I've used them for decades. Look for one at a real jeweler's supply
house and get a supply of good blades. The trick is to get blade tension
as high as possible with your hands, really clamp the blade ends and go
"William H. Shuey" wrote:
Yeah - that's what I meant by "draw"...the teeth should face the handle
and cut when pulling vice pushing. Cut on the down-stroke.
Also - use a jeweler's bench...er...I forget the proper name for it. I
used to cut on a wooden device about 3 inches wide with a V cut into the
end of it...it also provided a small anvil for hammering, and clamped to
the edge of the work table...wish I had one now, come to think of it.
Easy enough to make with a C-clamp and a bit of scrap wood.
And proper seating also helps. Your elbow needs to be about the same
height as the work, or just slightly lower. At least that worked for me.
The "backstroke" is the stroke away from the teeth -- non cutting -- no
matter how the blade is set.
The jeweler's saw is a pull saw, as are the many excellent Japanese saws.
Once you've used pull saws, you wonder why the West ever adopted push saws
make the blade bend. Pull saws tend to straighten the blade. In the case
of a jeweler's saw, it's the difference between using the saw and breaking a
new blade on every stroke.
It is called a "bench pin." It should be against the law to sell a
jeweler's saw without a bench pin. Jewelers call it "the third hand."
Too high. The bench pin should be at about the middle of your chest when
sitting .. say 34 to 36" above the floor. If you're tall sit on a lower
stool. Elbows should be about 6 to 8 inches lower than the bench-pin and
your hands. Hold the elbows that high and you won't be able to saw for
hours on end without getting fatigued.
Yeah - that's it...a bench pin. I used to have to match my seat to the
bench I was working at during my school days. I like to have an
adjustable stool; preferably a bar-type stool without arms or a
backrest. I can work about anywhere with a stable surface in a room
that way, seeing as how a bench pin is transportable.
I have to agree - elbow below the work. And I'll add that your set-up
also allows a better advantage for eyes on/closer to the work.
I've never had to saw for hours - the copper and sterling sheet I used
to work were pretty easy to cut as I remember...man, that was a long
After years (decades, actually) of making do with commercial bench pins from
jeweler suppliers .. albeit, they are cheap enough .. one day I realized
that I didn't have to put up with their deficiencies and started making my
own. It only takes a few minutes with the right kind of wood and a bandsaw.
My first was made of walnut. Looked nice, but didn't work as well .. the
wood was too hard. I lucked into some 2" thick maple and I've used that to
make exactly the bench pin I wanted. Bench pins wear out because you used
them as drilling surface when drilling with your flexible shaft machine.
Also, you are continually filing grooves to hold thin wire while filing it,
or otherwise shaping a section of the bench pin for better holding of some
part or another. So they wear out. They usually don't last a working
jeweler more than a year or two. As a consequence, jeweler's workbenches
have a slot in the front edge to hold a standard bench pin. It is well
reenforced so that it does hold the bench pin quite firmly -- no wobble.
Since I don't use a jeweler's workbench, my benchpin is permanently and very
firmly screwed in to the bench.
I don't like the commercial bench pins attached with a clamp or a
built-in clamp because: 1) they're not firm enough for vigorous filing, 2)
the top of the bench pin is not flush with the top of the work bench, 3) the
clamp gets in the way.
Similarly, I don't like bench pins with a built-in anvil surface.
You use many different anvil shapes, so you have forming blocks and small
anvils for that purpose. The standard jeweler's flat anvil block is quite
heavy and well hardened. The built-in anvil blocks I've seen are made of
iron or steel that is much to soft to be used a long time.
Jewelry metals are pretty soft. Silver is very soft. 14k gold is soft.
24k gold is too soft for practical jewelry work. Platinum (usually 10%
iridium) as also softish. White gold is almost as hard as mild steel.
Copper is actually difficult because it is very soft and has a tendency to
gum up and clog the blades.
A jeweler's saw is not used just for sawing. It is often used for
filing in tight places. When you get to the point where you're no longer
breaking blades, you start to use the saw as if it were a file. This is
especially the case for shaping inside of small holes -- say a mounting for
a very small square or triangular stone. Often, you can get in with the
saw where you can't get in with a file. Another advantage is that unlike a
file, the saw is always sharp -- even if you have to replace the blade once
in a while. The thinner blades also have a higher pitch, so you can
achieve almost as smooth a finish as compared to a file. The saw, stroke
for stroke, removes metal much faster than a file. Finally, there's the
cost. Very small files that you need to get into tight spaces are usually
very smooth, so they don't cut quickly and they also break .. as easily as
sawblades. Maybe easier because you are always applying pressure in a
breaking mode. These are some of the reasons you can end up sawing for
hours on end.
Boris Beizer Ph.D. Seminars and Consulting
I don't use a jeweler's saw (for some of the reasons you mention). I do
use a razor saw in a knife handle for straighter cuts, and a jig saw.
What exactly do you need to cut with the jeweler's saw on the project?
I use the jig saw for plastic and wood. If you are cutting metal to
sharp curves, that would be the only place I see where the jeweler's saw
would come in handy. I use a nibbler for outside cuts and anywhere the
inside cut can get a sufficient starting hole. Otherise it is drill
small holes and file.
You can buy an excellent saw from any proper jewelry supply house for about
$10. It will last you a lifetime. I've had mine for about 60 years and it
is still going strong. My father's saw is now about 80 years old and still
Your problem may not be the saw, but the way you are setting the blade.
But before than, the problem may be the saw blade clamps. Here's how to fix
1. Take the movable part of the clamp (the little square block with a hole
in it) and check it for flatness against a steel block. If it isn't flat,
using a small hammer, make it so.
2. use a fine file and put in some crossed diagonal scores (about 3/32"
apart) on all four gripping surfaces.
The proper technique for inserting a blade is below. The process takes much
longer to explain than to do. A blade change, done properly, takes a few
1. Open both clamps.
2. Put the handle of the saw against your chest (frame down) and lean into
the workbench to give the frame a slight bend. If the frame bends, throw it
away .. it is useless junk.. buy a new saw frame. If the frame breaks,
either you have an incredible tolerance for pain (what with the pointy end
of the handle into your chest) or the frame was not properly tempered.
3. Holding the frame against the bench with your chest, insert the blade
completely into the clamp near you, putting it about the middle of the
clamping area (up/down middle, but as far back (towards you) as it goes)
Tighten the near clamp. The blade should be lying in the center of the far
4. Tighten the far clamp. Neither clamps have to be particularly twisted
hard. It doesn't take a lot of pressure to hold a blade.
5. Pluck the blade. It should emit a nice "ping" That's the best way to
judge blade tension. The higher the note, the tighter the blade.
Boris Beizer Ph.D. Seminars and Consulting
Double umm.. Most jeweler's saws for the past 120 years have had a sliding
frame. All my saws, those I used as an apprentice 55 years ago, and those
my father used for years before that, and all the proper saws I have ever
seen, have had a sliding frame.
The reason for the sliding frame is that it enables you to use
different length blades. Saw blades break -- especially when you are first
learning to master the saw and they are relatively expensive. You can slide
the frame so that you can now use both halves of the blade. In fact, you
can go down to blades as little as 1.5" long -- albeit sawing gets a bit
Your suggested use of the frame length adjuster and clamping method
does not work. It is impossible to get the proper tension that way, and
besides it takes much, much longer than the "old-fashioned" way I was
taught, my father was taught, and every real jeweler I ever met was taught.
I tried it the "new" way you suggested just now. It takes three
hands. I can't do it with my teeth, because my dentures wouldn't stand up to
it .. The only way I can see to do it that way, is if you have a prehensile
male member.. In which case, there's a lot more money to be made in the
circus than screwing around with Jeweler's saws.
Boris Beizer Ph.D. Seminars and Consulting
1232 Glenbrook Road on Software Testing and
Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006 Quality Assurance
Email bsquare "at" sprintmail.com
Hate to tell you, I've been doing this way for 20 years and it works
just fine. The only blade life problems I've ever had are due to the
weird material being cut, namely soft copper sheathing over tefzel
dielectric with a silver plated hardened copper conductor....otherwise
known as semi-rigid cable. For brass, plastic, aluminum, poylurethane
resin, basswood, cherry and acrylic cutting on model stuff blade
breakage just isn't an issue. I guess my two hand are just extra
coordinated....or maybe it's how I position my left pinky toe on rainy
Wednesdays when there's a full moon.
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