Ernie asked about steel for dies:
If you are not going to need to harden and temper your dies, can
you use something other than tool steel for making your own
blanking dies? I plan to be cutting shapes out of copper, brass,
and sterling primarily. I will be sawing the cutting edge at an
angle, based on the gauge of the die and the sawblade size, and was
wondering if stainless steel or another steel alloy could also work
since I am having some trouble finding sources of tool steel in
sheet form in 18 to 20 gauge
Ernie, First, tool steel isn’t made by gauge, it goes by fractional
inches (in the U.S.) or metric (but I get it in the U.S. so that’s
what I know about). You can get either 1/32" (.032" ), 3/64"
(.046"), 1/16" (.062"), or as thick asyou want in fractions.
I don’t work much at all in stainless or mild steel (low carbon) but
the thicknesses are a little different and are not fractional under
1/8". You can use either, and both are easier to saw than tool steel.
You will find out what you can get away with as far as design and
thickness by experimentation, but generally you want the die to be
around 30%-50% thicker than what it’s cutting, though you can push
that and have less headroom and still get cuts. Sharp corners will
deform and cause parts to stick in dies…heck, there are lots of
reasons for making hardened tool steel dies, but it isn’t always
The only metal I run a lot of with mild steel dies is pewter, and
it’s so soft it would take forever to wear a die out. Copper and
silver will be ok, but a lot depends on the design.
Also, I don’t saw mild steel dies to the extra tight tolerance I do
on hardened tool steel dies, so for you, more experimentation. You
may end up with some designs that could use unhardened tool steel,
which is tougher than mild and most stainless, but as I alluded to,
can be (very) hard to saw. I just started using Cincinnatti Tool
Steel, which has excellent prices. Grade 0-1 (precision ground) flat
stock is what you (might) want.