Tutorial…silhouette necklace…

by Abigail Percy on 29/11/2006

in Jewellery+Accessories

Right…here is a tutorial to make your own silhouette necklace, just in time for a holiday gift {for yourself, or a lucky friend or family member!!}. There are a few basic tools you will need for this job – the main ones are pictured below – but in addition to this you will need some jump rings {bought ones are fine}, a packet of saw blades {I used a 4/0 but I would recommend the 2/0 size for beginners} some jewellery pliers {a flat nose pair and a round nose pair}…wet and dry paper {or fine sandpaper if that’s all you have}..a small amount of 0.8 wire {but you can open up a jump ring and use that if you don’t have any}….plus some scotch magic tape and a fine liner pen. If you can get one..a clamp-on jewellers bench peg makes projects like this much easier…and you can pick one up for around £15, so it is worth the initial investment.

..find yourself an image you would like to use in your necklace – I chose this stag {thinking raindeer really!} – but floral motifs, other animals, fruit, birds etc would all work well too. Print it off the computer, or re-size it to the scale you wish by hand. Choose your material carefully…I am using a piece of hot pink acrylic for this piece [3mm thick], but you could use any plastic, sheet silver, copper or brass…wood even! This would also be fun made from thick cork…you would only need a craft knife for that, but it is something to think about if you don’t have a jewellers saw.

Cover the image you are using with strips of scotch magic tape, overlapping each one…but don’t rub the tape down hard. Use a fine liner to trace the design..then peel off the tape [in one large piece]…

Stick the design down onto your material…make sure it is well stuck down now, and tuck the edges over if they are sticking out. Place the piece of acrylic flat on your wooden bench peg. [it is worth noting at this point, that the wooden peg for jewellers has a sloped side and a flat side. I don’t believe the sloped side should be used for piercing, as the material can never sit flat and the cut edge will be at an angle..so, use the flat side where possible]…slowly start to cut the material following the lines of the design.

When piercing, try and maintain the saw in a permanent upright position…the saw should only go up and down. To change direction, gently turn the PIECE as you are sawing {not the saw itself} with your other hand {which is always holding the piece to stop it moving with the force of the saw} Resist going too fast with the blade…take slow, easy strokes. This is good practice for any piercing excercise, but especially when working with plastic as the friction from the blade can make the plastic dust melt if you go too fast..jamming up the teeth and forcing the blade to break prematurely. {expect to go through lot’s of blades if you are a beginner…especially if sawing metal, so get plenty {they come in bundles of 12}}

Keep sawing around the edge of the design…concentrating on where the blade goes, and keeping a good smooth line….the less filing to tidy up the shape you have to do the better.

..soon, you will have the outline cut out!!

Use the dremel {or similar drill with a chuck that will accomodate a fine drill bit…0.8 is the best size for this}…to drill a pilot hole in any internal spaces you may want to remove. You can then undo the blade of your saw at one end, feeding it through the hole…and then re-tightening it.

[note: to tighten your saw, place one end of the blade — teeth pointing down — in the topmost clamp of the saw frame and tighten. Then rest the saw frame in the ‘V’ of your bench peg…handle facing your body, blade at the top. Press forward on the frame with your body {rest the handle on your breastbone} placing the free end of the blade in the bottom clamp, tightening it under this pressure. This will mean the blade is good and tight, and will give a clear ‘ping’ when plucked]

Continue to saw out the internal spaces…being careful when you reach any fine or delicate points.

One you have the silhouette fully cut out {that’s the hard part done!!}…you will notice some saw marks on the edge of the stag. How much work you want to put into removing these is up to you….it is possible to fully remove all sign of any work from the edge and restore it to a full shine {file, sand with wet and dry through all the grades of paper, finish the edge with the wet and dry paper and water, then polish the edge out with brasso}..but this will takes *hours*. I like to remove the obvious saw marks and then sand with a medium grit paper to take the edge to a smooth, yet frosted finish.

Use your needle file to smooth the files marks away…working in careful, long movements {a half round needle file is the most versitile}. Again, creating too much friction can clog the file {beyond repair} and cause the piece to break if it catches.

I then chose to frost the face of the acrylic {perfect too if the plastic you have is a little scratched}…place it down flat on a sheet of wet and dry paper on your work surface, and move it in smooth circular motions, checking every now and then if it is totally and evenly frosted. Using circular motions makes it easier to get an even finish and not remove material at one side more than the other which happens if you sand back and forth.

Now that the shape is fully finished, find a good point to hang the chain from. {you can buy the pre-bought chains from craft stores or jewellers, or buy a length of chain by the metre from a silver dealer…or have a look at the unusual chains you can get at the hardware store..powder coated brightly coloured ones for example…or even just use ribbon or cord}. Use the dremel to drill two small holes into the edge of the acrylic {this is why you want a 0.8mm drill bit — so it is fine enough to drill the sides without bursting out the face of the piece}…with the wire and the round nose pliers, form two small ‘U’ shaped pegs to fit the holes..and then glue them in to the holes with araldite.
[use the end of one of your broken saw blades to place a tiny bit of the glue into the hole]

If you are using sheet metal..simply drill a hole, and fasten two jump rings through it directly.

Then you can attach any chain, thread, cord or ribbon of choice….inserting a catch if you wanted {I made the chain long enough to just fit over the head…}. I used a medium weight silver belcher chain with oval links {which I buy by the meter}, because I had some and thought it went well with the size of the piece.

Now — Wear with glee and abandon!!! ;)

::: I would say this took me just under an hour from inception to completion {including finding and printing the image, and photographing all the steps}..but I would perhaps give yourself a couple of hours to complete this necklace if you are a beginner with a saw :::

** even if you don’t want to make a necklace…consider the techniques used here and how they could be used and adapted to make a great Christmas tree ornament, gift tag, place-setting etc!! Once you master the saw, the possibilities are endless! **

If looking to source some jewellery tools, have a look at this previous post on where to source tools and materials.

….also, see all the images in a larger size by viewing this photo-set on flickr

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jenny vorwaller November 29, 2006 at 6:36 am

abigail, thank you for this! i really cant wait to get some tools (hello? papa noel? :) and try this out! :)


2 Caitlin O'Connor November 29, 2006 at 7:59 am

Abigail, BRILLIANT!! Thank you for so clearly explaining not only the process but the hidden pitfalls and solutions. Makes me itchy to go buy a jeweller’s saw…


3 mary November 29, 2006 at 8:27 am

Thank you!! I’m going to have to give this a try.


4 jerusha November 29, 2006 at 10:46 am

thank you abigail! this was so nice of you, so helpful! :)


5 maitreya November 29, 2006 at 11:04 am

Ahh, this is a great tutorial! Must go find acrylic now…


6 juliastitches November 29, 2006 at 12:56 pm

Wow-that is so cool. I love acylic jewellry.
I think though that I would let someone else make it and them pay them the $$$. It looks like a lot of work. Excellent tutourial though. THANK YOU!


7 admin November 29, 2006 at 1:05 pm

this is an excellent tutorial – and the finished product is very groovy. I hope lots of people try this one


8 Anabel November 30, 2006 at 1:59 am

Abigail,Thank you very much!!


9 Jen November 30, 2006 at 9:16 am

Hm, good idea.

I’m not that handy with a saw, but I do have access to a laser-cutting machine…


10 Virginia November 30, 2006 at 10:56 pm

Fantastic tutorial. You are very talented & very generous! I have a technical question since I’m about to invest in some equipment for my home studio. I notice that you have the dremel flex shaft attachment – are you using that with a corded dremel rotary tool?


11 Jessica December 1, 2006 at 1:13 am

Hey that’s pretty cool. Thanks for sharing.


12 Cajsa December 1, 2006 at 2:59 am

Wow! Very impresssed with the way you handle the saw in all those dangerous curves.

I have made a few similar pendants recently, but use shrink plastic, which is much easier to cut – because it shrinks so much the mistakes are easy to hide ; )


13 Amy December 1, 2006 at 5:53 am

Where can you get the acrylic sheets? It looks awesome! I want to try it so bad. I have a dremel but haven’t ever used it.


14 nico December 1, 2006 at 8:49 am

oh gosh thats lovely…. tools! a new goal of mine. thanks for sharing!


15 Abigail December 1, 2006 at 12:39 pm

Hi everyone…thanks so much! Glad you all enjoyed it :)

Virginia…thank you! *blush*….the dremel I have is a 400 series digital {but I do believe you can attach the flex-shaft to most dremels…have a look on the website for a bit more info on your specific model maybe?}..glad to hear you are getting set up!!

Amy…I am lucky enough to have an acrylic supplier in Glasgow, but there are numerous online suppliers {I just googled acrylic sheet and got lots of links} also eBay is a good source, as sellers often list small pieces of coloured sheet..which is good if you are just starting out!! get going with that Dremel!! ;)))…the flex shaft attachment makes it much easier to use too if you can get one, especially for jewellery making.

feel free to drop me an email if you have any more questions about this project, tooling, materials, techniques etc….id be only too happy to help.


16 angel rafael December 2, 2006 at 9:54 pm

hahaha. someone beat me to the shrink plastic remark. me and my boy were up making shrink plastic pendants until a ridiculous hour last night, a lot for giftsmas presents.

this does GREATLY intrigue though….


17 Betsi December 2, 2006 at 10:50 pm

Wow, this is such an amazing tutorial. A real eye-opener for me, as I just adore all plastics and have been looking to learn how to make plastic pendants of some kind. I had no idea you could buy colorful sheets of acrylic like that. It looks like it would take a while to learn to do such intricate cutting, but I should think that I could get the hang of it by trying simpler shapes like hearts and stars.

Thanks so much for this wonderful tutorial, and the helpful follow-up comment!


18 imelda December 4, 2006 at 7:11 pm

this is so great, abigail!


19 Betsy Carr December 8, 2006 at 8:33 pm

Thank you so much for this tutorial! I did my first bit of sawing a few months ago at a workshop and it’s so nice to have this handy tutorial when I’m ready to try it at home–I think I’ll be using some pieces of found tin and brass.


20 Abigail December 9, 2006 at 9:16 am

Hi betsy..glad you will find this useful! :)

…as brass is a very difficult metal {very hard in it’s composition} to work with, you may find you break more saw blades, than say with something softer, like tin or plastic…silver or copper even. Use a little bit of beeswax {a block, like one might use for waxing threads when sewing…or indeed just use an old candle stump}..and run the block gently along the blade. This will help lubricate the saw, and help it glide through a little easier through the metal. If the blade survives for a while…you may want to do this more than once during the job ;)

..keep on sawing! good for you!! x


21 Julie Jackson December 22, 2006 at 5:27 am

Very cool but can you sell me one? I won’t take credit for making it, but oh MAN I don’t know that I could make it.


22 Laura January 15, 2007 at 2:18 am

Hey Abigail, fantastic tutorial! After seeing this I had a go myself, and soon worked out that I cannot saw anything, let alone acrylic!
Do you know of any machines that saw shapes for you, or cut out shapes on materials such as acrylic at relatively cheap prices?


23 Maddy July 21, 2007 at 11:08 pm

I’m confused…how does the saw work?
Do you like saw it up and down like a regular saw?
or does it move and then you move the shape while it moves?
and how do you cut out the middle parts?
do you use the saw again?
how does THAT work?
I’m sorry I asked so many questions
I just need to know!
it’s confusing me..


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