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

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Silver bowl project; peening to make ready for thickened edge

DSCF2902 DSCF2662 DSCF3022 DSCF3023 DSCF3025 DSCF2666

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

http://www.pearsonsilvercollection.com/biographies.html#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.

Truro exhibition of students work. My completed bowl influenced by David Huang

Wato wato.

I’m almost at the end of my third and final year of my degree course. Truro College runs a yearly show to exhibit all students work in the arts. My copper paternated chased and repousse bowl is finally finished. I would like to take the opportunity to, both, introduce you to a very dear friend and awesome metal artist, publicly thanking her for all her help in the final finishing of this bowl.

http://www.thelanegallery.co.uk/nicola-bottono/

Nicola Bottono works in the above gallery, alas at this time she does not have a website, please look her up. We were on the same Silversmithing and Jewellery course, Nicola graduated last year and is continuing to develop her range at this time. I commented that I liked the patternated finish she achieved with a College project and she, very kindly, offered to apply the finish to this bowl. I thought it would be great to patternate the outside, Nicola thought inside would be better. I think she was right, I’m over the moon with it and hope you all like it also. Its great to have people around you who will guide you towards better decisions rather than allowing you to, potentially, make an error that you will see in hindsight that will be too late to rectify. Very many thanks Nicola 😉

This bowl is not without errors, this is the first time I have tried to chase a design on a hollow form. I feel bound to say however that I am chuffed to bits with the end result of what has been a rocky journey to get to the end. If you would like to see the pictures showing the bowl from flat sheet to as you see it here, please let me know. I hope you forgive my enthusiasm for this piece as I see it as a very great start on the road to making more beautiful forms in the future.

Much of this blog was made to help others avoid the pitfalls and inevitable mistakes that I have made to get to this point. All who are close to me will tell you that I struggle with the design aspect of making, this may not be the most ground breaking thing you have seen. From a personal perspective I must say that it represents a major achievement and milestone for me that many times I thought would not happen.

It is all too easy to become despondent and think your work amounts to nothing at all, my tutor for example thinks this is awful. I would be fibbing if I said this didn’t sting somewhat, however I am reminded of the fact that very few individuals would know where to start, let alone finish such a massively time consuming piece. The lessons I have learnt along the way are worth more than gold to me. The tools I have made and customised to complete are a permanent addition to my ‘alphabet’ of tools enabling me to better communicate with less and less effort in the future.

The mistakes and blemishes are the rights of passage for anyone wanting to undertake a large project. All too often I see and hear others wanting to create masterpieces and afraid to fail or look silly. There were many wrong turns, leading to this, to me and others who have seen it, wonderful and fruitful destination. If I allowed myself to be swayed by people who could not care less, this bowl would not have happened. Please please don’t let that happen to you.

Next time I will start to show you the peened disc of Britannia silver that I have used to create a silver bowl. Peening is used to thicken the edge as it is raised. Remember the previous post on making shallow forms with a bench block and a ball peen? The technique is very similar.

Until next time, all my very best wishes.

Stuie

An approach to make curves or shallow bowls in metal

Wato wato

I have to get a silver vessel ready for a show in Truro the week after next and have neglected my commitments here.  As promised, I will illustrate a way to create curves or bowls without stakes or depressions to form into.

The piece of copper was from a scrap corner of a disc I cut to make a raised copper bowl, more on that in a future post. I deliberately made it square to help you to think about curves in a different way. If I cut a circle then, perhaps, you may think why not just use a doming block or punch? If you try this with a square you may find the points don’t behave as you think they would, tending to crumple and become marked by the doming block, no such challenges with this way.

Please be aware that this is ‘a’ way; not ‘the’ way to approach making effects photographed here. I am minded to think of when I started and looking at all the stakes and hammers on offer, which one? How many? I feel certain you will have experienced just such confusion. I offer this way to you as I feel sure you already have, of can inexpensively come by the tools shown here to experiment,  creating your own sculptural shapes, adding to your deeper understanding of how to problem solve when you hit a creative wall as it were.

A steel bench block and a ball peen hammer are all you need, good oh eh 😉 if you are just ‘sketching’ as I do, then you will not even have to worry unduly about the surface finishes of the block or hammer. In fact you may be able to produce some beautiful effects with less than perfect surfaces, unique to you. It just gets better don’t you think.

I deliberately did not freshly anneal the piece to start. If you look further along the sequence you will see I have highlighted the help that a freshly annealed and pickled surface give to you as a guide to facilitate more accurate placements of your hammer blows. You may wish to start with a freshly pickled surface, your choice.

The idea behind this, and I will descend into metaphor to help explain to you how I see it; Again, before I do I am bound to say that this is how I see it, if anyone knows a better way please please do let me know and I will alter to be clearer and less confusing. Metal works like slow motion clay, also it flows a little like water under the hammer blow making a small ‘wave’ of material. If you hammer quite hard with the ball end of your hammer on a freshly annealed piece of material, copper silver or other types, on a steel block you will notice the contact point sunk with a ring of material surrounding the mark. Try it with a cross peen and again the ‘moat’ or wall of material will surround where the hammer has struck. This is the softer, un work hardened material being squished away from the compressed area.  The outside edge that I hammered to start creates a ‘moat’ or barrier of work hardened material. When you then go from the middle, overlapping blows you are trapping the soft state, not yet hammered and work hardened material towards it, eventually meeting a barrier it cannot cross. As the distance is covered the ‘wave’ is larger and will cause the material to curl as it gets closer to the edge.

Where the analogy with clay breaks down a little here is the one shot deal you get with metal. Metal will not stand repeated blows and will eventually crack if continually hammered on the same spot without annealing. For safety sake it is best to do one round, re anneal, pickle and start again. This way you will not be likely to cause the material to fail by overworking. Another bonus is that you will become far more accurate as you become aware of sticking to this one hit rule and using the colour change as a guide as the struck area becomes shiny.

I have only done three rounds to show what is possible, nothing to stop you taking it further if you wish. You will come up with limits eventually as you continually thin the material, as a result this is perhaps best left to create shallower forms. By holding the sheet at increasing angles as you strike it you can alter the depth, even making different depths on a single piece.

The other photographs illustrate this as they clearly show the way I have held the brooches at shallower and steeper angles to the block to obtain the transitional curves seen here. The ‘shrinking marks’ shown are made with a cross peen. I will explain how this works with examples an another post. To get you thinking about shrinking, (a poet and didn’t know it 🙂 think fold forming. I hope to show you why I think of metal as a kind of slow motion clay, try to think ‘barriers’ stretching and compressing waves.

Thank you again for reading and the kind messages. Until next time.

All my very best wishes

Stu Art

Preparing to sink a copper bowl also applies to silver.

Wato wato.

Time for a break from chasing and repousse, good oh do I hear you say?

I very much wanted to create three dimensional, sculptural type work in metal. This type of working was what attracted me to silversmithing in the first place. So we don’t go off at a tangent, as I am likely to do, no really! I will not give examples of the work that inspires me yet. O/K perhaps just one to give an example of the extreme plasticity and mailability of metal over repeated courses.

http://en.wahooart.com/@@/8Y366D-Benvenuto-Cellini-Salt-Cellar-(5)

This piece was made from gold sheet and raised to become the masterpiece you see here. I was astonished when I saw this and was truly amazed to discover how it was made. As I understand it, it is still somewhat of a mystery as to he exactly did it. I feel the need to show a modern master of this extreme form of metal raising, my biggest influence today as well as a thoroughly decent chap who responded to my ham fisted request for help; David Huang.

http://davidhuang.org/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=2147

Breathtaking aren’t they. Please do take the time to look at his sight, the man is a truly beautiful individual who has an inspirational take on life that is well worth reading. When I make enough to support myself and have cash to spare (I put when so that defeat is not an option) I will purchase one of his masterpieces, you can quote me on it.

I was afraid I would get carried away, oh well I hope you find some history and examples of masters challenge you to have a go.

The pictures show the early stages of the journey that leads to hand raised vessels, hollowware or sculptural art as shown by Cellini and Huang. Many practitioners start by raising and not sinking first, here is why I prefer to sink first.

The metal, when you start with a flat sheet, even after annealing is quite reluctant to raising and demands a degree of understanding as to the direction the metal will tend to take. As a beginner it was easy for me to get lost and create what looked like a pringle crisp that had been processed more than once. Experienced practitioners do not have a problem compensating for and altering their approach as the material demands, sinking before lessons this ‘wild’ behaviour of the metal, in my experience anyway. Sinking lets the metal ‘relax’ into the process and aids me in making each round more consistent.

The two ancient looking machines shown in the photographs were purchased by me from a chap who retired as a tinsmith. I managed to rescue the whole of his workshop machines and stakes. You can just see one of the two fly presses that came from him. He showed me one of the press stamps and said this was his first job as a tinsmith when he was sixteen. I feel proud to have been able to become the next custodian of these fine machines that were at the centre of the golden era, now sadly gone, of British manufacturing, don’t get me started!

The metal guillotine is handy, fast and efficient in cutting straight edges. You don’t need it, its just lovely to have as is the next machine that you may not have seen before. This is a circle cutting machine. A kind of tin opener like machine with two cutting wheels that cut as the handle is cranked. Again not a necessity, just a beautiful machine to own and one that will be overhauled, like the guillotine in the future.

The metal sheers or tinsnips are perfectly good for this and are mostly used as many people will not have a circle cutting machine. When you cut with these sheers, go just outside the line and finish off by filling to the line. The sheers will leave a little raised edge or burr that will need to be filled smooth. The jewellers saw is a posh one made by KEW designs. It gets mixed reviews, I am not the best person to advise as I started with the nastiest cheapest saw to begin with, as a result I feel sure anything else would feel fantastic. This saw is great for me and I noticed the difference straight away, best, if you can, to try a really nicely made traditional saw, then compare, I haven’t so am not subjective on this.

Shown are the hammers I use, sinking or blocking hammers as they are known. I put the common ball peen hammer in to show the difference in profiles. As you see this hammer has a very tight radius compaired to the blocking hammers. Imagine the surface finish you see on planished jewellery or vessels. The ball peen is great for texture, not so good for sinking as it compressed a too small area. The larger hammer on the right is looking almost flat by comparison. Imagine this moving large areas at a time and distributing the stresses from each blow more evenly as well as making overlapping blows far easier. Some people would use a bossing mallet shown here to do all the sinking. I find it more efficient to use a hammer on wood then finish off with the mallet, either in the same wood depression or on a sandbag to even out the surface before annealing.

I show the two examples of wooden depressions made to accommodate different sizes and depths. The second one shows the hole I drilled to remove material before using a sinking hammer and repeatedly hammering hard and accurately to create a depression that matched the profile of the hammer. The other one was made deliberately irregular with chisels and sanding to experiment with differing depths and profiles. Willow is said to be the best material as it has a natural spring, as it was explained to me, think of cricket bats. I do not have any and used wood I found after a tree was cut down where I walk my two dogs. Pretty much any end grain wood should work I would think.

When you started to mark out your circle you need to centre punch the middle where the compass spike sits. This is important as you will need this as a reference point later. Careful not to go too deep, making sure you can see the mark from the reverse, this is not as important if you plan to just sink, however if you go on to raise you will need both.

I have, again, written more than I intended and find myself running out of time. I will continue this topic next time, trying not to be as distracted. The next post we will start to strike the metal and create a small bowl. For those of you who are not sure about sinking with the wood, or do not have a blocking hammer but do have a ball peen. I will show you how you can use work hardening with such a hammer and a flat steel bench block to make a small bowl from scrap if you like.

Until next week, all my very best wishes.

Stu Art 🙂

Repousse and Chased cuff bracelet, a journey from copper to silver

Wato one and all

The year is going at a gallop as my course is up in June so time to get my finger out and settle upon a design I will be using for my final projects and the precious metal bursary that I was fortunate enough to receive from Goldsmiths Hall London. I have, to this point, just keep things pretty much technical in this blog, I find this relatively easy but will stretch myself in future to share some of the roller coaster  journey that this course has presented to me. As you can imaging this will be largely subjective and in no way verifiable or necessarily relevant. Perhaps even unrecognisable to others who have walked a similar path. One of the attractions of this blog, for me, was the opportunity for others to be candid and open with differing views that will inevitably lead to other perspectives; perspectives that I may not relate to. However all comments will bury themselves somewhere in the unconscious. This will only serve to make me more aware and rounded as an individual, difficult as I appreciate it sometimes is to be open face to face, the relative anonymity of this vehicle allows me to be open. I hope you will find it similarly conducive to getting your candid opinion accross safe in the knowledge that we will likely never share the same physical space. I very much look forward to being pushed and challenged, after all nothing can be forged without heat, come on, turn up the burner 🙂

This cuff bracelet was made for very dear friends as a birthday present for Clair. In another post I will introduce the extraordinary force of nature that is Paul and Clair Pennington of the Jewellery Workshop in Porthleven Cornwall.

http://porthlevenjewelleryworkshop.co.uk/

It would take too long to tell the story, suffice to say that in less than a year has seen them become such a successful team that it can be called nothing less than an inspirational tale of guts and determination.

Paul is enrolled on the same course as me and was taken by my, wear your heart on your sleeve, bracelet design. He commented that the inside looked like pebbles on a beach and the forming process left a pleasing sand like look on the inside. As Clair is a lover of such subjects Paul asked me to look at ‘just doing a reverse heart on your sleeve’!!!

The exclamation marks are to warn the unwary of being complacent, on the face of it nothing could be simpler, right? I show the original copper model of this piece to show you what Paul saw in the original design, I will now explain the journey.

The copper model was one of many, actually this is one of two rounded models, the other being a lesson :/ (hideous). Along with this were many flat copper experiments to test punched that I made to try to replicate the effects. I have mentioned this before but it pays to repeat. Working in thin gage copper, approximately 0.6-0.7mm thick is very different and far easier than the 0.9mm Stirling Silver sheet used here. The silver is very much harder to move and requires more annealing stages to obtain similar results, don’t go too far too soon, give yourself more time than you would in copper.

Not shown her is the initial lining as I wanted the stones to look placed on the surface the lines on the outside would spoil the effect. I lined the outlines when the silver was flat on a bench block before bending it to shape with a bracelet mandrel and soldering it together.

Here lies another challenge with a closed form, if you recall it is best to keep the chasing and repousse punches near vertical for them to work at their best. Now you will have to work from either opening of the bracelet. Shown here on my plaster scene, I try to use this as much as possible as the pitch stage is time consuming to set up and messy to clean up.

I chose to anneal often and not go too fast as the unequal stretching that working from either side made overstitching and miss shaping a real danger, so slow and steady. The challenge with this is to keep concentrating on the future as each annealing stage can be a little soul destroying when completed as it appears you have not achieved that much as the rounds count up.

Now as the shapes are coming along nicely the problem presents how best to separate the pebbles from the background. Working from the inside using push tools and planishers define the surroundings of individual elements.

After you have gone as far as you can from the inside consideration turns to the front. I did not want to mark the pebbles as I wanted to keep the finish more subtle, now comes the fiddly part that you have to work out as you go. Using bits of wood and plastic or delron nylon extruded bar shaped with saws and filed to fit a the recesses, carefully knock back the background. As you see from the pictures this still will not define the shapes as separate, for this you will need to undercut each stone from the surrounding.

As one of the last stages it is also a very nerve wracking process. As you can imagine as all these elements were raised from the surrounding sheet. As a result they have streatched and thinned, any careless blows will likely be met with a break through, tearing the silver and necessitating a time consuming repair, worse a piece of scrap, nasty lesson learned.

You see the ‘moats’ or ‘troughs’ surrounding the pebbles. With the undercutting punches I used surrounding material and pushed it towards each element. My reasoning was that as it was moved from untreated areas it would pool up against the edges. This was to ensure that sufficient material was present at the edges of each stone, reinforcing it if you will and making the undercutting process less hazardous, less likely to result in breakthrough. Good luck or practice, I know not what, I had no issues and all went well.

The cutting and finishing of the wavy pattern was done with a jewellers fret saw, files and sanded to acceptable standards before returning to the pitch for final texturing. After putting on the pitch it was left to cool so as to create a hard stake like effect that would support the shape, preventing distortion whilst the texture was applied with liners and planishing punches.

The deliberate break in the pattern was made to ensure that I had enough material to be able to make the piece smaller as I was concerned that with the extreme shaping would result in a possible modification. I feel bound to say that when Clair found it was indeed too big I was glad I did. Fair to say the sawing of it in half and removing a section before soldering back together was another lesson learned. If you find yourself in a similar situation may I suggest that you anneal the piece before you saw it in half. All the forces that had built up whilst final forming and texturing made it distort when I cut through it. I kid you not it took an age to straighten it up and re join it, this would not have happened if I had annealed it first as it would have equalised the forces and made it far easier to modify.

I hope you like it, better, I hope it inspires you to try something for yourself. The next time I will start to show examples of hand raising and making bowls, until then.

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 ; )

Repousse and chasing planishing, texturing punches for silversmithing and art metalwork

Wato to one and all.

On my holidays next week, off to sunny Dorset, well Dorset anyway. A great place to go for the Jurassic coast and all the fascinating fossils just laying around on the beach. A good place also to look for some inspiration for repousse and chasing work. Some of the fossil forms, I feel, lend themselves well, replicating the textures and surface undulations to create interesting silver or copper jewelery. The copper may be best when combined with some patination to give an old world look that would compliment well with the subject matter.

As I said previously I will now introduce some basic planishing shapes, this is not exhaustive as I will explain later. To begin with lets look at the round planishers If you look to the left you will see the disc is paper thin. Try to imagine a tight valley that meets with another, a little live a V shape if you will. This it the only way to planish each side without interfering with the other. I will give examples next time of my work that uses the different planishers. The next one is polished on the sides and slightly rounded. This allows you to go up to a ridge and planish up to it without damaging the raised part as you flatten the surrounding material. This is why I polish all of the punches that come into contact with the metal to as near a mirror shine as I can, preventing unintended tooling marks. The next two  are degrees of concavity that allows me to planish into curved, bowl like, depressions. I waist the end of the punch to make it easier to see where I’m going and where I’ve been as I planish the depressions in a design. Notice I did not polish the sides of these, no need as they will never contact the work. Lastly the very small tool is used for tight corners and texturing. Please keep this in mind as if you are after a smooth finish the larger the tool the better. The fact you can create interesting textures with this tool over larger surfaces will help you to understand; for smooth surfaces at least, the larger the overlap of the tool the smoother the overall finish will be.

Next the oblong or square planishers. All the tools shown here will have the sharp edges rounded of to prevent digging in and scratching. This is especially important to address for these shapes and the following as they all have degrees of straight lines and points. Your style as well as the piece you are working on will determine the degree of both flatness and rounding of the corners. When you explore the working surfaces of these punches with your fingers you should kind of glide around the tool rather than meet with obvious and sharp directions. It should feel like the elements blend together. All of my planishers have a very slight rocker profile to minimise the danger of striking the tool edge on and creating a whelp in the piece of jewellery of hollowware I’m working on. This should not be so pronounced as to make the tool more like a push tool, shown in a previous post.

The tear drop and triangular planishers are made and used in a similar way as the square, oblong types, up to and defining raised elements from flat surrounding areas.

I put the texture punches last as they, to my mind anyway, are filed under the beautiful accident category. The three you see here were the result of my early attempts at making the first type of round planisher at the start of this post. Hardening and annealing, essential tool making skills for the silversmithing fraternity, need to be understood. I will cover this topic in a future post if anyone is interested, please let me know if you are.

When tool steel is hardened it becomes very brittle. If not properly annealed then it will shatter or just snap off at the weakest part. As I put the pronounced waist into these punches the forces concentrate themselves to this weakest part of the punch, look who didn’t anneal his punches properly. But wait, before you get disheartened because all your hard work has resulted in a broken tool, useless now right, just throw it away and be more attentive when annealing next time right. Well, no not really, look at my moon series and most of these punch textures are created with these ‘useless’ tools. The gnarly one was reduced down on a bench grinder to facilitate better access up to the domes on the smaller earrings. Now I deliberately ‘do it wrong’ to create more texture punches as I need them.

The fresh snapped off portion of these punches will eventually dull. The metal has a very coarse christaline looking rough texture that lends itself well to texturing, it will pull at your skin when fresh and become softer over time. I will show examples of these subtle changes of finish another time.

Sorry to prattle on a lot with this post, it is difficult to convey what is needed to be understood without delving a little deeper into language to hammer home the point, no pun intended 😉

The next time I will give examples of work I have created using these tools so you can cross reference the images and writing here with completed works to enable you to go forward and make your own marks, pun most definitely intended.

Until next time all my very best wishes.

Stu Art

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