Daily Wire Tip: Lapidary Saw Tips

By on November 9, 2010
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip


I have some Amazonite nuggets about the size of a quarter, and I want to cut them in half to make cabochons. I can’t seem to find a lapidary around here, so what is the proper way, tools, and blades to use to accomplish this? I don’t want to ruin them!

-Ellen in Fayetteville, West Virginia


Ellen, the best way to perform your requested task would be to use a trim saw. They come in both 6" and 8" sizes (which is the diameter of the blade) and work using either water or specialty oil as a lubricant. Some folks will tell you to just use a tile saw, however the width of the blade on those is very thick and will cut away too much of your small nuggets.

When deciding to purchase a trim saw, keep in mind any future uses you may have for one. The thickness of the diamond saw blades vary; of course the finer the blade, the less kerf (material wasted with the cut). An 8" blade will cut an item that is about 3 ½" wide, and a 6" will cut only a 2 ½" item. This is true when using the saw properly, however with experience one can cut wider items, but they have to be done very carefully as they can be cut across the top of the blade, and you do not want to bend it!

To find trim saws, do an Internet search using the phrase “lapidary trim saw”. As this can be a major purchase, please read all of the information before buying, because as with anything, you will get what you pay for.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

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  1. avatar


    November 10, 2010 at 8:13 am

    Ellen, Have you tried finding someone to cut your nuggets through a local Gem & Mineral Society.
    Perhaps, you could contact the listed point-person of a club and see whom they’d recommend. I’ve also had good luck at local rockshops.

    • avatar


      November 10, 2010 at 10:21 am

      Yes Gayle, rock and mineral clubs are a great asset to anyone in the home studio jewelry industry. To find one near you, do an Internet search using the phrase ‘federation rock and gem clubs’.

  2. avatar


    November 10, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Rather than spending a lot of money to do one little project, and using equipment you don’t have experience with, can you find out if there is a rock and gem club in your area? There seems to be one in every small town around where I live, they meet at least once a month and have equipment to use for a small yearly fee ($10 to $15), as well as members with all kinds of experience to help you with your projects. If you decide you want to do more cutting, then you will know for sure what type of equipment to buy depending on the stones, and you may even be able to buy something secondhand, but of better quality, to get you started.

  3. avatar


    November 10, 2010 at 11:14 am

    In my area, a lot of people post ads on Craigslist to find used equipment, or to find somebody who can cut the material for a minimal price or part of the product. If nothing else, you’ll most likely find somebody that knows somebody who can help.

  4. avatar


    November 11, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Dale – I posted some info about Tarnish Shield a few days ago, but don’t see the subject in Recent Entries. I’d like to see if anyone replied. Please tell me if I can still read what any replies.

  5. avatar

    Casey Willson

    November 12, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    As the widow of a lapidarist, one who learned a bit at the feet of a master! I can tell you this is VERY good advice. I love what I learn here! And I’m learning to cut and polish softer stones with dremel-type tool from a New Zealander I met on FaceBook! Knowledge is where you find it and courage you have to develop yourself to try the new stuff.
    BTW I just got your book, WIREWORK and I LOVE it.

    • avatar


      November 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm

      Thanks so much for your confirmation Casey. I am pleased to hear how much you enjoy what we share on Wire-Sculpture as well as my book!

  6. avatar


    June 5, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Another option is to find a stained glass shop that uses a “ring saw” they can cut it for you also. A ring saw eats less of the rock than the trim saws will. I did stained glass professionally and they are common to have on hand now.

    • avatar


      June 5, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      Sounds like a top idea Paula.
      Any chance you could send on to me a photograph of a
      ring saw.

  7. avatar


    June 6, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Here’s the website for Gem and Mineral Clubs: http://amfed.org/. This organization has a list on their website of all affiliated Gem and Mineral Clubs. You might be able to find one close to your home. If that doesn’t help you can check with your local Senior Center – they sometimes have hobby shops and some even have classes in lapidary etc.

  8. avatar


    June 28, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    I use a preventative product called “Jewelry Shield.” It prevents skin reactions to metals and tarnish. The key here though is prevention. I also saw this tarnish removing formula used on a television show which seemed to work well:

    1 aluminum pie plate, pan or aluminum foil (this is important!)
    1-2 tbsps of baking soda
    2 cups of hot water (not quite boiling)
    Place jewelry in pan, sprinkle with the baking soda, then pour the hot water over it (enough to cover it) turn items over if needed after saoking 1 side. allow jewelry to sit for 15 min. rinse with mild soapy water and dry.
    I have never tried this myself but am considering it. I had lost the recipe until just recently.