Hammer chased beaker example of air chasing with modified hammers

Hello, I had a thought that perhaps I could show an example of a lesser known chasing technique, hammer, or as it’s sometimes known as air chasing. If this style excites you as it does me then please check out the following master craftsman Hiroshi Suzuki.

http://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/exhibitions-promotions/who’s-who-in-gold-silver/designer-makers/hiroshi-suzuki/

Mr Suzuki appears not to have his own website, the Goldsmiths link above should give you a flavour, a Google search will keep you enthralled for hours. No, oh well just me then : )

I approach all of my work by first making models, in copper mainly. I have found that recycling copper domestic hot water tanks is very cost effective and the material is plentiful making me more care free, spontaneous and less conscious of the cost implication of mistakes, oops sorry design opportunities. I will go into more depth as to the pros and cons of this approach in another post. As I have stated drawing is not a skill I possess sufficiently enough to communicate the three dimensional ideas I visualise so I make models and, for want of a better way of putting it, sculpt the design as I go along. I was self conscious about this until I discovered that Hiroshi Suzuki uses a similar approach. I would highly recommend you search out any literature that goes into depth about him as he has a very different and, to me, refreshing spontaneous approach that is remarkable when compared to the design design check and re check before you make approach that many of us take.

The hammers you see in the pictures were all modified from second hand ball peen and cross peen hammers, bought from a local market trader that specialises is house clearance. It is easy to be seduced by the artisans tools that, I’m sure you like me drool over in the tool catalogues. However perfectly serviceable and effective versions can be made with a little elbow grease and some imagination.

The results from this process are very effective and take far less time to achieve. The technique lends itself to more abstract designs giving a good opportunity to imply movement. I have not added texture to this piece as it is only a model and best left to use as a visual reference for me to return to. I will show others later with hammer and punch textures applied to show more.

To help give a personal, visual explanation of this approach I ask you to pinch the skin on the back of your hand with your thumb and forefinger. If you compare what you see with the raised sections of the design then you will have an idea of how it is achieved. First the broader faced hammers are used to create the valleys on either side of the lines drawn. Careful to alternate a little each side of the line to work towards the line. Then using the smaller, less broad hammer profiles you can refine the peaks to create the ridges. I have deliberately left these somewhat ‘soft’ if you will. If you look to some of the Suzuki examples you can see that it is possible to create a very accurate and defined sharp line if your design requires this. The danger with this technique, as I see it anyway, is that it is easy to get carried away with the rapid progress that the hammers make and annealing is neglected leading to a real danger of cracks and tears appearing in the overworked material. Keep this in mind, anneal often as you feel and hear the material, be it silver copper or whatever to keep this risk to a minimum.

Repairs are time consuming and a pain to do. I will show a repair in another post to show that all is not lost, even with the biggest mistakes, time and application of learned techniques can dig you out of most holes.

Silversmithing being a very expensive discipline to learn as the cost of the material becomes ever more expensive, makes silver-plating a direction that you may wish to consider. This would be a very attractive option for larger vessels of sculptural approaches using copper of gilding metal to create your work, sending it off for plating.

Cost in terms of tooling can also be off set by learning some toolmaking skills and make or modify your own. Of course if cost is not a consideration you will save a lot of time by buying off the shelf models. However the satisfaction and learning you gain by modifying or making to your own specifications and needs is priceless in my opinion, also it is a nod to how the greats that precede us have made their masterpieces in a time when tool catalogues did not exist.

Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to cover in other posts. Until next time keep on making. Very best wishes.

Stu Art

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