Saturday, November 20, 2010

Make Your Own Washers

Trio of Washers Pendant with Blue Patina
Circles are a common theme in jewelry. Spend some time in an art history course or in almost museum and you will find examples of circles in jewelry made by almost all cultures across the globe and dating back to early man.

The other day we received an email asking how to make washers. Oops. We realized we covered the basics of how to cut circles and disks in the following tutorials:

How to Use a Disc Cutter
Make Your Own Discs with a Disc Cutter
How to Dome Metal
How to Use a Jewelry Saw

...but the writer was correct. We never explained how to make a washer.

Washers are very easy to make and different metalsmiths do so in different ways using different tools. The easiest way to cut washers is to use a disk cutter.
Step 1
Mark the size washer you want. Select the two holes in your disc cutter. The larger hole will be the size of your washer. The smaller hole will be the size of the hole your create in your washer.
Step 2
Slide in Sheet Metal
Slide the sheet metal into your disc cutter. Use a mallet or hammer to cut the small center hole in the sheet metal.
Step 3
Hit Disc Cutter with Mallet
Mark where you want to cut the second larger hole. Slide the sheet metal with the small hole back into the disk cutter and then cut the larger hole. The result will be a completed washer.
Step 4
File, sand, drill, form and polish the washer as needed for your project.
Tips
Cutting the interior of the washer first makes it easier to handle the sheet metal when you cut the washer. Cutting the interior first also allows you to create interesting, off centered washers as as well as the traditional centered washer.

Commonly Asked Question
So the follow up question inevitable is: what disc cutter works best?

In our budget conscious small studio, we use a generic six piece disc cutter that looks like this:
6 Pc Jeweler's Disc Cutter Puncher Tool Set 1" to 5/8"
More than once I wished we had a larger seven piece or 14 piece disc cutter like these:
14 Disc Cutters Jewelers Holder Metalworking Punches
Disc Cutter 7pc Set Jewelers Metalworking Punch Tool
Over the years, we have worked in a variety of studio settings using a variety of disc cutters. Those used in a college metalsmithing setting were the most abused, but they all worked. Price your tools and pick one that fits your budget and your needs.

When selecting tools, the rule is simple: buy the best tools you can afford and make the tools you use work for you. More than once, we needed to get out our flex shaft to sand and polish the sides of our disc cutter and sharpen the cutting edge of the cutter to make it work better.

Remember, you do not need a disk cutter to make washers. You can use a jewelry saw. Disc cutters just make the job quicker.

Happy metalsmithing!

1 comment:

Leslie Lim said...

I love reading, I love blogging, and I love comments! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and have a wonderful day!

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