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Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

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Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

Post  Steamblast Mary on Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:04 pm

I'm doing up and old leather satchel and planning to reinforce the corners with some brass plates with cut-out detail, rather like filligree if I can get it fine enough.

So- what's the best way to cut out the holes in the brass sheets? Snips inevitably leave turned-up, sharp edges which I want to minimise. I'm told you can do it with a wire point connected to a source of electricity. Obviously I have no clue about or even the name of the process to search for!

Does anyone understand what the hell I'm trying to describe, and know what it's called/where I can find information on it?

Many thanks.

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Re: Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

Post  Prof. George of Chaos on Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:15 pm

On seeing the thread title I forst thought you were asking after Electrolytic Machining (Jake's fine article on the subject to be found here, with background information on it here), but it appears this is not the case. It sounds as though what you are talking about might be a bit similar to arc-welding, but I know incredibly little about that particular subject, so I defer to those with more experience, and venture towards the wiki page on it to see if my guess may be accurate.
Good luck, Mary!

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Re: Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

Post  Professor Higgins on Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:45 pm

I think the process you want is called EDM (Electrical Discharge Machining).
I havent seen any info on doing this process at home though. From what I understand it uses VERY LARGE currents like those used in arc welding and is pretty much carried out by computer controlled machines.
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Re: Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

Post  Narsil on Sun Dec 07, 2008 3:57 pm

Yeah it sounds lie you're talking about wire EDM. It's a pretty technical process and unless you're capable of building a CNC setup you won;t really get any of the benefits of teh process. It's really most suitable for hard to machine metals and alloys there's not really much point for something like brass.

I'd suggest two options for cutting intricate shapes in brass sheet. Either use a jewelers saw and needle files or etching of some sort, which is probably best for really fine details.

You could use either chemical etching (ie acid) of electrolytic etching (probably more convenient).

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Re: Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

Post  Horse Brass on Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:28 pm

I used electrolytic etching to make these little brass plates.

Spoiler:

I ironed toner onto both sides of the brass, by printing a reversed and and normal copy of the pattern onto photo paper and folding the paper so the patterns matched. Every now and again I turned the plate around, since I was using a flat electrode on the other side of the jar. It's not obvious in the photo, but they did have little sharp protrusions around the edges. I spent about 20 minutes with a needle file cleaning them up.

You'd probably want to use much thicker brass sheet than I used, but I'd expect it to work much the same.
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Re: Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

Post  JingleJoe on Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:36 pm

etching would work, toner image transfare = best

Here's my old tutorial on it:

Spoiler:
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Re: Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

Post  Alexander Edmund Clough on Sun Dec 07, 2008 5:22 pm

An alternative method to doing it by etching etc would be to use a jeweller's piercing saw.

This is like a small hacksaw / fretsaw with very fine blades. You rub the blades with a bit of beeswax for lubrication, then saw away.

Leaves a good finish, although you can always use a small file to finish it off if not smooth enough.

You drill a small hole where you want to start the cut, poke the blade through the hole, attach the blade to the frame, rub on some beeswax and then saw away.

Hope this helps.

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Re: Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

Post  HAC on Sun Dec 07, 2008 10:10 pm

are you thinking EDM (Electrical discharge machining)?

EDM article on wiki

Cheers
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Re: Cutting brass electronically- what's the process called??

Post  Steamblast Mary on Mon Dec 08, 2008 4:14 pm

Phew! My head is spinning with all the information, I've certainly learnt a lot after reading through everything.

It appears that the process described to me was indeed electrolytic etching and once I've got the designs finalised and printed out, I'll be giving it a shot. Wish me luck...

Thank you everyone for contributing your advice & experience.

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