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ATB: Setting Punch

Sneaky Setting Punch

A tool for where your bezel rocker won’t fit

By Helen I. Driggs

I have made several setting tools from copper and brass because these metals are kinder and gentler than steel, especially to fine silver bezels, soft stones, and other delicate jewelry materials. Because brass rod is something I always keep on hand, I can create a custom setting punch in about 30 minutes whenever I am faced with an interesting setting problem. This punch is particularly useful for getting into the tight spaces between clustered cabochons, and it can also do double duty as a mini-planishing punch.

To make one, you’ll need a flex-shaft with a range of sanding and grinding attachments, a steel burnishing brush attachment, a knife-edge needle file, a flat hand file, a jeweler’s saw fitted with a coarse blade, dividers, and a length of 5 mm round yellow brass rod.

1. Saw off a comfortably long segment of 5 mm brass rod. I have large hands, so I make punches about 3.5 to 4 inches long. If your hands are on the smaller side, size down. File the sawn end of the rod flush.

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2. With the dividers, measure and scribe a mark about 2 mm from the sawn end of the rod.

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3. Use a knife-edge file to cut a groove along the scribed line, and gradually deepen the groove to about 1 mm in depth.

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4. Using a grinding wheel in the flex-shaft, create a gentle taper in the rod, ensuring the narrowest diameter of the tapered rod remains centered under the flat head of the punch.

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5. With a flat file, clean up the ground areas of metal, improve the taper of the tool shaft, and refine the shape of the tool. I create a taper a bit longer than an inch between the tool head and the untapered rod. Once I am satisfied with the shape of the punch, I sand through several grits of paper and smooth every surface of the punch.

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6. After sanding, burnish the entire punch with a steel burnishing wheel mounted in the flex-shaft.

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7. To use the punch, secure the work in a hand vise, block, or thermoplastic, and gently tap the punch with a chasing hammer. The narrow planishing head on this punch can reach between closely soldered bezels, and the polished gentle taper of the tool shaft won’t scratch neighboring stones.

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