price, I don’t
think it is worth it. Just my experience, your mileage may differ…

The Sawing Machine is an Otto Frei exclusive.

Huh! This looks very clever! I don’t need it, thus far anyway, but I
LOVE a clever design, especially in a tool. Would love to try it
out. So, has anyone used it?


It may be a decent design and tool but you’re not going to get much
power from a foredom tool. As an experiment I just grabbed the chuck
on one of mine and gave it the gas, and it was easy to keep it from
rotating by squeezing the chuck. The prototype (never produced)
motor assisted, old-style Bonny Doon saw I use a lot for dies has a
1/6 or 1/12 hp gearmotor, so it’s much beefier than any foredom, and
I can still almost stop it with brute force.

Regardless, there is no substitute for learning to saw well by hand,
in my (infrequently) humble opinion. I haven’t tried any powered saw
that I liked very much right away. Even the old Rio Princeton Power
Saw and the Knew Concept Saw have/had drawbacks that have to do with
lacking the control and feel that you develop as you get good at
hand sawing. Not to say that control and feel are impossible with
powered saws, just that there are many reasons to get good at hand
sawing, control and feel being prominent ones. My prototype saw was
very scary and hard to corner with at first, and it has taken years
to gain the feel with it that’s needed for accuracy and intricacy on
small dies. That’s one of the reasons I’m not dropping everything to
saw with the Knew Concept Saw, because I will have to suffer through
yet another learning curve (I count 4 distinct curves so far from
different saw setups I’ve used for dies). All the above pointing to
the original point, that I believe one should learn to saw well by
hand first, (and lift some weights or something to have the force
and endurance required for hard jobs, it’ll do you well anyway
)because that is an invaluable skill, then maybe worry about motor
assited saws. Still, there’s no free ride. It takes hand strength to
run things through a machine saw.


In my opinion there is no substitute for hand sawing skills. I taught
a teen art class last summer and those kids learned to hand saw brass
and copper in a matter of 4 hours or less. This summer I started many
kids on acrylic sheet which seemed like a great substitute for metal
to practice on. Even using saw lube helped on the acrylic so it was a
complete sawing experience for them and cheap since I got much free
acrylic from a sign shop. Hand sawing is quick and intuitive for
knocking out pieces and better yet for multiple pieces I use a
pancake die made by Dar of Sheltech. With one of Dar’s pancake dies I
can cut out 10 pieces before I could trace a template and hand saw
it, I would assume the set up time to be about the same or more for a
powered saw. Pancakes are not as flexible as hand sawing or machine
sawing but for the same product over and over why saw at all? Even
using a pancake to do 50 to 80% of the necessary cutting would make
it worth the investment in the pancake die( and use my saw to finish
the cuts) Of course this means you need a press of some sort but if
you are into small scale production and have limited money, I would
put my asset money into a press before I put it into a power saw. I
can form with a press as well as cut. In fact my kids in the teen
class I taught last summer cut bracelet blanks with a pancake die in
my press, made interior cuts on those blanks to customize them and
formed them with the press and could have had them ready to sell in
an hour. My press of choice has always been Bonny Doon.

Sam Patania

Yes I tried it. And returned it. The salesperson at Frei told me
(when I called in to find out why the saw did not perform as
advertised) there were known design flaws with the saw and gave me
return instructions with no hassle. Otto Frei is always good to work
with, at least I have found them to be so.

He did say that he thinks it works fine with wax but not any type of
metal. I tried it on 28 gauge silver and the gears were stripped
within 1 or 2 minutes. It is very easy to strip the gears. The
salesperson agreed with me that being a Swiss made product one would
think it would work like a champ. But he also said that it is just
one of those products that seems like a good concept but
unfortunately just isn’t designed to work well at all.

Which was too bad because I loved the idea of the saw and being one
who loves tools and tries as many as he can find, was eager to try
this tool. I thought “Wow! What a time saver.” But sadly it was not
to be.

Joseph Bloyd
JNB Jewelry Studio
Bloomington, Indiana

The salesperson agreed with me that being a Swiss made product one
would think it would work like a champ. But he also said that it is
just one of those products that seems like a good concept but
unfortunately just isn't designed to work well at all. 

This reminds me of the swiss “advanced” or something like that, saw
frame they’ve been selling for the last 20 years or so. Very light
weight, which is comfortable and good. The handle unscrews, good for
storing in small (students, for example) tool boxes. The handle is a
very comfortable foam. All in all, one would expect it to work well.
And with larger size sawblades, it does. But the sawblades fit into
drilled holes at either end of the frame, secured by set screws.
Originally, those screws had plastic wingnut like handles which
broke easily. Now their more like a knurled metal nut. That works
better. But the main problem is simply that the small intense
pressure that small diameter set screw exerts on fine blades (4/0 and
finer) either breaks the fine blades, or more often, simply isn’t
able to hold them. For some reason, they felt they had to improve on
the tried and true clamping system found on the classic german, and
most french sawframes. They missed. Despite several revisions to the
design, it’s still not a great frame. So I stick with the classic
german frames.

On the other hand, whomever in switzerland designed the Badeco
hammer handpiece, got it right. Great tool But their quick change
"holds 3/32 burs" handpiece is good too, but only to a degree. Great
bearings, runs like the proverbial swiss watch, cool, smooth,
accurate, and quiet. But apparently the swiss designers didn’t
realize that there are a lot of attachments one might use in a flex
shaft that are not as accurate in shank size as the Busch or similar
swiss burs. Most mandrels for rubber wheels, mounted brushes, many
other such attachments, or even many high speed steel burs, are
either a hair undersize and the chuck won’t grip it well, or a hair
oversize, and won’t fit in. Boneheaded design, clearly designed by an
engineering department that had not researched actual jewelers tool
use. Kind of a dissapointment for a rather costly quick change

And of course, the fine folks at Pepe tools are champs at this type
of poor design. In fact, they copied that costly Badeco handpiece
with a smaller version with a similar chuck design that they could
then sell for a quarter the price or so. Trouble was, it had the same

And even here in the U.S., we see such engineering without checking
or testing. We all know and love Kerr’s casting investments, right?
Satin Cast 20 has been with us for a long time, and many use it. So
has their Platinum investment, developed many decades ago. I happened
to be working with a casting company in the mid 90s located not far
from Kerr’s michigan main plant, so we’d be talking not to some sales
rep on the phone, but to their local sales manager when she’d come to
visit (worth her while since we used a lot of investment). About
that time, Gesswein came out with their Supra platinum investment,
and we tried it, and were blown away by how much better the surfaces
were. Almost as clean and smooth as what you expect with gold, while
the Kerr platinum investment produced very rough surfaces every time.
After some discussion, your friendly rep went and did some checking.
Seems that in 40 years of making this stuff, they’d many times poured
a test batch to see how it cured, even fired it to find fireing
temperatures, and strengths, and the like. Typical engineering
tests. But in all that time, they’d never actually invested a wax
model, burned it out, and cast it in platinum. They had no idea that
their formulation used as directed experieced a reaction between the
molten platinum and the investment mold walls that was breaking down
the surfaces causing those rough castings. Just amazing. They’d made
it for decades, and never actually tried using it…

Course, perhaps I’m no better. After decades of now and then making
earrings for pierced ears, I must admit that though others have worn
them, and I pay attention to feedback, I’ve never tried any of my own
pierced earrings on to see how they feel… Not going to either.
Holes in the ears are just not a bit priority for me… (grin)


Thanks for that, Peter. I thought it was just me. I make it a point
to buy only the best quality tools (after learning the hard way;
years of beading and throwing out crappy pliers), so when I bought
my first saw, I bought that one. Drove me crazy cause I couldn’t get
it to hold the blades! After one class at Metalwerx using plain old
cheap clamp-style saw frames, I went home and order one of those. No

Chris Lehmkuhl (still a student)

After one class at Metalwerx using plain old cheap clamp-style saw
frames, I went home and order one of those. No problems. 

The traditional black handled german saw frames, clamping nut top
and bottom, no funky adjustable nuts at the top, etc, are a time
proven design. They’re not the cheapest saw frames out there, but
remain, in my view, the best. There are cheaper types that copy them,
sometimes adequately, but I’ll stick with them. One hint. Don’t by
deeper sawframes than you need. A six inch deep saw frame is harder
to control by quite a bit, than a 2.5 inch deep one. If you
occasionally need a deep frame for cutting into larger sheets of
metal, own two or more frames.


One hint. Don't by deeper sawframes than you need. A six inch deep
saw frame is harder to control by quite a bit, than a 2.5 inch deep
one. If you occasionally need a deep frame for cutting into larger
sheets of metal, own two or more frames. 

I agree with Peter, the deep throated saw frames are harder to

Additionally, I’d like to add another suggestion. If you change
blade sizes often, get a separate frame for each of the most used
blade sizes. It’ll save time & quite possibly blades.


This posting got my attention.

It seems that upon further review the Sawing Machine does have some
limitations that have not properly disclosed. Otto Frei has sold
hundreds of the Swiss Made Sawing Machines since we first imported
them in 2001. 8 out of 10 customers are satisfied with the
performance. It’s a good product in our estimation, but it does have
its limits in the amount of pressure that a sawblade/sawframe can

The machine is built with spring tension gears, so that at some point
when pressure is placed on the sawblade/sawframe, the gears will
disengage to prevent damage (the gears do not strip-the unit in
question was returned had no damage to the components). The
undisclosed limitation is that the Sawing Machine does not take very
much pressure against the sawblade/sawframe while cutting. The
solution is to let the sawblade do the work, and not exert much
pressure while cutting. I have personally used the Sawing Machine at
trade show to cut 22 gauge copper, and have witness one leather
fingered jeweler scare the heck out of me by sawing away pedal to
the metal at 18,000 rpm flex shaft warp speed (absolutely not
recommended) without stopping the sawframe or sawing off a finger.
We recommend slow and steady speeds. Of course, if the reason for
buying the Sawing Machine is to speed up your work, you may find it
annoying as heck. Perhaps the best reason for purchasing a Sawing
Machine is that it makes sawing possible for people who have a
physical limitation that makes the act of sawing difficult. The
Sawing Machine will also tilt slightly for cutting on an precise
angle, something that some people have a hard time doing by hand. We
consider the Sawing Machine an interesting niche product, certainly
not a mainstream product for everyone. It will never replace the
basic saw frame in the jewelry tools hall of fame.

The best use of the Sawing Machine is for cutting wax, but it does
cut metal, as most people buy it for metal use. The only way we know
of to actually strip a gear happens when the handpiece is forcefully
removed from the unit. The handpiece is held in place with a set
screw and the jaws of the Jacobs chuck. Both need to be loosened
before handpiece removal.

Steven A. Frei
Otto Frei