Tools for Coin Cutting: A Place for Beginners to Start

Posted by Jarrett Leone on

A customer of mine asked me for a list of tools for someone to get started cutting coins, so I thought I'd copy that email here for anyone interested. Everyone has their own preferences and opinions on tools and technique, but this is just my recommendation and a good place to start.

*I have no stake in Otto Frei and these tools can be found in a lot of places. Otto Frei just happens to be one source use, and to make it easy for someone to find everything in one place, I chose their site arbitrarily.

Saw Frame
There are lots of fancy saw frames out there, but this is the standard classic and the one I still use after trying everything. 3" is a good size to start with. I use a smaller one now, but I had to modify my v block to make it a bit smaller.

Blades
I like these Superpike blades. Eventually you can try different brands- as long as they come from Germany or Switzerland. There are two factories that make quality blades- one in Germany and one in Switzerland.
The sizes you want to look for are */0. They get smaller as the first number goes up... the largest blades I use are 5/0 and the smallest is 8/0. Don't go much larger than 4/0. I'd recommend the 5/0 to start with. Just dive in and break a lot of blades hahaha. It's part of the game.

Bench Pin
This will clamp to your table or workbench, and is where you will do your cutting. The clamps are usually wimpy, so I use an additional c-clamp to keep it secure and tight.

Drill Bits
The drill bits you want are called HSS (high speed steel) twist drill bits. These will be fine to start with, but eventually if you enjoy this and want to get more and more detailed, I'd recommend trying some better ones. The very best I've used are Gesswein Blue Ribbon, but they are stupidly expensive and not worth buying until you are good at drilling. Since you will be starting with larger bits, the ones from Otto Frei will be fine. The drill bits get smaller as the number goes up. The largest I use are #60, and the smallest are #80. Don't get anything smaller than a #65 to start with. Using these without breaking them off in the coin takes practice, and you won't be cutting anything very detailed in the beginning anyway.

You will need a rotary power tool to do the drilling. Below is the one I use, but you can start with an inexpensive Dremel from the hardware store. Just make sure you buy the adapters that will allow the Dremel to hold tiny drill bits. If you are really into this and you want to keep doing it, invest in the Foredom flex shaft. It is one of the most versatile tools on the planet and worth every penny.
Lubricant
You will need something like this when drilling and cutting to keep the drill bits and saw blade lubricated. You can use beeswax as well.

Magnification
I use the Optivisor with a #5 magnification plate. Some people like to use those big magnifying lenses with a light used for making models and whatnot, but the visor is nice because it moves with your head.

Other things:
A small brush for cleaning the dust off the coin you are cutting.  A kitchen basting brush, small paintbrush, cosmetic brush etc. or here's one you can get with everything else.
Pliers and jump rings
You will eventually need a set of pliers and jump rings when you get a piece you actually want to wear. "chain nose pliers" are the style best suited to working with jump rings, in my opinion.
To start with get something like 5mm 20gauge stainless steel jump rings. You should be able to find them at a bead or jewelry supply store, or online. Eventually if you want to get serious, learn to solder and use sterling silver, brass or copper jump rings and solder them closed. But that's a whole other set of tools and skills.

Dust Mask
Wear some kind of protection so you don't breathe the metal dust while cutting. A high quality surgical mask, dust mask, etc. Even a bandana is better than nothing. 

General info:
Drilling:
Lubricate the drill bit often and go slow. Drill a tiny bit, back it out and lubricate; repeat; repeat; repeat until you go through.
You will need one hole a the top to attach a jump ring and then one hole in each section you intend to cut out. For George Washington's profile, it will be one on either side of his head.

Cutting
The saw blades clamp into the frame. You want the teeth facing down and forward. Clamp the bottom, thread the coin on the blade, clamp the top and then tension the blade and clamp the adjustment in the back of the saw. You want the blade nice and taut, with no slack whatsoever--- but not so tight that it breaks. It takes practice. You can find a million videos of jeweler's demonstrating how to load and tension a blade.
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Smooth and steady is the key. You can't force it, let the blade do the cutting. Keep the blade straight up and down as much as possible, until you get good. When making turns, especially sharp turns, you must keep the blade moving up and down as you turn. 

Buy a roll of quarters and start with cutting out George Washington's profile. You can use pennies if you want, but they are small and trickier to hold in place. Quarters are a perfect size to learn on.

Here is a video of me cutting a 2020 bat quarter. It will give you a basic idea of the cutting process. 
Anyone is always welcome to reach out to me through email for questions, tips or anything at all. I love to share knowledge, especially when it encourages people be creative!

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