Big  Blue Saw


General Updates

Alex Bell wrote in to tell us about a unique bicycle he built using Big Blue Saw.
From Harlem, NYC comes my latest project, the Bellcycle. Growing up in NYC I always wanted to build things like my own bicycle from scratch, but living in an apartment makes that tricky. So last year I started experimenting with making a cycle that someone could assemble in their living room. While I was at it I thought, what the hell lets make it weird. So I made it front wheel pedaled and added some springs and pivots to make the riding experience fun. 
For version 1 of the bellcycle I used a hacksaw to cut out some aluminum bar and a drill for the holes. But of course this was exhausting, inaccurate and unscalable. After I found out about Big Blue Saw I was hooked. Within a few days of finished a design I would get a package in the mail with all the parts ready to go.
I have found the waterjet parts to be of surprisingly good accuracy and a great basic finish. I suggest that more makers/engineers/designers take a look at building with waterjet cut parts and inexpensive round metal tubing. If you drill and tap a pinch bolt into the side of the part you can create rigid and strong products with just Big Blue Saw waterjet parts, tubing and some bolts. I can imagine the same process would be great for custom furniture, vehicles, etc. I will be releasing design files and guides to building with the waterjet parts on the blog at soon, so head over and subscribe. 
Alex also posts updates to this project @Bellcycles on Twitter and @bellcycles on Instagram, so you can get the latest updates there as well.
Here's the Bellcycle version 1.2 in action.
Alex is a hardware and software engineer, but this is his first creation using waterjet cut parts. All of the Bellcycle's waterjet cut parts were made from aluminum 6061 in 0.375 inch thickness. Here's a peek at some of the designs. See if you can spot how they're used in the finished bike.
A few closeups of the bike:
To learn to create your own designs with waterjet cut parts, read our articles on designing for waterjet.
Have you built anything with Big Blue Saw that you'd like to share? Let us know!

Image of Aluminum CC BY 3.0

Look around you and you'll probably find a dozen things made from aluminum. Its weight, strength, thermal and electric properties all make aluminum the most widely used metal in the world, next to iron. You'll find it as a primary component in everything from spacecraft to drink containers.

But in the 1800s, aluminum was a precious metal. Despite aluminum being the 3rd most common element on earth, aluminum was hard to extract from ore. This made it so valuable that emperors and nations used it to display wealth and technological savvy. Emperor Napoleon III of France served honored dinner guests with dinnerware made from aluminum. In 1884, the Washington Monument was capped with a 6 pound aluminum pyramid, the largest single piece in the world at the time.

At this time, world production was only 3.6 metric tons, far short of the 2,800 metric tons of silver produced in that same year.

In the momentous year 1886 all of that started to change. Charles Martin Hall in the USA and Paul Louis Toussaint Héroult of France each independently came up with a method for extracting aluminum from ore using electricity. The Hall-Héroult Method dramatically decreased costs and production soared. 

By 1900, 8,000 tons of aluminum were being produced per year. Prices had fallen to around 25 cents per pound. Aluminum was no longer a material reserved for kings and monuments, but a practical metal for everyday use. A staggering 58 million tons were produced worldwide in 2016.

From Monday, July 17, through Wednesday, July 19, Big Blue Saw is doing its part to reduce prices on custom aluminum parts. When you order parts waterjet cut from aluminum 6061 in 1/4 inch thickness (that's 0.25" or 6.35 mm) through our online quoting and ordering system, you'll automatically receive a quantity discount. Here are a couple examples:

This 21x21 inch robot baseplate normally goes for $172.20 when waterjet cut from 0.25 inch thick aluminum 6061. During the sale, you can quantity 10 price even when ordering as little as 1 piece. That brings the price down to $125.20, or 27% off.


For smaller parts, the deal is even better. This gearbox plate at 4.7x4.4 inches would be $92.10 when ordering 1 normally waterjet cut from aluminum 6061 in 0.25 inch thickness. But during the sale, you can get it for $12.60, the same price as if you had ordered 10. That's 86% off the regular price.

Upload your design to our online ordering system, save on custom parts, and live like royalty!


Brenda Cruz-Fletcher wrote to us wanting something that would last for a long time and would be a unique expression of her personality.

She decided on a car tag (license plate) made from stainless steel. She created the sketch below to give us an idea of what she was looking for.


Working with Brenda, our designer came up with the waterjettable design shown below. Note that the orientation has been changed to better fit the frame, and all of the "islands" in the design have been bridged so that the tag ends up as one solid piece.

Brenda ordered it cut from beefy and durable 0.25 inch 304 stainless steel with Basic Finish. Here's the final result:


We're having a sale next week on custom waterjet cut aluminum parts. This is an early heads-up so that you have time to prepare your designs. Place your order online for aluminum 6061 in 0.25 inch thickness (that's 1/4 inch or 6.35 mm in metric) and you'll automatically receive a quantity discount. The sale starts on Monday, July 17 and runs through Wednesday, July 19. To take advantage of the low prices, fire up your CAD software now and get your files ready.

We'll be posting more about the sale as the time approaches, or you can be notified by joining our mailing list or liking us on Facebook.

At Big Blue Saw, all of our parts are made using waterjet cutting or laser cuttingThose kinds of parts don't limit your designs to just 2 dimensions. Over the years, we've worked with our customers to find the best techniques to assemble and modify waterjet and laser cut parts to create 3 dimensional finished products. Here are a few things to use on your next project.


Bending or "braking" your part is an obvious way to get an extra dimension, but beware: doing it accurately is not as easy as you might think. Adding a relief slot along the bend line can make things go much more smoothly.
More about bending your parts.

Tab and Slot/T-Nut

Tab and Slot construction is often combined with the T-nut technique because it uses common hardware and is quite strong.
Creating a corner brace with T-nut construction.
More about tab and slot/T-nut construction.


Stacking allows you to create boss features,  pockets, and bevels. Since the cut edge does not directly touch any flat parts, there's no need to worry about taper compensation on thicker pieces.
Simulating a bevel using stacking.
More about stacking.


Originally developed for fighting robots, nutstrip is off the shelf hardware that makes it easy to join 2 plates at 90 degrees.
Read about how I use nutstrip.

Long Bolts and Tensioned Plate

You can use fully threaded bolts to space flat plates at a distance from each other. Read about the long bolt technique on our website. A variation on this is tensioned plate construction, which adds a custom part between the two flat plates. One of our customers used this technique to create load holding fixtures.


If you've got access to welding equipment and the skill to use it, you can join flat metal parts at any angle. BattleBots champion Bite Force had a welded chassis made of parts from Big Blue Saw.

Custom Clamps

You can clamp larger parts like poles together using waterjet cut custom clamps.

Curvier Parts

Read about how I was able to create the wavy shaped part shown above using only waterjet cut parts with off the shelf hardware.