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Rio in motion 2012

It was a good day to ( show some folks how to saw a) die

The day began like any other Errand Day, except that Errand Boy
hadto get up at an absurdly early hour in the morning, 8 a.m., when,
as often as not, he/I/myself is hitting the hay for Nap # 2 of an
ordinary day. On Errand Days I let myself out of the Diemaking
Dungeon and drive up to the Big City to stock up on Cheesy Poofs
(not) and Chihuahua Chow (not for me).

This was a special day in the neighborhood, though, because I was
also headed up there to give a quickie demo of pancake die sawing at
one of the Bonny Doon hydraulic press workshops at Rio Grande. At
first I was wondering what sort of presentation to make, but Phil
Poirier said he’d like an actual sawing demo; so then I was
wondering about just what kind of saw I’d be doing this hypothetical
demo on. The saws I’ve used for the last 15 years are bizarre
looking contraptions, both somewhat-elaborately bolted to the mutant
saw-table that’s gone through about six different stages of
evolution, including one where it had no legs, but was instead
screwed to the ceiling.

In the end, it turned out to be fairly easy to detach the
leg-powered unit from it’s hinged foot pedal (screwed to the floor
), and saw table, so I threw it in an empty plastic bucket and
hauled it up to town.

It was great to finally meet Phil (again, my memory being what it is
(which aint what it used to be)), and a few of the delightful Rio
staff I had (probably) not yet met. I came early, just before the
lunch break, and was left almost alone for a half hour, to get set

I also did quite a lot of snooping around, and honestly, I was
bowled over by the variety, extent, and quality of the BD line of
press forming tooling. It’s quite impressive how far the whole
branch of metalworking has progressed in just 20 years, and also how
much Phil &Co. have pushed the (sheet metal) envelope since taking
over BD. A real Renaissance Man, that one ; a Major Dude, too. Nice
to hang out and talk turkey with.

I also snooped-out the workbenches , full of goodies, of all the
people in the class, and was very impressed (all puns welcome) with
what people were getting done with apparent ease. I’d seen pictures
of some of the old workshops Lee Marshall had given, and we’ve all
seen the spiffy shots of various items in the Rio tool catalog, but
seeing so much interesting stuff all in one place, plus all the
tooling, I was like a kid in a candy shop.

To the task at hand, a few times I heard how eager some of the
attendees were to watch me saw, to which I was compelled to insist
"it’s really not so very interesting as you might think ". I mean,
to me it’s just sawing, which can defnitely get pretty boring pretty
fast when you do it week in and week out, year after year. Miles of
sawing to go before I sleep. I did bring a good collection of
interesting dies and parts I’d made over the years, and we had an
enjoyable show & tell to go along with the saw demo. I do like to
carry on about the details of this process ; it’s not like the
obsession ever went away, and it is what I’ve been doing exclusively
for 25 years (OMG !!! ), so I can tell you a thing or two.

So, thanks to Phil and Rio, and all the nice folks in the class, and
you’re welcome.

It was nice to go do this sort of thing in person, as a break from
the daily grind of making what I’m yapping about. The dies are pretty
good at selling themselves, so I haven’t had to put much into
hustling them, which is good, because there’s a pile of almost 100
waiting for me to re-mount Senor Saw this morning, shut up, and get
my duff back to work. It’s a good day to live, next to the Rio

Dar/David Shelton

Die Sawing Demo Part Deux

So there I was, sawing away, strutting my stuff on my supermodified
sawguide, a strangely mutated beast that started out as on original,
old-style Bonny Doon Sawguide, designed and built by Lee Marshall. It
has many of the original parts, plus a lot of homemade or rebuilt
customizations, and (as I’ve said many times ) an extension
connecting the carriage to a foot pedal, making it the leg-powered
unit I use on most small and intricate dies. The Rio crew did manage
to dig up one of the Knew Concepts manual saws, also by Lee
Marshall, and I got to get a good look at it. It’s a big, big
improvement over the original (marginally useful, i.m.o.) RT saw of
years gone by, and I could tell that with some practice it would be a
good die sawing saw. It needs to be, because there are no other
acceptable options except for the Knew Concepts motorized saw, which
is not exactly an inexpensive item.

I became convinced many years ago that having some forward/backwards
slop in the saw setup allows us to naturally and effectively utilize
the alternating forward pressure cycle we learn when we learn to saw
with a jewelers saw. Forward pressure on the downstroke (but I
remember a Vietnamese guy I worked next to once, who put his blades
in upside down and the work stroke was the upstroke ; completely
alien technology), lightening up pressure on the upstroke. This
makes the blades last longer than they would on machine saws,
generally speaking , where there’s always pressure on the blade.
Jigsaws, even expensive ones, usually have a very short stroke, which
makes blades fatigue even faster. The Knew Concepts motor saw is
different though, having been designed for use with jewelers
sawblades in mind. I expect that a person could also train themself
to apply alternating pressure to the work itself, feeding it through
the saw.

For anyone wanting to get into die sawing, the KC manual saw is the
way to go. I strongly advise against sawing dies freehand, because
contolling the sawing angle (with the tilting table and
vertically-rigid setup of the sawframe) is the only way to the
consistent accuracy necessary for making good pancake dies. The
sawing angle is critical to making dies that have zero tolerance
between the cutting edges, which is the only way to get them to cut
thin metal (say 20g and thinner) cleanly.

Things really have come a long way since the time I started with the
original RT system back in 1986. I never even used the RT saw the way
it came; my first project was to make some mods to get it functional,
then to build a saw that could handle bigger die plates. The presses
back then… whew !, we’ve come a long way, baby. The Rio Screw
Presses were good units though ; too bad they were discontinued, but
that’s progress. You can do SO much more than cut flatparts with a
20-ton hydraulic press


Hi Dar,

I enjoyed hearing about your day with Bonny Doon.

I still have the RT saw and Rio screw press, and would like to know
of any improvements I could make to it make sawing dies easier. Do
you have any tips for me? (I don’t have a machine shop, just ordinary
jewelry tools plus a large drill press and a welding set-up.)

M’lou Brubaker
Minnesota, USA’louBrubaker