The Jeweler's Saw: One of the first tools you learn to use when beginning working in metals. When you start a metals project you will almost always begin with a sheet of metal. This fabulous tool is what you use to cut out shapes, circles and slits.
A basic jewelers saw has a "C" shape frame and a wood or plastic handle. Saw blades are usually bought separately and come in different sizes. You use specific sizes to cut different gauges of metal. For example a number 2 saw blade would be good for cutting a 16 or 18 gauge sheet of metal. A 2/0 has much smaller teeth and would be good for cutting 24 or 22 gauge metal. It has to do with the number of teeth for the thickness of metal. Another thing to remember is you always want the teeth facing down and toward the metal. There should be a nice tension on the blade as well. Just enough so if you pluck the blade it goes "ting".
Before you begin cutting it is helpful to run your blade over a wax block for lubrication. Learning to use a jeweler saw for the first time can be a bit frustrating as many blades snap while you learn the movement and tension needed. Most beginners have a tendency to apply to much forward pressure, ending up in a snapped blade. It is well worth the effort to keep practicing, as the process can greatly expand the range of pieces you can create.
Below is an example of a piece I created that consists of different layers of silver and copper, the intricate patterns all handout with a jewelers saw.
I am putting this post up, and maybe a few more in the future, to give a bit of information on some of the basic metalsmithing tools and techniques that I commonly use. I get a lot of people that walk into my work space and are intrigued by all the fun toys I have so I thought why not explain what I use them for.
Here is the Flexible Shaft Machine, a tool that almost everyone asks me about, and also a tool that I use nearly everyday. While there are many makes and models the machine has three basic parts: a motor, a foot pedal that controls the speed of the motor, and the hand-piece.
There are a few different types of hand-pieces, the one I have is pretty basic and has three prongs that open and close using a jacob chuck. The prongs close tightly and hold attachments such as drill bits or cutting, sanding, and polishing discs. If you want to spend a little more, there is also a quick change handpiece which is allows you to change the attachments faster.
With a lot of the pieces I have been making lately I use the flex shaft to drill holes, sand and polish pieces. Overall this is one of my favorite tools as it has so many uses, and helps save a TON of time.
If you are in the market, here is a link to the flex shaft system I have, here. I would also consider adding the quick change handpiece.
One other thing to mention is the Dremel. I know many jeweler's that use a handheld wireless Dremel tool. If you are starting out this may be a great affordable solution. While they are comparable, the advance of the flex shaft is that you have control over the speed, and don't have to worry about battery life. Also as you get more advanced, a interchangable hand-piece may be important.
What tool do you use the most in your studio?