What Hand-Held Device Will Cut Shapes from Fibrous Clay?
October 27, 2013 5:26 AM   Subscribe

I need to make circular shapes - consistently and regularly - from a material that can only be described as fibrous clay with some waxy residue. I need to find some kind of hand-held device/gadget that will make these circular shapes without breaking.

Each one is approximately the size of a dime, thickness is about 1/4-1/2 inch. Think waxy candies. But they're basically not edible - plus they have some fibers in them. So - rolling them by hand is not do-able - I thought maybe a guillotine type of cutter might be more suitable - but still I'd need to put the final touches and shapes them into rounds. Also the Play-Do presses came to mind except the material I'm using is much heavier and tougher than Play-Do and it's doubtful if it could handle what I have in mind. Though something similar - heavier duty - could work.

Any ideas what I could use? And if I need to use a hand-held guillotine, which one should I get?

Any ideas - most welcome.
posted by watercarrier to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hole drill bit + press? Other than that, look at cooking implements, and papercraft punches. Metal cookie cutter?
posted by Leon at 5:57 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've used punches for similar kinds of things. We used them to cut circles in 3-5mm thick silicon sheets. It requires a bit of force, but not unduly much. You can get sets or a single size fairly easily.

Also for future reference, McMaster Carr has a great search engine and lots of pictures to help you when you don't know what the object you're looking for is called.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:08 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

If these are too tough for a cookie cutter, maybe a grommet punching tool would work? The holes seem to match up pretty well with the dimensions you're describing.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:08 AM on October 27, 2013

Clarification question:
You want to extrude a cylinder of this and then chop off thin circular x-sections?
Or are you starting with a sheet of the stuff?

(just realized that my earlier suggestion is keyed to the second option and thus may not be relevant).
posted by sciencegeek at 6:10 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Okay if I'm reading your question right, the material is currently in cylinder form, and you need to cut discs from these? If that's the case, have you thought about a tube cutter?
posted by Mizu at 6:33 AM on October 27, 2013

I'm not sure if your substance is soft or pliable enough or melts, but is it something you could cast or press into a mold?
posted by Lou Stuells at 6:46 AM on October 27, 2013

Extrusion. Something like this? You may have to fashion your own die.
posted by popcassady at 6:54 AM on October 27, 2013

If you are cutting from a flat sheet (cookie cutter style): length of copper pipe in correct diameter. Sharpen edge. Whack with mallet. Poke out piece from other end with a dowel.
posted by ecorrocio at 6:57 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I could go either with a sheet - in which case I need to roll over it and have the piece fall through some kind of die en masse. At least by the dozen. It's tedious otherwise. And alternately, I could definitely go with extrusion - having the tube come out of a chute and then cut off 1/2 inch diameter pieces. I really don't want to spend a lot of money for this - so what am I looking for?
posted by watercarrier at 7:33 AM on October 27, 2013

Response by poster: popcassady - it's not slick enough to go through one of those. I would need 50 pounds of force to get it through.
posted by watercarrier at 7:34 AM on October 27, 2013

Response by poster: Lou Stuells - it's not cast-able - needs either extrusion or some kind of roll-over sheet with circle dies.
posted by watercarrier at 7:36 AM on October 27, 2013

Response by poster: sciencegeek - maybe some kind of plastic tube (2 pieces) then I could possibly slice it with a long razor. Diameter needs to be approximately that of a dime.
posted by watercarrier at 7:47 AM on October 27, 2013

Have you tried freezing it and using a saw?
posted by Nelson at 8:01 AM on October 27, 2013

Those extruders can push a fair amount of clay. This is a bit more pricier but I still think extrusion is the best way to go. Extrude a couple of inches and slice off the pucks with a pottery cutting wire. Use wooden battens either side to maintain the correct thickness.
posted by popcassady at 8:29 AM on October 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

So, thinking slightly outside the box, it sounds like (invoke animated Clippy helper) you are trying to make something very similar to sausages that you cut into disks.

Maybe a sausage press would actually work!

I'm thinking the $79.50 one halfway down the page would be a good place to start?
posted by misha at 8:55 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: OK here's my go at cheap and efficient. I would roll out the sheet of material to your ideal thickness, and then make 'cookie cutters' out of either sheet steel or by recycling an aluminum can with a process like this (except I'd use rivets instead of bolts). Coil the metal strips inside a piece of metal tubing or around a dowel (3/4" maybe?) to get the consistent circle shape and size, and rivet the shape closed. Make a bunch of them, then rivet or clamp them into a configuration like this or this so you cut several shapes at a time.

You can buy cookie cutters that small, but apparently only as part of a set of several sizes.

I would expect the sheet steel at least to be strong and sharp enough to cut through a stiff material, and you could bang down the cutters with a mallet. If your material doesn't stick to the table when you pick the coin-shapes up, I think the chance for deformation is minimized compared to making thin slices off a cane.

And I'm terribly curious and I hope you eventually update and tell us what you're doing and how you end up doing it.
posted by Lou Stuells at 9:55 AM on October 27, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you so very much everyone. You all came through with really great ideas. Lou Stuells - those multiple cookie cutters - totally great idea. Will try to hack into the concept and will give an update as the product develops. :)
posted by watercarrier at 10:42 AM on October 27, 2013

If what you want are discs, you could make your cutters out of EMT (thinwall electrical tubing), maybe sharpening the cutting side a bit.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 11:50 AM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Tablet or e-book reader with remote page turn?   |   Android replacement for Wapedia? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.