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Working brass shim stock.

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I have started to work more with brass and have been trying to cut some special parts to be soldered up. My main problem is cutting them so they tend to curl behind anything I try to cut them with. I don’t have the hundreds of dollars to buy a metal brake/shear so I have been seeking an alternative. I just ordered a jeweler’s saw and was wondering if anyone here had some tips on using it and if there is an alternative. I have been scribing the metal and flexing it to get a straight line and that is satisfactory but a bit risky. I still get some curling from time to time and it is not straight.

Edited by Pete J.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I have started to work more with brass and have been trying to cut some special parts to be soldered up. My main problem is cutting them so they tend to curl behind anything I try to cut them with. I don’t have the hundreds of dollars to buy a metal brake/shear so I have been seeking an alternative. I just ordered a jeweler’s saw and was wondering if anyone here had some tips on using it and if there is an alternative. I have been scribing the metal and flexing it to get a straight line and that is satisfactory but a bit risky. I still get some curling from time to time and it is not straight.

First, you mention working with brass "shim stock"? From my experience, brass shim stock (which incidently, K&S sells in a package of assorted thicknesses) is generally quite thin, starting at about .005" up to perhaps .010" to .015". This won't saw, simply because it's thinner than the spacing between the teeth of virtually any jeweler's saw blades. So, cutting it with shears is about the only way to cut it. Are you trying to cut narrow strips of the stuff?

If so, expect it to curl, not only in the flat, but also "away" from the scissors or shears, but you should be able to cut it into straight strips by means of a fresh #11 Xacto blade and a stainless steel ruler, AGAINST a smooth, flat surface, such as a piece of fairly thick plate glass.

Experienced scratchbuilders have used sheet brass for years, to make body panels, even complete car bodies--the legendary Gerald Wingrove in the UK is renowned for his model car bodies made by hammering out sheets of thin brass into shapes for all manner and era's of cars, in scale with this material.

Perhaps you can elaborate a bit more on just what it is you are trying to make, surely someone on this board will be able to give you some guidance?

Art

Edited by Art Anderson

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Another thought here! For shearing thin brass, up to say, .010" thick, if you anneal it (heat to dull red heat, allow to cool!), you can use an ordinary office paper cutter, which works very much the same as any metal shear in larger shop applications, but will cut thin brass.

Office paper cutters aren't particularly costly either--check your nearest office supply store (such as Office Max or Staples).

Art

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Art- Thanks for the response. I am using the K&S and I have been trying to make a radiator shell for a 1:24 scale hotrod. Nothing to fancy, just a brass model T type. I am using .10 sheet. I have tried pounding it flat with a jewelers hammer but that left dents that I couldn’t remove. I tried pressing it in the back side with a cylinder and couldn’t get it flat. I have tried cutting strips as I mentioned in my previous post and edge soldering them. That worked pretty well but it is difficult to make a pair that are the same. I thought that stacking two pieces and cutting them together may work. That is when I hit on the jeweler’s saw since cutting the inside hole may be a challenge. I have worked with jig saws before and it works for wood. Incidentally soldering isn’t a problem. I have become very proficient with soldering photo etched with my resistance soldering unit.

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Art- Thanks for the response. I am using the K&S and I have been trying to make a radiator shell for a 1:24 scale hotrod. Nothing to fancy, just a brass model T type. I am using .10 sheet. I have tried pounding it flat with a jewelers hammer but that left dents that I couldn’t remove. I tried pressing it in the back side with a cylinder and couldn’t get it flat. I have tried cutting strips as I mentioned in my previous post and edge soldering them. That worked pretty well but it is difficult to make a pair that are the same. I thought that stacking two pieces and cutting them together may work. That is when I hit on the jeweler’s saw since cutting the inside hole may be a challenge. I have worked with jig saws before and it works for wood. Incidentally soldering isn’t a problem. I have become very proficient with soldering photo etched with my resistance soldering unit.

Pete,

Might I suggest using thicker material? That Model T brass radiator isn't at all a complicated shape--I would use at least 1/32" stock, and look at the narrow strips that K&S makes for making the sides and top of the radiator and top tank from that. That should eliminate your needing to use a jeweler's mallet to shape the stuff, just anneal, and bend over a form.

As for "form", bear in mind that all craftsmen from the earliest days of the automobile, to modern model car scratchbuilders such as Sir Gerald Wingrove, always used some sort of form for shaping most body parts, and a radiator shell would have been formed on bending and rolling brakes, NOT with hammers.

Art

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" .... cutting them so they tend to curl.... scribing the metal and flexing it ...... "

depending on the shape, maybe you could try (shears or scissor) cutting away the waste in bit size pieces rather than cutting out the shape with a continuous cut?

a diamond pointed scribe can cut pretty much through a sheet of brass much as the back of a hobby blade does in styrene.

no end to the "ghetto - brakes" you could put together with either metal or tropical hardwoods. thinking about the rack at the big box store, there's angles, rods, and keystock. add some C clamps. i know jig & fixture making takes away from building time, especially for a one-off part. i have a box of things in the wood shop ready for the "next" time!

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I've ordered a diamond scribe as it sound like a generally good tool to have in the tool chest especially around my lathe. When you mention an inexpensive paper cutter are you refuring to the old gillotine style or the more modern round wheel type? I have the wheel type but am reluctant to use is as it is important for cutting my photos.

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I've ordered a diamond scribe as it sound like a generally good tool to have in the tool chest especially around my lathe. When you mention an inexpensive paper cutter are you refuring to the old gillotine style or the more modern round wheel type? I have the wheel type but am reluctant to use is as it is important for cutting my photos.

Pete, the old-fashioned guillotine type will work quite well for shearing truly thin sheet brass--probably no thicker than .010", best done if the metal is annealed before hand. For thicker brass stock, then yes, a jewelers' saw or fine toothed razor saw.

Art

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The Jewler's Saw just arrived but I have to wait. It is my Christmas present. I bought a good one with a supply of 150 blades. I figure I am going to need them. I am not as quick at learning as I once was. Old dog sort of thing you know! :blink:

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Pete, the old-fashioned guillotine type will work quite well for shearing truly thin sheet brass--probably no thicker than .010", best done if the metal is annealed before hand. For thicker brass stock, then yes, a jewelers' saw or fine toothed razor saw.

Art

When you anneal the metal, do you do the whole sheet or just the piece you are going to use?

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When you anneal the metal, do you do the whole sheet or just the piece you are going to use?

If you are going to anneal brass for working, it's pretty much accepted that you would anneal the entire piece that you are going to work.

Art

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Posted (edited) · Report post

i've read that brass can (or should?) be hardened after being worked.

how?

Edited by southpier

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