General Updates

Customer Mark Dias sent some photos from a remodeling project in a beach home on the Oregon coast. Take a close look at the stairway's steel handrail. Big Blue Saw waterjet cut several custom top and bottom plates from 0.375 (3/8) and 0.188 (3/16) inch thick hot rolled steed A36 based on Mark's designs.




Mark told us: "Your parts made it possible to create a refreshing modern stair rail system. I think the ordering process was great; I am an engineer by trade and sometimes I get tired of having to make phone calls for quotes and placing orders so please keep your ecommerce site as is!"




Have you done any home remodeling or construction work with parts from Big Blue Saw? E-mail us at and your project could be featured here!



Photo CC BY-ND 2.0 Mike Behnken

On May 10, 1752, the world would change forever. This was during the Age of Enlightenment, when scientific knowledge was rapidly expanding.  But in the middle of the 18th century, science was still seen as a hobby for the curious gentleman and not an endeavor which could improve human existance. Today, of course, we take it for granted that new scientific discoveries will soon lead to new inventions that change our lives. 

That all changed due to the experiments of French scientist Thomas-François Dalibard. Dalibard had been very interested in the work of an American scientist whose works he had translated and published earlier in the year. And so, in a high open plain at Marly-la-Ville, just outside Paris, he set up an experimental apparatus based upon the American's designs. It consisted of an 40 foot long round iron bar about an inch in diameter. The rod was raised perpendicular to the ground and supported with thin silk cords.

Dalibard himself was not present on the afternoon May 10 when a thunderstorm passed over Marly-la-Ville. But he had left an assistant and the local priest in charge to make observations. They noted that when the storm passed over, lightning struck the iron bar, but nowhere else in the village. The American was right: an iron rod could be used to create a path to ground for lightning to follow, protecting buildings from being struck.

The invention was the lightning rod. The American inventor was, of course, Benjamin Franklin.

With the lightning rod, man had finally learned to control one of the most feared, dangerous, and random forces of nature. Modern science had proven its usefulness.

When lightning rods first came into use, many objected to them on religious grounds. Franklin, ever the rationalist, saw things differently. He wrote: "Surely the Thunder of Heaven is no more supernatural than the Rain, Hail, or Sunshine of Heaven, against the Inconvenience of which we guard by Roofs and Shades without Scruple."

Benjamin Franklin had not only developed an effective defense against lightning by using scientific knowledge, but he had also changed the way we view science itself.

Detail from Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky by Benjamin West, 1816

From May 8th through May 10th, to celebrate the 265th anniversary of the first lightning rod, Big Blue Saw will be having a sale to help modern day Franklins, engineers, artists, and makers. On these 3 days, every online order for waterjet cut custom parts in aluminum 6061 at 3/8 inch thickness (that's 0.375 inches or 9.5mm) will automatically receive our quantity discount. Depending on the design, this can mean savings up to 75%!


Aluminum 6061 is strong, lightweight, weldable, and corrosion resistant. Our customers have used it for custom bearing blocks, brackets, signs, robot chassis, wheels, and fine art.


And, by the way, aluminum is also a great conductor of electricity for those of you who might be designing your own lightning rods. 

Get started on your history-making invention by uploading your design to our online quoting and ordering system now.


Fire up your CAD software and get your designs ready now! Big Blue Saw will be having a sale on aluminum 6061 in 3/8 inch thickness (0.375 inch or 9.5 mm) starting next week! Orders placed online from Monday, May 8 through Wednesday, May 10, for waterjet cut aluminum in this thickness and material will automatically receive a quantity discount.

You may have seen our list of standard materials which are part of our online quoting system. But for many of our customers involved in making jewelry, fine art, or interior design, these materials aren't what they're looking for.  For them (and anyone who wants a material not on the list) we do custom orders. Popular materials in these fields include copper, brass, and silver. On these projects, the thickness of the material is frequently specified in gauge, rather than inches or millimeters.

In an earlier article, we took a look at the standard gauges for steel sheet. Gauge when applied to copper, brass, or silver means a different set of thicknesses, however. It's based on the American or Brown and Sharpe Wire Gauge standard. As with steel, as the gauge gets higher, the thickness gets lower. Unlike with steel, I can't find a set standard for tolerances for sheets of this material. This means that you're at the mercy of the manufacturer and distributor for tolerances here. (If you know of such a standard, please let me know.)

Here's a chart showing wire gauges in inches and millimeters.

Copper, Brass, Silver, etc. Gauge Thickness, Inches Thickness, mm
8 0.1285 3.264
9 0.1144 2.906
10 0.1019 2.588
11 0.0907 2.305
12 0.0808 2.053
13 0.072 1.828
14 0.0641 1.628
15 0.0571 1.45
16 0.0508 1.291
17 0.0453 1.15
18 0.0403 1.024
19 0.0359 0.912
20 0.032 0.812
21 0.0285 0.723
22 0.0253 0.644
23 0.0226 0.573
24 0.0201 0.511
25 0.0179 0.455
26 0.0159 0.405
27 0.0142 0.361
28 0.0126 0.321
29 0.0113 0.286
30 0.01 0.255

Also, galvanized steel sheet also has its own set of gauge thicknesses:

Thickness, inches Thickness, mm
10 0.1345 3.4163
11 0.1196 3.03784
12 0.1046 2.65684
13 0.0897 2.27838
14 0.0747 1.89738
15 0.0673 1.70942
16 0.0598 1.51892
17 0.0538 1.36652
18 0.0478 1.21412
19 0.0418 1.06172
20 0.0359 0.91186
21 0.0329 0.83566
22 0.0299 0.75946
23 0.0269 0.68326
24 0.0239 0.60706
25 0.0209 0.53086
26 0.0179 0.45466
27 0.0164 0.41656
28 0.0149 0.37846
29 0.0135 0.3429
30 0.012 0.3048
31 0.0105 0.2667
32 0.0097 0.24638

Zinc sheet has yet another gauge system for thickness. I can't recall a single customer who ever wanted us to make something out of zinc sheet, so I'll leave that for you to find on your own. Machinery's Handbook is an authoritative source, and has a chart which includes zinc sheet gauges.

If you're having trouble picking out a thickness, take a look at our page on deciding on a material thickness.

Finally, keep in mind that some manufacturers, distributors, and end users get the gage thickness wrong. They might use the wrong metal's gauge chart or pick an obsolete standard when labeling a sheet of material. That's why we suggest working with thicknesses in common, unambiguous units like millimeters or inches.



If you're looking for custom brackets, braces, bearing blocks, clamps, base plates, or similar one off parts, this is your chance to save. From Monday, April 17 through Wednesday, April 19, 2017 Big Blue Saw is having a sale on custom waterjet cut parts.



During this sale, parts ordered through our online quoting and ordering system will automatically receive a quantity discount. That means that if you order as little as 1 part, you automatically get the same price as if you had ordered 10! During the April event, the discount applies to aluminum 6061 alloy in 0.1875 inch thickness. That's 3/16 inch or about 4.8 mm. 


Our customers have used this material in hundreds of applications including robots, electric vehicles, farm equipment, packaging machines, signs, nameplates, motorcycles, sporting goods, and musical instruments. The 3/16 inch thickness that's on sale is the recommended material for the FarmBot CNC farming machine.

Aluminum 6061 is a solid choice for such a broad spectrum of applications because of Its good strength, corrosion resistance, and weldability.

To learn more about waterjet cutting, read our series on designing for waterjet and especially the article Why Waterjet Cutting?


With the quantity discount, savings will be up to 70% for smaller, one-off parts.

Upload your design now to our online waterjet quoting and ordering system to take advantage of the sale!