I have been asked by number of people to continue with the series I started a while ago with the post 'Cold Metal'. There will be some overlap with that post and you may want to read it first. I'll also include a bit more info that I think may help other folks who are playing with silver, hopefully without boring those who are not!
The main, and certainly trickiest part of what I do is the sawing. In jewelry making what is shown here is called 'piercing', which is making cut outs in the sheet silver. When you start out, this is also the most unbelievably frustrating part, as the saw blades are quite small and under quite a bit of tension. They break rather easily.
Here's a photo of the drill bit I used to make the holes that I feed the blade through:
This is about the smallest drill bit I can use, a #71. Smaller would often be better, but they tend to bind up in the fairly heavy gauge silver I use & break off. So I mostly use the #71's or larger. The blade shown is a '7/0' which is very fine. The smallest blades that I know of are 8/0, and I haven't worked up (or down!) to those yet. I only recently started with the 7/0's, after mainly using 6/0's for the past year. For the tiny internal spaces, smaller is better. Oh, and the nomenclature is indeed weird. The blade sizes from largest to smallest are #4, 3, 2, 1, then 1/0, 2/0 on down to the 8/0's. I mainly use 3/0's for roughing out pieces (in my world this is a huge blade, even though it's really quite small, context being everything) and the finer work is all 6/0 and 7/0's at this point. If you have been following my work for a year or so, you may have noticed that the detail work has improved radically (or maybe you haven't, it is very obvious to me!)- part of this is me gaining the skill to use fine & finer saws.
Although some places sell them by the dozen, this is how you normally buy saw blades- a gross (144) of 7/0's:
Here's a Veneficium Cross after I have drilled it and done the first cut. This is about the maximum length of cut I can get out of a 7/0 in my 16ga (1.3mm) thick silver. I actually dumped the first blade I used well before that, as it sucked.
Digression: Here's a tip for people piercing silver, especially newbies! There must have once been a time when saw blades were very rare. We know this because you still find people who talk about using their broken saw blades by adjusting the saw frame down to fit the smaller piece. This is pretty weird to me! A gross of saw blades not very expensive, and especially if you use small blades on thick sheet, you should be dulling out and tossing more blades than you break. A dull blade is a problem already happening, you just don't know it yet! Also, you should know that no matter how good the blades you use are, some of them will suck, and you should toss them as soon as you notice this. They will be really hard to keep on track, cut very slow...essentially, they are born dull and need to be killed for the good of the piece you are working on. In other words, once you get past the point where your saw blades last for a minute or two a piece, and instead last for 10 to 20 minutes or more, start junking them when you notice a decrease in control & performance. It may help (I know it worked for me) to tell yourself that they are 'disposable' in the sense toilet paper is, rather than in the way a disposable razor is.
After the sigil is cut out, I go to the 'heavy' saw blade to cut out the 'frame'. This is a 3/0 blade in my Grandfather's old Dixon saw frame. All the rough work gets done with this saw.
And here's all three pieces of the 'top' layer of the Veneficium Cross piece: Sigil, 'frame' and waste. The waste gets collected and when I have a couple of pounds I send it to gets sent out to be refined back into sheet metal. Even the silver sawdust get's recycled this way.
Then the 'frame' and the sigil get cleaned up. The sigil just gets a quick sand & hit with an abrasive brush- just to clean it up enough to see if it came out good enough to use. I reject somewhere on average of 10-20% of the sigils I cut out. This one looks pretty good.
The frame gets filed now, with a half-round file, to knock down any high or rough spots, and get a nice smooth edge started:
It then gets finished with the high-speed hand piece & a few different abrasive wheels to get a fully clean inner edge and slightly rounded top edge, as I really won't be able to much to it after things get soldered up:
Here's all the components, after the sawing and steps shown:
Like many things, the main key to this work seems to be focus & flow. This is of course easier to find the more time one has at the bench.
More on the later steps coming soon! Questions or comments? I'll try to respond to any & all.