cutting out multiple patterns

Whitesmithing | |

Hi, I have searched this site and have not found an answer to my question so I thought that I would ask all the talented people here.

My question is, "What is the best most economical and fastest way to cut multiple patterns?" I am working with 30ga. copper. I have a small shop and I have been cutting my patterns out one at a time with heavy duty scissors by tracing the pattern each time. I have also tried placing about 5 layers of copper sandwiched between thin plywood and cut it out on my scrollsaw. The problem with that is, I can't find any metal cutting scrollsaw blades. I went through 8 spiral blades and cut out 2 flower petals which would really be 10 petals total; it only took 1-1/2hrs!
I am running out of ideas so I thought that I would ask you guys because I am sure you have been in my shoes before.

Thanks in advance for any advice you have for me.

Ries's picture

Well, first, metal cutting

Well, first, metal cutting scroll saw blades-

These guys have em all. Every size, tooth count, and application. They will mail order, and are an old, high quality company.

Then- cutting lots of petals, for flowers. The way its usually done is- send it out, to someone with a laser. Laser cutting is the best way for this- every part will be exactly right, as many as you want, no bends, nicks, or gouges.
The downside, of course, is that it costs money.

Somebody like Randy McDaniels, another metalsmith, could do this for you, or, in most parts of the country, there are local places.

You can even buy pre cut flower petals, in steel, which many blacksmiths use to make metal flowers.

The alternative is to just get really fast with snips. After the first few hundred, it becomes second nature.

With copper that thin, theoretically, you could stamp them- but to do that effectively means making a die for each shape, which is pretty precise and labor intensive, involving machining. Then, you need a press. And unless you use a high speed OBI punch press, its not any faster than cutting em by hand. So if you really need 1000 a day, this would be a good way to go. Its the way the old line findings guys used to do it- places like Frank Morrow, in Rhode Island, have hundreds of dies, each weighing a couple hundred pounds, and which took a skilled machinist a week to make- but they last virtually forever, and you can always pull one down and run another 500 parts.
Morrow will sell you any of a few dozen designs of flat petals, in copper, or most any other metal you want.

marilyn's picture

You can have pancake dies

You can have pancake dies cut and use them with a hydraulic press or even a vice. Check out marilyn

Rich Waugh's picture

Joe, Not surprisingly, I


Not surprisingly, I agree with everything Ries said. I will add that I have cut literaly thousands of metal letters out of stock anywhere from .020" to 2" thick on my Delta Q3 scroll saw without any problems.

The right blade and right operating speed make all the difference in the world with a scroll saw. I have use jewelers' saw blades on mine many times, using a slow stroke rate. On 30 ga stock I would think that you should be able to cut out a 4" cloverleaf piece in under two minutes or so.

If your pieces are large enough, another way to cut them is to use a sabre saw (jig saw) over 3" thick hard styrofoam insulating board. This allows you to cut detail on very thin stocdk without the stock flopping around all over the place. The styrofoam is thick enough that it never gets cut trhough so you cna use the same piece over and over again hundreds of times. With copper, the small high tooth-count hollow-ground finish blades used for plywood work fine and last pretty well when you're not snagging the teeth and breaking them.

ONe other possibility comes to mind for short runs of pieces in that thin copper. Chisel cutting. With a bit of practice, you can cut out complex shapes very rapidly using sharp chisels on a hard backing such as brass.

copperjoe's picture

cutting out multiple patterns

Thanks to everyone for their recommendations! I now have a lot of great links and ideas to add to my arsenal. I never knew that I could get these things pre-made.

I must also ask when these pre-made things become someone elses work that I am just assembling to make a piece. I am talking about the stamped objects like fish and such. I'm sure that there are lots of views on that subject, I just need to look within and figure that out on my own.


Can't never could do Nothing!

kpotter's picture

I have a heck tracer punch

I have a heck tracer punch it is like a nibler it will do quarter inchse steel but I have done lots of copper and aluminum with it you make a pattern and use the pattern to follow around the cutter siqn shops use them they are still in business and I see them on Ebay.

visitor's picture

30 gauge copper

I think you should try having the copper cut for you by a waterjet cutting service. They can cut several layers at once. Hope this is helpful. Stephen Kishel

Rick Crawford's picture

Search for scrollerbear here

Search for scrollerbear here on artmetal and you will find some info. I think he does fretwork in metal.

Rick Crawford at Smoky Forge

Stephen Fitz-Gerald's picture

cutting multiples

Stephen Fitz-Gerald

If it were me I would have them waterjet cut as Stephen Kishel mentioned. I have many multiple parts cut(when I can afford it or have a fat commission).My old man taught me to always have more parts made than you need for any given project in case there's some down fall or for exploring other variations with the same basic parts.
If it's stainless,I usually have them LASER CUT,in at least three different sizes like the flower heads in my Lilly Gate;
I can forge the blanks to different stages of opening like the real thing.
But in my experience laser cutting (at least this local facility) will not work with bronze or copper as the light gets reflected back and burns out the machine.
So if I need those metals cut I out source to PLASMA CUTTING.But it's not such a clean cut and always requires a bit of grinding or tumbling of the parts.
WATER JET CUTTING is fairly cheap,very clean and effective for thin parts,and no burned edge or heat warpage. And water jet cutting will cut ANYTHING (almost). I had some 1" thick glass cut once and it was just like butter,but not tempered glass. That won't work.It's possible that you could get a water jet facility to cut your thin copper and SEND you the cut parts. You'd have to send them a digital file of the part you want cut but they can give you multiple sizes at the flick of a switch,plus you only pay for the metal that's cut. I use Trident Water jet cutting in Napa,Ca.(707) 299-1001
Mark Morganmander went to Cal Tech and is quite brilliant with the machine...