Skip to main content

Foundations in Metalsmithing: Statement Earrings

Lesson 7 of 21

Sawing Basics: Bench Pin Setup and Hand/Body Position when Sawing


Foundations in Metalsmithing: Statement Earrings

Lesson 7 of 21

Sawing Basics: Bench Pin Setup and Hand/Body Position when Sawing


Lesson Info

Sawing Basics: Bench Pin Setup and Hand/Body Position when Sawing

Alright. So then our next thing is that we wanna make sure that we are set up and ready to saw. Now, your saw frame is pretty much useless without your bench pin. What a bench pin is is, very simply, a piece of metal. A piece of metal, yeah, a piece of wood. A bench pin is a piece of wood that attaches to your work surface, and it supports the metal. So, you can see in my bench pin here that it's actually got a little V in it. This allows me to support my metal (shuffling) on either side, with my saw in the center. Bench pins come in all shapes and sizes, but this is a really simple, inexpensive, I think it's under $10, bench pin that actually just clamps onto your table. Alotta jewelers, if they have a jeweler's bench, they'll actually permanently mount it. But this is great because it means you can work on your bench pin anywhere, right: kitchen counter, table top. Like I said, my friend who used to bike across the U.S. would set it up at, like, a campground, picnic table, pretty muc...

h anywhere you can. So pretty much anywhere is fair game. But in a perfect world, what you want is to mount it some place higher. Because when you're sitting, where you really want to be is about chest height with your bench pin. And that's because we're gonna have this really nice body position. If I were to sit, let's pretend this was an actual-height table. If I were to sit somewhere where this was higher, so if this was like a regular height table, which we're gonna imitate by making my stool real tall, now I'm, like, awkwardly leaning. We don't want that. So we wanna mount it, whenever possible, on something a little bit higher, so that it sits at our chest height. And it may find you, take you a little bit a time to kinda figure out what is the appropriate height for you. Everyone's chest is a little different height, so you're gonna want to play with this a little bit. You can also, you know, stack something on your table to mount your bench pin a little higher. There's lots of kind of improvisational things that you can do. But what we're gonna do when we're setting up is it's really important to take the time to get the right body position. First of all, because you can actually develop kind of repetitive use injuries if you're not right, or even just get a crick in the neck or a bad back. So we wanna make sure that we're kind of in the right position. But we also wanna make sure that we are keeping our fingers out of harm's way. So when I saw, what I'm gonna do is work here. And your number one goal is to never put your hand in front of the saw frame, and the reason for that is very simple. If your saw blade breaks and your hand is here, guess where your saw blade is going? Right into your finger. I do not want that. I never want to do that. So we wanna start to get comfortable with this idea that if our saw frame is here, our fingers are always behind it. We have to use our fingers because that's what's holding our metal in place, but we always wanna kind of maintain this position. So you guys'll see I'll kind of move around, but I always wanna do kind of this setup here. So I'll go ahead and kind of sit here nice and neutral. The next most important thing, and I know this is gonna sound crazy in the beginning, when you're sawing is that you wanna remember to relax. So, the easiest way to, like, really break saw blades is to sit here with a death grip on this and, like, (gasping) saw away. Instead, we wanna think of this as a nice, relaxed thing. I know someone who said "Imagine this is glass, "and hold it like it's glass. "We don't wanna crush it, we wanna hold it gently." I just like to think of it as there are people who think of sawing as a very zen, meditative activity. So if you are not approaching it like that, it's gonna be hard, right. So we've got ourselves, now, in our kind of right position. So chest height, sitting right in front of our bench pin, ready to go. Any questions about that? Alright, let's cut some stuff! You guys ready? Alright, so first thing's first, I do not recommend diving right into cutting this. Because you're gonna be a little bit wonky at first, and so you don't want the first thing you're trying to cut to be your design that you're actually really excited about. So I recommend doing a few practice cuts. And if we can look at our screen, they look a little bit like that, just some things to get you started. So if this was your project and this was your metal, I would recommend, actually, just taking a different corner and drawing this on. I took a little piece of metal just to make our lives easier. But you can go ahead and draw this on, and actually even cut out a little square to make it easier. But just give yourself a little something to practice. You don't have to do this, but here's the thing: if you're trying to learn how to saw, and you're not trying to follow along, and you're just trying to freehand, you're not really learning, because you're not learning that control. So you're gonna take a minute and kind of draw this design on so you can practice some straight lines, some curved lines, and a couple of other things. Let's actually just go ahead and start! I'm gonna start here with a couple of my straight lines. Now, what's interesting about this is that the hardest thing to start, I have found, is to actually get started in a straight line in the metal. So you can see here, if I were to come in at an angle, (scraping) that's pretty easy, right? But I find that this straight line, for some reason, is hard. So I'm gonna cheat a little, and just go ahead and kind of get this to bite on here. Oh. It's 'cause these edges are, like, really well-finished. Let's see here. There we go. (scraping) Now, when I'm sawing, here's what I'm looking for: straight up and down, nice and easy. I'm not pushing my saw blade forward at all. I'm actually letting the saw do the work. So all I'm focused on (scraping) is this nice up and down motion. And you can see here (scraping) I've got a finger on either side of my work, and I'm just cutting. And you may find that it gets a little bit hard to see as your metal comes off, and your BurLife is hangin' out there. (deep exhale) So you can just sorta blow that away (scraping) and cut. And if for some reason you need to back out, just move your saw a little bit and you can back right out. I recommend just sort of starting. And of course now, as soon as I did this, now I've got a little bit of a weak spot in my metal where it wants to bend, (scraping) so we'll start the next one. (scraping) And again, really, really, really easy, just nice and simple. And I recommend starting with your straight lines, just 'cause it's a really good way to practice. But of course you're not going to stay there. Now, also, every so often, just a little extra BurLife. If you're like "Wow, it seems like "it's not really cutting very well," it's probably because you need more lubrication. Now let's cut some curves. This is where it starts to get a little bit trickier, because what we always wanna do is keep our saw blade nice and vertical, and actually move our metal and not our saw. So I'm gonna cut just kind of a nice, open curve here. (scraping) And so you can see, and now, of course, this is not perfect, right. I've got a little bit of an angle here. But my goal... And you can see how it's starting to flex a little bit in here because I've already made some other cuts. So I'm just gonna slide this back on my bench pin, 'cause I've got a little bit more support back here. So I'm just gonna do this. And this is a pretty soft curve, so I don't have to move my metal a lot. But you can see I'm just kinda making these micro adjustments... Into our metal. Now, the steeper our curve, the more we have to actually bend our metal. We're gonna ignore that guy for a second, and we're gonna do a nice, tight curve here. It's gonna take you time. I know from experience that your gut instinct is gonna wanna be to hold your metal here. So just fight that with everything that you have, and just practice keeping those fingers back. (scraping) So you can see I'm gonna come here, and I'm gonna do this kinda tighter curve. I'm just gonna keep spinning my metal... And cut that out. Now, if we wanna cut a sharp corner, like an actual 90 degree angle, what we can do here is come in, and it's basically a process of, where's that straight line again. It's always the hardest to start. (scraping) It's literally a process of keeping our saw frame still. Just let me saw outta my corner here. So I've hit my corner, and all I'm gonna do is I'm gonna focus on not moving this forward at all and literally just keeping it moving up and down while I spin in place. And then I'll cut to my next corner... And then up and down... While I spin in place. And if we want to, we can actually even make this sharper. So let's just say instead of following this line I wanted to literally make a point. I can spin this all the way around... And cut this tiny little point. So the same thing here. I know a lot of people who, if they were trying to make this kind of tight point here, they would cut in one side, then cut in the other. And what I find is that it's hard to actually get those to match, and then you end up with a little funky point that you have to actually file out. So I recommend learning how to actually spin your saw blade like that as your going, because it's going to be so much easier. Questions? How do you guys feel? Do you feel like it's doable, or do you feel like? Julie's a little, like, maybe. (chuckling) Alright, so I wanna talk, yes, we have questions from online. Couple of questions from online. (humming) They're wanting to know if there is an electric saw that you. (laughing) So, I believe there are some contraptions, if you will, that you can mount your saw in that will do some of this for you. But this is it. Like, this is the magic right here! This really simple tool, that's what jewelers use! There's, I mean, you could probably get metal blades for a scroll saw. But when you see stuff that's been cut out, this is what people are usin'. Oh, thank you. (clattering) So yeah, so one of the things that I forgot which is really important, is actually that I should be wearing safety glasses. This is even more important when we get to the drilling part, but yes, I recommend doing this just in case you're breaking blades. Other questions. So I was thinking about don't they have, like, metal mesh gloves or something just in, 'cause I see myself totally wanting to put my hand in front of that blade all the time. Well, they do have metal mesh gloves. They're like what you see people using to cut steak at Chipotle with, (laughing) right. They wear those so that they don't cut themselves. But I don't recommend that, because you lose a lot of control. [Lady In Blue Sweater] Tactile. (humming) Right. So really, you just have to train yourself to keep your hand back here. I have been sawing a long time, and I've yet to put my saw blade through my finger, knock on wood. (knocking) (humming) Actually, I'll just knock on the bench pin. It happens. But as long as you're really good about it, it's so rare, and that's why I just preach hand position, hand position, hand position. (chuckling)

Class Description

Learn the basics of metalsmithing to make stunning statement earrings (and more!) - no torch required!

Getting started in metalsmithing doesn’t have to be scary. In Foundations in Metalsmithing: Statement Earrings, you’ll learn the basic skills you need to start making metal jewelry, as well as the design principles to create your own unique pair of statement earrings, all with less than $100 in tools! (And, you’ll be able to apply those tools and new-found skills to expand your ideas into a full line of jewelry!)

In this class, jewelry designer and metalsmith Megan Auman will show anyone how to get started making one of a kind metal jewelry.

You will learn how to:

  • Choose the right tools and materials for your metal jewelry projects.
  • Design incredible (and comfortable to wear) statement earrings with balance and movement.
  • Saw and pierce to create any shape from sheet metal.
  • File and finish your metal pieces so they look professional.
  • Create your own ear wires to finish off your unique design.

Whether you’re looking to grow your existing jewelry making knowledge or for a new creative outlet that you can proudly wear (and show off!), you’ll leave this class with your own pair of stunning statement earrings - and the skills and design chops to expand your ideas into a complete line of jewelry!  


user 1398976626171314

One of the most special things about Megan, is that though she is a creative, she is extremely good at business. Her organized way of thinking and presenting material, and her genuine joy when empowering her students with the tools needed to be successful, is charming and so much fun. Somehow there is such seamlessness and flow to her class structure and explanations, that I can absorb what she says and easily retain it. I really can start a jewelry line just with this class. She is amazing and LOVE her style!!!


I really enjoyed this class! Megan provides a great foundation for using metal sheets to design/make jewelry and using wire to make unique findings. This was a great class for learning the fundamentals and sparking inspiration for new projects

Vernell Bevelander

I LOVED this class! Megan is such a detailed teacher. She leaves no stone unturned. So much fun! Can't wait for my next class!