Do your #squadgoals include wearing matching handmade jewelry? Are you looking to make multiples of your jewelry designs? Making brass templates is an easy solution to recreating intricate patterns again and again.
This tutorial will go through the process of taking a design and turning it into a template made of brass that can be traced onto other materials.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- center punch
- steel block
- drill press
- jeweler's saw frame and blades
- needle files
- chasing hammer
- 20 gauge brass
- rubber cement
- tracing paper
- sand paper
- masking tape
- burlife or wax
Step 2: Design and Trace
Start by selecting a design that you would like to use over and over. I am obsessed with geometric/abstracted floral imagery and it often finds a way into my designs. I plan on soldering this design onto a ring, working it into some earrings, and connecting a bunch together to form a necklace. I like making templates for components that can be used in multiple ways.
- Once you have a design you like, grab your tracing paper! Using tracing paper allows you to save your original drawing without having to redraw your pattern for cutting.
- Use your masking tape to secure one of the edges of the tracing paper onto your design page. This will prevent your paper from siding around while going over your design.
- I start by tracing with pencil (I feel like I have more control) then go over it with permanent marker. Permanent marker wont smudge and rub off like pencil when sawing out your design.
Step 3: Gluing With Rubber Cement
For all of you about to skip through this step, hear me out!
Back in my college days, taking a Design course, I was mildly insulted that learning how to glue things together was part of the course. However, after learning the helpful tips and tricks of using rubber cement, I was convinced that it was my life goal to spread the good news of extra secure adhesion! There is nothing worse than having your design become unglued while in the middle of a project. Its the type of annoyance that leads me to becoming unhinged in the middle of a project!
- Roughly cut out your design from the tracing paper then grab your sheet metal and rubber cement.
- Apply a thin layer of the glue to the wrong side of your tracing paper and to the metal as well.
- Allow both to dry --you can speed this process by blowing on the pieces, (make sure your paper doesn't fly away!), or by waving them around aka the "glue dry faster" dance.
- When both are as tacky as the dance you just performed stick them together.
- Burnish the paper down with your fingernail.
Step 4: Drilling
If your design has interior shapes that need to be cut out you will need to drill holes for your saw blade to fit through.
Before heading to the drill press you should create divots in your metal to help guild the drill bit.
- Grab your steel block, center punch, and chasing hammer.
- Place your metal on the steel block.
- Position the center punch near the edge of one of the shapes you wish to cut out.
- Give a tap on the other end of the center punch with your chasing hammer.
- You are looking to create a small notch to help guide your drill bit--it doesn't have to be too deep.
When you have created the divots as pictured, head over to the drill press. When using a drill press there are a few safety precautions to follow:
- tie back long hair and remove any clothing or jewelry that might get caught in the machine
- wear eye protection
- use a wood block under your design as a buffer
I use a #55 drill bit but you can go smaller or larger depending on what you have on hand.
While the drill press is OFF line up one of your divots in the metal with the bit. Bring the bit down so that it hits the center of the divot. Raise the bit back up while keeping your metal in place.
Turn the drill on and once again lower the bit down so that it begins to cut through the metal.
When drilling metal it is best to take small "bites". Push down and let up on the bit so that the extra material can clear out.
When you see sawdust bits coming up you know you have made it through the metal to the wood
- Repeat this process with the remaining divots
Step 5: Sawing
Now that your holes are drilled its time to cut out your shape
- Use burr life or some sort of wax on your saw blade to help it glide through the metal.
- Let your tool do the work! When sawing think of the motion as pulling down rather than pushing forward. The teeth on your blade are pointed down and will cut propelling your blade forward as you pull down.
- When you get to a sharp corner saw in place as you slowly turn your blade.
- Cut out your interior shapes first while you have the extra exterior metal to hold onto.
- Since this is going to be a traced template cut the lines thinner than you want your other projects to be. Tracing adds some bulk to a design.
Step 6: Filing and Sanding
Once you have your design cut out its time to clean up the edges.
Filing is good for minor shaping and taking down and rough edges. You will find that where you begin and end your sawing there is a small notch of metal. Needle files are a quick way to smooth these out.
- Hold file perpendicular to your design
- Filing in one direction gives you more control
- Avoid filing too long in one spot so you don't create notches
Sanding is good for smoothing edges and putting an even finish on either face of the metal.
- Always sand in the same direction.
- Since this is a template the finish does not have to be a high polish.
- I use a sandpaper with a grit somewhere in the 300's.
Step 7: Use You New Template!
Your brass tracing template is ready to use. Grab the material you plan on using for your next project and trace the shape again and again and again!
Brass tracing templates are great for a project that requires multiple matching components or if you are looking to make a production line of matching pieces.
Go get busy making!