Thursday, October 20, 2011

Home Jewelry Studio part 3

HI all! Ok, last week we went over the very basics that many home jewelers tend to not use or know about, the jewelers saw, and filing the shapes we've cut with the saw.  (if you are just tuning in, you may want to start at part 1)   There are endless possibilities of shapes you can cut to create necklace and bracelet links, earrings, charms or pendants.  I would like to add one more important step to sawing:

As you have been cutting out your shapes, you probably have noticed that sometimes you want to cut a shape out from the inside.  This is called piercing.  Draw your shapes onto your metal, or glue on a paper drawing. Use your hole punching pliers (or drill press and tiny bits) to put a small hole in the shape you want to remove. Do not put the hole on your line, bring it in some, like an 1/8th of an inch inside your line.

If you are cutting a more complex pattern, punch all of you holes at once, kinda like being a production line.  Once your holes have been punched, take your saw frame and insert the blade into the bottom screw-y thing.  Teeth down and out!  Once your blade is securely in the bottom of the frame, feed the blade through one of your holes, insert the blade into the top screw-y thing and tighten it up.  Make sure the blade is taught, and start cutting out your shape.  Once your done, open up the top of the frame and slide your piece out.

Like all sawing, it is really important to file your pierced shapes.  Continue to practice your filing and it will become easier and slightly addictive.  Filing is one of the best ways to make your work look well crafted and professional looking.

Student work.  She drilled all the holes through a very precise drawing.

Student work.  He did all of his piercing and filing before forming these adorable creatures.

To drill press or not to drill press...

Drilling holes is kinda essential to jewelry making, especially if you are going to be using sheet metal.  In fact, even wire can be drilled and I will explain how in a the next post.  There are 2 forms of hand held hole punchers, the hole punching pliers that I showed you in the last post, and a precision hole punch (page 112 of the Rio catalog)  Both are excellent for punching holes in thin metal.  The pliers will punch up to 18 gauge which is a pretty typical gauge to be working in, and comes in different hole sizes.    These punches are affordable and small so they take up no bench space.

Sometimes however, you will want to put holes in thicker metals, or in different materials.  These punches cannot punch PLexiglas for example.  If you use found objects, being able to drill through them is important and again, you can't do that with one of these hand held punches.  Fortunately, table top drill presses are fairly inexpensive and easy to pick up at your local hardware store.  Sears has a Craftsman brand, I got mine used on Craigslist a zillion years ago and it is still going strong.  I paid I think around $50.  Home Depot has a brand called Ryobe, it's not the greatest tool brand, but for the small and delicate work we do, it's a fine machine.

The important thing to know about drilling through metals, is that you have to have a small indent or hole to help guide the drill bit into the metal.  You can use a nail, or you can buy a tool called a center punch (Rio page 261)  Just use a heavy hammer and create a mark in your metal.  Don't hit too hard, and don't try to punch through.

Note that we are doing this on a big piece of steel, I will discuss this in next weeks post!
Once you have your small indent (I call it the "inverted nipple", anything to get the kids to remember to do it!) you can drill your hole.  Another really important thing about drilling through metals, you can't drill through with a big bit, you have to go incrementally small to large.

Look how small the drill bit is.
When drilling through, go slowly, take little slivers, go up and down a few times rather than aggressively going through.  Drill bits do break, the tip can either get stuck in your piece, or it can fly around and hit you in the face, so always wear safety glasses!  If your drill bit breaks, it looks almost the same as a good one so remove immediately and through it away so you don't accidentally try to use it again.

When drilling through plastics you don't need to do the inverted nippler, you can go right through, but go slowly.  Also, if you are a glass artist, you can use your drill press to drill through glass, you need to order glass drill bits however and also research the proper way to drill glass.

Let me know if  you have any questions, or if there is any important info you would like to add!

I had to drill through the letters to connect them to the metal.  All cutting with a jewelers saw, and lots of filing!


  1. Love the little creatures and metal work!

  2. Very helpful info, Laurel. Enjoy seeing your and students' work.

  3. Thanks Alex and Dan, glad you enjoy, thanks for checking it out!!!