I have an older pepe disc cutter #196.00 in excellent condition
which will cut discs up to 1". I have never used it and was told by
one person that I should use a brass head mallet either 1 lb. or
2lbs. Another friend told me to use a leather mallet which I already
own. Before I purchase the brass mallet I thought I would ask what
you all suggest. Will the leather mallet be sufficient, or should I
get a brass mallet. If so, what weight would be best for a slender
I plan to cut 20 gauge sterling discs. Should the sterling be
annealed or is annealing not necessary.
Thank you in advance for your advice.
As you might guess, hammers come in all sizes.
1. put your leather mallet on your kitchen scales. if its less than
2 lbs it wont do what you want.
2. dont use a steel hammer on hardened steel punch and die setups.
risk of chips getting in your eyes.
3. a 2 lb hammer will do 2 times the work of a 1lb one and the same
work as a 1lb used with half the speed,
4. the reason brass is advised is to have a hammer that has a soft
head. see answer 2.
5. to do well what you want to do, you need to support the die set
on a proper bench. thats why iron smiths have proper anvils you could
use an ordinary steel hammer after its been annealed, but most folk
on this forum are basically saw, solder and, set, and are not
equipped to do silversmithing /bigger/wrought stuff.
primarily a hammer man.
The reason for wanting a copper or brass mallet is that you can let
the weight of the mallet do the driving, rather than having to do it
with muscle, like you do with a lighter rawhide mallet.
Both will work, but the copper/brass one will work easier, so long
as you can hit accurately with it. I got my copper hammer (about 2
pounds) at Harbor Freight when they were having a sale. Think I paid
maybe $10 for it, a few years back. Keep an eye out, and you can
probably find one reasonably cheaply. (eventually)
The reason for using either copper/brass or rawhide mallets is that
way the striker is softer than the punch, and the end of the punch
doesn't get deformed. Deformed punches have the magical ability to
leap across the room to screw up your bottom cutting plate when
you're not looking. Best not to let them deform to begin with.
Do the cutting on a stump, not on an anvil. The first time you do it
with a copper/brass mallet, you'll be surprised at how hard it hits.
Makes it really easy to pound the punch through the bottom plate,
and smash it into whatever the plate was sitting on. Best that be
something soft (ish). After the first few shots, you'll get more of
a feel for how hard is 'enough' with your hammer.
You can also drive the disk cutter with a hydraulic press, if you
have one of those. (or a kick press, or even sideways in a big vise
(with copper jaw shields) if you get really desperate.)
All the cutting edge cares about is how many PSI of pressure it's
seeing. Doesn't much care how it got there, or in which direction.
Or even how fast, really.
For 20 gauge, I'd almost leave it hard. Cleaner cut that way, but I
don't think it'll really make much difference one way or the other.
If the sterling is half hard or dead soft then it is already to cut.
I use a large leather mallet.
Teri in Pittsburgh
I just use a sledge hammer with the handle cut down.
If it's a particularly thick piece of stock, I use my vise.
Alma- I use a sledge hammer and give it one really hard blow. A
leather mallet won't have enough ooomph to cut circles.
I do it on hardened metal. I find that annealed just distorts rather
PS: Alma- I hope I'm as hip as you are when I grow up.
Unless your leather mallet is big as a tree trunk you'd have a hard
time whacking out a 20ga 1" disc with it :) Brass is good. I bought
a big brass hammer off ebay for this. Yes, anneal it, but you should
be buying the stock dead soft if you are going to cut discs. Cutting
a 1" disc out of 20 ga stock is going to take a whack. If you are
doing production work you might consider a hydraulic press. I think
a vise would work too in a pinch. Frankly. if I needed 20 ga discs
with any frequency I'dbuy them as 20 ga discs. 20 ga at 1" is
approaching the limit of what I'd want to try to whack out with any
frequency. If I needed many I'd buythem, or invest in a press.
But you asked about hammers :) Brass hammers are good. anneal metal
first or buy dead soft. You can get a better deal for brass hammers
on ebay. Seems like anywhere you buy them they are awfully expensive
for whatyou get. You want to cut the disc in one whack. because it
is going to be a mess if you have to hit it again. Think big brass
hammer. Two pounds would be about right. And, hit it hard for a
clean cut the first time. Watch those fingers :) That will work fine
for smaller discs. Anything thicker than 20 ga or larger than 1" is
pushing it even with a big hammer. I saw anything thicker than 20
I would go for the two-pound brass mallet. That's what I use for
cutting discs because of its weight and density. You can always
choke up on the handle for lighter gauges. Leather mallets will wear
out quickly and are much too light.
Twenty-gauge sterling won't have to be annealed. And when cutting
thicker, harder silver or brass, you'll be glad you have that
heavier hammer because you're going to want to give the cutting punch
one good "whack."
Alma I cut a lot of 20 ga. Discs with a disc cutter I bought at AC
Moore for $25.00 on sale. I buy sheet from Hoover And Strong, usually
dead soft. But I also anneal. I use a hammer, not a mallet, to punch
the discs. I find a leather mallet does pack the inertia needed to
penetrate the sheet. The weight is the thing. A brass hammer would
probably work but I think you would find a leather mallet pretty
My preferred method of cutting discs is to use a hydraulic press,
mainly because of the guesswork involved. If you hit the punch too
hard with a hammer or mallet, you can damage the disc or even the
cutter when it hits whatever is underneath. If you don't hit it hard
enough to cut it with one blow, you can end up with a warped disc or
a ragged edge caused by the second strike. Neither one's ever a
concern when using a press.
Without a press, for any disc larger than about 3/8 inch, a
dead-blow mallet is my tool of choice, always with a piece of soft
wood like a white pine 2X6 underneath the cutter base. My mallet is
small to medium sized (28 oz - 0.8 kg) with two screw-on replaceable
rubber faces, one soft, one not so soft. A brass face might be ideal,
but I've never found the need to chase one down.
A dead-blow mallet is basically a hammer with a tubular shaped
hollow head filled about halfway with lead shot. The shot absorbs the
rebound when it strikes, so it doesn't bounce or double-strike. They
can be found at pretty much any well-stocked tool or hardware store.
Handy piece of kit for all kinds of whack jobs.
Regardless of the method used to motivate your cutter, make sure to
put a shim of the same thickness on the opposite side of the locating
pins so the top and bottom of the cutter stay properly aligned under
load. Your cutter set will last much longer and your discs will come
out better. A little oil is always a good idea.
The force needed to drive the cutter varies greatly depending on the
diameter of the disc as well as the thickness and hardness of the
metal. Annealing is optional when cutting small discs from 20 gauge
sterling as you can get those through with a chasing hammer, but can
be helpful when cutting larger discs from 16 gauge of most jewelry
metals, which generally require a pretty heavy hand and/or hammer.
When using a press, metal thickness, hardness and disc size are not
a factor when kept within the limitations of the cutter. Just pump
'til it pops and tap it the rest of the way through with a leather
Couldn't agree more. Brass/bronze mallet is the way to go.
If you are concerned about the steel hitting the steel you can
simply glue apiece of leather to the face of the hammer and replace
it when it wears out. Some plastics will work better.
Thank you all for the very helpful advice about mallets and disc
cutters. I have decided to get a 2 lb brass mallet. and let it do
the work. My light weight leather mallet will not have enough heft. I
took a look at my sledge hammer and decided that for me it would be
overkill as it has a huge head on it, and is pretty heavy to lift. As
my disc cutter is in pristine condition the punches should be sharp,
and I will try using the sterling which is dead soft without any
I have a hydraulic press and would use it, for punching out the
discs, but as it is one that I had made at a machine shop according
to the Kingsley directions, it is great for regular hydraulic
pressing, butis a bit temper mental and unless I get things centered
exactly right it tends to lock up, so I am loathe to use it with my
disc cutter. It does the job, but it certainly doesn't compare with
the Bonny Doone. So, it will be me, whacking away with a 2 lb. brass
hammer. I understand one should use a lubricant on the punches, so I
will order some Bur Lube.
Thanks again everyone. I really appreciate all the helpful advice.
I agree dead blow hammer. Works best. used in auto body shops a lot.
Panama Bay Jewelers
To Alma & Orchid Group, I'm not sure if I understand this whole thing
"Mallets for Disc Cutters" but let this be my input. :-) I would
think that a "2 Ton Arbor Press" should do the trick. I found a
couple on Ebay. Ebay Item #333620 AP-2 (Jet 2 Ton Arbor Press)
$179.00 $6.99 shipping or go to CPO Outlets (866)-577-3014 and maybe
FREE Shipping.... or Tyler Tool (866) 577-0663 $179.00 with FREE
Shipping..... or Ebay Item #330599354148 (Shars 2 Ton Arbor Press)
$85.00 plus about $62.00 shipping. I also found another item on Ebay
#291207668176, $46.95 plus Shipping. its called an "Hardened-Arbor
Press Tool" Chrome Alloy Steel (13) Precision Holes from 1/8" up to
2" including the 1" that the group is speaking about.... Thank you
for allowing me to input my thoughts, now I'm going out for a day of
fishing :-) Sincerely, Richard Lucas. LUCAS DENTAL CO.
A 1-ton arbor press bolted to a side work bench works well with a
cheater pipe on the handle. No risk of needing an extra hammer blow.
These presses can be found at Harbor Freight or Northern Tools for
around $50-60 on sale. Due to the weight freight for an online
purchase is prohibitive.
Punching is easy enough. Aside from using lubricant, does anyone
have suggestions for withdrawing the punch from the metal sheet?
Often this is a chore since there is nothing to grip on the punch
If you hit the punch too hard with a hammer or mallet, you can
damage the disc or even the cutter when it hits whatever is
I do my disc cutting (when I'm using a hammer) on top of a giant
lead cake I made.
Thanks again for all the good advice that you send regarding mallets
and disc cutters.
I shall be sure to protect the punches by putting a piece of
urethane underthe cutter so that the punch hits something soft after
it has cut the metal. It so happens I have some extra urethane which
I got dumpster diving when there was a place in the neighboring town
that manufactured urethane. I, and some friends who had just taken a
workshop on using ahydraulic press went to buy some, but they only
sold wholesale--huge sheets, in bulk amounts. Learning that we were
jewelers, and seeing the disappointed looks on our faces, one of the
clerks took us aside, and told us they close at 5 PM. and that there
was a big dumpster in back with scraps. The littlest one among us
was hoisted into the dumpster and she fished out pieces for us to
use. They are around 1/2" thick. Some thinner, some thicker. Don't
know the durameters, but they work fine for doming pieces as well as
Sadly, the company has now shut down, and dumpster diving for
Urethane is no longer possible.
Just another anecdote for those who have not hit the delete key. We
had gotten the Kingsley book on hydraulic presses, and decided to
make ourdies. We found a place that had scrap plastic, and we got
some acrylic pieces and with our spiral saws blades cut our forms.
Your mentioning using the hydraulic press for cutting discs brought
all this to mind again, and I realized that I have not been using
the pressmuch lately. So, will design some new pieces using
hollowforms, and will crank it up the press again and put it to good