Posted on by Robert Smith

Robert St-John Smith at the Jewellers Bench Making Cufflinks

In the first part, we covered the design process. In the second part, we look at the cutting process.

Ok, I will admit that the photo of me above is a bit dramatic - I don’t sit there working in the dark but a couple of things of note. That light to the right of me is vital. I use that to cast a shadow across the piece to help me define the edge when I am cutting. The second and pictured more closely below is my bench peg. This is a bit of wood with a V-shape groove bolted onto my workbench which allows us to move the piece around when I am cutting. I very rarely move the saw; instead, I keep the saw perfectly straight on.

Cufflinks  being handcut from sterling silver

The saw itself is nothing special, one can be picked up for around £10 and whilst there are more expensive ones out there, I have yet to find any benefit in them. Blades, on the other hand, are a different matter - it is all a matter of teeth.

I mentioned in the first part there are some limitations when cutting silver which I pre-empt. One of the biggest is the width of the blade I am using will dictate how tight a corner I can make. We are splitting millimetres here, but the difference of a ⅕ in the blade width makes the difference between whether Michael Jackson gets that flick of hair at the front or not.

Jewellers blade organiser


I keep a range of blades on my desk in a crude organiser I made from scrap. You will notice that there are two compartments reserved for number 2 blades (2/0 to be precise). These are my goto blades. I use them for cutting down sheet, basic shapes, patterns etc and for these I tend to buy the own brand - they do the job. Number 4(4/0) blades are what I used for the more detailed worked. As well as the blade getting thinner, the number of teeth is also increasing and this is where I tend to invest in the more expensive swiss blades - they tend to have more “Cleaner” teeth.

Cricket Cufflinks being cut


There are many methods for transferring the design to the silver and I am constantly experimenting with new ones. Probably the simplest one is printing out onto paper and using photomount spray.

I tend to make two passes. The first whilst the silver is annealed(soft) I will cut 95% of the design this way. I will then remove the artwork, work-harden the silver and move into the finer detail which is easier to achieve in this state. The downside is I no longer have any guide and I have to trust my eye. This is another reason why pre-empting the cutting in the design stage is important.

 

Bull and Bear cufflinks

I would say piercing work is ten percent technique and ninety percent muscle memory. With any skill that requires dexterity, it requires constant practice - I can see a visible difference in my work when I haven’t done a piercing piece of work for even just a couple of weeks.

Finally, the most important thing I have learnt over the years doing this is; If you are to stand a chance of getting a good result it requires two things. Confidence and Rhythm. Much to the probable annoyance of our neighbours, I tend to whack the stereo up high and bung on some Johnny Cash when I am doing this

Coming up in part 3. Soldering

Robert St-John Smith at the Jewellers Bench Making Cufflinks

In the first part, we covered the design process. In the second part, we look at the cutting process.

Ok, I will admit that the photo of me above is a bit dramatic - I don’t sit there working in the dark but a couple of things of note. That light to the right of me is vital. I use that to cast a shadow across the piece to help me define the edge when I am cutting. The second and pictured more closely below is my bench peg. This is a bit of wood with a V-shape groove bolted onto my workbench which allows us to move the piece around when I am cutting. I very rarely move the saw; instead, I keep the saw perfectly straight on.

Cufflinks  being handcut from sterling silver

The saw itself is nothing special, one can be picked up for around £10 and whilst there are more expensive ones out there, I have yet to find any benefit in them. Blades, on the other hand, are a different matter - it is all a matter of teeth.

I mentioned in the first part there are some limitations when cutting silver which I pre-empt. One of the biggest is the width of the blade I am using will dictate how tight a corner I can make. We are splitting millimetres here, but the difference of a ⅕ in the blade width makes the difference between whether Michael Jackson gets that flick of hair at the front or not.

Jewellers blade organiser


I keep a range of blades on my desk in a crude organiser I made from scrap. You will notice that there are two compartments reserved for number 2 blades (2/0 to be precise). These are my goto blades. I use them for cutting down sheet, basic shapes, patterns etc and for these I tend to buy the own brand - they do the job. Number 4(4/0) blades are what I used for the more detailed worked. As well as the blade getting thinner, the number of teeth is also increasing and this is where I tend to invest in the more expensive swiss blades - they tend to have more “Cleaner” teeth.

Cricket Cufflinks being cut


There are many methods for transferring the design to the silver and I am constantly experimenting with new ones. Probably the simplest one is printing out onto paper and using photomount spray.

I tend to make two passes. The first whilst the silver is annealed(soft) I will cut 95% of the design this way. I will then remove the artwork, work-harden the silver and move into the finer detail which is easier to achieve in this state. The downside is I no longer have any guide and I have to trust my eye. This is another reason why pre-empting the cutting in the design stage is important.

 

Bull and Bear cufflinks

I would say piercing work is ten percent technique and ninety percent muscle memory. With any skill that requires dexterity, it requires constant practice - I can see a visible difference in my work when I haven’t done a piercing piece of work for even just a couple of weeks.

Finally, the most important thing I have learnt over the years doing this is; If you are to stand a chance of getting a good result it requires two things. Confidence and Rhythm. Much to the probable annoyance of our neighbours, I tend to whack the stereo up high and bung on some Johnny Cash when I am doing this

Coming up in part 3. Soldering