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Foundations in Metalsmithing: Statement Earrings

Lesson 6 of 21

Sawing Basics: Putting the Blade in the Saw Frame


Foundations in Metalsmithing: Statement Earrings

Lesson 6 of 21

Sawing Basics: Putting the Blade in the Saw Frame


Lesson Info

Sawing Basics: Putting the Blade in the Saw Frame

Our sawing basics. So, now is the time to actually get down to action. So, we're gonna start with our saw frame. And, as I mentioned in the first segment, we are not talking specifically about all of the tools here because there's a great pre-rec video. Hopefully, you guys all watched that, and there's a great video where I go into depth on all the tools, and if you guys haven't already RSVPed for the class, you can also get a PDF that includes links to where to buy things. But we're gonna start with our jeweler's saw. So, a jeweler's saw frame is really, really simple. It's a pretty ancient piece of equipment, actually. I don't know when they originated, but it's been around a really long time. And it's basically just a couple of pieces of metal that hold our saw blade in here. So, if you guys have ever used a scroll saw, and you think about a really little saw blade that kind of operates back and forth, this is the human equivalent of a scroll saw, it's human-powered. Now, saw frames...

come in a lot of different depths. So, what I've got here is I believe is a three-inch deep approximately saw frame. This is a really good place to start for something like your statement earrings. If you're doing really big projects, you may want something a little bit deeper, like a four-inch. I would not go out to a six-inch for anything that you're probably doing in jewelry because it's gonna be really awkward. So we have to think about, as I'm holding this in my hand, the more of this back here, the more wobbly it wants to be. So, I also don't usually go any narrower than this. You can get about a two-inch, but I find, a, they don't have a lot of flex, and b, they don't have a lot of depth. And as I mentioned, we need to be able to get in here with our metal, and we can get creative, and if our metal is bigger, I'll show you guys that in a minute. But so, we've got our saw frame, and there's a lot of different versions. They're fairly inexpensive. Just know that the fairly inexpensive ones so tend to break from time to time. We have a back-up one off-screen, I was like, I have to bring two saw frames just in case. So know that I might break, some of these parts might wear out. If you really get into sawing, you may wanna upgrade to something more expensive in the long run. But I find the cheap ones work just fine. So, now we've got our saw frame. The other thing that we need are our saw blades. So, saw blades come in a number of different sizes, and I'm gonna actually lay this down in our little magic spot here so that you can see. This is basically just practically looks like thread. So all it is is this tiny little piece with teeth that I'm gonna show you guys an exaggerated version of that. But, like pretty much anything else, our saw blades come in different sizes, and if you thought our metal gauge sizes were confusing, saw blades get even crazier. So, from zero and up, it makes sense, the higher the number, the thicker they get. But then, we have numbers that go from zero on down that are, you see, one slash zero. That's pronounced one-ought. Don't ask me why, I didn't make it up (chuckles), but we have like one-ought, two-ought, three-ought. So when you get to those, the bigger the number, the thinner the saw blade gets. Now, if you go online, you can find charts that are like if this is the gauge of metal, this is the saw blade size that you have to use. I am not that particular. This is one of the things you'll learn about me, I'm pretty improvisational, it's good enough, it's good enough. So, the general rule of thumb here is that the thinner the metal, and the more intricate the design, the thinner the blade you want to use because it's going to move easier through your metal. Now, that said, the thinner the saw blade, the more likely it is to break. Not a big deal, saw blades break all the time, it happens. But, so we wanna go not so thin that we're breaking a blade every six seconds. So, for your statement earring projects, I think a really good place to be is sort of between the zero and two-ought range. I recommend one-ought. It's nice, it's gonna hold a lot of detail for you, but it's not gonna break like crazy. If you're gonna do something really intricate, you could go down to two-ought, and it's one of those where, in the long run, if you get really excited about sawing and piercing, saw blades are cheap, just buy a couple of dozen. So they come by the dozen, as you can see here in our little pile here that has come in little coils of dozen. They're fairly cheap. Just buy a bunch of them, and you may find, oh, I really like a beefy saw blade that just cuts through the metal, or I want that thin so I can really get those detailed curves. Just buy a couple of different sizes in play. But I think a one-ought is a nice place to start. Now, let's talk about how to actually load our saw blade into our saw frame. So, because they're tiny, I wanted to do a little illustration for you guys, so saw blades have teeth, and they are directional. So we need to make sure that we're putting it in the right way. So if I were to look at my saw blade very, very, very, very closely, I could see these teeth. But because it's pretty hard to see, a nice trick is to run your fingernail down it. So, if your fingernail catches, that's upside down. I wanna run my fingernail, but I don't wanna mess up my nail polish. (chuckles) So, but if it runs nice and smooth, then we know it's facing the right direction. So then, if I've got my teeth in relationship to my saw frame, so you can see in our little illustration, I always want them to be facing out because I'm cutting forward and down. And again, just run that over there, and you always see. Now that we know the orientation, we have to set our tension. So when you get your saw blade or your saw frame for the first time, it's probably gonna look something like this, right? That's not the right proportion in relationship to our saw blade. So the first thing we wanna do is take this nut back here, open it up, and get the right length. And so, our right length is actually a little bit longer that our saw blade itself. Now, our saw blade is gonna go in-between, I don't know if we can see this here, there's two little plates that happen in our saw frame. And so, saw blade sits in-between them. And what we want is to make sure that we can actually put a little bit of flex in here. So I'm gonna open this up so that I've got it a little bit longer. Does that make sense, can you guys all kind of see what's happening there? Yeah. Okay, let's see, if we want to, we can do this. So, we've got these two little plates here. You guys see those one and two? And then our saw blade is gonna sit in these plates. And so, what I want, when I'm setting this depth, is that this should touch one end, but not touch all the way down here at the other. Make sense? So this is gonna give us enough from for this to flex. So when I've got that here, I'll go ahead and tighten this back. Now, what we're gonna do is go ahead and actually put this in here, again, checking my directions, so out and down. I'm gonna put it in the top piece here. So between our two plates, I'm gonna put that right in there, and I'm gonna tighten that. And I wanna make sure, when I'm doing this, that my saw blade is nice and straight coming out of here. What I don't want is it like sticking out a funky, I don't want this, because then when I bend it, it's gonna put a lot of stress on my blade, it's gonna wanna break it. So I wanna put this in here, nice and flat and even. Now, in order for your saw blade to work properly, we need this to be in here nice and tight. So this is where it gets a little tricky, and you're gonna kind of learn this over time. But what you're gonna do is you're gonna lean this up against something that doesn't move. So, in my own studio, I have a little kind of butcher block that I use to saw it, and it's on wheels, so I have to stand up and go someplace else because I don't want it to move. But what you're gonna do is put this here. I like to hold the handle, and I am right-handed, and so, I'm gonna hold it in my left. But what you'll find is that, because of where the nuts are, even if you're left-handed, I would still hold it in your left because you have to tighten these nuts with your right hand. Make sense? Now, I'm gonna lean against this. And so, some people will actually lean this against their sternum. That hurts. So what I do, is I hold this in my hand, and I press my chest against my hand. And so, what happens when I do that, if you guys can see hopefully, is that, see how my saw blade flexes? So I'll go ahead and lean this in here, and just like you do in the top, I'm gonna put the bottom one in-between my two plates. So much more nerve-wrecking when people are watching you. And I feel like, as I'm doing this, I really want this to hit the bottom here, and it's not. So that means my saw frame is just a little tall. I'm gonna shorten it just a little. Again, these are things that you will kind of see by feel. So I'm gonna just adjust that a little bit. Now, I'm gonna put that in there again, and then I'm just gonna lean until this touches. Hopefully, my table is not gonna slide too far. And put that in there. Now, it's really hard to actually visually tell that this is right. Luckily, there's a little cheat, which is you can take your fingernail and give this a ping. What we're looking for, I don't know if you guys can hear that, is a nice high-pitch sound. What we don't want, it's always easy just to do it wrong, that's real loose, but what we don't want is like this kind of twangy guitar thing happening or even something that's kind of in the middle where you've sort of got it. Hear that, not as high-pitched. So we want that really, really high-pitch sound, and that's gonna tell us. (high-pitch sound) Hear the difference? You always wanna check for that nice high-pitch sound. So if you are having trouble breaking a lot of saw blades, that's always the first thing, it's go back and check for your tension. Now, the next important thing in terms of getting ready is that we wanna actually put some lubrication on our saw blade. And this is gonna cut better if it's got something that's got a little bit of lubrication. This is a commercial product. You'll see things like BurLife or Cut Lube. It basically looks like a push pop of wax, and all we're gonna do is just run this along our blade here. So that's gonna make sure that we cut nicely. Now, in a pinch, you don't need this. You can use bar soap, I tend to steal bar soap from hotels. You can use bar soap, I've used a Christmas candle, and I was like, I can't find my BurLife, oh, look, there's a candle. Okay, we're good to go. So you can use pretty much anything that's got some wax in it. This will work better. This is definitely your best option, it's not very expensive. So, we always wanna make sure that we're in there nice and tight, and we have our lubricant on there.

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!