Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers
by Judy Larson
Making a washer with a perfectly centered circle can be a challenge, especially if centering punches are not available. If a matched pair is needed for a pair of earrings, eyeballing is not always going to work, as shown in the example on the left. This short tutorial can help. The following directions are written using economy disc cutter photos, but the directions are similar for all cutters.
Which cutter is best?
If you are just a weekend jeweler or are not sure how much you will really use one, an economy cutter will work for you. Know that the cutting edge on economy punches will not last forever. The metal is softer than the higher end disc cutters, and therefore becomes dulled with excessive use. If and when you decide you want to upgrade, you can pass it on to a beginner or keep it for traveling or a back-up. Remember, whichever one suits your needs will last a long time if you use it properly and take care of it.
Economy disc cutters work best with 20 gauge or lighter metal. The heavier duty cutters can handle up to 18 gauge sheet. Using dead soft metals or annealed metals will be easier on the cutting punches and extend their life.
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Which cutter is best?, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Hints To Prolong the Life of a Disc Cutter
Pro Tip: Place a THIN plastic kitchen cutting mat, found at many dollar stores, under your disc cutter base. This will protect the cut discs and the cutting edges of the punches as they come through the cutter base after cutting.
Pro Tip: Make sure the work surface is flat and as non-giving as possible. That way, the circles will more likely to come out flat.
Pro Tip: To prolong the life of disc cutter punches and aid in cutting, get into the habit of twisting the cutting end of the punch in Cut Lube BEFORE each cut.
Pro Tip: With economy disc cutters, the punch will not go completely through the hole as it does with higher end models. Do not use a hammer or metal object to push it back up through the hole. The cutting surface could be damaged. To remove the punch, turn the cutter over and center it on top of a roll of wide painters tape, making sure the hammered end of the punch to be removed is inside the tape tube. Stacked books of equal height will also work. Place a wood dowel, slightly smaller than the diameter of the punch, in the center of the punch. Tap the dowel with a hammer until the punch drops out. Note: Make sure that the dowel end is clean and free of dirt or debris as this could harm the punch cutting surface.
Pro Tip: Because the metal can easily rust, store the disc cutter and punches in a dry place. Coating all the pieces in sewing machine oil can help inhibit rust and corrosion.
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Hints To Prolong the Life of a Disc Cutter, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Hints To Prolong the Life of a Disc Cutter, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Hints To Prolong the Life of a Disc Cutter, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Directions:
Step 1: Select the two disc punches needed to make the desired finished product.
Step 2: Use an ultra fine point Sharpie marker to make a centering mark in the middle of the piece of metal to be cut.
If only a small piece of metal is available for the project and there is no room for waste, such as when a precious metal is being used, doing alternate Steps 2 through 4 will help.
If only a small piece of metal is available for the project and there is no room for waste, such as when a precious metal is being used, doing alternate Steps 2 through 4 will help.
Alternate Step 2: Place the larger of the two disc punches selected on the piece of sheet metal. Use an ultra fine point Sharpie marker to trace a line around it onto the metal.
Alternate Step 3: Place the smaller of the two disc punches selected inside the drawn circle in the desired position. Use an ultra fine point Sharpie marker to trace a line around it onto the metal.
Alternate Step 4: Choose a disc punch one size smaller than the smaller punch used in Step 3. Center it in the smallest drawn circle and trace around it with an ultra fine point Sharpie marker.
Step 5: Position the metal in the cutter, centering the centering mark or the smallest drawn circle under the hole size to be cut with the disc punch used in Step 3. Slide a piece of the same gauge metal between the two cutter base layers on the opposite side of the hole being cut. Secure the two cutter base layers together. Place the disc punch into the hole, cutting end toward the sheet metal.
Pro Tip: Economy Cutter: These cutters do not clamp down on the sheet metal to be cut, securing it into place, like the higher end ones do. Hint: The larger the piece of sheet metal, the more unwieldy it can be. Smaller pieces of sheet metal are easier to handle when using an economy cutter. Position the metal in the cutter, centering the centering mark or the smallest drawn circle under the hole size to be cut with the disc punch used in Step 3. Slide the disc punch from Step 3, cutting end toward the sheet metal, into the hole and press down on the metal to hold the metal in place.
Step 6: Use one or two firm hits with a brass mallet on the punch to cut the disc. Lift the assembly up and the disc and punch will fall through the cutting hole. Hint: A brass mallet is easier on your arm because it does not bounce back after a strike like a steel hammer does. That is why they are called Dead Blow Hammers-the strike stops dead in its tracks.
Economy Cutter: While still holding and pressing the disc punch down on the sheet metal, use one or two firm hits with a brass mallet on the punch to cut the disc. When you lift the assembly up, if the disc does not fall out of the base assembly, place the assembly on top of a roll of wide painters tape or between two books, making sure that the disc to be punched out has nothing under it. Lightly tap the punch so that the cutting edge just barely pushes through the assembly and the disc drops out.
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Directions:, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Directions:, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Directions:, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
For a Centered Hole
Now for some fun! Centering punches for disc cutters are tubes with a pointed end. They usually come in sets with sizes that correspond to the holes in a disc cutter and are great for centering holes to make washers. But what if they are not available. Use doming punches!
Step 7: Center the small cut hole inside the larger hole to be cut. Slide a piece of the same gauge metal between the two cutter base layers on the opposite side of the hole being cut. Select a doming punch with a spherical head that fits well into the hole to be cut. There should be scant to no wiggle room around the sphere. Holding the doming punch perpendicular to the cutting base, gently push down on the doming punch to center the small hole inside the larger one. The sheet metal should stay in place when you gently try to move it side to side. Holding the doming punch perpendicular to the cutting base, secure the two cutter base layers together. Remove the doming punch. Place the disc punch into the hole, cutting end toward the sheet metal.
Economy Cutter: Have the larger disc punch ready next to the disc cutter base. Center the small cut hole inside the larger hole to be cut. Select a doming punch with a spherical head that fits well into the hole to be cut. There should be scant to no wiggle room around the sphere. Holding the doming punch perpendicular to the cutting base, gently push down on the doming punch to center the small hole inside the larger one. The sheet metal should stay in place when you gently try to move it side to side. While holding the sheet metal in place, remove the doming punch and insert the disc punch, cutting end toward the sheet metal, pressing down on the metal to hold it in place.
Step 8: Use one or two firm hits with a brass mallet on the punch to cut the disc. Lift the assembly up and the punch will fall through the cutting hole.
Economy Cutter: While still holding and pressing the disc punch down on the sheet metal, use one or two firm hits with a brass mallet on the punch to cut the disc. When you lift the assembly up, if the disc does not fall out of the base assembly, place the assembly on top of a roll of wide painters tape or between two books, making sure that the disc to be punched out has nothing under it. Lightly tap the punch so that the cutting edge just barely pushes through the assembly and the disc drops out.
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For a Centered Hole, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For a Centered Hole, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For a Centered Hole, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For a Centered Hole, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For a Centered Hole, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For a Centered Hole, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For a Centered Hole, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
For an Offset Hole
Version 1 using a doming punch to position the metal:
Place the sheet metal in the cutting base. Move the small hole towards the edge of the larger circle opening until it is in the desired position. Hold the metal in place. Select a doming punch smaller than the cutting hole. When positioning the punch, it should sit perpendicular in the hole with the sphere touching the edge of the cutting hole. It will take a few tries to select the proper size doming punch to slide the smaller metal hole into the proper position in the cutting hole. Make note of the size doming punch used so the process can be repeated in the future without guesswork. That way, matching sets can be made.
Slide a piece of the same gauge metal between the two cutter base layers on the opposite side of the hole being cut. Slide the sheet metal into place with the doming punch. Gently pushing down on the doming punch will center it in the hole. The sheet metal should stay in place when you gently try to move it side to side. Holding the doming punch perpendicular to the cutting base and keeping the sphere tight against the edge of the cutting hole, secure the two cutter base layers together. Remove the doming punch. Place the larger disc punch into the hole, cutting end toward the sheet metal.
Economy cutter: Have the larger hole punch ready next to the disc cutter base. Slide the sheet metal into place with the doming punch. Gently pushing down on the doming punch will center it in the hole. The sheet metal should stay in place when you gently try to move it side to side. Hold the doming punch perpendicular to the cutting base, keeping the sphere tight against the edge of the cutting hole. As in Step 7, while holding the sheet metal in place, remove the doming punch and insert the hole punch, pressing down on the metal to hold the it in place.
Use one or two firm hits with a brass mallet on the punch to cut the disc. Lift the assembly up and the punch will fall through the cutting hole.
Economy Cutter: While still holding and pressing the disc punch down on the sheet metal, use one or two firm hits with a brass mallet on the punch to cut the disc. When you lift the assembly up, if the disc does not fall out of the base assembly, place the assembly on top of a roll of wide painters tape or between two books, making sure that the disc to be punched out has nothing under it. Lightly tap the punch so that the cutting edge just barely pushes through the assembly and the disc drops out.
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For an Offset Hole, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For an Offset Hole, General Education, Tools, Disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - For an Offset Hole, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Version 2 when no center positioning tool or doming punch is available:
Decide where you want the smaller hole to be inside the large disc. In this case, make a mark 3/32" above the edge of the cut out circle. Measure 3/32" out from the hole ΒΌ" on either side of the upper Sharpie mark and mark.
Place the sheet metal in the cutting base. Position the upper center mark on the edge of the opening for the chosen finished size of the disc. The 3/32" marks on either side of center will help with alignment of the hole. Secure the metal in place.
Economy Cutter: Hold the metal in place. Have the larger hole punch ready next to the disc cutter base. Slide the sheet metal into place, lining up the marks as above. While holding the sheet metal in place, insert the hole punch, pressing down on the metal to hold it in place.
Use one or two firm hits with a brass mallet on the punch to cut the disc. Lift the assembly up and the punch will fall through the cutting hole.
Economy Cutter: While still holding and pressing the disc punch down on the sheet metal, use one or two firm hits with a brass mallet on the punch to cut the disc.
Pro Tip: If the centered holes or off-set holes, shown, of a pair do not quite match because the metal or the punch moved before everything was secured for cutting, here is an easy fix to make the difference between the two pieces less noticeable. Set the less centered washer on top of the more centered one, matching the outer edges of the circles. Mark the new cutting line with a metal scribe or an ultra fine point Sharpie marker. Use a flex shaft or a Dremel tool with a sanding drum attached to sand down to the marked line.
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Version 2 when no center positioning tool or doming punch is available:, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Version 2 when no center positioning tool or doming punch is available:, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Version 2 when no center positioning tool or doming punch is available:, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Version 2 when no center positioning tool or doming punch is available:, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Version 2 when no center positioning tool or doming punch is available:, General Education, Tools, disc cutter
Judy Larson's Disc Cutter Basics and How to Make Metal Washers - Version 2 when no center positioning tool or doming punch is available:, General Education, Tools, disc cutter

Materials

18 Gauge 0.040 Dead Soft Copper Sheet Metal - 6x12 Inch
MET-705.18M
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $16.07
  • Gold Club Price: $12.05
Out of Stock
20 Gauge 0.032 Dead Soft Copper Sheet Metal - 6x12 Inch
MET-705.20M
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $13.26
  • Gold Club Price: $9.94
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Tools

Large Disc Cutter
DAP-410.10
  • DAP-410.10
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $55.95
  • Gold Club Price: $41.96
Out of Stock
Small Disc Cutter, 7 Pieces
DAP-400.10
  • DAP-400.10
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $46.95
  • Gold Club Price: $35.21
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Cut Lube
BUR-180.00
  • BUR-180.00
  • Lesson Quantity: 1.00 pieces
  • Purchase Quantity: 1.00 each
  • Price: $5.97
  • Gold Club Price: $4.48
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  • Category: General Education
  • Technique(s): Tools