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RT Blanking system

Hi Sharon It is perfectly feasible to use the standard sawframe
and blades to cut your blanks, but because the angle of the cut
is such an important factor in getting a clean and effective
cutting edge they came up with a holding jig. To see how it
works look in the Rio Grand Catalogue(1 800 545 6566).
Alternatively you could find someone who cuts blanks
professionally…Lee Marshall, who runs workshops in how to use
the Hydraulic Press, could probably steer you in the right
direction. Alison MEXXX

Sharron - about cutting dies - there are several solutions in my
mind in addition to the special saw sold for the RT system.

  1. Susan Kingsley’s book, “Hydraulic Die Forming for Jewelers
    and Metalsmiths” describes the process and has a table on page
    82 for the angles needed to saw out the dies. Book is in print
    and widely available. Page 53-54 describes the process

  2. Lee Marshall at Bonny Doon Engineeering sells a precision saw
    frame and guide so that you can more precisely cut out your own
    die. Available at

  3. Dave Shelton in Albuquerque does a fabulous job of cutting
    the dies for you at a very reasonable cost and heat treats the
    dies as well. You can contact him at Sheltech, 4207 Lead SE,
    Albuquerque, NM 87108, 505-256-7073

  4. Look up Metalsmith, Volume12 number 4, winter 1992, and
    Shelton has an article on how to do it.

I am not employed by any of these folks nor have any financial
interest in their businesses, rather am a very satisfied
customer of all.

Judy Hoch, Denver Colorado
Or visit my website at
Good luck.

Sharron, I purchased the RT system from Rio years ago, and
having the system is a rather foolproof way of cutting dyes.
Your saw is held vertically and you have an adjustable table w/a
guide that tells you what angle you need to set the table at,
depending on the thickness of tool steel. This gives you a clean cutting edge, works great.
Good luck.

Found this in a text book, Encyclopedia of Jewelry Making Techniques
by Jinks McGrath, and looks useful but- from the limited information
it looks like a machine. Theoreticly, one could just cut blanks with
a saw on the bench pin with the right blade. What do you all think?
I’m a painter, jewelry is basicly a big experiment for me and I’d
rather splash my cash on other good bsic tools. Any comments or
resourses? I have designs demanding a lot of turtle settings for
chunks of glass and dread sawing them all out individually- we’re
talking hundreds of peices.

Steel is my freind- I have welding papers and know where to get it,
this is just a new way of using it for me. And I could see using it
in the work if I knew how to peirce it in a more subtle fashion then
a cutting torch. Thanks


The Encyclopedia of Jewelry-Making Techniques: 
	A Comprehensive Visual Guide to Traditional and Contemporary Techniques
by Jinks McGrath 
Price:   $24.95  
Hardcover: 176 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 0.75 x 9.25 x 9.25 
Publisher: Running Press; (June 2003)

add book url

Theoreticly, one could just cut blanks with a saw on the bench pin
with the right blade.

I’ve cut a lot of blanking dies; what you need is to cut the steel
at the correct angle for the die to cut well, not a special blade.
You can make a portable bench pin at the necessary angle if you
don’t want to buy the system (Bonneydoone also sells a system, check
out their website) but easier yet is to have Sheltech cut the dies
for you. You should find info on this in the archives. Donna in VA

Lizzy, If you need to have hundreds of the same turtle blanked out
and you don’t want to spend money on the tools necessary, then I
would suggest that you contact Dar Shelton of Sheltech
[] in New Mexico. He is the ultimate blanking die
wizard, and for an extremely reasonable fee he will cut, harden, and
temper your turtle dies, and he will be delighted to blank out as
many turtles as you need.

Your theory that “one could just cut blanks with a saw on the bench
pin with the right blade” is sadly incorrect. You must maintain an
extremely precise blade angle that is derived from the thickness of
the blade and the thickness of the tool steel. For instance, for a
4/0 blade cutting 1/16th" steel, you must maintain an angle of 10.5
all the way around or your blanking tool simply will not work. Think
of the blanking die as a very specialized kind of sissors [since it
cuts in exactly the same way], and you know what one little knick or
burr on the blade does to the quality of a sissors cut. For this
reason, you need to use some kind of sawing guide when making
blanking dies: it’s the difference between having the process work
or not.

By having Sheltech make the die for you, you are saving yourself
money on the saw guide, time in the learning curve, sawblades [the
first few tries will eat about four dozen blades :-)], and
aggravation in the very delicate process of correctly heat treating
these dies. Also, you don’t have to have a hydraulic press to do the
actual blanking if you have Dar do it for you. Your potential
savings there could run to about $1000 overall. Since jewelry isn’t
your main medium [yet!], it would be so much more logical to
outsource this aspect.

Anne Hollerbach
[very satisfied customer of Sheltech]

Theoretically, one could just cut blanks with a saw on the bench pin
with the right blade.

Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work hat way , the Dies while they
are hinged the are also cut at varying angles to the tool steel
plate, dependant on the thickness of the die which also determines
the thickness of the metal to be cut. That’s why the die cutter has a
plate that is adjustable for angle, We used to do a lot of RT (click
)blanking die work and found the we could produce reasonable
serviceable dies using a Dermel brand Scroll saw since it had a tilt
table and then we purchased a better Delta scroll saw. Both these
units will accept standard Jewelers Piercing saw blades The trick is
after you cut your die and before you harden and anneal it (unless
your cutting paper you had better do this) is pushing the top side of
the die, the part that actually does the cutting through the bottom
side which acts as the anvil. Trying to cut the dies with the saw
frame that Rio sells with the kit is not the easiest thing in the
world, but trying to do it with a regular Jewelers saw frame while
not impossible certainly would be way beyond difficult and somewhere
in to wasting time and materials, The air hardening steel can be
obtained from Rio just as cheaply as any place though, You may
consider out sourcing the die cutting job, there used to be several
very skilled RT die makers in Albuquerque, one of them may read here,

I thought seriously about this system but decided that I wasn’t
really that interested in multiples. The dies are sawn out of mile
steel using a jewelry saw and jewelry saw blades. In case you are
not familiar with jewelry tools, this is similar to a coping saw but
more precise. The saw does not use blades with the little pegs that
lock the blade in place. Instead the blades are held under tension by
means of wing nuts. The dies need to be cut at a precise angle and
there is a holding device to ensure this. Rio carried this system at
one time but I don’t know if it still does. There is also a fellow
Orchid member (sorry but I can’t remember his name right now or look
it up on my files because of computer problems) who makes such dies
and has an excellent repetition for good work. My advice would be to
have your dies made by him.

Marilyn Smith

This was 1st introduced through a Manufacturing Jewelers and
Silversmiths cooperative effort with Worshipful Goldsmiths Peter
Gainsbury a number of years ago, as a techincal paper and probably
included a discription of how to make your own, if I remember
correctly. ( Contact MJSJ for particulars ) I believe since then,
Rio Grand has advertised a system that does what the RT Blanking
System does, IE: cut repititive blanks.

Don Allen

Theoreticly, one could just cut blanks with a saw on the bench pin
with the right blade. 

Several people have covered the fact that you can’t do that.
They’ve also mentioned farming out the die. I agree, especially
because it sounds like you want to make pieces that have thin,
protruding parts.

One thing to keep in mind is that the cutting tongue has to be
shoved through the other side in order to cut the metal sandwiched in
between. There’s a bevel cut into the tongue (it looks like so: __/
). The tongue will bend if too much of it has been cut away by the
saw (like so: V ). I’m just trying to say there’s a limit to how
narrow the protrusions can be before things start deforming. I hope
that makes sense. Hardening the die is important in those cases.

Another thing is that it’s difficult to achieve precision. A
jewelry saw is a no-brainer, but the RT setup is a whole different
animal. The saw frame slides on a pole that keeps the blade
vertical. It makes the saw pivot so if you move the saw even
slightly forward or backward, you will be cutting to the right or to
the left of your straight line. To me, the RT system seems very good
for parts that have some artistic give to them (if you’re going to
cut your own dies). Perfectly straight lines (especially long ones)
and exact corners are difficult. Not that it can’t be done… Buy
a gross of blades and prepare to calm yourself.

The Alchemist Casting Studio
modelmaking/casting/fabricating/finishing for the trade

HI Folks, Yes, it’s me, your friendly neighborhood (it’s a small
world now) die maker. The Sheltech Guy, Dar Shelton, aka Dave

I don’t read here often anymore because the subject just didn’t
come up often when I used to read here a lot, and I don’t make
jewelry anymore so there’s not much point and no time for it…

Anne posted an incorrect url for me; it IS and
anyone interested in this type of die will find a visit interesting.
I have been getting more and more out of the process the last few
years; they’re not just for cutting flat parts anymore . I can make
them cut and form in one step what is more or less a bead half ,
though the best example of that is posted on the Bonny Doon website (go to ‘discussion group’ and look
for “Tabless Dolphin Die”.

There’s so much I could say about this subject… it’s been my
whole working /business life since 1986 . I wouldn’t know where to
begin (or end ) if I started getting into it here. Suffice to say
that I AM writing some stuff down for a little thing some of us are
working on. Anyone with specific questions about making them, and of
course anyone interested in having them made, please feel free to
contact me !. Adios amigos,

Dar Shelton

    Several people have covered the fact that you can't do that.
They've also mentioned farming out the die.  I agree, especially
because it sounds like you want to make pieces that have thin,
protruding parts. 

It is not just possible but very doable to cut Blanking Dies using
only a jewelers saw and an angled bench pin. I used to believe that
you needed a fancy saw like the RT blanking saw to do it but a
friend showed me how to do it without the fancy gear. I mount the
bench pin at one end of a 12" length of 2x4 lumber. The other end is
clamped in a vise I use a angle finder level to so that I can set
the angle of the 2x4 and now I just saw the die out by keeping my
saw frame vertical. I do it this way when I need a quick and dirty
die because it is not as precise a method of making the die they
don’t last as long as a precision cut die. But if all you need is a
few parts ( maybe even a couple of dozen parts) a hand cut die
works just fine. Also for these quick dies i typically use mild
steel rathe than tool steel as it is easier to cut and if all you
are blanking is silver or copper or other soft metals then mild
steel is a perfectly adequate die material. If your needs are for
production dies then the Bonny Doon saw guide is 100 times better
than the RT saw frame. I have both and the RT never gets used
anymore because it is so hard to control.


Hello all, Hydraulic Die Forming for Jewelers and Metalsmiths by
Susan Kingsley has an excellent chapter on blanking dies. She gives
very detailed instructions and includes a table in the back of the
book that determines angle of cut based on thickness of tool steel
and sawblade.

Sawing blanking dies is really very easy. It just takes a bit of
practice. I have a drill press with a tilting table that I c-clamp a
bench pin to. A magnetic protractor ($10 at my local hardware store)
tells me the correct angle to tilt the table. I have a small painted
drill bit inserted in the chuck that I use to check my saw blade to
insure it stays at 90 degrees. I have learned to lock my elbow and
use my shoulder when I saw to keep the saw blade steady.

I blank out pieces of silver and gold 26 and 28 gauge. I have never
had to heat treat a die, perhaps because I use such thin metal. I
have some dies I have used for 8 years and blanked out thousands of
pieces from. I didn’t have a hydraulic press when I started. I
placed my die, with metal inserted, between two sheets of 1/4 inch
tool steel and pressed the “sandwich” in the jaws of my bench vise.

I hope this info will motivate any of you who have wanted to try
this technique but thought it might be too complicated. It opens up
so many possibilities of working in multiples!

Best regards,
Jayne Redman

I have an RT System and I have used it quite successfully. The
instructions are easy to understand and when you cut the steel at
the correct angle with the correctly sized blade, it works well. I
do not do high production work, so this is sufficient for me, at
least at the present. It is true that the blade system that they
devised is not the easiest - it is manually operated by moving the
blade up and down, holding the die in place. It helps to use a
lubricant on the blade for faster cutting, less hang ups and more
accurate cuts.

Linda Gertsch in the Fabulous Adirondacks where the leave are
changing day by day. If ever you want to see one of nature’s most
impressive displays get up here in the next couple of weeks!!!

I’ve have become interested in the RTB die cutting system and have
read a little about it.

It seems to be a very easy way to produce simple forms with little
effort yet the only worthwile text I’ve found was in one of Sylvia
Wick’s books. And that Rio sells it although I remember seeing
something about it being out of stock and not coming back recently
here on Orchid.

I wonder if anyone here is using it or has any experiences to share.
What might the limitations and caveats be? My purpose is to run
short series (< 100) of simple to medium complex forms used as part
or decorations in fabrication.

Should I wish to get/find one or is it just asking for problems. I
would be very grateful for any input on this subject.


Hello…I have an RT system that I would like to sell. I have only
used it a few times. It worked well, for what I can remember. I
purchased a casting shop and stopped fabricating at that point.

Kathleen Todd

Hi Michaela,

I never used it much, so I am not good for operating questions, but I
have one and would very much like to sell it if you are interested.
Please contact me directly;

It is not expensive either.


I have not used the RT Blanking system. The voices on Orchid have
said they don’t like it. I don’t remember the details, perhaps you
can find them in the archives.

The preferred method is to blank with a hydraulic press. You have
have the pancake dies made by Dar Shelton of Shetech.

I’ve used his dies with my h. press and they work great.

You can also make the dies yourself, but there’s a learning curve,
it’s hard and Dar does a great job for a great price.


Elaine Luther
Metalsmith, Certified PMC Instructor
Hard to Find Tools for Metal Clay

I have the system and have used it a lot. It’s hard to get really
straight lines at first and you’ll break a lot of blades. I went
through something like 35 blades cutting my first die. Order blades
by the gross :wink: I found that I liked BonnieDoon’s system better, it
had more stability. I managed to break a blade and run it 1/4" into
my thumbnail with the RT system. If I were to advise someone, it
would be to have Dar Shelton cut your dies for you…it would save a
lot of frustration.

Donna in VA

Hi Michaela,

I thought I would wait to see what everyone else had to say before I
chipped in, I have been cutting blanking dies for years, must have
cut a few hundred, and stamped out tens of thousands of pieces from
1/8"-2". I used to have an assistant who would break them on the
first go!!, she was very tentative with the flypress. By the way to
do a good job you need a kiln with temperature control to harden and
temper them if you want them to last. Also a flypress with two level
blocks is I think a necessity.

For there are two good sources:

This is the report by the guy who first popularised it, it was used
in WW2 to cut out plywood for Mosquito planes and ally sheet for
B52’S( something like that, not a plane expert). I had an evening
class student who had done it, 8X4 sheet of steel and a small road

Susan Kingsley. Hydraulic Die forming for Jewellers. This also has a
good section on it at the end. Especially how to adjust a die tool if
it warps slightly when you harden it.

I don’t see why you can’t learn to do it yourself, I did, Ithe first
few weren’t very good but I soon got better. I reckon you go through
two 4/0 blades per tool, you will wear them out as well as break
them. I was too mean to buy his tool so I made an angled jig and put
a rod in the handle of my saw to run in a groove to keep it upright.
It is a little difficult to explain I will send you some photos if
you give me an e-mail addess. You just hold your elbow against the
side of your body and turn the steel plate not the saw.

I have just made an adjusable one, I had to cut a thicker tool,1mm
rather than1/32"which is a good thickness to use, If you use it flat
you can saw out a stack of sheets the same size (if you only want a
few) or you can cut out two bits of different sheet for REALLY
accurate inlay. It is only a few bits of scrap wood but it has earned
me a lot of money.

regards Tim.