Ask an Expert: How to Choose a Jewelry Saw

There are dozens of saw frames on the market now, and it can be overwhelming to know which one to choose when you first start out making jewelry.  Over the years I have collected quite a few, and will guide you through the process of choosing the best saw for you.   But first let me share my very best sawing tip, this bike handle with fringe always gets a lot of laughs at workshops!

My personal workshop saw. This is a copy of a German saw, to which I’ve added a bicycle grip for ease of sawing, and also a sparkly pink handlebar fringes….no one ever walks off with this one—I’ve used it at workshops for over 10 years!

In all seriousness though, the addition of the bicycle grip does help you hold the saw better.  Just make sure you aren’t gripping it too hard, also known as the sawing “death grip”.  Try to hold the handle lightly, with two fingers, your thumb and index finger, gently pushing the saw forward.

Here are some things to consider when choosing a saw:

  • Size
  • Adjustability
  • Construction
  • Cost
Size

To start with, the most common size for saw frames are 3″ and 5″.  This refers to the distance between the saw blade and the back of the saw frame; this measurement is also known as the “throat”.  After you have been making jewelry long enough, you will probably have both sizes–or more–to use for different jobs.  The 3″ frame is lighter and more nimble, while the 5″ frame is slightly heavier, making it a little more difficult for the beginner to control.  However, the extra 2 inches of working area you gain with the 5″ frame means you will be able to saw designs from most sheets of metal with ease.  If you work on a larger scale, saw frames can go as large as an 11″ throat.

Adjustability

Some frames are adjustable in height, which gives you the benefit of reusing broken saw blades–trust me, there will be many at first–in your saw frame.  As a beginner though, you may not want to be adjusting the frame frequently, as it can be difficult to get the tension just right.

This is a traditional German saw design, made in India, which is best for light use. They usually have plastic handles, which often come off with heavier use. It is adjustable.

This Swiss Bigoutio saw is non-adjustable and expensive.  I wasn’t in love with it, but many people are.

Construction

As with most things, you definitely “get what you pay for” when it comes to saw frames.  German-style frames have been the standard for a very long time.  The design of the saw frame has in fact, remained relatively the same for hundreds of years, until recently when a few new designs have come onto the market.

If you are beginning to saw, German-style frames are a good place to start.  The German-made saws cost a few dollars more but offer sturdier construction than Indian-made copies of German saws.

My all-time favorite saw that I’ve used for 30+ years. Its the French Samson 5″ saw—heavy duty (notice the wing nuts and thicker construction).

3″ Samson Saw. Another favorite, very heavy, very sturdy and great for straight lines. Not as wide as the other saw, and good for getting into intricate spaces.

My favorite French-made Samson saw that I have had for 30+ years is no longer carried in the U.S. that I can find, so if you find one, I highly recommend it.  They are well-made and sturdy.

The 5 inch Knew Concepts saw, very lightweight, and made of aluminum.  This one has a convenient lever to adjust the tension of the sawblade.  It’s easy to use, but takes some practice putting the blade in and adjusting the tension. I use this saw a LOT! Very accurate, but not adjustable in height, so you won’t be able to use broken saw blades in this one.

If you find that you are doing a lot of sawing, I highly recommend splurging on a Knew Concepts saw.  These are one of the newer designs on the market, and they really do a great job.  The aluminum frame is lighter and the tensioning system, especially the model with the lever, will save you a lot of time over the long run when switching out blades.

Some people complain about the sawblades not catching when tightened.  If this happens to you, remove the bottom screw and blow out the metal dust, which has a tendency to accumulate in the bottom hole.  This usually fixes the problem.

It looks cool hanging on my tool wall, but you cannot adjust it if you break a blade. But I have used it sometimes, just to use it.

One of the coolest-looking saw frames is the SobaOne frame from GreenLion Studios.  Made by hand by the designer, he can barely keep up with demand.  Perfect for the tool collector with discriminating taste.

I’ve also seen that Kevin Potter of Potter Tools has been designing new frames, but haven’t had a chance to use one yet.

Cost

Frames vary in cost from $11 to over $100, so there is a definitely a frame for every budget.   If you are just starting out, start with a 3″ or 5″ frame of either:

  • $10-$15 – German-style copies made in India.
  • $16-$20 – German-made saw frames, in my opinion, are worth the extra few dollars, especially if you know you plan to continue to make jewelry for a long time.

Once you’ve tried it out and know you are going to continue sawing, I would suggest getting a 3″ or 5″ (the size you didn’t pick first) of either a German-made saw, or if your budget allows, the Knew Concepts style saw.  Knew Concepts has three designs of frames:

  • $47-50 – Knew Concepts Original Design uses a screw to create tension in the blade.
  • $65-70 – Knew Concepts Saw with Cam Lever – set your preferred tension once, then simply use a lever to release the tension to change out saw blades, and flip the lever back after you have loaded a blade.  It is a big time saver and my favorite.
  • $93-100 – Knew Concepts  Saw with Cam Lever and Swivel – the saw has an additional feature of swiveling the blade either 45 degrees left or right to give you more options when sawing, which you may find especially helpful on a larger piece of metal.

We’ll continue our conversation on sawing in the next edition, where I will share my tips with you to get the best results using your new saw frame.

Lexi Erickson, President of Wubbers University, is an internationally-known artist and teacher based in Denver, CO.  

Advertisements
Posted in Jewelry Tips, Sawing, Tools

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: