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, however 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 🙂

All my very best wishes.

Stu Art

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Doming or dapping punches used for chasing and repousse jewellery jewelery

Hello all and a very happy easter.

The clocks have gone forward today, I truly wish my dogs were aware as early dawn chorus was not welcome after a night out at a family birthday bash! Bless them eh. Oh to just want for nothing more than walkies and a full belly, I wish ; )

As promised, some examples of my jewellery work that use doming or dapping punches as a pivotal tool for creating the effects you see here. As I wrote before, I am a huge fan of them, I just felt bound to point out the challenges people may face who wish to use them for themselves in their own creations.

I guess technically the simpler jewelery designs shown here could reasonably be called stamping. I would like to give reasons why this is, in my opinion, not strictly true in these pieces.

If one uses a doming or dapping block the metal will conform to the ridged male and female parts, creating a perfect, reproducible and measurable copy of the tools used. If you look closely at the open c cuff with the matt finish, you will notice the sloping of the sides, creating a gentle ‘hill like’ ramp that leads up to, and compliments the turning in of the rim. This helps to lead the eye towards the centre polished interior of the domes, a bonus also is the very tactile nature of the risen elements with no sharp ridges. I know I have knocked back other versions by faceting, this was to take the design somewhere else after I had looked at the possibilities with this method. This is achieved by using pitch as a doming block. By altering the temperature, or using pitches with varying hardness, the pitch will support the metal more or less. By experimenting on practice scrap sheet, the viscosity, hardness can be arrived at to obtain the effect you wish to achieve.

A little insight as to how I arrived at this design. As a small child I was fascinated by microscopic images. Back when granny was a boy, yes that long ago, when I was small microscopes were rare and very expensive, unlike now. I remain fascinated with the hidden world we all are unable to see with the naked eye and still think of it often. For a College brief to formulate a design I turned to my old interest, coming up with heart on your sleeve, a cuff made from intertwined raised elements, I will show this another time.

The designs shown here were from me looking at red blood cells. I tried to use doming blocks, finding them too clumsy for cuffs, not suitable for domed surfaces and the domes were very pronounced, not that there is anything wrong with that, still looks fantastic, just did not fit the criteria I was looking for, also to satisfy the College tutors. I wanted the ‘blood-platelets’ to be more rounded at the edge and look as though they were growing out of the sheet rather than looking as though they were added elements that can perhaps be mistaken with a crisper punch and die approach.

The designs have morphed into the ones you see here, and a few more. I now call them the moon series or even stuck on you as they look a little like octopus tentacles. This is a great example of a design, once decided upon, becoming something else unforeseen and beautifully unpredictable. Another more practical consideration was from the reaction from some of my lady peers who were a little grossed out by the thought of blood cells. I have used this association with other designs that I will introduce in later posts.

In conclusion, to explain the techniques used. I first repoussed, from the inside the domes, then took the pieces off the pitch, turned it over face up and chased, using a smaller, or larger, doming punch to create the craters, depending upon the effect I wished to communicate.

The textures I used were created with punches and other techniques I will show next time.

I hope you all have a great holiday break.

Very best wishes.

Stu Art

Chasing and Repousse push punches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very best wishes.

Stu Art