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Blog entry by Ron Tocknell posted 09-03-2015 08:17 PM 785 reads 4 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’ve had a number of comments about the metalwork on my lacewood box. This does seem to have generated some interest so I’ll write briefly on this aspect. Making hinges is a particularly useful string to a woodworker’s bow. Bespoke hinges complete the personal signature of your work, whether a box or a cabinet.

Many, if not most woodworkers on this site will be familiar with scrollsaw work and many specialise in this style of work. In practice, there is no difference between using a scrollsaw on wood and using it on copper or brass. The main differences are that jewellers’ piercing blades are required instead of those used for wood and the fineness of detail that can be achieved is far greater on metal than is possible on wood.

This butterfly design was filled with tinted epoxy resin to form the stopper design for the copper perfume bottle shown at the bottom of this page

This opens a number of possibilities from adding a nice touch to, say, a MOP inlay (see below) to a bespoke hinge design.

One of a couple of rosewood boxes I made with butterfly inlays. The outline of the butterfly and the wing veins was cut out of copper and the pearl cut to fit this

In order to get this level of detail cut accurately, I attached a stereoscopic microscope to the scrollsaw (see below). Viewing such a magnified image takes a little getting used to. All you can see is a radius of a few millimeters around the point at which the blade is in contact with the line… but, of course, that’s all you need to see. A fine jeweller’s blade not much thicker than a human hair appears as wide as an industrial bandsaw blade and three times as thick. The fine line (printed out with a line thickness of 1 pixel and pasted onto the copper) looks more like a footpath. Keeping the blade within the line as you advance the work becomes very easy as you become accustomed to the extreme scale at which you are viewing. What you see is this vast clumsy looking blade hacking out great chunks of copper as it rips through the metal, leaving what seems like a crude, ragged channel. Then you take your eyes away from the microscope and look at the work unaided. The huge chunks of copper is now the fine copper dust around the cut, which appears perfectly smooth and impossibly fine.

Although a little disorienting at first, a particular advantage of cutting while viewing through a microscope is that the inclination to push the work into the blade instead of gently feeding it is greatly reduced. Although, with the naked eye, it may appear as if you are making little progress, which leads to trying to push the work through, when viewing through the microscope, progress seems fast and aggressive.


You can pick up a cheap stereo microscope from Ebay. Mine cost £40 and, as you can see, the mechanism to attach it to the scrollsaw is hardly a work of fine craftsmanship. Finding a way to attach it to your machine would not be beyond the scope (no pun intended) of anyone on this site. Give it a try. It’ll open up a whole new world of possibilities confined only by your imagination.

Copper perfume bottle lined with resin to prevent the copper from reacting with the alcohol in the perfume.Tests so far show no sign of the resin reacting. The stopper / applicator wand is made from black water buffalo horn and the butterfly is the one featured at the top of this page. The copper cut-out was cleaned with acetone and stuck down onto masking tape and the spaces between the veins were filled with tinted resin and sanded smooth and polished. To make the stopper airtight, a section of red rubber tubing was cut to size and fitted around the tapered part of the stopper

7 comments so far

View Redoak49's profile


1819 posts in 1409 days

#1 posted 09-03-2015 10:10 PM


View Northwest29's profile


1469 posts in 1910 days

#2 posted 09-03-2015 10:39 PM

You are a real talented craftsman producing amazing work. Thank you so very much for sharing the above information. This opens a whole new world of possibilities in woodworking/design.

-- Ron, Eugene, OR, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1080 posts in 3227 days

#3 posted 09-03-2015 11:30 PM

This is a very useful post. I recently experimented cutting 1/8” brass on my scroll saw. I used 25TPP wood blades with some success. Dulled the blades rather quickly but, I found that a 5” blade has at least 2/3 of the blade not touched. So, I put a block of wood under my brass to raise it to the portions of the blade not yet exposed. A little tricky but, saved lots of blades. I’d be interested in your sources for the jewelers blades and your recommendation for type of blade for 1/8” brass cutting. I’ll be posting another all wood clock here soon and the brass cutting will become obvious to all viewers.

Thanks for posting.

-- Max the "night janitor" at

View robscastle's profile


3314 posts in 1624 days

#4 posted 09-04-2015 12:22 AM

Hey Ron, I need one of those stereo microscopes for my table and band saw.

Only needs to be mono for me though for obvious reasons, Trying to hold a magnifying glass and saw at the same time is really awkward.

Thats getting old for you!

Nice work as a result,!... no good to me though I would never be able to find the blades !!

-- Regards Robert

View Ron Tocknell's profile

Ron Tocknell

38 posts in 417 days

#5 posted 09-04-2015 09:33 AM

Until fairly recently, I would have recommended Goldschnecke blades. They do a pack of 144 blades grade 1 at 55tpi. These are pretty good and should handle 1/8” brass okay… they also cost around £20 per pack. They last pretty well if you periodically wax the blade. However, I say “until recently” because the blades I had were way to coarse for the work I wanted to do and, as funds were a little tight, I checked out Ebay and found these blades
They also come in packs of 144 but range in sizes. No tooth counts are stated on these blades and they range from 1 to 6 (1 being the finest). There are 24 of each size and the size 6 should handle 1/8” brass but, at £3.95 for the pack, you can afford to suck it and see. Whereas Goldschnecke are very consistent in blade performance, these cheaper blades do have the occasional blade with wanderlust (I guess you pay for the quality control). I’m sure you’re familiar with that. Occasionally, a blade simply won’t follow a line and doesn’t seem to have a consistent bias. However, these are very much the minority. I’m still using the pack I bought at the beginning of July and I’ve encountered three rogue blades so it’s advisable to test each new blade on a piece of scrap first. I’ve used mainly the #1 for 2mm copper and the #2 for 3mm and higher or for brass, which is harder. I’ve had few breakages and tend to change them when they wear out. Except for the occasional rogue blade which has to be discarded, they perform extremely well and, at that price, you can ensure you have enough blades to compensate.

Raising the work to use unworn blade is an effective way of extending blade life. I’ve made a 2” insert for this purpose, which saves having to cut through wood as well. It works fine for small pieces but can be a little tricky if cutting large pieces or cutting from large stock.

I look forward to seeing your clock.


View Ron Tocknell's profile

Ron Tocknell

38 posts in 417 days

#6 posted 09-04-2015 09:42 AM

Robert, I’m not sure I would advise using a microscope on a table saw or bandsaw. Personally, I’d prefer to have a wider field of view with tools that cut just as easily through flesh and bone. Maybe I’m just being over cautious here. My motto is: You can either keep your fingers crossed… or you can keep your fingers.

View KayBee's profile


1083 posts in 2666 days

#7 posted 09-06-2015 12:02 AM

Great blog post with lots of useful tips. And beautiful work too! Never would have thought to mount a microscope on my scroll saw, brilliant.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

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