Almost all of us carry exquisite artwork in our pockets every day, but we don't always appreciate it. Take a close look at your pocket change and notice the beautiful designs on some of the coins. Cut coin art enhances coins' beauty, most commonly by removing background material so their designs can stand out. Once you have learnt to cut coins, you can try other projects, like making jigsaw puzzles from coins, or cutting them for love tokens. Cut coins can be worn as jewellery, used as decorations, or displayed as miniature works of art. Coin cutting requires a few simple tools and more care and patience than special skills.
Attach the bench pin to the edge of your work surface using C-clamps as needed. The V-shaped opening in the bench pin should point toward you.
Choose your coin and determine which part of the design you will leave. Pick coins with a clear image and a simple outline for your first projects. Remember that you will need to leave part of the design touching the edge of the coin. If it is not obvious which parts you will leave touching the edge, mark them with a fine-point marker.
Place your coin over the notch on the bench pin and drill out part of the background area. Be careful to avoid drilling into the design or the coin's rim. If you are afraid the coin will move as you drill, use another clamp to help hold it. Remove any large background areas you can with the drill. Drill a hole in every background section.
Install the saw blade in the bottom (handle) end of the saw. Make sure the teeth are pointing toward the handle, and out from the saw. Thread the blade through one of the holes in the coin, so the design faces toward the top of the saw. Install the blade in the top of the saw. Place the coin over the notch in the bench pin, and the saw handle under the bench pin.
Hold the saw handle in your dominant hand, and saw by moving the blade straight up and down. Turn the metal, not the saw. Saw away the remaining background, leaving the coin's rim and the design intact. Depending on where your design joins the rim, you may need to unscrew the blade and rethread it through another hole.
Run your fingers over both surfaces of the coin several times to check for any rough spots or burrs. If you find any, roll up a piece of very fine sandpaper and smooth the cut edges. Use progressively finer sandpaper until you can't feel any rough parts. Be careful to not scratch the front of the coin.
Polish your coin using the polishing cloth.
Decide how you will display the coin. To wear or hang it, mount the coin in an appropriate-sized mounting, following the directions that came with the mount. For most mounts, you will place the coin in the mount, then squeeze the top together with pliers. For a coin pendant, just slide the mount onto a chain. For other jewellery, you can attach findings to the pendant loop.
Choose a low-value coin for your first try. American quarters and pre-1982 pennies are good to start with, because their copper content will make them easy to work with. Silver coins are also easy to cut but are much more expensive. If you've never used a jeweller's saw before, you might wish to practice first on sheet metal. You can buy pieces of metal at a hardware store. Have extra saw blades on hand, because they're likely to break.
Whenever you are cutting metal, you should wear safety glasses or goggles. There is a danger that small metal fragments could get into your eyes.
Tips and warnings
- Choose a low-value coin for your first try. American quarters and pre-1982 pennies are good to start with, because their copper content will make them easy to work with. Silver coins are also easy to cut but are much more expensive.
- If you've never used a jeweller's saw before, you might wish to practice first on sheet metal. You can buy pieces of metal at a hardware store.
- Have extra saw blades on hand, because they're likely to break.
- Whenever you are cutting metal, you should wear safety glasses or goggles. There is a danger that small metal fragments could get into your eyes.
Things you need
- Bench pin
- 2 to 3 C-clamps
- Fine-point marker (optional)
- Drill and small bits (.5mm and below)
- Jeweller's saw and assorted fine blades (size 1/0 and below)
- Very fine grit sandpaper (180 grit and finer)
- Polishing cloth
- Coin mounting to fit your coin (optional)
- Needle-nose pliers (as needed for coin mounting)
- Jewellery findings (optional)