Hi, introducing myself and a question



I am relatively new to metal fabrication. I have taken two semesters of metal sculpture at a school in Manhattan. We learned traditional gas welding and cutting as well as mig welding and plasma cutting. I am now not able to afford another class at the moment and would like to be able to cut metal at home for whitesmithing(? - not sure of all these terminologies yet).

So the question:

I would like to be able to cut 16 gauge mild steel into small intricate shapes. I have done a lot of research and found three methods that interest me. Coping saw with a titanium blade(http://www.garrettwade.com/multi-function-coping-saw/p/10A01.02/ or http://www.knewconcepts.com/5-inch.php), jigsaw, or a Beverly b1 throatless shear(love this but more like a wish than reality).

Can anyone recommend another method or expand on which of these would work better for what i am trying to do?


moose's picture


Each of the tools you mention would do the task. But they each have limitations. What type area do you have to work in? And how intricate are the shapes you paln to cut?

A sabersaw/jigsaw will throw shavings and be noisy as you cut.

The coping saw would be nice for detail work but I would not want to cut large pieces with one.

The Beverly is great for cutting out larger sections but am not sure how detailed you will be able to ge with one.

metalcraft by moose
Art to Automobiles

Rich Waugh's picture

Welcome to ArtMetal! Forget

Welcome to ArtMetal!

Forget he coping saw. That's a woodworker's tool and a titanium blade is a gimmick more than a tool. Honestly, no matter what the ad writers at Garrett Wade say.

If you want to cut little fussy stuff very accurately in metal, the tool of choice is a jeweler's saw. Similar in appearance to a coping saw, but designed for more meticulous work with metal cutting blades. Check out Rio Grande Jeweler's Supply or Santa Fe Jewelers for various models. Get Herkules brand blades - suck it up, pay the tariff and work with the good stuff. You'll thank me for this later.

The Beverly is a great piece of equipment, but overkill for small stuff and won't cut tiny details that well. Think of it as a fine tool for cutting out parts for custom motorcycle metal work. If you're just dying to own one, get the Harbor Freight Tools knock-off for about 1/8 the price of the Beverly - it will probably work just as well for you as the real thing and leave you enough money to buy the gold-plated jeweler's saw frame and about half a million Herkules blades. (grin)

Never discount the value of the old-timey blacksmith's and locksmith's method of cutting details in sheet steel - hammer and chisel. You might be surprised just how fast and how accurate you can be with these tools after a few hours practice. Some of the very finest metalsmiths I know, guys like Tom Latane, do their stuff this way. Tom makes incredibly detailed custom locks using a hammer and chisel, among other tools. You'd want a selection of different chisel shapes and sizes and a nicely balanced hammer of a pound or less for 16 gauge steel.

Feel free to ask all the questions you want, that's what we're here for!


crquack's picture

I shall second the

I shall second the jewellers' saw. I have cut shapes out of 3/16" steel with it but that is not something I would recommend if you need to do it more than once or twice.


Rich Waugh's picture

Yeah, I'd rank that right up

Yeah, I'd rank that right up there with knitting a logging tarp for sheer boredom factor! (grin)


visitor's picture

Thanks for the replies! Saw

Thanks for the replies!

Saw an interesting saw from Knew Concepts.

Although the hammer and chisel method sounds great. I would like to be able to use hand tools rather than power tools for this so that sounds like the way (i'd like) to go. Is there a brand of chisels/hammer that you could recommend?

Thanks again

visitor's picture

Ok, Didn't see much on a

Ok, Didn't see much on a preliminary search on google for cutting chisels. (saw japanese chasing chisels, etc. is that what you mean?)

Anyway went and bought a the smallest chisel they had at home depot(1/2"). Had the metal (16 gauge) on a block of wood and used a ballpeen hammer. Very tough work and warped the material.

Probably not the right type of chisel, right?

Do you know of any good articles/videos about this technique? Haven't found much.


Rich Waugh's picture

Regular cold chisels have a

Regular cold chisels have a 60° cutting edge grind, which is okay, though a bit blunt for some fine work. The metal you're cutting needs to be supported on a hard surface like another piece of steel, one that is sacrificial as the cut-through will mar it. Wood is far too soft. A piece of scrap steel plate about1/2 to 3/4" thick would be dandy - check with your local welding shop.

I suggest you pick up some books on metalsmithing, such as Randy McDaniel's Basic Blacksmithing book, Tim McCreight's books and others. See what your library has or order from one of the many online used books vendors.

Keep in mind that a chisel is displacing the metal to either side of the cut. The sharper the angle of the chisel edge, the deeper it cuts with less displacement. Too thin and it dulls quickly. Try practicing with some copper or aluminum to get the feel for moving the chisel along while cutting. Once you catch on a bit then you can look into specially shaped chisels for cutting curves, inside curves, etc.

visitor's picture

Thanks! I haven't seen


I haven't seen anything for metal chisels smaller than 1/2" and straight. Is there a brand or type I can look for? I saw some Japanese chasing chisels, but they looked like they were more for engraving, etc.

I am also now considering a nice jewelers saw as I am thinking most of the pieces I will be cutting will be relatively small and usually 16ga. Would you recommend one technique over the other?

Rich Waugh's picture

Probably the jeweler's saw,

Probably the jeweler's saw, since the work will be that small. A jeweler's saw is a simple, effective tool. Just buy only Herkules brand blades - others aren't nearly as good.

Rosco's picture

I’ve had good results

I’ve had good results using a well mounted scroll saw. I use 40+ pitch mini hacksaw blades to make the rough cuts and then switch to a round metal cutting cable blade encrusted with industrial diamonds (sounds more expensive than it is). Sometimes I have to make a little support plate so the little pieces don’t get pulled down with the blade. The cable lets you move in all directions.