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How do I use a disk cutter?

Hello all,

Once again I am seeking your help and advice in the craft of
metalwork. I have just been given two disk cutters, one cutting small
disks the other large. I have been making enamel beads and cutting the
disks with a saw and then doming them. However, when it comes to the
disk cutters I plead ignorance and would rather not use them until I
have had some type of instruction (I guess this is what happens when
one drifts into a craft instead of being formally trained). Does one
use a hammer or vice to drive the rod? Yup, I’m that ignorant :-{

I work with copper and fine and sterling silver, but mostly copper.

So if anyone out there can help I would appreciate it once again.

David in Victoria

PS the list of demonstrations offered by the Creative Jewellers Guild
of British Columbia seems to have something for everybody.

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


I also make enameled beads. You will love your disk cutter. It will
save you a lot of time. I use a hammer to drive the rod. I don’t
anneal my metal before I use the disk cutter and have had no problems,
some people may anneal first and have something to add to that.

Happy Enameling
Linda Crawford
Linda Crawford Designs
Willits, CA


This is a good question which I will answer from experience. I too
had the problem of cutting a circle with a disc cutter. I took a deep
breath and thought, “ok, this way”. I chose “poorly”.

If you notice on your disc cutter there is a straight, slightly sharp
edge and a beveled edge. The straight edge is the cutting part and
the beveled edge is the one you can hammer against. Use your
utilitarian hammer, not the nice polished ones that my students always
try to grab.

A hammer works fine, follow that with a wood dowel and out pops your


G’day; Thought about making your own disc cutter? First
buy/steal/bludge some drill rod (we call it silver steel - it is high
carbon steel) of the diameter(s) you need. Broken drills work
perfectly. Square off the end nicely Get a piece of steel about an
inch (2.5 cms) thick; a piece of inch rod or even 3/4 inch is OK.
Now drill a hole right through, about 1/8" (3 mm) from am edge, of
the same diameter as the drill rod so the rod and the bit of steel
make a slide fit. Now use a hacksaw to cut a slot at the side of
the 1" rod, just past the hole you cut for the drill rod. Heat the
(only) the very end of the drill rod to cherry red and quench it in
water, which makes that end dead hard. And there you are. Simply
insert the piece of sheet metal into the slot, making sure you have it
resting against the far depth, insert the drill rod, hardened end
into the hole, give it a good bash with a heavy hammer - and there
you go. How to get the disc out? Well, if you had used a slightly
bigger drill to open one end of the hole, the disc will fall out
easily. Want the disc domed a bit? Simply grind the drill rod to the
sort of dome you want, go through the papers (grits) until you have a
semi polish, then polish it on your buff using tripoli. You may have
to use a bit harder bash to cut the disc. (Yes, it does work - I often
do it) Now. If you were to make a pattern on the business end of your
rod (flower, etc) using burrs in a flexishaft before you do the
hardening, and you stamped out the silver/gold/copper disc a bit
harder over an anvil - why, you’d get patterned discs! And you can
use those for all sorts of things. Drill a hole in the centre of one
and you have a pretty rivet washer… Solder tiny jump rings
opposite each other - you have the beginnings of a necklace… You
think of the rest - I’m tired! Cheers, – John Burgess;
@John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

I bought my circle cutter years ago from Allcraft. The directions
suggested that “gentle tapping produces the best results.” I found
that “gentle tapping” produced NO results. In my set-up, I work on
top of an old stump, so that the metal circle and the sharp-edged
cutter come out onto wood, not something that will scar either one of
them. I used a vibrating tool to mark the top of each of the cutters
so that I wouldn’t accidentally put them in upside down and then
hammer on the cutting edge! I use an old claw hammer and really slug
away at the cutters, once the sheet metal is in place. I store the
cutters in a plastic bag, so they don’t get dust or grit on them,
which could affect the ease with which the cutters slide in their
respective holes. When the circle is cut, and if the cutter doesn’t
slide out easily, I move the whole thing over to the edge of the
stump, place something large and padded on the floor beneath the
hole, and hammer out the cutter, using (as someone has already
suggested) an old wooden dowel. I don’t know if my cutter wasn’t
that great to start with, but the circles I produce often have a
flange on the edge, which has to be cut off, and then the edges need
abrading. It’s too time-consuming. Nowadays, I rarely use my circle
cutter but instead buy metal circles already cut, from places like
Indian Jewelers Supply, Metalliferous, etc. HTH, Judy Bjorkman

How do you prevent secondary “ghost” marks with a disc cutter. Do you
have to be able to make the cut with one blow or is there a trick to
keeping the silver from moving? Thanks,

(who is not as strong as she would like to be)

Do it with one big wallop. Use the heaviest hammer that will do the
job. Don’t try and fix the silver in place with a wedge or any similar
non movable kit.

Hello, Judy Bjorkman’s posting on using circle cutters is exactly my
own experience. Buy the little discs and avoid the hassel. The
cutter IS nice to have if I run out of the pre-cut discs or if I want
a disc cut from another material, like copper. Judy in Kansas, where
the harvest is progressing nicely

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681

I’d just add a couple of small tips to what others have said. I also
place my cutter on a thick piece of wood, but I place a thin sheet of
soft copper (brass OK too) between the cutter and the wood. This is so
when I get really overzealous about whacking those punches, I don’t
drive the punched disc straight into the wood (where it then needs to
be pried out). (Periodically I anneal the copper and hammer it flat,
because it tends to get deformed and hardened. Don’t worry, the soft
copper won’t mar the metal you’re punching.) I use a 2 lb hammer (if
you’re metric, I suppose your hammer would weight about a kilogram) -
sort of looks like a small sledge hammer with a short handle. The
large hammer head also means I don’t have to be so fussy about a
precise aim. I place the cutter and wood block where I can really come
down on it with the hammer - usually on a cement floor. I hold the
hammer with both hands and give the punch one good strong blow. No
problem with “ghost cuts” this way. Rene Roberts

Thank you Orchidians for helping me become just a wee bit more
knowledgeable about the ways of working with metals.

In general you all mentioned that one should strike the cutter very
hard with a hammer. Well, being a timid soul and not very strong at
the best of times, I applied a simple physical law F=MA; force equals
mass (the hammer) times Acceleration and hit the cutter with a four
pound mallet (used for splitting wood) with a moderate, and controlled
force. I also sat the whole stuff on a tree stump which worked very
well as a support. I used annealed 20 gauge copper and had to hit the
cutter twice when using the one inch disc cutter, and once with
cutters of smaller diameters. I was lucky enough not to get the ghost
marks Karen talks about.

Finally it was very easy with my disc cutter to tell which end was
which; the end receiving the blow was bevelled and just slight larger
that the cutting steel.

Thank you all again, for giving me the confidence to get with it.

David in Victoria.


A piece of cardboard, such as the backing to a pad of paper, below
your disc cutter, should provide the shock absorption necessary to
avoid the “chatter” you are experiencing.

Use a good tool for the work. Bop the cutter with at least 8 oz.
hammerheads. Be resolute, not rabid, with the hammer blow.

There may be issues of gauge capacity with the tool. Stay within the
physical parameters of your tool.

Or better yet, buy pre-punched discs from Indian Jewelers Supply co.
We punch 'em in sterling, red brass, nickel, and reasonable minimum
quantities of other stocked metals.

Dan Woodard

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