Chasing and Repousse push punches

Hello again, in this post I will try to give a little more information for people wanting to start chasing and repousse in their jewellery or silversmithing work.

Pictured is a selection of the push tools I use. These tools are not exclusively used on the reverse, repousse stage, many are used to define the design from the front, chasing I’m sure you remember. I will not highlight the distinction again as I’m sure all will now be aware of the differences between chasing and repousse.

On the left you see the inclusion of a doming or dapping punch. I was advised that these make good starting out tools. I would advise caution if you choose to use different sizes to get you going as pitfalls await, fine if you want to achieve the results that they give, they remain a part of my tool kit, I will include pictures of items of jewelery I make using them to give examples.

I have marked in pencil the ‘sharpness’ of a doming punch. Obviously this is a relative term. To illustrate the point have a scrap piece of thin gage copper, silver if you are flash enough, and gently tap the punch into the piece whilst supported on pitch or felt, plaster scene. Use anything that will give a little, old telephone directories of thick leather will work also. As you try to control a straight line you will notice it wandering as the point of contact is small and being round it cannot find any purchase from previous blows, it being more likely to be deflected by the previous depression.

Another challenge this presents is the thinning of the metal at this, relatively, sharp point. This can cause problems later on if, like me, you are a little heavy handed it becomes more likely that successive blows it’ll perhaps lead to the punch breaking through. Also imagine the shape from the front. If you want to achieve a mountain like profile, then this is a good choice. Put your finger in the middle of some fabric and you may get what I’m trying to communicate.

The other tools all have gentler slopes that work more of the metal at each blow. Overlapping blows are easier to place as the tool is easier to guide by using part of the previous blows new shape as a guide for the next strike of the tool. Also straighter sides are easier to attain and thinning of the metal is kept to a minimum, the material being more moved than stretched to the centre of the high spot.

The tools on the right are used, by me, pretty much evenly on both sides. I think it fair to say that this process is very much a feel experience. With the help of having some test pieces of scrap you can envisage the shapes you wish to achieve. If my opinion was sought I would suggest that the newcomer spent much time experimenting with profiles on scrap pieces of metal to obtain their own ‘alphabet’ of shapes that can be combined to work towards making patterns that are in that persons head.

I found the learning curve very steep and demoralising. Being a stubborn old git I persisted, however I would like to stress that I have gone through a lot of blind alleys in my endeavours to communicate in this medium. Please notice I didn’t say mistakes as every one of these blind alleys helped me to create a better map for overcoming later obstacles.

For me the true beauty of this timeless way of working is the way you are forced to learn and discover all the time as your confidence grows and your ambitions for ever more effective ways to communicate overtake your current skill set.

Unlike many things today that we can tick off of our lists as been there got the T shirt and the certificate. Chasing and repousse, along with silversmithing and jewellery making are true lifelong journeys, never destinations.

Until next time then when I will show examples of work created with doming punches, this is to show that I am really a fan of them, not as it may be interoperated in this piece.

Very best wishes.

Stu Art

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