Big  Blue Saw


General Updates

I was interviewed late last year by Courtland of Indie Hackers. Read the interview for a little background on how I built the Big Blue Saw starting from a side project.

Our customer Tessa Gerwing was expecting a baby and wanted something special for her nursery. The little one was going to be named "Mollie Sue" and Tessa felt that she needed a sign to hang above her crib that was as unique as her little one.

Tessa e-mailed us with the handwritten design in the image below. The handwriting belongs to her grandma and namesake, Lonna Sue. It was then up to our designer to turn it into a design that could be waterjet cut.

The final CAD design is shown below. Note that the lines needed to be fattened for strength and the dot above the "i" bridged. As shown, the whole design is about 56 x 14 inches.


Long time Big Blue Saw followers will note that this is somewhere between the type 3 and type 4 signs. The words are separate like in a type 4 sign (this is easy because of the cursive writing). But the dot above the "i" is connected to the rest of the letters as in a type 3 sign in order to avoid having to install that tiny piece separately.

Big Blue Saw waterjet cut the design from 1/2 inch thick polycarbonate plastic. This material is light, but strong enough to support the sign's weight even in the narrow areas. Tessa spraypainted the sign glittery purple before hanging it on the wall.

Here's the waterjet cut and painted pieces installed in the new baby's room. 

Mollie is doing great in her new nursery and enjoying the sign.

If you're interested in making a sign, read more about how to turn a logo into a custom metal sign, the different ways to turn a logo into a sign,  and take a look at our gallery of signs and stencils. Then upload your design to our online quoting and ordering system or contact us for help with your design.


Customer Bill Craig of Piretti Fine Putters wrote to show us where some of our waterjet cut parts ended up. In the photo above, you can see the custom golf club stand they made. Some of the parts came from Big Blue Saw, and Bill had the whole thing welded and assembled locally.



The parts shown in the CAD drawing above were created by Big Blue Saw from 0.25 inch thick aluminum 6061 using waterjet cutting. We applied Basic Finish before shipping. (It looks to me like Piretti applied another finish after final assembly to closer match the vertical bars.)


I don't know that we've ever created a golf club stand before this, but we have done a phone stand, as well as a medicine cabinet organizer.

If you want to show off YOUR sporting goods, why not take a look at our guide to Designing for Waterjet to get some ideas on how to turn your designs into a display stand using parts from Big Blue Saw.


Starting Monday, January 16 and continuing through Wednesday, January 18, you can save on custom waterjet cut parts from Big Blue Saw. Any order placed online for waterjet cut aluminum 6061 or black ABS plastic in  in 1/4 inch (0.25 inch) thickness will automatically receive a quantity discount.

Let's take a look at how much you can save.

For the Ed Z style astromech droid drive, you'll normally spend $174.50 for 1 set of 9 parts waterjet cut from 0.25 inch thick aluminum. During the sale, it's only $139.10, a savings of over 20% off!

With the black ABS, we managed to get a really good deal on the material, so we're offering it to you for a very low price. Select the material "ABS Plastic, Black (Sale Special)" in our online quoting and ordering tool to take advantage of the discount. Here's a quick example:

The 10 inch X 5 inch baseplate design shown above normally sells for $93.50 when laser cut from 0.25 inch thick ABS plastic. But during the sale, you can have the same part waterjet cut for only $10.80. That's 88% off of what you'd usually pay.

Remember, the sale end after Wednesday, January 18, 2017. Get your designs ready and upload them to our online quoting and ordering system.



You may have noticed a new writing style here on our blog, so let me introduce myself. My name is Julie Simancek and I am the customer advocate for Big Blue Saw. I'm also a jeweler who specializes in non-traditional materials and a combat robot enthusiast who was a member of the Chaos Corps team from Battlebots Season 2. On a fairly regular basis I can be found fighting 1lb and 30lb robots at smaller competitions in the south for the team Near Chaos Robotics. 

As the customer advocate I wear several hats throughout the day, but one of biggest parts of my day is answering emails about design files that won't upload to the website correctly. Sometimes those files have specific issues that I help customers out with. But recently we have seen an increase in file issues and questions that stem from a lack of easily searchable information on how file types and extensions impact making real objects with the waterjet and laser cutter.
So lets talk about file types and extensions so your next waterjet cut part can sail through the quoting process and get cut faster. 
There are two types of images in common use, (1) vector and (2) bitmap/raster. I am going to show you both kinds of images and how to work with them to get to cleanly cut pretty waterjet cut and laser cut parts. Knowing what type of image you have and how it will be used can make a big difference between getting the part you need and getting a part that won’t function the way it is supposed to.

Bitmap and raster images are usually good for showing me what you want the finished part or project to look like. For example, if I were cutting out snowflake ornaments for a specific Christmas tree design, a JPEG image of the tree with the different snowflakes on it gives me a great idea about how they should function, and a rough idea of scale.

For the actual snowflakes themselves through, you would want me to use a vector based file like a DXF to cut them out with. Vector images are good for keeping sizes locked down and curves smooth.


Images that show me what your project should look like when completed:

  • JPEGs
  • Bitmaps
  • Hand Drawn Images
  • Assemblies from CAD programs
  • PNGs (with embedded bitmaps)
  • Bitmaps
  • Anything you’ve scanned on a scanner
  • Cell phone pics
  • PDFs with bitmap images embedded or flattened PDFs.


Images that I can use or convert to cut parts with:

  • DXF
  • DWG
  • EPS
  • SVG
  • AI
  • STP
  • STEP
  • PDFs with vector images embedded


Raster images like bitmaps are made up of lots of tiny pixels. Think of them like the dots in a newspaper image or like a printed photograph. If you take a raster image and scale it up dramatically it becomes pixelated. The software that is scaling it up doesn’t have the information to fill in the details in between those dots to keep the image crisp and clean.



This is just like taking a photograph and photocopying every copy of a copy multiple times while playing with the scaling tool on the photocopier. Eventually the image starts to break down.

Ideally you will have an image that is a vector image. The reason why is that vector images keep all of the mathematical formulae that tells the software where all of the curves and lines are in the file. Every time you open a vector file, the software you are opening it with recalculates all of that math. Having the locations of the lines in your file locked in by that math means that different software programs can read and convert that file to different file extensions with minimal to no loss of resolution between programs. So you don’t have to use the same design software that I’m using to get your part to show up correctly.


Vector images also have one really convenient feature, they can be scaled up or down to any size without losing resolution. Since all of your drawing's features are described in mathematical terms, any software you use to change the the size will recalculate where to place the curves and how large they need to be every time you alter your file. The downside is that vector images can get really really large, particularly when they contain a lot of detail.

So on to an example. Let us say that you are new to CAD files, but you really want to make your niece a puzzle of the USA where all the states fit together. Learning CAD software is going slow and if you were to slog through drawing every state your niece would be 18 by the time you finished not 8. Not to fear, the internet can help you get the file you need. Just search “Map of the USA black and white vector file.”


Thanks to the internet search algorithms, the first 3 options look like solid leads on getting the state shapes you need.

Now you know that you don’t want state outlines that are recognisable, but not too detailed. Tiny details on parts smaller than 3” may be unnoticable on the part, but will run up cutting costs and may make tiny peninsulas on the pieces that are easy to break off. You also want an image that shows the states slightly separated. Our quoting and cutting software isn’t setup to do same line cutting, so you’ll want to make sure there is some space between the parts. Looks like the second search result had exactly what we need.

This website offers offers some great options for the file format. If you are going to alter Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware, and Maryland in Inkscape so they cut well, you want to download this file as an AI. Then you can open it in Inkscape, make your alterations, and then Save As a DXF. You may need to open it in LibreCAD and clean up some extra lines to get it to load, but luckily both Inkscape and LibreCAD are free. (Read our article on designing for Big Blue Saw using Inkscape, then take a look at a more advanced example.)

If you see exactly what you want in the file off the internet, and you can download it as a DXF or DWG format. Do that! DXFs are what the software and machines here read. So when you upload a DWG or a PNG file to our site, you can be assured that a program in the background is converting it to DXF for quoting, ordering, and cutting. Most of the time, that conversion goes smoothly, but sometimes parts get scaled wrong or endpoints become disconnected. Starting with a DXF can head some of those issues off at the pass.

So now you have your file, but learning Inkscape and altering it cut a great puzzle isn’t working out. Hey it happens. We do have a designer here that can alter your file to cut well that you can hire. Her fees for altering your file to a puzzle will be a lot lower than if you hired her to draw it up from scratch. Just send me your file and order particulars at I’ll get you a quote for her services and help you get to the ordering stage.

In the example above, I highlighted the EPS, PDF, and PNG formats all as viable ways to get the basic form of the puzzle downloaded. In my next articles I’m going to talk about those formats. They can be converted into DXF format for cutting, but there are some caveats to these kinds of files.