(Update: The #1 problem people have when using the Pepe is blade binding, in which the blade slows down a lot and even stops completely. All the tips below will help you use the Pepe more easily and produce better rings, but if your main problem is blade binding, skip directly to Tip #4.)
(Update: This is an older post from my original web site – see it here. Pepe has a newer version of the Jump Ring Maker. It’s basically the same, but without the mounting board and a new, better winding crank. All the advice here applies to the new version, as well.)
I love my Pepe Jump Ring maker and couldn’t live without it. Here’s my Pepe set up:
The Pepe and Flexishaft Combo costs around $200 (update: more now), and it is worth the price. After buying crappy rings from hobby stores and after using the little wire coiling-thingy from a well-known bead and jewelry supplier, I decided to get serious. Sure, it was a little pricey for me, but I knew it would pay for itself in time and per-ring costs over time.
I have made more than 20,000 rings since purchasing the Jump Ring Maker, and I still love it. Really, really love it. Worth every penny!
Why I make my own rings:
- I can have rings when I want them and in the quantity I need.
- I can select the wire type, gauge, and diameter I need.
Pros and Cons of the Pepe Jump Ring Maker
Before I give you my tips for using the Pepe, here are a few pros and cons of the Pepe and flexishaft combo:
Pros: Fast, accurate, good selection of mandrel sizes (2.5 – 12 mm), simple to use and set up, can use several blade sizes, good storage mount (the board you see in the picture) that keeps everything in one place. (update: No more mounting board. I strongly encourage you to screw the winding crank and the cutting trough to a board.)
One Major Con: To attach the hand piece to the Flexishaft grip, you have to tighten a couple of screws on the back side. It’s hard to line up the blade in the right place and tighten the screws on the back, which you can’t see when looking at the blade. This makes assembly awkward and a little frustrating. In fact, in the videos below, only one shows tightening the screws…probably because it can be problematic until you’ve had a lot of practice. (See the first tip, which addresses why this is a problem.)
(update: The new version has the screws on the top, which is much better.)
Here’s the point: The designer should have put the screws on the side.
Now, a few tips for using the Pepe Jump Ring Maker
The Pepe Jump Ring Maker / Flexishaft Combo is a great tool. If you follow these 8 tips, you will produce many excellent rings with little hassle.
Tip One. The hand piece fits over the ring holder, and when positioned correctly, the saw blade will fit exactly in the center slot of the top that holds the rings down. Here’s an image showing the slot in the top:
So, here’s the first tip: When positioning the hand piece while setting up the blade, and when you think it’s approximately in the right place, put the slotted top into the hand piece so that the blade sticks through. Then, you can make any minor adjustments to ensure the hand piece is in the correct place and the blade is exactly centered. Do this before tightening those screws on the back. (This is when the major Con comes into play. You have to keep the slotted top balanced in place on top, which means the screws are on the bottom where you can’t see them while trying to tighten them. It’s awkward, but do-able.)
The third video below discusses why it’s important to get this right. View from 5:55 to 7:15. You’ll see that she has a hard time getting the hand piece adjusted correctly. If you lay on the slotted top before tightening the screws, you can get the right position the first time.
Finally, once you have it locked in the right place, make those screws tight. You don’t want the hand piece to move–ever. This way, you only have to do it once. (When changing blades, don’t take off the handpiece! You can open from the top to replace the blade.)
Tip Two: Lubricate the wire coil, not the blade. Lubrication on the blade will wear off before you cut through the entire coil. You can use the waxy lubricant that is recommended by vendors, or you can use a couple of drops of dish soap. I use dish soap.
Lubrication is important. It will keep your blade sharp much longer.
Tip Three: When cutting, make sure the hand piece is flush against the slotted top. If you angle it so that only one side is touching, you risk the blade making contact with the top, which can break your blade. (I’ve done this.)
In the third video below (the one that has the yellow warning tag on the hand piece), you can see that the person doesn’t have the hand piece flush against the top.
And here’s an image showing how the hand piece keeps the blade in place when cutting rings:
Look at how I’m holding the hand piece in the picture above. I’m holding the hand piece from the top, not the side or down the shaft of the hand piece. This way, I make sure it’s making full contact with the slotted top. My other hand is holding the cable to keep the hand piece in the correct horizontal position.
Tip Four: This is very, very important. When you are screwing down the slotted top, don’t make it tight. The top should be barely pressing down on the rings, which is enough to keep them in place. You don’t need to clamp down the rings: they won’t go anywhere. Make the screws just tight enough to keep the slotted top from wobbling–and NO MORE.
If you screw down the top too tightly, the rings may become distorted as you cut them, and the cut rings may become unaligned in the holder. This WILL cause the rings to put pressure on the sides of your blade, and your blade will bind up. In fact, the rings can put so much pressure that your blade will stop entirely! Also, when part of the coil is cut, if the top is too tight, it will sag down where you’ve already cut rings, causing the cut rings to start to lay down. Then, the blade will catch them and throw them out. You will have rings all over the place, and they won’t be usable.
Also, if you’re using Tip Three (hold the hand piece from the top), don’t press down hard on the hand piece. This will cause a similar effect to screwing down the lid to tightly. Just hold it firmly enough to ensure that the guide is flush with the lid.
You want that blade to move as fast and freely as possible. The second and third video show how fast the Pepe / Flexishaft can cut rings, but the first video shows how the blade can bind up when cutting.
This was a hard lesson to learn, and I made a lot of crappy rings and wore out, or broke, many blades.
Video 1: Blade binding up (start at 8:50 to see the actual cutting)
You can see the questioning look on his face when he was done, as if he knows it should have been better. Earlier in the video, he said to make the top nice and tight. That’s what he did wrong.
Video 2: Better cutting, but still some binding (start at 10:55 to see the cutting)
Earlier in the video, she addressed not tightening so much that the top bows. But when she loosened the screws somewhat, the top was still too tight. You can see how low the top is where she begins cutting. As a result, her blade slows down a bit during cutting, and you can hear the blade catch and throw rings around. Each of those rings that make contact with the blade again will be wasted. You can also see that she is forcing the blade to keep moving through the rings. If you do this tip right, you won’t need to. It will cut smoothly without force.
Still, this is much, much better than the man in the first video.
Notice that she, like me, holds the hand piece from the top.
Video 3: No binding, nice and fast cutting, but the blade is not straight (start at 8:00 for the cutting)
Notice that the hand piece isn’t flush against the top. She is risking breaking her blade. Now, look at the rings from the side. The blade is hitting them at an angle, causing them to lay down in the holder. This make it harder to pick them up later, which is what the next tip is about.
(Also, see the video starting at 5:55 for difficulty getting the blade positioned. She needs my first tip.)
Tip Five: Use a mandrel to pick up the cut rings.
If you have done everything above, all your rings will be stacked up in the holder when you’re done cutting. They will be just like the coil, except cut across the top. (They won’t lay down like in the third video.) They should look like this:
Then, you can use a smaller sized mandrel to pick them up. Just slip in a mandrel from one end, and get them all at the same time.
Tip Six: Keep up your blade speed.
If your blade starts slowing down, reduce your forward motion, or stop moving forward completely until the blade speed comes back up. A faster blade means a smoother cut and fewer burrs, if any.
Tip Seven: Keep those blades sharp.
If you have done everything above, your blade should last a long time. I have probably cut 1,500 rings with the blade I’m using currently, and it’s still fine. However, they will eventually become duller. They may feel sharp to your finger, but your finger isn’t as hard as metal wire. If you find that you can’t cut wire as fast as previously or if you start getting a lot of burrs, you probably need to change blades.
I always keep at least one extra blade, usually two. If I break a blade (rare, now that I’ve learned tips 3 and 4) or if the blade is getting dull, I change it.
Tip Eight, Final Tip: Use shielding.
The Pepe Jump Ring Maker / Flexishaft Combo will create a lot of metal dust, which you don’t want flying through the air. So…
Shield your eyes. (Use eye glasses, at the very least, but goggles are better. I just wear my glasses.)
Shield your workspace. See the picture above where I’m cutting rings. I put the entire set up inside a plastic tub. The metal dust will still come towards me, but it’s shielded from the back and sides. After cutting rings, I wipe down the tub, which can have a lot of metal dust. I’d rather have it coating the tub insides than my table, walls, carpet, etc.