I’m going to cover a lot with one post . I apologize beforehand if some of my comments come off as harsh (or even mean) , but not for having my opinions and stating them as they are. I have spent the last 30+ years of my working life trying to perfect and innovate the pancake die process , and so to say that I have strong ideas on the subject would be an understatement of grand proportions.
I’ll start off by saying that it is HIGHLY ILLOGICAL to make pancake dies that do not have an angle to the cut (yet that is how Kevin has his dies cut, because lasers do not like cutting off-perpendicular). Not just any angle , but a precise angle, depending on the die thickness and the sawblade size, and to a lesser …ahem…degree, the complexity of the design , and also whether or not the die will be heat treated, and even the ga. of metal being cut. So, right off the bat, it can be a somewhat complex “equation” . But back to the basic flaw in dies that are not cut at an angle : it’s similar to a pair of scissors that are loose at the joint. They may cut some materials well, but may fail utterly attempting to cut what might cut perfectly if the joint was properly tight.
This is one entire half of the concept of a pancake die - the other half being the obvious aspect that it is a one piece-die that has a flap cut into it which creates the male and female components of the die in one pass . Without a very tight tolerance between the male and female components , pancake dies do not work well compared to dies that are tight. Anyone who says different is either misinformed , or is being misleading. I will assume that it is the former , and continue attempting to clarify the situation for those in need, and educate those who are interested.
Kevin says his dies are not meant for metal thinner than 22 ga, and not for soft metals , and I’ve heard some unpleasant things about them cutting with sloppy
burrs on the backs of parts, and metal sticking in the dies. Not that my dies are immune , just that in my world, there is the necessity of starting out with dies made in ways that minimize the chance of these problems occurring . Also, properly cut and hardened dies ARE capable of cutting very thin metal WITHOUT burrs , and of cutting very intricate shapes , AND of lasting for hundreds, thousands , even hundreds of thousands of cuts , with certain designs and metals.
I started out in 1985 with the original ‘RT Blanking System’ (sold by Rio Grande)
that came with a booklet of instructions written by “RT” Roger Taylor , "inventor"
of the small craft/jewelry-sized pancake die . These were very basic, and a lot was left for me to figure out and develop on my own , to bring the process up to a reliable, productive level in a manufacturing environment . The first BIG THING
I had to improve on was finding the correct angles for different sawblade sizes and steel thicknesses , because I quickly started making dies for other jewelers , and I had to provide them with quality tools . It defeats most of the purpose of having a die if you have to dork around prying parts out of dies and spending extra time cleaning up burrs off of their backs . I was good with a saw (great, actually, but sawing dies was a whole other world of hard) so I could saw out a good part by hand in the time it took to punch out and clean up a sloppy part from an ill-made die . It was instantly imperative to teach myself to make these dies the right way .
Now , I’ve seen that there are videos about Kevin’s dies that deal with deburring the parts, tightening the dies by hammering (good idea in theory, but problematic) , and using some wacky tool to open them. Sorry, but these make me cringe, and I admit I haven’t actually watched much of any of them. I look , and I think " WHY PUT YOURSELF THROUGH ALL THAT TROUBLE , BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE TO ??!! Okay, Okay , excessively dramatic, I know, but that’s my honest reaction. I understand that there is a place in the world for inexpensive pancake dies , and that they allow more people to be exposed to
this aspect of metal fabrication . They do serve their purpose , as far as it goes,
but the process is capable of SO MUCH MORE . Granted, mine are more expensive, and indeed, overkill for many hobby situations , but I automatically think of it in these terms : would you rather spend more on a die that operates easily , and cuts perfectly clean parts , of fudge around prying a part out of a die and spending extra time filing the burr off the back ? The choice is yours .
The thing that bugs me -and it’s as much my fault, for not working harder to present technical information to a wider audience - is the idea of people “out there” thinking that Kevin’s dies are what pancake dies are all about , because they are not! . Back to my main premise : it is HIGHLY ILLOGICAL to make pancake dies that are not cut at an angle ( a correct angle, to create dies with tight tolerance) .
There are big, important differences in performance and capabilities , longevity and reliability , ease of use , and productivity (several hundred clean parts an hour , is not unusual, for instance ) . I cannot stress this enough , so I’ll stop trying for now .
I hope I have been sufficiently diplomatic so as not to seem like a real jerk, but who knows? It’s been a bad last 12 months , for personal reasons, and I’ve developed a bad attitude . I don’t intend to take it out on other people . My true motivation is to provide accurate information based on my 30 years of experience doing essentially one thing : getting the most out of the pancake die process , solving related problems that are presented to me by all the nice people that send me work , and slowly, slowly chipping away at the monumental , seemingly impossible , far-away, but creeping-up-on-me-because-I’m-getting-old task of writing comprehensively (and maybe even not-incomprehensibly! ) about pancake dies, before I croak, or just get tired of it all and leave the planet (if I disappear, that’s what happened ; no big deal , see you in the next world, and don’t be late)
But I digress , or divert myself, or something …
To end : dear rmeixner, I will specifically address your first die attempt shortly ,
so that you may proceed with another try more well-equipped, if you want to.
(yes, pancake dies are supposed to work ! )