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Hydraulic press and a laser cutter

One of the very cool things I get to experience here at Artisan’s
Asylum is merging technologies. Last night while teaching my Jewelry
II class, we were lucky to be gifted a hydraulic press from Potter
USA. Nifty machine by the way. Beginning with a simple cut die form
in acrylic, I gave my students the opportunity to cut one shape with
a spiral sawblade. If you could here the mutterings, or stare at the
raised eyebrows of folks who thought I was crazy, as the worked their
way through the plastic.

This week, however, we optimized the laser cutter. Whoa. What a
great piece of machinery! We had help taking jpgs and converting
them into vector graphics. No, I don’t know how to do this, but
that’s why we have the younger makers around here, who are far more
adept at computer stuff than I. We cut out shapes of a cat,
spaceship, elephant, strawberry, crescent moon and a bike gear, were
cut in literally minutes. Moving on to the die form press, everyone
watched their cutouts take place, adding a bit of rubber here and
there, adding a cut out back into the cog and voila, everyone
created lovely volumetric shapes.

Learning new technology as a time saver tool, is helping me expand
my toolbox and the myriad of possibilities for my students and my

Karen Christians

LOVE it!

I’m a 52 year old ‘newbie’ 'smith…LITERALLY, I don’t have 35
years to perfect traditional techniques. Any new technology or tool
that helps me achieve the end result is OK with me…this is, of
course, a dagger to the heart of life-long, devoted goldsmiths. I
don’t mean to be disrespectful; I honour your achievements and
talents…AND I agree with Jo Haemer’s tag line in past posts:
“have fun and make lots of jewellery!”…yup, I’ll do it any way I


That’s cool. Sounds like fun.

Very cool Karen!

I saw a post on Arthur Hash’s blog about using the laser cutter to
cut acrylic dies for the hydraulic press and was just blown away by
the awesomeness and obviousness of it, once shown it. Because as you
know, cutting them by hand is so awful!

Thanks for posting the picture!



this is, of course, a dagger to the heart of life-long, devoted

Respectively I think this concept is wrong. Goldsmiths have a
collection of many skills. A change in acrylic die making will not
slay them. The only thing which could do that is a large change in
the nature of human desire to no longer wear well made jewelery.

All the best,
J Collier

For those in the Baltimore area, the Community College of Baltimore
County (CCBCMD. EDU) is offering a laser-cut jewelry class on Nov 8.
The class ID is “ART 659”. It’s held in their FAB Lab, which is run
in conjunction with MIT.


Lucky you, Karen! I’d love to play with those tools. Gotta love the
environment you’ve created there. An incubator!


The next time you need to cut an acrylic silhouette die with a
jewelers saw by hand, try using a skip-tooth blade (try a #3 or 4,
but other sizes can be ok, too) instead of a spiral blade. The
spiral blade has a very wide kerf, removing a lot of material,
making it hard work----and leaves a very coarse edge to file smooth.
The straight skip tooth blade removes less material, with a narrower
kerf, so the work is faster and easier. Also, the straight blade
runs truer to where you aim it than the spiral, which is hard to
control—the ability to go any direction has a down-side. Skip
tooth blades are used by wood workers----they are like a heavy
jewelers’ blade with every other tooth missing. If you don’t have
time to get the skip tooth blades (available from Allcraft, and
woodwork suppliers), try a coarse jewelers blade----#8 or higher.

I don’t use spiral blades anymore—not even for wax.


Lucky you, Karen! I'd love to play with those tools. Gotta love
the environment you've created there. An incubator! 

Noel, you can play with those tools! The Chicago area has a number
of Hacker Spaces, PS One, Southside Hacker Space, Edgewater
Workbench and more!

Membership is as low as $40.00 a month for access to amazing tools,
and Edgewater offers affordable classes.


We used both a skiptooth blade from Allcraft and a spiral blade from
Rio. Students did not feel any significant advantage over either.
Charles Lewton Brain prefers spiral, others like you Cindy prefer
skiptooth. It was hard cutting with both.

The lesson in cutting dies was a good one. Certainly, not everyone
has access to this marvelous technology, but small maker bots
rendering 3d models and stores which offer laser cutting is become
mainstream. I wrestled with new technology and the question to
goldsmithing practices. The maker revolution is here and growing.
Working in a makerspace for 3 years now has brought the techies to
jewelry fabrication. It’s much harder than they realized (ah, but we
knew that). What works with laser technology in this instance, is
that if a die cracks from too much pressure, a new one can be
fabricated quickly. If the laser cutter is down, then my students
have the knowledge to cut a new one.

This technology merge is fun to explore and the benches in the
jewelry area are full of people have been bitten by the bug. Keep
coming y’all!