Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'd wanted a disc cutter and dapping block for a long time. If you don't know, a disc cutter will let you punch out circles from sheets of silver. And the dapping block will let you shape the discs into hemispheres.

But both are so expensive. Not only are these items pretty pricey, but shipping is really expensive because, being made from solid metal, they're very heavy. But I was itching to try this technique but wasn't sure that I'd use it a lot.

So I really didn't want to invest a lot of money.

The least expensive dapping block I could find was at Harbor Freight at $35. When it went on sale for $22.99 I snapped it up. (There it is on the left.)

It went home with me. I'll admit, it's not the best quality. I got what I paid for. There are minor scratches in the hollows on the block, and a couple of punches have slightly flattened tips.

BUT IT LOOKED SO COOL ON MY SHELF! And it works very well.

Next step was to find a disc cutter.

I heard that the best ones were made by Pepe. But for some reason, they were unavailable and back ordered everywhere .. PLUS I balked at the price. They were really expensive. Instead, I opted for a relatively inexpensive disc cutter on eBay. (There it is on the right.)

I was pretty happy at first, but it didn't last for long. After the first 6 or so punches, it wasn't cutting very well. Every disc had to be trimmed and filed. I started hating using it. In fact, I started to avoid using it. And after a very short period of time, it started to rust.

Not too long ago I noticed that the Pepe disc cutters were in stock again. So I decided to spend the bucks and buy one. And if I was going to spend the bucks, I decided to pay a bit more and buy the big monster set with every punch size - even though I had no idea of what I was going to make with the teeny tiny punches the set has.

And on the left is was recently arrived on my doorstep.

Wow. What a difference. Each time I use it, I get perfect discs. No trimming necessary. Considering the time I used to spend trimming the discs and filing them, I'm saving money.

I've been happily making discs of all sizes and playing with them. And even though I never
thought I would use the smallest punches, I've found them to be so much fun to make and incorporate in my jewelry. They make great accents to cabochons and I've got some ideas about earrings.

I'll just need some time to make them.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

The first thing I do every morning is let the dogs out. But last Monday I awoke to find a light snowfall on the ground. This meant that MooShu was going to have his first encounter with snow!

I opened the door and the dogs ran out, full speed. As soon as Mooshu's front paws hit the snow they did a quick stop -- but his back end kept going - up, up, up, went his little bottom until he almost did a front flip.

It took a while to show him that the snow wasn't all that scary. Although I don't think he was all that convinced.

Eventually, he began exploring and found the snow quite tasty!

This was barely a dusting and it went up to his knees! I don't know what he's going to do in the first real snow.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jeweler's Saw Tips

No one has taught me how to use a Jeweler's Saw. I've only learned by trial and error. But I thought I would share some things that I've learned.

Buy yourself a bench pin. Either with a V cut out, or cut it out yourself. They are invaluable.

Expect to break a lot of blades and don't get upset. Just make sure you buy lots of them. Dozens. Really.

The saw blade should be tight in the saw. I start by inserting the blade on the side of the saw opposite from the handle, and tighten the screw. Then I push the handle into the middle of my rib cage and press (ow), insert the other side of the blade and tighten the screws.

When you quickly pull and release the blade, it should "ping" . (If it doesn't, unscrew the blade, press the handle harder into your ribcage, and insert that blade in the saw taunt.)

The teeth of the blade should point down and out. If you can't see them, you can run your finger against the blade to make sure they're pointing the right way. (Now that you've checked, go back and reinsert your blade the right way.)

When sawing, remember to let the teeth of the saw do the work. Do not push the saw

When sawing, keep the saw straight and not angle it.

Most of the progress in sawing is made on the downward stroke. But it's easier to start your cut by bringing the blade up than down.

When cutting a circle or pattern, move the metal sheet, not the blade.

Use long, even strokes instead of short, quick ones. It will cut much quicker that way. EXCEPT when sawing a corner/angle. Then saw in place with short quick cuts and move the metal sheet, not the blade.

Lubricating your blade often. (I use bee's wax, but there are other products available.)

Read every article you can, on how to use a jeweler's saw.

Remember, it WILL get easier. And, who knows, you might even find that it's fun!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Using a Jewelry Saw

For the longest time, I feared the jewelry saw and I avoided using one. But it you want to do metalwork, you're eventually going to need to saw some metal!

My first feeble attempts at sawing resulted in many broken saw blades. Even trying to saw out a simple figure was difficult. My circles were misshappen, my ovals were eggshaped, and my squares turned out as quadrilaterals.

So I decided that if I couldn't make a simple geometric shape, I better try something different. Fluid forms might not be too bad - I could disguise the fact that I couldn't cut a straight line. And they're pretty interesting and make the back of a pendant seem a little bit different.

So I started cutting out wavy patterns on the backs of my pendants. After a while this got easier and I began to break fewer saw blades.

The other day, I bought the cabochon you see on the right. To me, the pattern of the stone looks like trees on a mountainside, with misty hills in the background. I planned to bezel-set this stone in a pendant, and as I soldering the bezel in place, I suddenly got an idea: I would saw out the back of the bezel in the shape of a leaf!

For someone who'd never sawed anything more intricate than some rounded shapes, that was a pretty daring idea.

So I took my sharpie, drew a leaf, chose my blades, and began sawing away.

And this is what I got:
(Look ma, it took only 6 blades!)

Let me tell you, I learned a lot by just doing this and I've gotten pretty comfortable with my jeweler's saw.

The pendant is still a work in progress but I promise to post some pics when it's finally done.

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