Lemel and Swarf


Having been mostly self-taught, I am always happy to learn more
about our field. Two terms came up on Orchid which were not familiar
to me: lemel and in Tuesday’s digest. swarf. You’ve gotta love our
field for coming up with names like these for the refuse and residue
of our trade.

Now, is there anyone out there in Orchidland who can define these
terms accurately, perhaps, differentiate between their meanings, and
describe their etymology.

Of course, now I’m imagining a metal refining company whose name is.
wait for it… Lemel and Swarf, Inc. Too good to pass up.

Linda Kaye-Moses

Scrap that’s sharp enough to cut your finger is swarf. The stuff
that’s fine enough to grind into the cut and make a nice DIY tattoo
is lemel!

Hi Linda and others

Swarf as I know it are the leftovers from filing and sawing.

Lemel are the bigger pieces from piercing etc.

When mixed together they are all lemel.

Hello newbies weigh your metal before you start making and charge as
per full metal weight. That’s why we love lemel, it is free.

Just sending 1.8 kg of sterling to the refiners. Used to reticulate
it but now use Argentium so want more Argentium.

Showed an Argentium bangle to a customer so she could see what the
metal looked like.

Blew her mind. “Holy sh*t that looks amazing!” She can’t wait to get
her design in the bangle.

Also the flying unicorn stamp is a winner.

Showed the Argentium bangle to another lady she ordered one in her
size. And said “Makes my sterling look sad.”

all the best

HI Linda,

“Lemel” is just Brit-speak for bench sweeps. (Generally precious
metal sawdust out of the bench skin.) “Swarf” is machinist-speak for
chips and strings of metal removed by (machine) tools. So like lathe
strings, or the little spiral-y curls from drills, that sort of
thing. Generally discrete objects larger than sawdust or sweeps.
(but it’s a machining term, mostly.) Can also be the chips from
milling operations. Basically, the machinist version of Lemel.

Ah, lexiography…


Hey Linda,

When I was faceting gemstones for a company in the 80’s we called
the residue or slurry left over from faceting “swarf”. Never heard
of the other term “lemel” though. The supervisor was from South
Africa and he first introduced me to the term swarf.

Good luck,

Two words for the same thing from different languages. Lemel is
sawdust and filings of precious metals. Old French, from limer to
file. Swarf is chips or other debris from machining, Old English
sweorfan to file away. So basiclly the same thing though lemel is
more a goldsmiths term and swarf is a machinist term.

James Binnion

Isn’t Lemel & Swarf a band from the late 70’s?

And “swarf loading” has to do with the metal that gets stuck in
between the “teeth” of a file…


Hello again Linda,

We had a gemstone designer on board that called the residue from gem
cutting “swarth” in stead of “swarf”. There were people from several
countries who I worked with involved with this gem company. Everyone
had different but similar names for different parts of the process.
A regular Tower of Babel situation. We did cut some beautifull
gemstones in spite of the confusion.


Hello Bob, thank for the info, now I know why the black dots are on
the side of my middle finger. Relieved that is not melanoma, ha ha,
and I am getting free tattoo. Monica

Isn't Lemel & Swarf a band from the late 70' 

Nah, it’s the names for a charming cat and dog duo who get into all
kinds of fun and educational hijinks while solving minor crimes and
mysteries without their 13 year old owner realizing what his pets
are doing. I need an agent!