Sharron, Although stainless steel may work for a few copies - it
will not hold a sharp edge. You need to use tool steel for more
than a dozen copies, and, if you want a really durable cutting
die - you must learn to harden the dies after you cut your
design into them. Instructions on hardening the steel should be
available from your supplier.
Yes, you must cut the dies at an angle. This can be as simple as
arranging a bench pin at an angle - or you can build a "jig"
that incorporates both a saw frame and an angled surface plate
to support your work. I beleive that these are available “ready
made” from Rio Grande, and perhaps Frei-Borel. I have purchased
the tool steel from Rio in the past, as well as from MSC Supply.
Rio may still have the book and/or video on this technique.
Depending upon what material and thickness you are cutting with
the die, and also depending on the thickness of the tool steel
plate you will be using… I would recommend that you start with
an angle of about 20 degrees to the saw blade. Experiment a bit
either way on your first half dozen dies, but this is good
starting point. You will need to use heavier saw blades - 2/0 or
thicker - again depending on the tool steel thickness and the
guage of material that the die must shear.
What are you using for a press? I do not recommend the little
screw presses - but perhaps you have access to one of the bigger
ones. We use a foot press/“kick press” for the small dies, and a
hydraulic press for the dies over about an inch and a half…
This method has saved us a lot of money for small production
runs. An average blanking die made by our die maker runs about
$280. I can make one, by the RT method - start to finish, and
harden it in about a half hour!
To date, the most pieces I have punched on one of our dies
(hardened) was 500, but I have some silversmith friends who
claim to have gotten over a thousand pieces out of a die before
having to make a new one.
Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School