Repousse chased copper model of a custom cuff bracelet from conception to completion in pictures

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The drawing given to me with the rune alphabet and the caption as wanted. My interpretations at the bottom with the copper blank ready for lining

 

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Without annealing, turn the lined piece over and use a rounded punch. Follow the outline, as made by the liner in previous stage, working towards the middle.

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Turned over, on the plaster scene from previous stage, you can see the ‘runes’ taking shape. The surrounding material needs to be straightened out now.

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You can see this was an allen key, most of my tools start as allen keys, great cheep tool steel. The face, as most all of my chasing and repousse tools are, is mirror polished to prevent scarring of the material whilst working. The background is gently pushed down, again use the largest planishing punch as you can to minimise the overlapping tool marks that can lead to an unwanted planished effect. You are just ‘placing’ the material back, not forming it, just be gentle as you will need to repeat this again later.

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First annealing stage, pickled ready for more working.

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Because the material was work hardened in the previous stage this would likely not have been successful before this annealing. This takes the last stage to its conclusion, making the ‘runes’ return to the same level as the surrounding material. This allows you to separate the elements better later and allows you to see how high you have come, more importantly how much further you need to go.

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The underside after outlining the individual runes from the front, notice the clean edged as they have been encouraged back to the steel plate.

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A more focussed push tool is used for the second puffing out round. Same again, start from the outline and work towards the middle of each separate element.

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Compair this with the previous annealing, I need to start to think about making the runes look like separate elements rather than the balloon like appearance they have now.

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I will repeat this later. You will no way get this amount of height this early on working in any type of silver. You need to think about that as you may end up becoming despondent not being able when you try. Ask how I know 🙂

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Ready for undercutting now to make the runes look separate from the surrounding sheet.

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This is the sort of angle to use to give some material for undercutting when the piece is the right way up.

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Two sizes of planishing punch, smallest one for the tighter gaps between the elements.

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Annealed and pickled, round three.

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Lined onto the metal plate again. Please be careful, too heavy hammering on this repeated process thins the material and a real risk of breaking through exists if you are a little exuberant at this stage. Guess how I found out : \

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Straighter sides ready for undercutting, helping to further shape the illusion of separate pieces.

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This type of tool with a rounded blunt profile is used at this kind of angle.

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The shiny parts show where the tool has contacted. A little imagination is needed to envisage how you wish the elements to look from the front. This will dictate the profile, as well as the angle you choose to employ

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Much more defined and starting to look more like separate elements. Its over to the pitch now as the final shaping requires more support than the plaster scene can provide.

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A Victoria Lansford tip here, cooking oil applied to the side you are adhering to the pitch will aid its removal when completed.

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Sorry to say, imagination will have to guide you better than my words here. Study the two tool profiles, the blunt one is driven into the side to undercut each element. The other tool I made up from previous attempts to ‘lift’ elements. I made this type of tool for ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’ cuff when I was having trouble making the veins stand proud of the surrounding material. I find it effective, good luck if you wish to try your own. Better still, do you have any profiles you may wish to share?

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Another view of the two tools. The ‘lift’ tool shows the ‘belly’ I shape into it. Picture the effect this has when struck. The belly forces the tool to follow the rocker profile, the scoop profile then shapes and tucks in the element as it is described around each one.

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Just like the plaster scene stage, this is for making crisper definition that the more supportive pitch allows.

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Playing with the runes theme, elements and the like, I thought water flowing around would give a greater visual impact. Back in the pitch, face down, this blunt rounded tool is used to create raised ripple like effects as seen from the front.

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Off the pitch, from the front on a steel plate.

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Chasing the flowing patterns, this is one of the curved liners I used, more in following pictures.

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All the ‘flowing’ chased detail applied, shown are all the liners I used to attain this pattern.

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A blunt tool was used to mark out the rune letters that were requested. This is an example of spoiling the effect trying to rush. If you do this, remember to fill each element with pitch BEFORE you attach the whole piece. As you see some of the runes are sunken. This is due to be omitting this stage and having to contend with air pockets that do not support, leading to a collapse, shown here.

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Cleaned up and fresh from the barrel polishing machine.

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For illustrating options I chose to present this model half patinated to allow the chap to express a choice. I use a cotton bud as I find the solution wrecks brushes. The fine steel wool is used to take the black off the higher elements.

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One half patinated, the rest shiny, decisions decisions.

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Close up of shiny, clearly showing the ‘reward’ for lack of patience, the rune squashed, what a twit eh.

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Patinated and high spots removed with the wire wool.

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In 0.6mm copper, not very durable, nonetheless a good example of what could be if the chap decides he wishes it made in silver. This is a great example of my approach to ‘sketching’. I could not draw this, no problem making it though, it is a communication tool that allows me to have a dialogue with a person as they finger the surface and are able to better communicate what they want through seeing a representative model first.

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I have added this image of a packet of Plasticine. If you go to an art shop and ask for the generic equivalent , you get much more for your money.
As a thought for the people who wish to dip their toe in the repousse and chasing water, without going to the expense of purchasing pitch and the associated equipment needed to use it, I have had a thought. If you push the plasticise firmly into the depression you wish to add detail to, perhaps experiment by putting it in the fridge of freezer, this will stiffen up the plasticine, obviously you will have to work out how much support this will give, making allowances and decisions when to return the piece to the cold as it warms.
The pitch is very much more supportive, better to use for limited amounts of puffing that traditional low relief chasing and repousse require. The higher relief style I like, I find the plasticine saves time by yielding more, giving me more bang for the annealing buck as it were. Also the pitch will give a pretty accurate indentation for the tool used. Imagine poking your finger up inside a stretched piece of fabric. Your finger will make an impression of a tent as the material around is also pushed up. Depending on the pitch mix/hardness this effect can be, to a greater or lesser degree, avoided, making for crisper definitions of elements. The plasticine will drag material from further around the initial tool impression making ‘hills’ if you like.
If anyone does experiment with cold plasticine, I would be very interested to hear how you get on.

Wato wato

I thought this example of a commission I have received will help to better understand the chasing and repousse methods I use. Better still I sincerely hope it will encourage you to have a go, please do ask me for any further clarification should you need it. I would also be thrilled to see anyone else’s work if they would care to share it.

Lawerence is a fantastic chap who is into shamanism, ooooookkkayyyy I hear you say. I know I know, perhaps a little eccentric, better that than the abundance of dullness I say. A thoroughly decent and nice chap to boot as well and someone who I am very glad to say I now call friend.

Lawrence saw Clairs bangle, you know the pebble one, look back or go to my Facebook page if you need reminding. He came up with the idea of having his name in runes, the drawing in the first photograph will give you the gist.

I will let the pictures do the talking, well they do have some explanations attached, as I say, please do ask if I have not been clear.

As for the silver final piece, well I will have to wait as I have you to show this to him for his opinion. Rest assured if he does decide I will post a picture when I have completed it. As I state in the pictures this model was made in very thin, ex copper water tank, 0.6mm. Sterling silver will be the material of choice for the ‘real’ one. It will take, if I’m lucky twice as many annealings as it took to realise the model working as I do in 0.9mm stirling silver sheet. Please bear this in mind if you jump right in with your own projects, it takes very much longer and is much harder to move than the copper shown here.

As many of you already know I’m no artist and find drawing skills frustratingly illusive at this time, though I am still working on it. To my mind this approach is not much more time consuming than a fine rendering in different aspects that a silversmith or jeweller may need to satisfy a client. As a bonus my ‘handicap’ means I am continually learning in my chosen medium by practicing in it most of the time through necessity. Thin gauge models work for me, go on try it, you may like it.

I hope you enjoyed the photographic journey to the end and it encourages you to have a go for yourself.

All my very best wishes.

Stu Art

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Soldering great butt joints. Not nearly but really right.

Wato wato,

One of the hardest things for me to get right was making a great butt joint. I kick myself now as it is something I should have seen sooner, being as my hobby before silversmithing and jewellery is model engineering. I also worked in fabrication, as well as various motorcycle projects over the years. My excuse is that I have a tendency to be too ridged in my approaches to things and wanted to be more ‘flowing’ if you will regarding my approach to silversmithing and jewellery. I deliberately tried to forget my formal engineering approaches to help me be more spontaneous. This is another lesson in the interconnectedness of things. This is far too heavy and irrelevant a topic for here for sure.

The textbooks are absolutely right here when they state solder will not hold well if gaps are present. If you look at the kind of strain and abuse I inflict on a join whilst forming with repousse´ it is clear that nearly right is nowhere near good enough. I hope to be able to explain how to create a join so strong that, well look at my cuffs and other work not yet shown here for proof. I dearly like empirical, rather than theoretical evidence, I hope to be able to demonstrate it here so you can attain the results you strive for.

Rings and cuff bracelets present different challanges, I will start with bar stock. By bar stock I mean round, square, oval or whatever, just solid bars of any thickness.

In the first photograph you see all the tools I use, except the needle files, I forgot to put them in the picture, for those who don’t know what they are, just very small files enabling more accurate specific spot removal of material that the bigger files cannot.

The easiest and probably most effective method is to use a chennier cutter. The bar is held firmly and the jewellers saw is accurately placed in a slot preventing the blade from twisting, therefore making a perfect cut with minimal finishing. These tools can be very expensive however, for a beginner or someone who just wants to do occasional work as a hobby they may not want to, or be able to afford such a tool. There is another way for no cost 🙂

An engineers square should be, in my humble opinion, an indispensable part if any toolkit. They come in various sizes and are very reasonably priced. Your bench pin will have a straight edge, with a pencil, I personally prefer to use a sharp scribe as it tears the wood fibres, creating a trench for the next part. If not, make sure your jewellers saw has a tight blade and follow the scribed line, creating a 90 degree little saw mark relative to the edge.

Using a square of triangular file you now carefully file a trench for your bar to rest in. I think the photographs explain better, as you can imagine it was not easy to hold and photograph at the same time. Providing you keep downwards pressure on your bar, wedging it into the groove, presenting it to the file slowly and making sure it cannot jump about. The act of keeping the file pressed against the true bench pin will ensure your two ends will be perfectly flat and true as the 90 degree angle ensures that, as long as you take your time and prevent rocking the file or wire. The human element has been taken out of the equation, the grove and edge being perfect ensures you don’t have to be, it will do it for you.

Sheet presents another challenge, you may be successful with narrow stock, however some of my cuff bracelets are 40mm or more wide. At this width it becomes difficult to coordinate, the filing as the sheet is difficult to locate accurately in the groove.

The trusty engineers square comes to the rescue again, more in a bit. Sharpie felt pens, or any, I use permanent markers, will make great marking guides. In engineering surfaces are checked for flatness with special plates and a beastly substance called engineers blue. Get it by all means is sticks like the preverbal sh12 to a blanket. On skin it will take an age to remove. I thought that marker pens would make a great substitute, they do.

When you cut out your edge, no matter how good you are, the edge will not be entirely flat. To start, file it so it looks flat to you, stop and apply the marker pen to the filed edge. Using a flat plate, like your steel bench block, put some abrasive paper on it stretched tight. I use a piece of abrasive stuck to a piece of board, manmade boards like high grade plywood or MDF are made to tolerances that are useful.

Now GENTLY stroke the piece along the paper making sure you present it to the paper as square on as you can. Now look at the edge, in the photograph I just picked a scrap piece of copper to give an example. Where the black marker has been removed leaving a shining mark, these are high spots, the black areas are low. Now use your file, whatever size is best for the task, gently file the shining bits, coat with the marker and go through the process again and again until you manage to get all the black removed with a single stroke on the flat abrasive paper. Once all of the surface is shinny, the edge is flat.

Not great practice, though I do use it in a hurry or if a particularly wide sheet is becoming difficult, I use the engineers square. Keeping the straight side against the fat part of the square, pushing it firmly against it, I slide the square along the paper whilst pushing the material against the paper. You know this is a perfect 90 degrees as material is being removed along the edge of the square only. This is not great practice as it, technically, makes the square less true as you scrape it along the paper. I would advise that this is done as a last resort, only after you have trued it up as much as you can the other way first. If you do this then you can minimise the damage to the square by using the finest grade of paper you can for the job.

When presenting the ends of your now perfect edges, bent them past and slowly pull them back so the natural spring of the material keeps the seam closed for you, making the wiring of the join not as necessary. I have never wired any of mine, you may still wish to do so. By shining a strong light behind, no light should be visible along the seam. If you see light then a piece of fine abrasive paper can be encouraged into the gap and gently pulled through both sides, using the pressure of the spring in the material, don’t squeeze.

If you follow these steps you will have a joint that is incredibly strong. I always use hard solder as it will return the best results, both strength and colour match. The other beauty of this is that the solder seam is truly wafer thin making invisible seams more attainable. Also for rings you can be confident that the joint will hold up to really quite extreme re sizing as the joint is pretty much guaranteed not to fail, the surrounding material making like a noodle as it shrinks from the join.

I hope this helps, let me know if you need further explanation, or if you know a better/different approach.

Until next time, all my very best wishes.

Stu Art

Chasing and Repousse work; examples of work created with punches previously shown

Wato wato

I’m now bright eyed and bushy tailed back from my holiday to Dorset. Walking in the woods I saw three deer, two one day and one another. Such a treat, I’m truly amazed they were not spooked by the dogs, probably had more than a clue that they would not catch them if they tried. I am originally from Sussex and moved to Cornwall when I was fifteen. Cornwall is a fantastic and varied county, Sussex has some great ancient woodland that I very much wish Cornwall had more of. To be sure in the future I will be looking at ways to incorporate woodland elements into my own designs.

I live near Truro, the museum occasionally has exhibitions, sometimes very high profile. I went to see side by side edge to edge, a silversmiths exhibition; in fact I will mention this another time and introduce you to some of the silversmiths that were represented there who I really admired.

Back to the wood theme;

http://www.seamusmoran.com/

This fascinating and thoroughly nice chap had an exhibition of his work, I attended a lecture he kindly gave there and was blown away by his vision and technical expertise. Please look him up, I know some of his work is a little dark, gothic even, but you need grit to make a pearl right? To give you a brief introduction to his work he combs woodland looking for the last thing to rot when trees decay, the knots. He cleans them up, makes moulds and casts them, selecting the ones that best go together to make sculptures. Do yourself a favour and look him up. I can vouch for the fact he is someone who is looking to connect with others and will, I feel certain, not hesitate to answer any questions you may have. A quick disclaimer, I do not know him personally, mores the pity, I just like to think of more people getting to see his creations.

Well, I guess I better explain some of the images eh, I will try not to be too dry, here goes. The first image is of a test piece in copper I made into a brooch. The valleys are deep and abruptly up and down, as you can imagine a full bodied planishing punch will damage the opposite side as you work on the piece. If you look back to the first round punch you will, I hope perhaps better see what I was trying to communicate in the previous post.

The next picture shows an early experiment that led to the stirling silver cuff bracelet in the last pictures. I show it here to also show the added challenges present as you introduce curves into your designs. Imagine trying to planish all of this with a single tool, too big and you would damage the curved section, too small and it would be difficult not to make the finish more irregular. The next image is to show you that repousse work can be incorporated into rings by wrapping the work around a normally made ring shank.

The Celtic design here was used by me to help to create tool profiles that would work for most of the jewellery work I may wish to make in future. This is a bit of wishful thinking as the requirements for future jewelery designs can never be known, new challenges will always require a rethink regarding type of tool or different approaches to using existing ones. See, fantastic this game, you can never be bored you know. All the profiles were used here, look up close and you will see where the teardrop, rectangular and the rest will be used. The quality of this was not a concern, being as it was only a metal sketch to enable me to create tool profiles, hence I was not very precious about it, a little like the following.

This seed pod like design was arrived at through a College brief to design a piece of jewellery using seed pods as an inspiration. At this time we were trying our hand for the first time at hand raising a vessel, so what I hear you say. Well, when you raise (I will cover this in detail in future posts) you start with a square sheet, mark a circle and cut it out. What you are left with is four curved triangles. Most of my classmates were throwing these off cuts into the scrap pile. I thought they looked like a pod and forged a few to come up with this design. Some of you may have noticed that the work I have presented so far has very little by the way of soldering included in its fabrication. It was a concept that has crept up on me, in no small part by the process of chasing and repousse, inasmuch as I aim for most of my work to ‘grow’ if you will. This design was fashioned on an ancient technique of forging a fibula brooch, all from a single piece of metal. The pin and retainer were all forged and fashioned into the shapes you see here with the help of a rolling mill and hammers. The raised repousse vine that is both the pin and retainer means it has no beginning and no end, shame it broke then eh! I will make this again in silver as I liked the concept and realised where I went wrong. It is put here to show the combination of planishing and undercutting to raise the vine with liners and pushers, working from the front, before planishing with most all of the shapes I have introduced previously.

Last but not least and a bit of an unconscious theme here the circle of life cuff bracelet shown here. To this point I try not to use much by the way of abrasives to finish. I made this cuff, trying to give a flavour of moving water. I used large pushing and planishing punches to create the form I was looking to achieve, high into low and visa versa. When happy I used differing sizes of round and other shaped planishing punches to create a feel of ripples on water. Not everyone who has seen it is impressed with its finish, I mention it here so you take courage in your own work. Others think it is beautiful, you can’t please all the people, whatever you do someone will love it. Please don’t let critics steer you away from what you wish to create, if you do you will spent the rest of your journey never settled jumping from one foot to another trying to be accepted by people who don’t care if you succeed or fail.

I will show some other work next time with more examples of tools used. Again please do let me know if I am hitting a chord or perhaps there is something you think you would like me to mention.

Until next time, all my very best wishes.

Stu Art ; )