Sawing is one of my favorite fabrication techniques. It is amazing what you can create with a simple jewelers saw and a piece of sheet metal. Like many skills, sawing well requires good instruction and a lot of practice. Reading a blog is no substitute for the visuals in a video or live class. But these reminders will help you to make quicker progress as you learn. Here are some of the tips I repeat often when teaching Halstead staff members how to use a saw.
- Practice threading your saw blades – If you are new to sawing, take a deep breath and prepare to spend some time and frustration learning how to thread your saw blade. Properly threading your saw is half the battle when using sawing techniques. Your blade must be quite taut to be effective. If you can press on the side of your saw blade with your finger and get the blade to curve then it is too loose.
- Keep your saw straight up and down – People who are new to sawing are so focused on their metal that they forget to concentrate on the saw blade. Jewelers saws are designed to work best when they are kept completely upright at a 90 degree angle to your sheet metal. The only time you should tip your saw forward is on your initial stroke when you are trying to get the blade to bite into your metal. While you are sawing remember to keep checking your form and keeping your blade straight up and down.
- Lengthen your strokes – Similarly, when focused on a tiny space in front of you it is easy to forget to take nice long sawing strokes. Use the whole length of the saw blade to cut and you will find that progress is smoother and easier.
- Don’t push – If you are using correct form you should not need to exert forward pressure on your saw blade. Just use the up and down sawing motion instead of trying to push the blade forward to cut. Too much pressure on your blade will cause it to break.
- Use cut lube – A lubricant such as cut lube, or beeswax makes a world of difference. Apply lube every minute or so when you are sawing. You don’t even have to move your saw blade out of your metalwork; just pause, apply lubricant, and then keep on sawing.
- Use your ears – After just a little bit of practice you will pick up the feel for what correct sawing is like. This technique is also full of auditory cues. You will hear your saw blade ping at a very high pitch when it is threaded well. You will hear the long, smooth sawing strokes as you cut through your metal. Your ears will tell you if your strokes shorten too much or you find yourself pushing on your blade because you will hear rough, heavy grinding. The same is true when your lubricant begins to run out and the sawing sound changes to more of a baritone. Listen carefully and you will learn even faster.
Always wear goggles or glasses when sawing. When saw blades snap they tend to go flying so protect yourself!