The jeweler’s saw is a fundamental jewelry-making tool. It’s one of the first and most important tools found on every jeweler’s bench. That said, each jeweler has a different set of criteria for his or her saw at any given time. If you take a quick look at the Rio Grande tools catalog you’ll see over two pages of jeweler’s saw frames, and a veritable sea of saw blades. How is a jeweler to decide?
To help guide us through some of the nuances of jeweler’s saws, I turned to Mark Nelson, of Rio Grande's technical department.
Rio Grande: Hi Mark, and thanks for helping me tackle this subject. First off, if I counted them correctly, I see nearly two dozen different saw frames offered by Rio Grande. Why so many?
Mark: Well, every jeweler has a different need to meet with their sawing. In fact many jewelers will own several saw frames and choose them according to the job. All of the saws are adjustable, but each saw frame has a maximum 'throat depth' – this is how deep into a piece you can cut before you run out of working room. But, really deep-throated saws can be harder to control, so most people go for a saw with a 3″ deep throat. Other considerations are the heft of the saw frame and the comfort of the handle.
RG: So once I’ve selected the saw frame I want to use, how do I choose which saw blade to use? There are so many! Rio Grande sells Laser Gold blades, Laser Blades, Herkules White Label, Rio German Saw Blades, and “Jeweler’s Saw Blades.” Why so many different choices?
Mark: It can be a bit confusing. I help customers every week with this question. I like to recommend Laser Gold saw blades, as they really do seem to break less often. But I have one customer who swears by the Herkules blades— he uses them to cut steel plates and he feels they are sharper and last longer than other brands. Some customers really like the rounded backs of the Rio German saw blades. The curved backs make cutting curves and corners easy.
RG: Do you consider and mention price when you’re recommending blades to customers?
Mark: Not really. While there are slight price differences, they’re minor. It really comes down which blade meets each jeweler’s personal need.
RG: I see there are a lot of different sizes offered. How do I know which size to use?
Mark: Check out this chart:
This chart is a real life-saver. Just find the blade recommended for the gauge thickness of the metal you are sawing. Generally speaking, if you are cutting a lot of straight lines, bigger blades are nice, but if you are doing a lot of curves, I’d go for a smaller size. A good rule is to have a couple teeth of the saw on the metal at all times. And remember to use some BurLife on your blades. It really does make sawing easier, and it extends the life of your saw blades.
RG: Mark, do you have any other advice?
Mark: I wish I could offer clearer recommendations, but unfortunately that’s hard to do with saws and saw blades. It’s like trying to recommend shoes. But I’d like to mention what you can do with broken saw blades. Just off the top of my head, you can use them as glue stick applicators, you can use them to apply Black Max to gold, or even chuck them up in a pin vice and use them as a mini file. They work great on wax if you carve. I bet our customers have come up with other creative uses, too.
RG: Thanks Mark, for your expert advice!