Big  Blue Saw


General Updates


A note for those of you in the Atlanta area on Labor Day weekend: I'll be appearing at two events as part of the Dragon*Con, “largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction and fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe”.

Some of you may know that I used to be director of the Robotics Track at Dragon*Con. In the years since I've left to dedicate more time to Big Blue Saw, the current director, Valerie Macht, has expanded the focus of this track to include more events for “makers” of all kinds, not just robot builders.

I'm excited to be appearing with two friends of mine whom I admire not only for their building prowess, but also for their wit and charm: famed special effects artist Peter Abrahamson and mad genius Charles Guan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We'll be conducting a discussion panel entitled “Digital Fabrication, Laser and Waterjet Cutting”. This takes place on Saturday, September 1 at 11:30 AM in the Savannah Rooms 1-3 of the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. We'll be talking about Big Blue Saw, giving demonstrations, showing off parts, answering questions, and even giving away a few freebies.

Also, on Monday, September 3 (Labor Day), I'll be competing in Robot Battles 44 with my robot Jaws at the Hyatt Regency VI-VII Ballroom. Most of Jaws's custom parts were made using Big Blue Saw.

For more information see the Robotics Track schedule at

I look forward to seeing you there.


I am constantly amazed by the things people dream up and make with the help of Big Blue Saw. Our customers have built robots, clocks, light installations, jewelry, and fashion accessories with Big Blue Saw. Now, we're helping them build powerful electric motors. Charles Guan shows us how it's done.

His Kittmotter is an electric motor that can be adapted for a variety of situations. Charles uses it to power a small electric scooter, but I can easily see these motors being used in small electric carts, toys, or robots.

Best of all, these motors can be built from Big Blue Saw parts with a few hardware odds and ends. No specialized machine tools necessary.

With Big Blue Saw, not only can you make what you dream of, you can now make it move.


Big Blue Saw is having a sale on Cold Rolled Steel A366/1008 in 0.0598 inch thickness. The sale will run from Tuesday June 19, 2012 through Friday, June 22, 2012.

It follows our usual sale format: all orders of the material on sale, no matter how small, will receive a quantity discount. This is a great opportunity to try Big Blue Saw for the first time or to order a simple piece that would otherwise just be too expensive.

For instance, our "butterfly" example part would normally cost $90.60 if you ordered just one. During this sale, you can have the same part for $9.10!

(For more frequent updates about Big Blue Saw and to join discussions with fellow Big Blue Saw customers, "Like" us on Facebook using the link below.)


Steel remains one of our most popular materials, so we've decided to add a few new options to our lineup of options in our online quoting system. The following steel materials are now available:

  • Cold Finished Steel 1018
  • Cold Rolled Steel A366/1008
  • Hot Rolled Steel A36
  • Hot Rolled Steel 1045
  • Hot Rolled Steel A569/ASTM A1011

These are available in stock materials ranging from as thin as 0.024 inch all the way up to 1 inch thick.

About Steel

We have three main varieties of steel: hot rolled, cold rolled, and cold finished. Cold rolled and cold finished steel will generally have the smoothest surface finish, and will look the best on applications that need to look good. Hot rolled steel is usually less expensive, but can have an irregular oxide coating (mill scale) on the outside.

For comparison purposes, here is a chart of the relative strengths of the various kinds of steel.

TypeUltimate Tensile Strength, psi. Higher is Better
Cold Finished Steel 1018 63,800
Cold Rolled Steel A366/1008 38,000 - 51,900
Hot Rolled Steel A36 58,000 - 79,800
Hot Rolled Steel 1045 95,000
Hot Rolled Steel A569/ASTM A1011 30,000 - 50,000

As always, if you don't see your material on our list, just ask, and we'll try to accommodate your needs.

Upload your design and get an instant quote on steel parts.

Photo by KILAM Photography


Big Blue Saw has a large variety of materials to choose from, over 70 at last count. Many first time customers have a hard time deciding which material to choose. Aluminum 5052 or Stainless Steel 316? Black acrylic or acetal?

The truth is most projects can be done with 6061 aluminum, 304 stainless, cold roll steel, or clear acrylic. Our customers have found that each of these four fills a unique niche.

Here's a chart that ranks the four materials against each other in terms of cost, appearance, and specific strength (also known as strength-to-weight ratio). 4 is best, 1 is worst.

 CostAppearanceSpecific Strength
Clear Acrylic 4 3 1
Aluminum 6061 2 2 4
Stainless Steel 304 1 4 2
Carbon Steel 3 1 3

It's worth noting that though we've ranked them against each other in terms of appearance, none of these materials look particularly bad. Stainless steel is more durable than aluminum, and thus holds its finish better. If you need a transparent material, then, of course, a metal won't work at all and you need a plastic like clear acrylic.

Cold roll steel doesn't come out on top of any of the above categories, but it's still useful. Why? It is harder (good for sliding or wearing parts), denser, and can be welded more easily than the other materials. It's also magnetic.

Acrylic is the least expensive of the materials on the list, in part because it can be laser cut. The metric thicknesses, like 3 mm (0.118 inches) and 6 mm (0.236 inches) are less expensive than their inch equivalents.

If you're consideringBut NeedTry
Aluminum 6061 Better formability (ability to bend the material into shape) Aluminum 5052
Aluminum 6061 Better electrical conductivity Copper 110
Clear Acrylic Higher strength Clear Polycarbonate, Acetal, or UHMW-PE
Stainless Steel 304 Maximum corrosion resistance (like in salt water environments) Stainless Steel 316
Stainless Steel 304 Lower cost Aluminum or one of the metallic appearance acrylics (Brushed Bright Nickel, for example)

Of course, there are a few materials we offer that that don't appear on any of these charts: various kinds of wood, leather, and fabric. If you're considering these, you probably already have a good idea of what you need.

As always, if you don't see your material on our list, just ask, and we'll try to accommodate your needs.

Upload your design and get an instant quote on any of our materials.