Raised Britannia silver bowl the start of planishing and problems encountered

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Wato wato, summer has been great here, hope you are all enjoying a holiday, well hopefully anyway.

Starting to part planish the Britannia silver bowl before the rest of the shaping is carried out. I do this because planishing is a tricky skill to master. On the face of it, what could be simpler, just overlap the blows with a polished faced planishing hammer on a polished stake, no worries eh!

Stake selection is critical if you wish to achieve good results, also planishing is not a one shot deal, it happens over successive courses and becomes ever finer and gentler towards the end result of the finish you wish to create. I will go into a little more detail in the next post as I also wanted to highlight a massive boob I made in selecting a raising stake, in this case my cows tongue stake.

I turned it from its concave gentle curve the other side to a rather more aggressive convex curve. In the past I have managed to ‘bully’ copper into this slight depression, creating the wrinkles that I used to shrink the material, creating the narrowing mouth of the entrance as I wanted. In silversmithing this is perhaps a little misguided on my part, silver being altogether more resilient to hammer blows than copper.

Looking at the pictures you will notice that things were going quite nicely up to the 18th course. I keep things tidy after each round by truing up with a mallet on the stake to help me to keep track of where things are going, as well as cutting down on the time taken to planish at a later stage.

The next picture shows the stake with the convex curve that I tried to drive the silver into to help shrink the mouth and bring the shape in. The following pictures up to the 25th course will show the sorry result of the assumptions that I made, comparing my results with the copper vessels I had made previously.

The silver resisted the force of the hammer blows far more than the copper. This meant that as I landed my blows from my raising hammer, the stake acted like a kind of, equal and opposite hammer. This pushed the silver into the bulge you see up to this point. I am embarrassed to see the pictures and feel a little foolish for not noticing this effect earlier, correcting it sooner by going back to the concave side of the cows tongue stake.

Round 29 shows you the bowl after I took this action and went back to the ‘propper’ side of the stake. I tried to bring the sides in too fast and this was the result. Perhaps this was part of the reason the rim cracked, more of this in another post.

I have been made aware that I write, not to mention talk, too much making it difficult for people to keep attention to what I’m trying to convey. With this in mind I will leave this post for you to ponder, going into more depth with planishing, and the cracked rim in another post.

Thank you again for your kind messages, I very much appreciate them. Until next time.

All my very best wishes.

Stu Art ๐Ÿ™‚


Raising Britannia silver bowl further along.

Wato wato.

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

Sinking Britannia silver bowl, preparing for raising

Wato again,

back to work after all the show malarkey, I feel bound to say I much prefer the workshop to the marketplace, oh well we all have to do things we don’t like eh.

A previous post goes into more detail regarding sinking, please search back if anything is not clear.

The pictures are pretty much self explanatory, however I will try to add what I think is not. If you see experienced silversmiths at work they will invariably be less precious than me in the early stages. In another post I said that the material would not forget, it’s worse than that at times. A slight variation in the early stages ignored can turn into an unpleasant wrestle that costs more time than if you corrected it to start with. As a result I do not raise too much too quickly, my connection to the material is not good enough at this stage so I do everything I can to make sure corrections are as minimal as possible, more importantly corrected as they happen.

One of the most difficult things to master is consistency, this consistency is on many levels, I will try to put into words what I have experienced. The hammer blows need to be regular and controlled, you need to listen as every time the hammer make a sharp clang, you have compressed the silver at this point, remember what I said about clay, try to think of it this way, I find it helps. This will cause an area to distort and expand away from it’s surrounding material. In a future post I will show you how I correct this challenge, best left for now though.

Consistency of the placement of the silver disc as it is hammered to the stake. I use a very gentle domed stake to start raising, howeverย this is a double edged sword; yes the curve is gentle and less likely to make your disc distort to look like a long flowing dress, worse a pringle crisp. The challenge is to keep presenting the disc in the same place throughout the round, the natural state being for the sheet to skeet about the top of the domed stake. The disc must be supported, angled slightly towards you, the hammer blow coming down just ahead of the contact point meaning you are using the hammer to kind of fold the material over the stake as it is in an air space, without hammering so hard as to drive it into the stake causing stretching. I hope this makes sense as it is a fluid movement that requires you do rather than just read. Use some scrap copper to practice, the best advice I can give through hard earned experience is do not hammer like crazy, every single hammer blow should be considered and accurate. A pro may well sound like a woodpecker, I pretty much guarantee you try it without many hours of experience and it will end in tears. Again it may not look too bad in the early stages. The silver will remind you later that you were less than diligent in your task as the errors multiply.

I show the silver on a sandbag resting on an engineers surface plate, silversmiths call it a flat iron. It is used to accurately mark out machined parts, great for box making as well, more on that in another post. The beauty of this plate is that it is truly flat. Between each round I check it agains this plate to ensure the disc is raising equally, again I will cover this in an upcoming post.

The raising stake I used for this bowl I made with the aid of an angle grinder and other abrasives. If interested I will show this. I made this one as the commercial cows tongue stake was too flat for the early stages of raising from the point. Stake selection is crucial, I am still trying to get a feel for it, nowhere near proficient at this stage, time will put that right though.

It is much easier to use a stake such as this as opposed to the domed stake being as it has a defined ledge to locate against, the silver being less prone to skidding around, the blows being more definite, less room for error. Please take time to look at the pencil lines I draw to show just how little I raise art each course. When I get a better feel I will be more aggressive, at this stage slow and steady is the order of the day.

Make sure the hammer face rests, at the end of each blow, squarely to the stake underneath. Rocking it side to side will cause unevenness, worse the edge of the hammer face can dig in causing a dink that can become impossible to remove if too deep. Other problems arise if the face is presents too far forward or back, just aim for all of the hammer face to contact at the same time. Consistency is hard with all of these considerations eh!

I wanted to free form this bowl as I didn’t want to be held back by looking at a definite plan. I think in the early stages this is no bad thing, however don’t let it become habit as, with all thats going on it is easy to become disoriented without a defined template to check against. I will use new next time to take my making skills to the next level.

I think thats enough for now, I hope this helps, please let me know if you would like clarification. I really think you would benefit from seeing a tutor who is experienced. I have a sack or two of failed experiments. As you see from my bowls acceptable results can be obtained with little more that looking at some demos. I feel certain I would be far further forward if someone had ‘held my hand’ in the early stages as it were. It is so easy to become despondent, no really!

Don’t be, just $*%ing hit it ๐Ÿ™‚

All my very best wishes.

Stu Art

Raised silver bowl, calking for a thickened edge

Wato wato all, back to the making of the Britannia silver bowl.

I feel somewhat of a fraud, talking about the thickened edge here as the completed bowl was not a complete success, having not gone entirely to plan. Annealing is a topic I will cover in another post, suffice to say at this stage over, or under annealing causes problems. In this case, near the end of raising the rim cracked. This meant I had to cut off my, hard fought for and carefully made thickened edge. Oh well, at least it wasn’t a complete disaster, I am still happy with the end result. I will explain in detail later in this process.

Quick re cap, the peening process moved material from the centre of the disc towards the edge. Calking pushes the edge down compressing the edge in on itself thickening the edge in the process.

Just as the raising process work hardens and will crack the silver if overworked, so only a single overlapping blow is desirable, or wise, at each and every calking stage for the same reason.

With the bowl to be resting on a sandbag for support, a soft faced cross peen hammer, I used a modified raising hammer, is bought down confidently, striking the edge. Accuracy is very important, each blow ideally overlaps slightly to lead into the next blow. The hammer must be square on, if not sharp ding or undulations will develop leading to uneven distribution of the silver. This will cause problems further down the raising process as the sides will become uneven, worse, it may encourage cracking due to the added stress caused by the gathering of a forceful blow on a very small ‘ding’. It may not develop into a crack until further along, you may not even be able to find a cause when it happens.

A thing I have learnt working with this slow process is that, you may well be able to cover up a misplaced blow, even forget you made it, the silver wont!!!!

Sooner or later something will happen, I will show uneven raising examples another time. The message I wish to convey this time is, take your time, don’t just hit it, measure and control your hammerblows. If you don’t, and hit it willy nilly, it will come back to haunt you later.

I found, as Christopher Lawerence showed on his demonstration, I had much more control and more feeling by holding the sandbag on my lap the whole time. Same rules as raising, move the disc, not the hammer, concentrating on keeping the hammer blows consistent and square to the edge. The picture shows one of my raising hammers that I softened, rounded off to reduce the chance of catching the edge of the silver with a sharp edge, as seen on the opposite side of the hammer showing the original as it came factory finished.

Knocking off removes the burr that is created by calking process. The beauty of this is that material is saved by re compressing it back into the rim rather than, as you would be forgiven for naturally doing, removing the burr with a scraper or file.

As can be imagined this is a delicate process, too hard and you will remove all of the work hammering the rim back on itself, too little force and the burr remains causing problems further along. This is done on a flat plate, hammering from the inside on a steel flat plate in the early stages. Later it becomes impossible to get a hammer in as the opening reduces in size. The picture of the copper one shows the knocking off process done on a mandrell. The hammer used is a collet, of domed faced planishing hammer.

Remember the pickling process is your friend. Every time you strike the silver it will stand out as a shining mark that clearly stands out from the pickled matt finish. No excuse for overworking as you can see where you have been, again don’t just hit it, measure your blows and make sure you are as consistent as possible.

After each round of sinking, then raising, calking process is applied until the end of the raising process, or when the desired thickness is reached, whichever comes first.

Hope you can follow this, please let me know if I’m not clear on something and I will add to this.

Thats all for now, raising proper starts next time, untill then. All my very best wishes.

Stu Art./

Victoria Lansford picture of the month June 2013

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Yesterday I completed the end of my BA in Jewellery and Silversmithing, I am minded of the old saying, one door closes and another opens.

As negative as this experience was it has been eclipsed by this fantastic honour to be picture of the month on Victoria Lansfords blog accessed through her excellent, informative website.


For those of you who have followed my blog from day one will perhaps remember my introduction to her signature chasing tools. As my earliest ‘instructor’ its fair for me to say I would not have achieved any of the Eastern Repousse that you have seen so far. I also include the David Huang inspired bowl, I know she does not make this sort of thing, however the skills I learnt are completely transferable.

I want to take the opportunity sincerely thank her for such generous recognition and to give you all the reminder to visit her site again, to look at her fantastic work and learning resources that led me down the chasing and repousse path to start with.

This act of recognition that I have experienced here is akin to having the master recognise and praise the apprentice. This is a life changing moment for me and one that I will continually remind myself of when the black dog comes calling, as it does when I’m at my lowest ebb.

Many times not able to see any wood for trees, I try to remind myself that balance is to be aimed for. Just as my lows are very low, this is a fantastic, timely, very welcome and awesome high that will, I feel sure, help me to redress to a kinder perspective in future. Thank you so very much Victoria.

I will continue to post the, now completed, Britannia silver bowl raising process in another post to follow.

All I have to do now is start to make a living!!!!!

Until next time, all my very best wishes.

Stu Art

Raised Britannia silver bowl

wato wato,

This is the completed Britannia silver bowl that I started to cover in the previous post. It was a very pleasurable and satisfying piece that has taught me a lot of valuable lessons I will share with you over the coming weeks, warts and all!

The eagle eyed among you will notice that the rim is nowhere near as thick as I intended. This was because I fractured the rim and had to cut off my hard fought for peened and caulked rim.

I chose Britannia silver as it is a little like a half way house between stirling and fine silver. I have much more experience of stirling and a little with fine silver. Later, if anyone would welcome an introduction to forging, hammer forging that is ๐Ÿ™‚ I will show examples of rings I made from round and square fine silver lengths. Another time I will give more information about the different types, for now, suffice to say, fine silver is lush to work with, to a point. It work hardens quite quickly and goes from a soft clay like feel, accompanied by a dull thud of the hammer blow to a shrill metallic clang and subsequent shattering once work hardened.

Stirling silver is more forgiving due to its higher copper content, it is also more resistant, harder if you will, to move than the other types.

Britannia was my choice for a first silver bowl for two reasons. First the colour is, in my opinion, nicer. Being deeper, less chrome like; again this is just my opinion, not a fact. The other reason was that fine, my favourite, would be too tricky to start with as a first attempt, being far less forgiving of overworking, something I am guilty of at this point. I know coward. As the saying goes, better to be a live chicken than a dead hero, or something like that ๐Ÿ™‚

The fact I broke the Britannia silver rim, I shudder to think of the mess I would have made if I started with fine, I’m glad I chose as I did. Yes, I would likely have not had the same challenge had I started with Stirling. But I wanted to push myself a little bit and try something I haven’t done before, perhaps not a total coward then eh!

I hope to be able to get some better pictures. I just thought, as I started the thread about the build process it would be helpful for those interested to go back to images of the completed bowl to see how the progress goes.

Until the next time, please keep your thoughts coming. Is this blog useful to you, does it help you, are my explanations helpful and clear, is there anything I missed, anything else you would like to see covered.

All my very best wishes.

Stu Art.

Silver bowl project; peening to make ready for thickened edge

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I watched a film made by the Goldsmiths company to showcase silversmithing skills. The demonstrator was the awe inspiring Christopher Lawrence;


Christopher Lawrence embodies, for me anyhow, what is it is to be a true master craftsman. If you stop to dwell too long on his achievements, experience and sheer depth of knowledge, you could be forgiven for being disheartened. Trained from a very early age in a time when measurable performance meant far more than ideas and promise, it feel its fair to say the likes of these crafts masters are becoming ever rarer in a time where talking is far more valued than ‘walking’

Rant over! Lets look at peening the disc of Britannia silver before sinking, in preparation to raising. Peening is the same as the approach I presented in a previous post showing how to make simple curves or dishes without curved stakes. The difference being the working from the centre, as before, this time without the ‘dam’ or ‘moat’ I explained to contain the ‘wave’ of material as it is pushed to the outside edge.

The hammer I used is another junk shop find, very heavy, re-profiled and polished to act as a peening hammer. Consistency, as with much of this discipline, is key. My thinking was that a very heavy hammer can be used to keep the blows consistant. Rather than swinging a lighter hammer, with all the variance this would introduce to the force of each blow, I use the weight of the hammer. You see the gentle curve of the hammer face, all blows overlap to keep the ‘wave’ ahead of, and not behind the next blow. Working from the centre to the outside edge, a section of material at the edge is left. All the material is now concentrated there and ready for calking, more on that in another post.

I lift the hammer as precise a distance from the disk and let it fall on the disc of silver. My reasoning being if the height is consistent, the weight of the hammer will ensure the blows are as consistent as possible, I just have to ensure I keep turning the disc to present the next point of contact for each blow. Do not move the hammer, just the disc of silver flat on the steel trist, working in a perfect circle, hence the guide lines made with a compass, moving outward towards the edge.

The little copper model shown here with the calliper showing the width of the rime is to illustrate the sort of expansion you can achieve. The starting sheet of copper was 0.9mm thick. As you see from the digital read out, the size difference is substantial.

I followed Christopher’s lead and did three rounds of peening to achieve this result. Next time I will show you the stages that follow on from this to create the thickened edge as you go along raising your form.

Untill next time, all my very best wishes.

Stu Art.