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Scoring lines in sterling

I’m making a series of cylindrical/octagonal salt shakers, and have
to score the lines to fold into the proper angle to achieve the
octagonal shape. Its straightforward scoring a narrow band of silver
and then deepening the score by filing, but its proving a bear to do
the same on lines several inches long. Short of buying a scoring
tool setup for a flexshaft at about $200 is there a simpler way to
accomplish the scoring. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Herb Wohl

Two boards sandwitching the metal sheet and one or two C clamps
will make a fence to run a big joint-edge hand file against.

Hi Herb

I was in the same situation once and this is what was suggest to me.
Mark the line. With your sawframe, lay the blade down on the line
to cut along the line. Not too deep and it will cut a little bit
deeper at the edges. Once you have cut in the line, take an old
needle file ( i used an old barrette needle file) Anneal it to
soften it and make it less brittle. Bend the end down 90 degrees and
file the point to the desired angle. heat it to temper it to the
correct hardness. Draw the point down the line cut by the saw. if
nothing else it can get it deep enough that you can use a triangular
needle file held at about 30 degrees off the surface to open up the
line further.

Hope that helps
Brigid Ryder

Most hobby shops sell saws for cutting balsa, etc which are straight
(they look like a miniature version of the saws one gets with a
miter box) and which can be used to saw silver. I use them when I
need to cut a long, straight line, but they could also be used to
score a long, straight line. Just don’t cut all the way through.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

    Short of buying a scoring tool setup . . .is there a simpler
way to accomplish the scoring. 

Hello Herb;

I once learned a trick from our friend Charles Lewton-Brain that
might work for you. He used a separating disk in a flexshaft to make
a long cut in a piece of metal for bending. By watching the other
side of the metal as the separating disk was cutting, you could see
when the cut was deep enough as it bulged up the metal on the other
side. Try a few practice runs on some base metal. The kerf from the
sep disk is just enough to allow you to bend the metal up to about
90 degrees, depending on thickness. The mitred joint is then fluxed
and soldered on the inside. I’m sure Charles could offer a better
explanation of this technique, or it might be in his literature.

David L. Huffman

I have attached a small jpeg of a scoring setup. If you have any
questions drop me a note.

You just clamp the metals down with the angle iron and bolts and
then score using the modified file .

Attachment removed - To share files please use Orchid ftp site at

James McMurray
metals program digital design/build center
121 art building
school of art,
university of washington
seattle, wa 98195

is there a simpler way to accomplish the scoring. 

herb -

lay a flat metal bar along the line where you want the score. using
a scriber, or scraper point, or anything that will scratch the
silver, run it along the metal bar. go back & forth carefully a few
times until you have a slight ‘ditch’. with the smallest round steel
bur in your flexshaft run it along in the ditch until it’s deep
enough. try to keep the same number of ‘trips’ back & forth the same
for each score line. it may take some concentration the first few
times but it always works for me. for an easier bend don’t forget to
bring the score over the edges top & bottom.

good luck -
celebrate your friends -

I have used a hart burr for scoring with some success. I was
fortunate enough to be able to have measurements that allowed me to
use the front of the chuck in my dental lathe for an edge stop. You
might be able to rig some kind of jig on wood using a steel hose
clamp on your flex shaft for a stop to guide the tool along an edge
rail on the jig. I haven’t tried it, but that would be where I
would start, faced with the same problem.

Howard Woods
Eagle Idaho

The simplest method to score sterling would be to chisel with a
steel straight shisel. Put the sterling on a steel block and strike
the chisel with a brass mallet all along the lines. Use your ruler
and scriber to mark your lines and scribe deep by pressing down hard
with the scriber.Mark the lines deep enough with the scriber that
you can feel the edge of the chisel into the line. Stike the chisel
lightly at first and do as many courses with the chisel as necessary
to get the depth you want. Overlap the chisel blows to make a
continous line across the sterling. Write me off post if you have any
questions, @Sam_Patania

Sam Patania,

Hello Herb,

You want to score sterling sheet (what gauge?) with lines several
inches long. I’ve not tried this on silver, but it worked on
copper. (This might be considered chasing, as you make a dent
rather than removing metal.)

I used a rotary cutter and a metal straight edge on a special cutting
board laid on a hard flat surface. That’s where the thickness/gauge
is a consideration. If it’s 30 gauge or so, you might actually cut
through if you bear down too hard. If it’s thicker than 24 gauge, I
don’t think it would work. Quilters and tailors use rotary cutters to
cut fabric, sometimes several thicknesses; also used to trim mat
board. Cutters and the self-healing boards are available in hobby &
fabric stores. Might be worth a try.

Good luck on your project - let us know what works best.
Judy in Kansas

Hi Herb

I have pretty good luck scoring sterling with a scribe and then
deeping the line with jeweler’s saw. I haven’t done it in a while so
there’s probably a step I’m leaving out… I remember making a 'v’
notch and sawing into that, but stopping before I broke through to
make a clean bend.

Hope this helps
Ska’s Treasures

Hi Herb,

is there a simpler way to accomplish the scoring. 

I’ve not tried this technique on silver, but have used it
successfully on aluminum. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work on
silver or any other precious metal for that matter.

There’s a tool available at hardware stores & others that sell
sheets of plastic for windows etc. The tool is used to score the
plastic prior to snapping it to the required size. The tool consists
of a hard metal blade about .028" thick with a hook on the end & a
plastic handle. If I remember, the tool was under $5 & it will last
a long time.

To score something, a metal straight edge is placed where the line
is to be scored. The hook of the tool is then placed against the
straight edge, pressed against the metal & pulled toward the edge.
If a deeper groove is needed, additional scoring operations can be


This is the easiest way I know. I use this for all my scoring and
it is a cinch.

Mark a line where you want the scoring to go. Take a separating
disk with a little window cut out. See Jurgen Maerz flex shaft tips
in the archives. With the separating disk, begin making little
indentations, like stiches along the line. Leave a small gap in
between. Repeat down the line until all the stitches are in one long
line. Keep repeating until you can score with the separating disk
along the line and you create a U shaped trough. Flip the piece over
until you see a small line on the other side. Take a square file and
groove out your 45 angle. This is more for the sides rather than
depth. Fold to 90 degrees and voila!

I will be demonstrating this at AGTA in Tucson, Feb. 3.

See ya!

I got a really great tool…Groovey Tool from John S. Burton, who
advertised on Orchid about 2 years ago. It has a clamp device to
hold down the metal, a measuring device to tell just where the
groove will be and a special burr for the flex shaft…a cylinder
with a “tooth” so that you can vary the depth of the cut. It cuts
out a 45 degree groove and was made for making boxes. If I remember
correctly, the price was around $90.

Donna in VA


How about clamping the sterling underneath a metal straightedge and
then making repeated cuts, using the straightedge as a guide, with a
knife graver or other such tool? I’m no engraving expert, but it
seems like it might do the trick.

Also, Tim McCreight’s book on Boxes and Lockets covers similar

Jessee Smith

Hello DR. This may seem too simple to consider, but I’ve been making
multi sided (up to octagon tubular beads and pill boxes this way for
alot of years, First square up yor stock(sheet) then use a Bow
Compass to mark your lines, Get one made by Alvin you normally dont
do large pieces so a 2- 3- or 4 inch should be adequate. These cone
with extra points which are the same size as the lead, put one in,
these points are reasonably well tempered all ready so no porblem,
these can be gotten at any art supply, Hobby Loby, Michales, Office
Depot. you get the Idea?? OK Now, you have a way of accurately
repeating spacing for your crease cuts, all you have to do is adjust
the points via the adjustment wheel to the exact point or distance
you wish to place your marks, you can press down on the point that
is on your silver and use a hard smooth surface to slide the guide
point along while it is guided by the edge of your stock Indian
Jewelers supply in Gallup New Mexico, sells a tool called a straight
liner stamp, these are quite inexpensive and come in widths up to 2
inches, these are basically a wide cold chisel made from a file,
Practice on some copper sheet first!!! it takes a bit of practice
to controll a line of say 6 to 10 inches, Also using this type tool
eliminates the need to do much fileing in the crease area, However
you will need to anneal the piece before bending, I also use a 4
inch wide cold chisel that I ground to a wider angle (about a 60
degree included angle) for doing large pieces, One tool a
silversmith goldsmith should never be with out are a couple sizes of
good bow compass.

I’m not connected with any of the above companys they are just
sources I use when necessary…

Kenneth Ferrell


There is a tool described in Silversmithing and Art Metal by Murray
Bovin, page 82.

[ ]

This should be easy to make out of an old file. There is something
similar describe in Silver working and Jewellry, Wilson, page 312.
This is one is made from an lozenge graver. These sound similar to
the one you are describing.

I would think a tool like this that is pulled would give far more
control that a separating disk. I have always preferred the "v"
groove to a “u” shaped grove. Sharper corner on the outside.

Bill Churlik

Hi Herb,

Here’s another approach to scoring. If you have access to a
hydraulic press, use the Bonny Doon Brake assembly to form sharp
bends. One advantage of this system is that there is no need for
soldering, since there is no metal removed. A low-tech way to use
the principal of the brake assembly is to press the point of
triangular wire (or square wire that you’ve filed into a triangle)
into the metal over urethane. An even lower-tech method would be to
press triangular wire into the silver over rubber or leather or pine
wood in a vise. Once the metal has begun the sharp bend that is
started by pressing the wire in, it is easy to bend it more sharply.
(Sometimes you may need to anneal the silver sheet after pressing the
wire in before you bend it more.) We will all be interested in
hearing how the project turns out for you.

Good luck!
Cynthia Eid

My deepest thanks to all for the many excellent suggestions to help
solve the problem of scoring numerous lines in sterling. I am in the
process of gathering tools and resources and will try each of the
suggestions in turn. Will report back. An extraordinary group !!

Herb Wohl