Back to the Britannia silver bowl, here I will show the stages up to the completed first outer angle before coming back in to close the opening. Also I will show some corrective work needed to keep the form true.
Alas, I did not take pictures of the raising of the bottom, I feel you will be able to see it in your mind and do not feel this will hinder you’re understanding. As you raise you may well have to make some decisions as to what stake is best for you. Silversmiths will normally make custom stakes to make the shapes they desire before starting a project. A commercially available stake such as the cows tongue one here, present some good options for a variety of pleasant shapes without having to fashion a custom shape. A mix of time restraints and a not definite shape encouraged me to use what I had.
The large doming punch can only be used for a short time. Think about the shape of a dome, if used for too long the shape will come in on itself too much. This is where doing it will be far more beneficial than reading, I will do my best to explain it as I do it, you may like to share your own approaches, I would love to see them.
If you hold your form in front of you and bring your doming punch, or stake, up from behind you can ‘sight’ it if you will against a light or window. You can better envisage the shape of the stake against your form and relate it to the shape you wish to achieve. Similarly if you take these two stakes, well a doming punch and a stake, and hold them in front of you and play with the relationships in space, you can work out the transition from one to another.
I find this helpful as the commonest fault I have watched others make, including myself, is that the stake is just hit against without properly realising the subtle differences a few mm each way can make on the final shape, as the curves are progressive, not fixed, on most stakes. Again consistency can be better appreciated when you do this sighting exercise as the smallest of movements between each of the stakes can have quite dramatic results on the curves created. This also helps the imagination to run a little wild as you see shapes that you may not have considered. I find this, sometimes only after perhaps days when a thought pops into my head after I have seen something and relate it to the shapes I have made playing with stakes. As usual I have used many words when these few would do; most stakes have a myriad of possibilities that are more subtle than a casual glance may present.
Keeping your form even and correct throughout the raising process is important if you do not wish to have to cut off, or correct the rim too much at the end. With the picture of the piece shown on a flat plate it can be clearly seen that my technique is not consistant. I always, after a course of raising, just go over it again with a mallet to take out the lumps and bumps that the raising process creates. This serves to also give you an idea of how accurate you are, not very if you look at this. Now is a good time to correct this as you can imagine this will only get worse at the end, I will explain what I do to correct it.
Planishing is a very tricky skill to get right. Notice I didn’t say perfect as I am nowhere near as competent as I wish to be at this stage. There are many variables, stake selection, hammer profile, weight of hammer and the blow itself. I hope to cover this in more detail in at the end of this project, for now though I will just say that ‘spot planishing’, my made up term, was used to stretch the silver back into shape.
As you see the rough line drawn around the high spot, imagine if you will the silver being thicker in this boundary. By measured planishing in this particular area we can encourage the silver to flow out towards the edge. I did this over three annealing. As you know this was the first silver bowl I have raised and so I was perhaps a little timid, the results in the next picture shows that it was not altogether unsuccessful.
When I planished the bowl all over I used a flat faced planishing hammer, the surface being convex, like a dome, as opposed to concave, like a slice of eaten watermelon. For this technique to be a success however a domed planishing hammer was used. I hope not to confuse but I also used a cross peen as well in places. The slight dome compresses into the silver displacing it. If you make a ‘barrier’ along the line, nothing definite I’m afraid, it’s your call, experience will teach us all in the end. By a barrier, think work hardened line that the unhardened silver cannot cross. This forces the silver to flow towards the rim, trapped in the barrier you create by overlapping blows along the line, hardening it.
If you planish too hard you will cause unevenness and possible warping, this is why I annealed and went back to it. I planished on the cows tongue stake, making sure the area was in contact with the stake at all times. With patience and careful planishing you can restore the rim, as seen in the photographs.
I hope I have been clear to this point and will return again to explain the bringing in of the form, closing the entrance to the bowl.
Until next time, all my very best wishes.
Stu Art 🙂
how is Britannia silver compositionally different, it is somewhere in-between sterling and fine silver right?
Great question, I will cover in another post, the differences I have found working with them. To give you an idea, Sterling silver has a higher copper content. This makes it harder, both to work and for wear and tear, however the more pure forms of silver can be made harder by working. Fire stain is a constant challenge whilst annealing or soldering silver, it being the copper reacting to the oxygen forming an oxide layer that is unsightly in finished pieces.
Using Britannia gives you a halfway house with protection from fire stain as the copper content is lower than Sterling. However it is quit a bit softer, this makes it easier to raise than Sterling, but it is good practice to ensure your final working is a planishing stage as this will make the final piece more durable. For example A forged cuff bracelet would be good with Britannia, or fine for that matter, as you would need to planish the surface on a metal stake to impart the texture (assuming you want this feature in your design of course).
If you were to make, say a plain ring, this could be tricky. If you do not planish the ring after soldering then it will remain in a soft annealed state, too soft really for everyday wear, also it will be more prone to wearing away from rubbing away.
I will try to give a broad brush answer that I hope helps;
Fine silver is capable of giving a beautiful white finish and is sublime to work, to a point. It feels like putty under the hammer after the initial annealing, however rapidly work hardening to the point of becoming very brittle and prone to snapping/cracking.
Britannia is harder to work than fine, but still very nice. As said before, less prone to fire stain and, like fine, needs to be planished as a final process if the piece is to be subjected to any wear, decorative items, no worries.
Sterling silver, having a higher copper content, is far tougher, both to work and as a finished piece. This is why most jewellery is made from Sterling. For casting it is great as the piece straight from the mould is strong enough to be worn. Fire stain however is the bug bear of this type and steps can be taken to cut it down. Raising with Sterling is more challenging if the form you choose is more complicated and requires tighter curves.
I hope this helps. Very best wishes
That was very informative, i really like working with silver, but have done very little with it in the realm of forming or raising due to a fear of cracking it. this gave me some very useful insight into where to start for raising in silver.
Glad to be of help, just a broad brush addition. Sterling is very much more forgiving, inasmuch as overworking is less of a problem, fire stain is the thing to watch more closely for here, due to the highest copper content. Sterling is tougher to raise than the others being quite a bit stiffer and harder to move, again due to the higher copper content. Britannia is a beautifully reflective type, I photographed the bowl on a white sheet outside in direct sunlight that I had to wear sunglasses to see properly. The bowl still made ‘mirror’ like reflections on the sheet, truly a fantastic refractive surface, if thats what you’re looking for. Fine silver has a softer look and feels wonderful in your hands. I find it a bit of a tease to work with, whilst my technique is still improving. Fine silver is not very forgiving of overworking, promising quite the reverse when freshly annealed, as it is very soft and malleable in this early state. Whichever you choose, the end result will be beautiful and uniquely yours, please do go out and raise something, I truly hope you get the same thrill as I do looking at the hard fought for form that you ‘grew’ from a single sheet. Truly fantastic, please do share a picture when you have completed it.
I love my cows tongue stake – mainly cos its such a silly name. selective planishing is often useful as its much more sublte than actual raising
There are some great names in this craft. Anything that makes you giggle must be a good thing eh 🙂 Quite right about the planishing, I find this by far the most difficult skill to master, so many variables and the discipline needed to concentrate on the correct relationship to the stake and the weight of the hammer blows. I feel it is this sort of challenge that makes me engage with the ‘doing’ rather than the theory that is helpful, but not the answer, the need to listen and feel making it a far more visceral, and rewarding experience.
Reblogged this on Hammered Art and commented:
How very kind of you to re blog my raising article, fantastic to see your site also. We have to keep up this, most beautiful way of working, albeit struggling against the odds. Perhaps wannabes today,who knows what the future may hold eh 🙂 I am now also following your journey, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, as questions, whatever if you feel you would like to.
All my very best wishes.