The ability to fabricate parts from sheet metal is a basic, albeit important skill when it comes to creating jewelry by hand. It doesn't require many tools, and its a great way to bring your own designs to life.
Step 1: Materials Needed
Cutting metal does not require many tools though there are many that can be helpful in cleaning up your work at the end.
Non-Ferrous Sheet Metal -I'm using a piece of scrap brass)
A sturdy surface to cut on that you don't mind roughing up a bit
A Marker for transferring your design onto the metal
Sawing Lubricant -Helps you cut straight and cleaner lines.
A Drill or Drill Press -The metal I'm using already had holes in it. While it is certainly possible to make designs without this it opens up more possibilities.
Safety Glasses - Better to be safe than sorry.
Needle and/or Riffler Files
Sandpaper of several fine grits
Step 2: Transfer Your Design
The First step should be to sketch out a design you want to cut.
I'm working around the holes that are already in this scrap piece to make it into a pendant.
Transfer the sketch onto the metal with a permanent marker.
Most markers will rub off as you are working so you may have to redraw a few places as you work.
Step 3: Saw Blades
Jeweler's saw blades come in many different sizes and usually in bundles like this.
You should look up the best blade size to use with the gauge of metal you plan to cut.
To insert the saw blade you should first adjust the height of the saw frame to fit the blade, the screw on the back of the saw frame controls this.
Then unscrew both the top and bottom parts of that clamp down on the blade and insert the blade into the saw frame taking care to note that the serrated side of the blade is facing away from the frame and that the teeth are pointing down.
When it is inserted tighten the top and then pull the blade towards you as you tighten the bottom so that the blade is even and held tight with no wobbling.
If done correctly the blade should make a small noise like a guitar string when plucked lightly.
Step 4: Sawing
As you make the first cut into the metal you may find the blade has a tendency to slip a bit. This can be remedied by using the blade to make a small notch where you want to cut into to make sure it stays there. The process of cutting is rather simply the same as any other saw but the jeweler's saw's thin blade can make a lot of fine turns and movements as it cuts.
The saw should cut in fluid motions raising the saw up and then letting the weight of the saw and your hand pull it down on the cutting stroke.
Always try to keep the material and the saw near surface you are cutting on if the metal is hanging out in space it has a tendency to bounce up and down as you saw and possibly break the blade.
Especially if you are new at this expect to break several blades as you work. This is why they come in packages with large numbers of them.
But to minimize this chance you should be careful as you make any turn while cutting and slow down when you encounter more resistance than usual and attempt to correct whatever is causing it.
Twists and turns should be made slowly with plenty of leeway and backing out of a turn should also be done with care.
While cutting metal dust may build up. Clear this out of the way so you can still see your guidelines as you cut. It may be necessary to redraw them.
As I am cutting some of the inside of the piece first i have inserted the saw blade through the hole. This can be done simply by threading it through the hole in the metal before tightening it in the bottom of the saw frame.
As you cut the outside of the piece the area you have to hold on to becomes smaller.
Be mindful to keep good pressure down on the piece as you are cutting, and never cut towards yourself!
Step 5: Sanding and Filing
When your piece is cut out you may want to use some needle or riffler files to clean up the edges of your cuts this can greatly improve the look of the finished piece.
When filing file only on one stroke up or down but not both. (Think of a comb, going through once and then lifting up and returning to the beginning)
When that is done use sandpaper to shine up the piece.
Go from the lowest grit sandpaper you have to the highest rubbing in only one direction to give the best shine.
After sanding and filing you may wish to explore what you want to do with the piece you have just cut. Drilling a hole into it and inserting a jump ring can be an easy way to make it into a pendant or necklace but there are many things to experiment with now that you know the basics of cutting.