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Some tips on hand saw piercing


#1

Hi all,

If you don’t know of me, I am an ageing goldsmith who just loves hand
saw piercing, I can quite happily pierce all day given the
oppertunity. Recently Helen remarked that she has problems saw
piercing thin metals, well recently I had a job to replace some
missing pierced gold decorations in an antique tortoise shell box.
These decorations were to be cut from 0.2mm. thick 22ct. gold which
is almost impossible to saw pierce as it is so thin and flexible,
well the simple answer was for me to super glue the 22ct. sheet onto
a piece of 0.5mm. silver sheet, then I engraved my patternwork onto
the 22ct. and pierced the now 0.7mm. thick double layer sheet. After
I had pierced the decorations I polished them and finally gently
heated the pieces with a torch flame and the super glued sheets
seperated leaving my 0.2mm piercings to be glued into the tortoise
shell box. My customer was well pleased with the finished
restoration. I once did a master class about hand saw piercing at a
local college that taught jewellery, most students were bothered by
breaking too many saw blades and the most common cause was an
insecure bench pin, for some reason the teacher at this college did
not know that an insecure piercing pin increases the likelyhood of
regular saw blade breaks. I tried to teach the students that the
items being pierced should be total firm on the bench pin so that you
need little pressure hold the item in securely place while piercing.
The other common problem while piercing was that they would hold the
saw frame in line with the eye and pierce away from their face, I was
taught to hold the sawframe at right angles to the eye and pierce
across the eyeline. I was taught to saw this way with my master
saying that " it is better to see where the blade is going, rather
than where it has been". Also let the saw blade do the cutting, it
only cuts on it’s downward stroke, the saw does not need much
horizontal pressure just an even pace of up and down strokes. As for
blade lubrication, I have been using the same method for the past 47
years and it works perfectly for me, I use a 6 inch wax candle,
rubbed up the back of the sawblade at regular intervals when resting
from cutting, if you are piercing thicker metals the blade will get
hot and the wax soon becomes liquid on the blade, adding the wax to
the back of the blade stops the wax blocking the view of the cutting
line while piercing. I have five different depth saw frames, all of
German manufacture and I use Glarden Valorbe Saw blades, sizes 6.0
up to 0. See my work here:

Or my book is available on pre order from Amazon, due for publication
in March 2009: Titled: The Work of a Master Goldsmith: A Unique
Collection.

Peace and good health to all. If I can give any further tips or
answer any questions, please ask.

James Miller FIPG


#2
If you don't know of me, I am an ageing goldsmith who just loves
hand saw piercing, I can quite happily pierce all day 

The master speaks…

There’s an old-time tool that I’ve never seen for sale - people make
them, and it will make sawing detailed things 1000% easier. It’s a
sawing benchpin…Save your beat up wooden pin for filing.

Mine is made from 1/8"/4mm cold rolled steel, about 2" wide by 4"
long. It’s milled flat on both sides, and has a “V” cut into the
front end. On the back end it’s drilled and a stout wood screw (like
3/8"/8mm) goes through and into the bench top. That means you can
loosen the screw and rotate the pin out into the work area, and
conversely push it back onto a space on the bench top. It is
perfectly flat, perfectly square to the bench top, stronger than I
am and immobile. It pretty much makes sawing effortless. Of course
you can use an old piece of scrap steel and work it. I’ve seen them
in aluminum, too, but that’s much less rigid, plus if you tag it
will the sawblade you’ll get aluminum in your gold filings - steel
comes out with a magnet… Real handy…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#3

Hi James,

Recently Helen remarked that she has problems saw piercing thin
metals, 

It was to do with saw piercing metal 1mm thick, rather than thinner
metal.

Robin Key wrote to me offering advice also and advised that the saw
handle should be held really lightly. When I analyzed what I do
today, I found that I actually barely grip it at all, so that’s one
thing ruled out - but very good advice nonetheless.

the most common cause was an insecure bench pin, 

Yes, I can see that being a problem, as any insecurity in the way
the work is held, will cause the blade to jar and break. I do find
this a problem when the piece is difficult to hold down so maybe
securing it onto something else like you suggest would indeed be just
the trick needed.

I do the correct thing of only cutting on the down stroke and not
putting too much force into it - letting the saw do the work - but
it’s the tight corners which break the blades as the corners are
often too tight for the width of the blade and then the twisting
forces become too much for the blade to handle. How would one
overcome that?

Since your recommendation, I now buy the Swiss-made Vallorbe blades
from Cookson’s and they are far superior to what I was buying
previously, but sometimes I’m still breaking more than I’m happy
with.

I think securing the work better by perhaps gluing it onto something
else if it’s thin or a really small piece and a better technique for
the tight corners, would help enormously. I’ll have to try the
sawing across the eyeline too. Do you mean that you saw sideways? I
saw with my right hand going both forwards and sideways, so at about
45 degrees, towards my back left corner of my bench. Is that okay?

Thanks.

Helen
UK


#4

Orchidians,

I was teaching a rolling mill workshop a few years ago at a
university in Guilin, China, and was watching the students pierce
with a jeweler’s saw. The students were taught to saw with the
handle facing up, instead of downward, as I was trained.

My thought, at the time, was that if Chinese jewelers, on the
opposite side of the world, have their saw frame handles facing up,
then we all have our saw handles facing the same direction then,
don’t we?

Jay Whaley


#5

Hi Helen,

You ask about piercing tight corners without breaking your blades. I
would suggest that you are trying to turn the blade too much without
cutting, turning the saw blade too quickly within a single blade cut
width, will most surely break the blade. I use two methods of
piercing inside tight corners, if the corner is more of a point then
I will widen the saw cut by re cutting on the line while slightly
angleing the blade into the waste area of metal, this will give a
slightly wider saw cut at the corner but as you are taking metal
from the waste area your required pattern is no affected. This is
easier to show than explain.The second method is used if I have to
pierce a sharp point, then I will use the same method of widening the
cut line, but to a size that allows me to turn the blade 180 degrees
within the cut and reverse the blade into the point to continue
piercing away from the point. In time you will get used to knowing
which blades are suited to which thickness metals.A large blad will
cut most thicknesses but it is always best to use the smallest size
blade possible, a size that will allow you cut straight and easy.
You say you are cutting 1mm silver, well I would use a 3.0 or 2.0
size blade for this thickness. For 0.5mm I use a 4.0 or 3.0 size
depending on the detail of the piercing. As to your question re
holding your saw frame. Obviousely you must hold the saw frame
whichever way you feel comfortable, when I said to saw across your
eyeline, this method is really for piercing detailed items such as
monograms from flat metals. It is just important that you can see
the cut line in front of your blade when piercing so holding at a 45
degree angle is OK if you can see where the blade is going. I use
different methods when piercing domed articles such as Easter Eggs
and spheres, some piercing, such as on spheres, requires me to grind
off most of the saw blade teeth and just leaving about one inch of
cutting blade at the top of the length. This is because the blade
will travel through two sides of the sphere while piercing, but the
blade will only cut one side while gliding through a hole in the
other side. I hope this all makes sense.

James Miller FIPG
UK


#6

Hi Helen,

...snip... but it's the tight corners which break the blades as the
corners are often too tight for the width of the blade and then the
twisting forces become too much for the blade to handle. How would
one overcome that? 

The technique is really very simple (but it requires a bit of
practise); you keep the up/down movement going as you gently rotate
the saw without actually sawing.

If you look at the blade with a lens you will see that every other
tooth is slightly bent one way with the ones in between bent the
other. This is known as the “set” of the blade and it results in a
saw cut (or “kerf”) that is slightly wider than the actual blade so
as to minimise friction and sticking. Nearly all saws are made like
this, not just piercing saws. With piercings saws, the depth (front
to back) of the blade is not very much bigger than the kerf, so you
can exploit the blade’s “set” and use it like a file to cut a tiny
arc as you saw up and down whilst rotating the saw about its blade;
the teeth actually cut sideways. Always allow the teeth to control
how fast you rotate the saw - you must not allow the blade to
twist otherwise it will snap.

I hope this helps.
Regards, Gary Wooding


#7

Helen:

The way I overcome the problem of breaking blades in corners is to
walk the blade in place when I come to a corner. That is I continue
sawing without advancing the blade, but rather slowly turning it in
place until I’m pointed the right way. Puts minimal stress on the
blade.

Generally, any time you twist a blade you’ll break it.

RC


#8
I do the correct thing of only cutting on the down stroke and not
putting too much force into it - letting the saw do the work - but
it's the tight corners which break the blades as the corners are
often too tight for the width of the blade and then the twisting
forces become too much for the blade to handle. How would one
overcome that? 

Hi Helen…to turn corners you should make a couple of light cutting
strokes “in place” while very slightly turning the blade towards the
corner you’re cutting instead of trying to progressively twist the
saw around the corner…this way you open up a tiny space for the
blade to turn in and you can then continue at the desired angle to
make the corner without stressing the blade. It’s easier to do than
describe !!

Steve Holden
www.platayflores.com


#9

Helen,

but it's the tight corners which break the blades as the corners
are often too tight for the width of the blade and then the
twisting forces become too much for the blade to handle. How would
one overcome that? 

Tight corners and you do not attempt to make forwards progress. Just
a few up and down strokes while gently rotating the saw or piece, cut
the radius for the blade.

Keep at it, we all break blades (that’s why they are sold by the
gross :slight_smile: … With practice you will get to the point of actually
deliberately trashing blades because they get dull.

Jeff
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#10
but it's the tight corners which break the blades as the corners
are often too tight for the width of the blade and then the
twisting forces become too much for the blade to handle. How would
one overcome that? 

Once again Helen (and James) has opened up something that probably
has great general interest. First off, don’t beat yourself up too
much about the saw. It is deceptively simple and takes much
experience to use to it’s fullest advantage. Somebody once said,
“Only John would talk about having a dull sawblade!” Meaning they
always broke theirs before that time… Anybody can tell you
everything about it, and you’ll still struggle along until you get a
touch with it, which is pure experience.

Two ways to overcome the above question: One is to saw down to the
corner, pull back a couple of mm, cut across to the other edge, and
then down to the other side of the corner (if that’s clear) And of
course the saw must never stop - turning without the sawing action
(and truly perpindicular) guarantees a broken blade. The other way
is to cut across the top - if doing feathers, cut across the tips of
all of them - then go back and saw the left, then the right. Don’t
try to just power through it start to finish.

Another tip: I hold the handle with my thumb and three smaller
fingers, and pull my index finger up onto the back of the blade,
where I can finely tune the tension as I’m cutting - the hand is
somewhat like holding a pencil.

You’ll get it, there’s much to learn, and the saw takes real skill
to use to it’s potential. It’s also your finest file, by the way.
Very carefully drag the teeth across tiny little spaces…

http://www.donivanandmaggiora.com


#11

Helen,

One thing that might help you with your sawing is to remember that
the blade is flat, with teeth on its front edge. When you make a
sharp turn, cutting a square corner, as an example, you will need to
remember to keep that saw blade in motion while you are slowly moving
the saw frame into the new direction. The saw blade must be able to
cut a path for itself in the metal, and continuous up and down motion
while the saw frame is being steered will give your blade room to
turn in the metal, and help keep that fragile blade from breaking. Be
aware that very little pressure needs to be exerted onto and through
the metal. Bur Life or similar, occasionally applied to the blade,
acts as a lubricant.

You may begin to notice that your blade breaks far less often while
in motion, and more frequently, when you have stopped. ( The blade
gets bound up while stopped ) Practice sawing without moving forward
through the metal, just staying in one place. Your blade will also
need to be tight in your saw frame, teeth faced downward. That blade
should stay as close to vertical as possible, especially if you are
piercing flat sheet.

Use your ears when sawing, if you hear an even “hissing” of the
blade, on the up stroke as well as down (cutting) stroke, you are
putting the right amount of pressure on the blade. If you hear a
"grrr" on the down stroke, and very little on the upstroke, you are
pushing the blade harder than you should.

I always tell my students that the saw blade’s teeth need to be
faced “Down and Out”. Easy to remember…

Jay Whaley


#12

Hi James,

I would suggest that you are trying to turn the blade too much
without cutting, turning the saw blade too quickly within a single
blade cut width, will most surely break the blade. 

No, actually I do cut whilst very gradually turning but some corners
are just too tight. I like the sound of your two methods, although I
didn’t quite get the second one. It may be similar to something I’ve
tried. Say for example I was cutting a pear shaped hole. The method
I tried was to drill the hole somewhere in the middle of the widest
part and then start sawing to the point, along the right hand side.
When I got to the point, I then reversed the blade back to the drill
hole and sawed towards the point along the right hand side, until
meeting up with the first cut. The rest was easy to do and the point
was sharp and crisp.

I think it may well be a case of practice, practice, practice, as I
don’t do saw piercing very often. Incidentally, for 1mm silver, I am
using a No. 2 Vallorbe blade.

Helen
UK


#13

Helen,

What I was taught is that sometimes, if you have a really tight
corner, it may be best to stop sawing, disconnect your saw blade at
one end and remove the saw from the piece, and come at it again from
the other side – sawing into the tight corner from each side,
meeting in the middle.


#14

Thanks to everyone who has explained about cutting whilst turning. I
do actually already do this but maybe I’m just not patient enough and
try to turn too quickly. I’ll practice - I’m sure it’ll come.

Helen
UK


#15

Hi Helen,

I think it may well be a case of practice, practice, practice, as
I don't do saw piercing very often. Incidentally, for 1mm silver, I
am using a No. 2 Vallorbe blade. 

I would have thought that #2 blades were a bit on the large size. I
tend to use around 2/0 or 4/0. A general idea is that there should be
3 teeth in contact with the metal at any one time.

All the best,
Roger


#16

Gary my remark about going slowly to make the sharp corner saw cut.
I was in a marching band through public school and at the U of CO.
Not many people, I find, ever marched, but the pivot person had to
march in place as the whole line of marches turned a corner…I now
give that explanation to all my students when reaching a sharp corner
"just march in place (by moving the saw blade up and down) and slowly
change direction". It works.

Rose Marie Christison


#17

If the corner is too sharp, you can always make your turn short of
the corner where you have plenty of room to turn the blade
gradually. Then you come back later and saw out the corner with
converging lines from either side of the hole. Backing a blade out is
likely to break it, especially if you’ve got a ways to go along a
curved path.

RC


#18

I also saw at an odd sort of 45 degree angle, I also break several
blades a day but i’m still new. As you’re turning hold the blade
without moving it, up and down,up and down and just a little twist
of the wrist as you go. You should hardly be turning (and not moving
foward in any direction) just making a circular hole if you like
then you are free to carry on in any direction.

I tend to brake the blades right as i’m about to finish cutting a
piece and get too clumsy/too fast. Or when I struggle to keep the
piece on the pin at narrow bits. Or when my carpal tunnel just gives
me a useless hand!

Use a finer blade for inside piercing where its harder to file later
and a thicker blade on the outside shape where it doesnt matter as
you can file easier and stand less chance of breaking with a thicker
blade

But i’m new its just the way I do it.
cheers Lou


#19

Helen,

I think it may well be a case of practice, practice, practice, as
I don't do saw piercing very often. Incidentally, for 1mm silver, I
am using a No. 2 Vallorbe blade. 

In 38 years, I have almost never used a blade larger than 3/0.
Normally, I use a 4/0. Rarely, I need a smaller blade such as 6/0 or
8/0. I remember picking up #4s by accident one time. I had those
blades for most of 38 years. They were way too large. Perhaps you
would find a finer blade easier to use.


#20
... but maybe I'm just not patient enough and try to turn too
quickly. I'll practice - I'm sure it'll come. 

You’ll do fine, Helen.

I recall one instructor making the obvious comment about sawing that
practice was the ticket. He then went on to say that after about 40
hours with the saw we’d see an enormous improvement. I really
connected with his putting it into a measurable chunk of time - hey!
After a week’s work I’ll be doing much better!!!

Just the encouragement I needed as my butchered attempts to that
point had me dreading every sawing job. Sure enough, after about a
week’s worth of application I was becoming “one with my saw” and I
really like the process now.

Another very helpful point - focus just ahead of your blade, looking
where you’re going, not where you are. You will see the difference
quickly.

Pam Chott
www.songofthephoenix.com