As a jeweller, you can never have too many tools, right?
To my husband’s despair, I will never own enough pliers. Or hammers... files, stamps. But for most regular, artisan silver jewellery making, in my opinion, you should only really need one piercing saw. It is really important to find the right one for you, and there are a number of factors to think about.
You may have noticed that there is a huge variation in cost, but is it necessary to spend a lot? Does that extra £70 give you anything more than a marginal gain?
I currently own three piercing saws. I bought my cheapest (a non branded, 3” adjustable frame from Cooksons Gold), before I knew my interest in silver would become an obsession. My other two are higher-end models, the Knew Concepts with Quick Release Lever, and my Green Lion saw.
Here is a summary of benefits and drawbacks to help anyone choosing their forever saw.
Cookson’s Non-branded Adjustable Frame Saw (left, cost approx. £10)
Like many of its kind, the main benefit of the Cookson’s Basic is of course the cost, and the fact that you can adjust the width of the frame, allowing reuse of the many broken saw blades you generate when starting out. But as you improve, I found that this has limited advantage because, by the time you break a blade, the quality will have deteriorated, fragments may be bent or not saw efficiently, and the pieces you salvage probably have a very limited life remaining.
Further, as it is good practice to use the full length of blade with each stroke (to avoid wear being localised) you may well find it unnatural and frustrating to use an incomplete blade. I end up hitting the frame against the metal, because my natural sawing rhythm is broken. Further, being a bit of a weakling, I find the blade loading action delivers bruising of the sternum when baring weight to flex the frame to the width required to catch each end. With my bench not fixed to the floor, I soon needed a re-sand of my hardwood kitchen worktop, being the only fixed surface I could find conveniently in those moments of disruptive emergency blade changing! A cunning lifehack is to retrospectively tension the blade by loading first and stretching via the adjustable frame attachment. I’m sure adjustable saws are not designed to work like this... but it seems to work ok.
In summary, this saw perfectly acceptable, if you don’t mind fiddle and discomfort when tensioning your blade. But when you try a higher end model, you really do see what you are missing…
Knew Concepts Saw (right, cost approx. £70)
I bought the Knew Concepts saw with quick release mechanism after getting fed up with the fiddle and discomfort. It is quick and easy to load up the blade, once you figure out how to do it; this can be done by the flip of a lever. The saw feels sturdy because of the intricate, well-engineered frame, which holds the blade at a good, constant tension. There is no recycling of broken fragments with this girl, so if that is something you are looking for, then this may not be the saw for you. I found a very fine line between good tensioning and over-tightening/snapping the blade before it has even touched silver, which is something you avoid pretty quickly, especially if you insist on spending your profits on fine quality, high-end blades!
In terms of weight, it is incredibly light; indeed, a bit too light for my liking, but that is probably down to personal choice.
Ultimately, this is a great, well designed saw. However, because it is a complex piece of engineering, there is more in theory, to go wrong. Mine did malfunction after around 8 months, but I found the customer support is responsive and committed to giving you a good experience of their product.
Green Lion Saw (middle, cost approx. £80)
There is but one saw that has stolen my heart. The Green Lion is the gold standard, and is always kept in short reach of my peg due to its near (but not quite perfect) qualities.
She arrived with some nifty stickers; I feel not so much a gimmick, more a declaration, through great quality branding, that she knows she is hot. And was about to show me just how much.
With her Art Nouveau-esq styling, not only is she the most handsome specimen of her kind, her lion-engraved, super-tactile ergonomic handle makes her a dream to hold. She is perfectly weighted with just the right amount of heaviness to the downward cut, without putting strain on the wrist or cause difficulty manoeuvring around intricate curves.
She is designed, again, with the art of easy blade changing in mind, and presents an inspired simplicity in solution that the Knew Concepts saw lacks. The two hooks on each end pf the frame can be pulled together with one hand, to allow the correct distance to grip the blade. Whether you are left or right handed, the thumbscrews make this easy. But here lies the one and only disappointment of this tool, and what the instructions don’t tell you; it must be operated by a human with normal sized hands. It turns out I am blessed with a tiny hand span, so small that I didn’t appear on the ergonomic reference data used by Green Lion. Once I was over the bitter disappointment of not being able to use her most significant unique selling point, I discovered that she requires less frame flex to grip and achieve correct blade tension than a standard piercing saw. I can do the sternum manoeuvre against my peg in a split second, without injury. Job done. She and I remain workshop partners, and her weight and overall sexiness in the styling department make her a winner in all counts.
In summary she is not far from being perfect. If Green Lion were to make a limited-edition micro-saw for the lady with undersized hands, I would definitely be the first in the queue. In fact, if Green Lion make phones, cars, gin, anything, I’d probably buy them too.