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Tool Using Guide

In learning about the jewelry craft, I have found little or no
info about the “hows” in using hand tools. The class I took must
have assumed that everyone has used saws, chasers, flex
shafts (burs) and all the other aids. The texts I look at only
casually mention this topic. Is it all trial and error or are
their good references?

What I mean is for example:

  1. How tight should a saw blade be? I seem to break many!

  2. What each size blade is used to cut? (ring shafts)

  3. How best to use cutting burs and which kind to use?

I thought these would be answered in my introductory class. We
did get decent info on soldering tools.

Bob B

Hi Bob,

A great book which includes answers to some of your questions is
McCreight’s Complete Metalsmithing book. I recall seeing an
entire book just about flex shafts, sorry but I can’t remember
the name. Do a search. And Charles Lewton Brain has a note on
it in the Tips from the Jeweler’s Bench. Also, McCreight’s and
Revere’s videos are great in terms of not only describing but
showing how to use basic tools.

  1. How tight should a saw blade be? I seem to break many!

I tension the blades (0/3) by making the saw frame about 1/4"
(6mm) longer than the blade. The blade should ping if you flick

  1. What each size blade is used to cut? (ring shafts)
  2. How best to use cutting burs and which kind to use?

You can buy assortments or several sizes of burs of various
shapes. Typically I grab whater comes to hand that will do the
job- small flame, cylinder, ball burs, all have their uses- just
experiment and you will soon have favotites. There is a book
about the flex shaft.

Richard D. Hamilton

Fabricated 14k, 18k, and platinum Jewelry
wax carving, modelmaking, jewelry photography

Bob: yeah, you’re right there is pitiful little printed material
on this stuff, I leanred alot of it here in Orchid and earlier on
in As for sawing, if you’re cutting sheet
metal the idea is to have at least three teeth equal to the
thickness of the metal. Use a very loose grip on the saw and
don’t push the blade into the metal, the blade could go crooked
or break if you do. There are sawblade lubricants that make the
saw go smoother too. One tool I never found any info on except
online are those snap on sanding disks, I think they’re called
Moore disks. Usually you put the disk on with the grit facing
towards the flex shaft and use them to level bezels, like making
a too tall bezel cut down to size by marking with dividers around
the bezel… as for burs, buy an assortment of all shapes and
sizes. When you get into stone setting there’s other burs to get
also. Get some bur lubricant to make them last longer, frequently
dipping the bur into it. All I can think of right now…Dave
Crystalguy Art Jewelry, Magical Art Jewelry for the Enlightened Mind

Bob, have you asked your teacher? Are there other beginers in
the class? Are there no books or suggested books? If this is an
adult non-credit class, the teacher may need some prodding to
actually teach. Keep asking questions untill you get an answer
you understand.Part of it is the responsiblity of the student to
tell the instructor when something is not known. Otherwise the
instructor will continue assuming that they know such things.
Ask Ask Ask!

I didn’t see anyone answer the question about sawblade sizes.
It’s easier to use a saw blade that is too small rather than one
that is too corse. Two teeth per thickness of metal is a rough
rule to follow.A saw blade that is too fine will saw slow but
one that is too corse will jerk, catch, and break. It will also
make you mad.

Marilyn Smith

The blade should be very tight. If you are using very
inexpensive blades you will tend to break many! Make sure you
push the top of the saw frame against something solid (so it
contracts) insert the top of the blade so it is even with the
top, then afix the bottom part (make sure the blade isn’t longer
than the compressed saw frame.)

Regarding “tightness” you should be able to pluck the blade and
hear a hummm (similar to a musical instrument) if you hear a very
dull sound, your blade isn’t tight enough! ALSO, Make sure to
put the blade in so that the teeth point DOWN. Too many people
try sawing when the blade is improperly installed. YOU should
not be able to cut your finger if you run it DOWN the blade.

I work with silver, and find that the 2/0 and 3/0 blades work
best for me.

hi there,

just a note that may be of interest. in many asian countries a
jewelers saw is strung in a conventional way. they string their
blade so it cuts on the forward stroke, like a file or a wood
saw. the handle is held above the bench pin instead of below.
the end result is the same: cuts on the down stroke.

best regards,

geo fox