Tool Time Tuesday – Piercing

Thank you all so much for your outpouring of congratulations, love and support of our soon to be addition. As promised, I have set up another blog for those that wish to follow the pregnancy. I have a couple of entries on there so far, but nothing much. If you would like to  visit, it is located at . It won’t email updates like this blog does, but you can always check in from time to time to see how things are going. My girls are getting excited and my oldest is being really good at helping me out now that morning sickness has settled in.

Tool Time Tuesday- Piercing

I LOVE to pierce. I didn’t used to like it, but once I got the hang of it, it kind of got addicting. It is something that I can do while thinking about other things. My friend Valerie just returned from The New Approach School for Jewelers and has helped me once again in doing the pictures for this tutorial.

There are a lot of great saws out there and you will have to experiment to see which one you like best. For this tutorial Valerie wanted to try her hand at my new saw from Knew Concepts. I bought mine from She carries several sizes of frames, but I will be showing the smaller frame which is 3 inches.

When threading your saw blade, you want to make sure you keep the saying “Down and Out” in mind. You teeth on the blade should point out away from the back of the frame and they should also point down. If you run your finger upward along the face of the blade the teeth should catch a little bit on your skin. Obviously, you don’t want to push too hard for this exercise. You will pay dearly if you do.

How do you know when the blade is tight enough? Funny enough, you have to listen to it. Once you have your blade secure in both the top and bottom nuts, then give it a slight pluck. Kind of similar to how a string instrumentalist will pluck their string to hear if it is in tune. If you hear a dull “thud,” you do not have it tight enough. If you here a night high “ping,” chances are you did it correctly.

To start the project we have a piece of 18 gauge sheet of copper, template of what we will be cutting out and some rubber cement.

Apply a thin coat of rubber cement to the copper or sheet metal.

While the sheet dries, apply a thin  layer of rubber cement on the back of your design and let it dry.

This next step requires a steady hand as you only have one shot at this. Once both the metal and design are dry, apply the design to the metal. The dry rubber cement surfaces will hold tightly to one another.

Using a center punch and hammer make divots where you will drill holes into the design that you will be cutting out. In this case we will be cutting out all the black areas. We have made two divots in each little section. This makes it kind of nice if you get into a spot where you can’t back your saw blade out.

This is our design once we have all the divots made. We now take a small drill bit (about 20 gauge) and drill holes in each of these little divots. The purpose of this step is so that your drill will have a place to settle as you get started and doesn’t skip all around the piece.

The key to working with the drill is to go slowly. Let your bit have enough time to really grab onto the metal so it can drill it out of the way. If you go too fast, then the bit will burn out, break or just spin and not do anything. Make sure you use plenty of lubricant while doing this. If your bit gets too hot, it will get dull.

We have now drilled all the little holes. It is time to thread it onto our blade and start piercing.  Thread the blade through one of the holes. Rest the piece on the bottom of the saw frame so it doesn’t move your blade or put any stress on the blade. You will not be able to get your tension correct if that happens.

Here you can see a couple of different things. Valerie is sitting straight and the piece she is piercing is about chest height. This is important. You don’t want to be slumping. If you have a normal table, you can use bed risers under the legs to get it up to about the right height. Also notice the angle of her arms . This should be comfortable. If you are straining, then move around until you are more comfortable.

You body should be flexible and limber. If you are stiff it is going to hurt and cause problems down the line.

In this picture you will see two very important things. 1) The frame is held off to the side so she can see what she is doing. 2) look at her fingers and grip on the saw frame. This is how it should be held. The grip is VERY light, held with only the thumb, forefinger and middle finger. Your saw goes up and down, never side to side, never turning or twisting.

Keep your wrist still. It doesn’t bend at all. only your arm from your elbow goes up and down. The piece moves as your blade stays in place going up and down, up and down, kind of like a sewing machine.

You can see here that most of the piece is nearly finished on the inside design. Notice that her frame and hand position hasn’t changed from when she started.

As you pierce, use the entire length of the blade. Small short strokes just aren’t as effective as long broad strokes. Keep the blade moving and try not to stop. Use an even stroke. Once you get the hang of it, you will certainly get into a rhythm.

This is just another shot as we are now working on the last inside piece.

The piece is now completely cut out on the inside. Looks kind of cool huh?

The final piece after only piercing. We still need to go back with some files and do the final clean up work. If you do this with too thin of metal it won’t work very well as it won’t stay stable while piercing. Just something to keep in mind.

If you would like to try this, just print this picture out and have FUN!

How do you know what size of blade to use? The rule of thumb is to have 3 – 5 teeth per thickness of material with a 3 tooth minimum. You can find a fantastic PDF document that shows the saw blades, hole sizes and metal thicknesses at Contenti.

For this piece we used a 4/0 blade. The way the blades run are kind of like this:

LARGE: 8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1  1/0  2/0  3/0  4/0  5/0  6/0  7/0  8/0 Tiny

The blades are thinner on the back than on the front. This helps when you are making turns or even straight cuts. This way the blade doesn’t get stuck in something you just cut.

9 thoughts on “Tool Time Tuesday – Piercing

  1. Robin

    Do you have to thread the sawblade through one of the holes before putting it into the handle? Or is there a trick to getting it started?

  2. Robin

    Do you thread the saw blade through one of the holes before you put it into the handle? That means you undo the blade each time you move to another section?

  3. Janet Foster

    How long did it take to cut out this piece? I’m still getting the hang of using a saw and it’s pretty frustrating. I’m the queen of the broken saw blades.

  4. Melissa Muir

    Hi Robin, Yes, you thread the blade through the hole and begin to cut. Once you finish one section you must unthread your blade and move it on to the next one… just as you were thinking. It does get time consuming, but so worth it in the end.

    I went back in and edited the article to reflect that. Thank you for asking as I didn’t do a very good job explaining that part.

    Hopefully it makes more sense now.


  5. Melissa Muir


    Hang in there. We actually got through this piece in under and hour and only broke two saw blades. I buy my blades by the gross anymore. The more you do this the better you will get. Just wait until you get done with one piece without breaking any blades. It is the best feeling in the world!!!


  6. Angie

    Those are some beautiful cuts!!! One thing I do when I actually have a design I want to saw (on a small scale), is to print it on an address label, cut it down and stick that to the metal. Then cut away!!!

  7. Mickey

    I accidentally found the post and don’t want to stop reading. Your instructions are just what I have been looking for… Thank you.

  8. Yasmin

    Although I have finished my first year as a jewellery apprentice n London – the technique of holding the saw frame was never explained like this, thank you for your help 🙂


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