Ask Betsy: February Edition


Q: How do I keep metal dust from covering the lines I’m trying to follow when I’m sawing? I’m using rubber cement to glue the design on the metal, but the adhesive seems to just attract the filings and I can’t see where I’m going!


A: It is amazing how much dust can be generated from a saw stroke! It can be annoying, but there are a few ways of dealing with it. You can use your fingers to brush the particles away, but sometimes it’s hard to get close enough to the saw blade. There are a number of things you can use to keep the area clean and, while many of these involved having to stop and start, a couple of them permit you to saw continuously. Try one of the following to see if it works for you.

-Drinking straw. Some folks keep a straw in their mouth while filing so they can blow the filings out of the way while they are working. If it’s uncomfortable for you to do this due to positioning or coordination, you can always keep the straw nearby and every few strokes you can use it to blow away the particles.

-Turkey baster. This is the same principle as the straw. You probably can’t hold it in your mouth, but you can still stop when necessary and blow the dust away.

-Canned air. If you keep a canister of canned air at your workspace, you can give it a blast every once in a while to clear the area.

-Brushes. You can keep a small brush next to your work and brush it as necessary.

-Fan. Some people set up a fan near their bench pin that will provide a steady breeze to keep the dust from settling.


I have found that rubber cement stays pretty tacky and holds on to the filings, so I tend to use sticker paper to print my designs. It doesn’t separate from the metal as easily and is not as sticky at the edges. You can also use a transfer method to transfer the design directly onto the metal (which I will address in another column) but I find the paper is a better contrast for something like sawing or piercing.

I also keep pieces of paper next to my work and on my lap so that I can collect as much of the dust as possible. If you keep the filings, you can use them later to create textures on metal and get some really nice surface decorations by fusing them onto sheet metal.

Send your questions to!