Jewellery and silversmithing photography

Wato wato all,

A lesson learned far too long to realise, presentation is sooooo important if you wish to appeal to the people who will allow your work to be presented to the purchasing public.

do not underestimate the value of professional images of your work. They will pay you back the cost many times over. It’s my experience,

an image taken on a phone just will not cut it next to studio images, such as these.

 

Until next time. Very best wishes.

Stuart G.

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What a dramatic result. Energy and movement with a juxtaposition of the pebbles on a stream theme

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Water and silver, smashing movement in this image. Attractive and interesting.

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Wonderful example of a clean group shot. Websites love this sort of image.

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Opal ring commission

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Dark, still detailed. You try it!

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What a dramatic result. Energy and movement with a juxtaposition of the pebbles on a stream theme

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Royston turquoise 

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Another Royston Turquoise, not many left.

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Experimenting with textures on this Amethyst dome ring.

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Jewellery Making Cornwall Students, stones and smashing work

Wato everyone,

Eight months of starting Jewellery Making Cornwall, here are just a few of the successes. The following are pictures of participants in the six week beginners course held here in the beautiful surroundings at Perranarworthal, between Truro and Falmouth in sunny Cornwall.

I will post more of the activities here in future posts. For now, like me, for sure you are all impressed with this fine snapshot of the work completed by people, most of who have never made a thing before. The more intricate are from some who have continued to be a part of this creative hub, joining the weekly three hour sessions for improvers.

I will post more pictures of the site and exciting opals and other stones shortly through my friend Stuart Wheeler who is joined next door.

Jewellery Supply South West is on Facebook if you wish to look beforehand

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A week three beginner!!!!! As you see, a real talent for sawing. As you can imagine, this lady was super proud of her achievements. This is the ladies name in Arabic cut out and sweat soldered to the pierced pendant.

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A first attempt for a lady to make a chunky signet ring for her sweetheart.

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Clay casting with my specially made half’s specifically for making rings easier to cast, rather than the more usual round rings.

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The downside is not as accurate as ‘proper’ casting. However, its only a bit of elbow grease to clean up.

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img_0217 A pretty nice result, for sure you will agree. The chap never takes it off. Awwww.

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The level of creativity some people come up with is astonishing.

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Wonderfully simple with unique one off fitting.

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A smashing lady made this tie clip for her fathers birthday.

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He was in tears upon receiving it. Amazing the effect our handiwork can have. giving work so much more meaning that its utilitarian face value.

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A Disney princess had this idea for a bracelet. What a result don’t you think. Everything made from scratch, down to the individual ball ends.

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Some of the abstract forms are truly wonderful.

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A lady made this for her daughters birthday. Turquoise being a favourite stone.

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Lady came in with an idea. Can we make this. Yes, you can, and she did.

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Another request made real by the person who thought it here in the workshop.

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Another birthday present for a daughter. Ruby flower designed by Mum.

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Contemporary clean and very sophisticated and exacting. Zara is now promoting her own brand, starting out on her jewellery making adventures after completing the beginners six week workshops.

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The final project for Zara. Pretty awesome you will agree.

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Check this out. The killer clown. A very creative lady who is a photography whizz. As you can see, a massive undertaking for a first personalised project. Bloody brilliant bracelet eh.

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Another final project, flower ring, designed and made here by a young lady with a strong will and the determination to back it up. Wonderful achievement.

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A 15 year old young man came with his grandmother who is already an improver. This is what he made never having touched a tool before. As you can imagine, his Mum was over the moon.

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Loving the layers and three dimensions.

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Whats to add!!!!

I will post more pictures of students work from time to time.

Until the next time, not eight months.

All my very best wishes.

Stu.

Circle or disc cutter for making blanks for hand raising or sinking silver, copper, tinsmithing bowls.

http://youtu.be/WtyAoITMHFA

Wato wato all. Very long time no communication eh!

Lots of water has passed under my bridge, as for sure yours also, since the last posting on silversmithblog. My new job at the Jewellery workshop in Porthleven has been a mixed and varied bag of delights, horrors, failures and victories that will no doubt continue to crop up in the coming posts. Looking forward to sharing the experiences that will help you to realise its only you in the way of making what you envisage in your head. Remember, all I know is technique that can be learned with ease if the application of the craft is exercised in the correct manor.

Its appropriate for me to now state that, at this time, looking to the types of work needed to service commissions. Also items bought in for repairs and adjustments has rendered me a bona fide Goldsmith. Never in my earlier wildest fantasies did this enter into my mind. The challenges have been both frustrating and rewarding to say the least. Enough of that for now, lets get on with the real passion, silversmithing. Well copper for now anyway.

A long while ago a promise was made to video the circle cutter that I am very fortunate enough to be the custodian of. The link at the start of this post will take you, (with luck I have done all the right things for this to happen) to YouTube to see said video. Had no idea you couldn’t upload a video here, you live and learn eh.

For those who watched the clip, sincerely hope it was enlightening, perhaps even entertaining. Please do give some feedback as if you wish, more clips can be added if you so wish. I know YouTube is awash with really great content, though bound to say haven’t trawled through it for some time myself. I will not add to the numbers if it’s not relevant, up to you. Better still, encourage me to post something you may wish to have better explained that will help with more visual content.

I showed the model that has been an experiment, now it will go further with the four copper bowls that are, finally, on the way.

Reen makes wonderful quilts, probably mentioned this before. Pictured here are two of her creations that led to the idea of the designs to follow.

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As you see, they convey wonderful movement, along with wonderful patterns. The model in the video, if you look closer, uses these lay out patterns, or at least like them, to start. I wondered how the raising process would effect the geometric, straight lined patterns. The distortions are very pleasing to my eye, wishing you may agree. They lend themselves very well to chasing and repousse decorative techniques, don’t you think.

Missing the larger scale work, working on small scale jewellery at this time, most of the time. Bound to say, I have been pining for more hammer work and less soldering/constructional work. Looking forward to seeing where this goes. As those of you know who have followed this blog from the start, major influences remain Hiroshi Suzuki and his hammer chased vessels. At least one of the bowls will employ hammer chasing, if you return to looking at his exquisite creations, the patterns I will use will be of a similar flavour to his signature natural forms. Not forgetting the awesome and wonderful human being that is David Huang, have I mentioned him before 🙂 I intent to give these bowls a rim, with my own ‘twist’ as a nod to his massive, incalculably huge continuing influence on my approach. This blog was in large part influenced by his generosity, for those of you who have not, please do look him up, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

I do not want to go on too much as I know this is a continuing personal failing. Suffice to say, its good to be back on the blogasphere. Please do get in touch.

I will be telling you more of my adventures as a jobbing jeweller in a busy shop, as well as my wonderful times as a tutor for the workshop. In two weeks I was fortunate enough to enable 60 people, including my now weekly 8 week beginners course that is rolling out continuously for the foreseeable future.

Until then, all my very best wishes.

Stu

Engineering workshop

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As you see, not a lot of room in here. Compact and bijou my friends, compact and bijou 🙂 Finally had a new door fitted, lathe on the left. Next to the toolbox on the right the milling machine. Next to that opposite from the lathe the shaping machine.

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A swivel headed milling machine. The milling cutter can be seen centre of picture approximately between the two hand wheels. If you wish to be bored, explanation following.

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The shaping machine, compare the next picture showing the drive side. You will see the difference in the stroke of the ram. This is the control side. The levers to the rear are the clutch and two speed gearbox.

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The electors motor lives under the cabinet that supports the machine, the drive belt can be seen. The little hatch contains the eccentric adjustment to alter the length of stroke.

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This is a tool holder that fits into the clapper box. Don’t laugh, thats what its called. As the tool cuts into the workpiece on the forward stroke, on the return the tool can swing out of the way.

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This is the tailstock end of my beautiful South Bend 9 1/2 inch bench lathe. I mounted it on an old worktop on top of a stainless steel table that was scrapped from a commercial kitchen.

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To the left is the chuck that holds the spinning workpiece that is presented to the tool resting on the X Y carriage in the centre. You can imagine the tailstock holding a drill, thats not all it can do. You can see lead screw midway between the hand wheel under the tailstock, above the lever pointing down, see next picture.

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Behind this cover exposes the change wheels. These can be changed to allow the carriage to advance at a pre determined rate to facilitate the cutting of threads. You can also set the carriage to go very fast, for roughing out work needing large amounts of material to be removed. Alternately you can set it very slowly to give a beautiful even finish that is near impossible to achieve by hand alone. The next model on from this, as well as more modern and advanced lathes have a gearbox that means you can adjust more quickly using leavers only, rather than removing and swapping gear wheels over.

Wato wato all

Hope alls tickety boo with you and yours, Christmas round the corner and all that, nice to have a celebration eh 🙂

I have promised this set of pictures for a long time. This is the ‘dirty’ workshop. Used surprisingly a lot for silversmithing work. Well, not for the work itself necessarily, more likely to make jigs, special tools and fabrication bits and bobbs. I will give examples in upcoming posts, providing you feel this is a distraction from purely silversmithing and jewellery that you may wish to experience.

This post is a bit of a fishing expedition for me, being as I know, through experience, many of you have little, in some cases no knowledge, about engineering tools and processes. I feel sure it may appear upon first acquaintance irrelevant, boring even, nothing to do with making jewelery or silversmithing work in general. You may be surprised.

I will not dwell on each machine too much here so as to give a gentle introduction. Too much too soon is probably not the way to go as these machines are limited only by your imagination. The salty bit though is you do need a basic grounding in the dos and do nots to save on wasted time, ruined projects, not forgetting personal safety. All these machines are capable of inflicting severe damage on our bodies, even a simple thing as not wearing safety glasses/goggles can lead to catastrophic damage to your eyes from hot, sometimes razor sharp shards of metal flying away from the surface being machined. I leave it to you to research the safety, a great place to start is from a fantastic resource here in the U/K

http://www.lathes.co.uk/

This is a place to learn about all the various machines, old and new. Go on, try it, you may like it.

Of the three machines I highlight in my garage workshop the broad brush differences are as follows; A lathe presents a sharpened tool to the spinning workpiece, a milling machine has the work stationary, held down whilst a spinning tool cuts into it. The shaper has more in common with the milling machine inasmuch as the work is secured in a vice or clamped to the table. The difference being the tool is pushed linearly backwards and forward, effectively scraping the sharpened tool over the workpiece.

I have chosen to give a little more detail of the shaper for two reasons; firstly, I feel it is the least known about of the machine tools, being largely superseded by the milling machine and has some real benefits to a small scale metalworker. It is also available as a hand operated mini machine that would be of real practical benefit to jewellery and silversmithing, also copper smithing and other sheet metal disciplines.

Studying the pictures of the shaper, imagine if you will a box scraper. This is a hand tool that cuts grooves into marked out channels to facilitate bending flat sheet into box type shapes. For instance a square box would require a 45 degree angle, cut almost through before bending up the sides into shape, then soldering. No matter how good, or practiced you are. You will have a natural bias, or slight wobble with a hand tool. The machine can do nothing else than cut perfectly strait lines, the only room for error is by marking out incorrectly, or allowing the tool to go too deep, through to the other side.

The picture with my hand in it shows one of many different types of tool holder. Using a grinder you can make a tool to the desired profile and angle on a grinder, transfer it to a holder, if a large enough piece of tool steel is used then directly into the machine itself. This is in effect the, for those of you who know about them, scraper that silversmiths traditionally made from an old file, bent to shape, filed and then sharpened.

I hope you’re not glazing over, to reiterate, I will continue to explain some of the uses for this, and the other machines, in a future posts if you feel it is something you may like me to share with you. The shaper is probably the most under appreciated machine of the modern times. Can you picture old woodworking moulding planes? You know, the ones that make patterns in wood strips, the sort of shapes that are used around windows, better still, decorative picture frames. A shaping machine can be set up to produce your own unique shapes in wire with inexpensive pieces of tool steel, a dremel/flex shaft, grinding wheels, files and the like. Wonderful stuff eh.

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On a more personal note. Thank you so very much to Lottie. Pictured above is the wonderful guinea pig, lovingly hand crafted in felt I purchased for Reen for Christmas. I can highly recommend her wonderful work. For those of you who are sensitive to letters such as I shared with you all. Bear in mind, if the beautiful, unique and one off creations, such as this don’t make the NOTHS cut. Fair to say we are in good company. Please don’t give up, onwards and upwards. What business people say and mean are not necessarily anywhere near the advertising hype. If this work does not meet the criteria, fair to say its probably too fickle to explain anyway.

http://www.lottiescottage.co.uk/

Lottie is one of the people kind enough to comment on the NOTHS rejection letter. It really has been the most commented upon post I have written. I want to try to explain a little more my reasons for it.

http://en.gravatar.com/happyhavenforge#pic-1

Vince from the happy forge makes a fantastic point, please go back and read it. My reply I will not repeat here, also the lessons from Vince are for all to take something away from as he kindly shares.

An argument I have made in the past to be illustrative of a point is as follows and I hope you understand the link I attempt to make.

If you or I were to cut an animal in half and pickle it, pre Damien Hurst, in all probability we would be branded lunatics, perhaps even sick. Damien Hurst does it and he’s a visionary.

My attempts in that post, also the point I try to explore as a metalsmith attempting to be represented in outlets. I feel my work, and in all likelihood yours also, is not the challenge. If the work of Mr Hurst is valued, fair to assume most anything will sell in the right setting don’t you think? My question is always, what is it that separates the ‘visionaries’ from the also rans.

http://www.camalidesign.com/

Another fantastic contributor to the debate, awesome work with a website to swoon over. I absolutely get why this wonderfully creative maker is represented. Thank you for your contribution, I feel sure others will have learned something from your thoughts.

Nina Parker at;

http://www.workingglassjewellery.co.uk/

Rejected, why? Again fantastic site, great presentation. On the face of it, ticks all the apparent boxes. Thank you Nina for sharing. This is the sort of, to my eye, disparity of the selection process.

Perhaps I have answered my own questions. On a given day, with a given selector, perhaps its all in the lap of the gods, nothing to learn, just experience.

I’m very keen to give voice to stories and opinions such as these. Fair to say rejection smarts for all of us. I have just been rejected by another gallery that would have given me an enormous boost if it had all gone to script. I was asked by the manager to show the co-owner, that person gave me huge encouragement. I was sent away and asked to present a body of work. Spent more than I had on supplies, spent over two weeks making a body of work to present only to fail by the other person having the casting vote. No feedback “we have enough jewellery at this time thank you”

Again this is not about how good, two out of three ain’t all bad, I take that much from the experience. What I find myself perplexed by, and unable to let go, is the inability to understand the criteria many of us need to be attractive to the gatekeepers.

Ending on a good note. I had a huge success at a jewellery party thrown by Reens sewing group. I now also have five commissions from a person I work with at the hospital, so not all bad by any stretch of the imagination. So I have no problem in believing my work will sell, it does sell. I just wish I had a better understanding of the when, where and how to of approaching the right places.

Keep on door knocking my friends. Well those of you who, like me, have a challenge in that department. For those of you more savvy to the ways, please do continue to share.

If I don’t post before. A very happy Christmas to you all, heres to being better represented in the new year for all of us eh. Thank you all for your continued input and support.

All my very best wishes.

Stu 😉

Sterling silver moon ring how to with home made tools. Part 2

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This is the nylon hammer I used. Wood or leather would have worked. 15mm doming punch used to refine after the doming block stage.

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Bolts used for forming, I used all three. Study the photographs, you can see the increased angles; the middle one first, the one in the foreground second, lastly the one on the right that I made in the metal lathe.

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Test fitting with line drawn in the middle as a guide for forming with the nylon hammer and the modified bolt stakes. I refined the design as I went along. The final version was more rounded, I also cut away the bulky shank. Compare this to the completed ring.

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Final rounding of the shank.

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I made this asymmetrical to give me a choice of profiles.

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Small hole drilled in shank to let gasses escape when soldering. I have never used easy solder before, I will in future. Use plenty of it.

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I’m not sure I fully recommend it; look at the top of the picture. The marks are left by the placing of the pallions of solder. I would normally turn the ring over and re apply solder to the other side. In this instance the solder ran clean to the other side, fully sealing the piece without additional soldering.

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Sawing off the unwanted parts of the shank.

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Savage beasty this, be careful, really fast though, saves lots of time roughing out. Notice I stopped just shy of being flush to the surrounding silver.

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Large half round file, almost but not quite nearly 😉

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Last of the files, small half round needle file, now nicely blended, ready for final polishing.

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Close fitting solder joint as I cut through both sided at the same time, making sure they would fit the shank.

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Photographed outside.

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Wato wato the end of the ring project.

This is a great example of wanting to make something but not having to hand the tools to realise it. As time goes by, I understand more and more why I’m not currently able to sustain myself in this craft. I spend far too long procrastinating on designs, making tools to realise far too many failed copper models before coming up with something I think will appeal. Only to discover I’ve barked up the wrong tree. At best a niche item, nowhere near commercially viable.

I now, with huge regret and not a little embarrassment, view my metalwork/silversmithing as a hobby only now. All ambitions of being able to support myself financially through my chosen craft showing as unrealistic at this time. I feel the clue here is in the realisation that I associate myself with the term craft, rather than designer or artist. As I become ever more bewildered as to what is marketed, I come to realise my place as fairly and squarely a maker in a world than no longer needs makers. Concept appears to be king. I feel its akin to being a computer, fantastic at maths; however it takes the genius of a mathematician to make beautiful equations. I aspire to be more conceptual in my approach to the craft. However my first love is the love of learning more about past masters and the techniques they employed to achieve wondrous constructions. The past machine age is pure romance to me. This is lost in a new era where, at the push of a button, designers/artists realise three dimensional objects, made by unseen operatives with mass production machines in such vast numbers as to make pretty much anything commercially viable. I have neglected to fully understand what is fashionable, wearable and viable. That’s the negative. The positive is that now I am no longer attempting to make a life for me and mine using just my hands. My resulting, more relaxed attitude towards this craft will, with luck, result in a positive re think. Trying to become a ‘mathematician’, not concerning myself as much with the mechanics, ‘computer’ aspect of creating wonderful objects. Working towards becoming a creative designer, rather than just as a solver of technical challanges. Watch this space 🙂

If you look at the bolts I modified for this job, I looked at stakes from established tool supply houses. Here in the U/K it is becoming ever rarer to source forming tools, the ones that are available are prohibitively expensive for a hobbiest. As we use very soft, non ferris metals, even a common or garden bolt will suffice for forming. If you wanted to make a more permanent, planishing stake from a bolt you can buy/salvage hardened steel bolts and fashion them to the shapes you desire. Cylinder head bolts work very well, you can look up through fastener suppliers, the hardness rating of a bolt, if you wish to purchase new.

I used a metal lathe to make these. I was thinking though that those of you without access to such a machine could use a drill and a hand file to create a similar stake. Chuck up a bolt that you have founded off best as you can in a vice, then spin it in the drill, rounding as you go with a file. Finish off with coarse to fine paper whilst still spinning in the drill. Be careful as the bolt will get hot. Try to use a drill stand so as to keep it all steady and have both hands free for proper filing. I also add chalk to the file and paper. This gives a better finish as it prevents the build up of metal particles in the ‘tooth’ of the file or paper.

My aim with the next post is to introduce you to my garage machine shop. Fair warning to those of you not interested in such things.

If you have any questions about the ring, or anything else, as always, please don’t hesitate to ask. Thank you for looking.

All my very best wishes.

Stu Art 😉

 

RT blanking die for cutting repeatable shapes in metal silver copper ect.

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project report no. 12e_1 the r.t. blanking system – may 1980

Wato wato all

Want to make repeatable elements without having to saw them out individually. You want the RT blanking system you do 🙂

I hope you can download the attached PDF as it was a free download I had from a couple of years back. I have made these dies for others, not had good enough ideas myself to warrant some for myself…. YET!

I include this post mainly for a smashing person who asked what my yellow clamp was from a previous post. As you can now see close up it is a vice. I use this to hold my bench pin, as you see here. Also for holding a small soldering stand, and holding small forming stakes. It is shown here with rubber safety jaws, I also made some copper ones to hold work securely without marking. Not shown in these pictures, though I will in another post, is the vertical and horizontal ‘v’ matching grooves in each jaw. Great for holding round bar, also for stopping stakes I make from discarded Allen keys from spinning when I hammer onto them.

I will not write too much on the RT system, the attached PDF should provide way more than I can write. What I will explain is my way of maintaining an angle when sawing out my blanks from flat stock steel.

The angle gage shown here has a magnetic base and is used for setting saw blades to the appropriate angle on table saws and the like. Nowadays you can download an app for your smartphone to give you a very accurate angle gage, better than buying a gauge like this, you probably already have an all singing and dancing phone right 🙂

Have a read through the PDF, look at the pictures, please ask if you require any clarification. I saw mine by carefully maintaining the angle, watching to see I am sawing vertically, not swaying from side to side. If you look on line you will find saws contained in frames, they run in tracks to go up and down perfect every time for this job, no risk of deviation. They also have tables to rest flat sheet upon that can be set to the angle you select, for the thickness you require. Very posh, very efficient but quit a lot of money. Fine if you are a production person, not so justifiable for experimentation. My results were quite satisfactory, sure to be the proper saw will do a better job, I have to clean up the edges more than would be needed with the proper saw. I can live with that, can you? give it a go. Prepare to break a lot of blades, progress is very slow cutting hardened steel. Very best of luck.

Very best wishes.

Stu Art

Move to outside workshop

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My bench, all made from reclaimed stuff. The top cane from a skip, the table it sits on was being slung out. Its raised on two rough sawn off cuts, not elegant, effective though.

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‘Plier rack’ is an old plate stand, keeps files to hand as well. The filing cabinet has my tumbler, pickle pot (an old slow cooker, make sure its ceramic, not metal if you try yourself) and one or two fondue set mini pickle pots, heated by tea lights, for small work. The table/stand is a laptop stand, height adjustable, very useful.

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Solis cast iron surface plate, or sometimes called a flat iron, perfect for checking the trueness of raising, marking out and checking for flatness. Old fire bricks salvaged from electric night storage heaters, two turntables, the smaller one for a T/V, the other is a twist exerciser, both plastic so be careful. With the size of the bricks placed on the soldering table, I have no issue with heat reaching the turntable. Both found in junk shops.

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Truly awesome guillotine, I took this apart and painted it. It is so heavy, I used a motorcycle jack to help take it apart. As it was over a small drain, the weight cracked through the alloy drain, toppling it onto my pushbike, you should see the dent in the frame ;/

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A mod roc, wire and wood ‘sculpture’ I made for a project. Do you think it would work in copper for outside?

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Swage machines, part of the tinsmiths hall. All need to be cleaned up and restored.

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Two old slip rollers, along with my modern rolling mill. Restoration of the old ones later!!!!

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Some of my hammers. That fan is great, force 10 at least, no paperwork out when this is running.

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A belt and disc sander I use for roughing out amongst other things the chasing tools you see here. They are attached by strip magnets used for storing knives in kitchens, you guessed it, from a second hand shop. The trolley, on wheels, was salvaged from a skip.

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Birds eye view. Got to have a cuppa tea. I’m British don’t ya know 🙂 The stool I use is a piano stool, the pad is on a screw thread, just spin it for height adjustment.

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Couldn’t resist this, beautiful at night, with switchable effects, just plain white, reminds me of the stars, you have to be here to see the full fantastic effect.

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My disc cutter, truly fantastic, beautiful machine. Always make me giggle every time I use it.

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A Norton fly press, more to come in the near future with this machine. The machine to the right, just visible the two rollers, is a bowl forming machine. Alas one of the cast gears is broken, on another post I will introduce my “dirty” workshop, (my garage) and the machine tools I will be using to repair it. Most of the stakes came from the tinsmith hall, along with most of the machines here, see text for explanation.

 

Wato wato one and all

Not posted for a while, work and a direction revisited from a previous time have meant not much happening at the moment. I was hoping the start of the holiday season would be more fruitful than it has proven to be so far. I have just made a batch of wire forged bangles. Alas they are difficult to photograph, I wanted to send them off to the jewellery workshop to try to get some cash-flow going, I will get the next batch professionally photographed, I’m very pleased with them.  http://porthlevenjewelleryworkshop.co.uk/

To the subject of this post, my move to outside with my jewellery work. Long story short, Reen, as you know, is a woodturner, membership secretary for Cornwall woodturnershttp://www.cornwallassociationofwoodturners.co.uk/

Now when we started with the workshop in the back garden I ‘shared’ it with her. As her hobby has grown, so has her collection of wood, not to mention the acquiring of a bandsaw and other wood related stuff. I resolved to just do larger work there, keeping my jewellers bench and associated bits in our spare bedroom. Burnt holes in the carpet and black smeetch marks from soldering/annealing led to the executive decision that I had to go outside.

Great news, Reen has a new shed. I now have re claimed the workshop, I thought I would share some pictures while it resembles some form of order.

I purchased a couple of years ago a complete tinsmith workshop tooling. As you see it is in a fairly rough state, the guillotine, disc cutter and fly press the only three things, apart from the odd stake, that I have gotten round to repairing/restoring. It was fantastic to meet the chap who sold it to me, he worked at this job, for the same firm all his working life. When he retired, the business closed down, he kept all the tooling in a, sadly, leaky lock up. He showed me a fly press die that he said was his first job when he started at 15 years of age. I’m now the very proud custodian of these time capsules. I don’t know if look forward is the right term, however as the years go by, time permitting, I will slowly restore each part. I have only shown some of what I have, I will introduce you to more as time goes on. Some of these machines, like the bowl maker, or the crimper with the associated accessories, are simply fascinating and wondrous to behold. All made from solid cast sections that are hernia inducing to move around. These industrial relics were the CNC machines of their time, I am very privileged to own these machines, they give me immense pleasure as I look at them, trying to figure out how they work, imagining the chap, his working lifetime etched into each one.

I know this has little to do with silversmithing per say, however these machines and associated stakes can be pressed into service for silversmithing purposes, as I intend to show you over the times we share.

I have pretty much completed a commission I will share with you next time, including some more, made from stuff lying around tools you can make yourself.

I apologise in advance for an upcoming post that shows my “dirty” workshop. A very nice person has expressed an interest in the old engineering machines I am fortunate enough to look after. Please don’t dismiss it as I feel sure, as people interested in making things, you should get something from it.

Until next time. All my very best wishes.

Stu Art

Silversmithing one off pieces, how do we make our work sellable when pitched against mass market goods?

 

Wato wato happy new year.

I have been compelled to re print a section from my final dissertation regarding some of the challenges of selling completed work. The following is a bit of a heavy read, I do hope you take the time to plough through it, let me know if it chimes with you. Better still, have you anything to say, add or repudiate? It would be fantastic to hear from you.

It is my hope that we can start a discussion to help to square the circle that is getting a craftspersons work ‘out there’ as it were.

Challenging perceptions of value Some considerations and experiences for selling

At this time of plenty, people in this country have abundant choice, vast quantities of consumable goods in many and varied marketplaces both real and virtual exist. The relative low cost of buying very complicated, beautiful machines and objects presents challenges for the aspiring small scale producer. The public perception of higher cost, time consuming, low volume, or one off pieces gives incentives to obtain greater understandings. These will help to better understand potential mind sets, working towards formulating more effective sales approaches. The following quote gives an insight into what is a commercial reality for many well connected businesses. A new maker will not enjoy the same economies of scale, nor can they afford to be so dismissive of their customers, dealing as they will, to start at the very least, on a face to face standing.

http://www.newstalk.ie/2012/programmes/all-programmes/down-to-business/on-

this-weeks-show-33/ (2) Gerald Ratner, businessperson famous for his quotes about Ratner Jewellery “People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap.”

This famous quote makes it fair to suppose that the great majority of the buying public are not very aware, nor particularly concerned as to the Providence, or quality of the jewellery they buy from his shops. As Mr Ratner was,and still is, with his new company, a very successful jewellery retailer. Without going into the whys and wherefores of Mr Ratners fall and rise, it is presented here as illustrative of a point regarding cost and value.

Reference was given previously to a blog written for the on line retailer

http://www.tworedtrees. In this blog one question was asked; Who would you most like to wear your jewellery? The following was the authors response;

A thoughtful person who considers my work and appreciates the time taken to make it. I was drawn to make jewellery for individuals, I have no desire to make jewellery for everyone. I feel that many people just wear some items because they were gifts or they were bargains, the wearer having little or no connection to the piece. A little like the feeling of having to have, say a diamond solitaire, because ‘thats what you do’, the wearer having no idea, interest or appreciation of the design, workmanship and trouble taken to realise it, seeing it only as a generic object to be ticked off of a wish list rather than an individuals potential masterpiece that they are the custodian of.

I want people to really desire one of my pieces and cherish it, continually exploring the service both visually and physically, someone who stands out from the crowd and ploughs their own path seeing the hidden beauty that is all around for everyone to see if they take the time to look. Someone who knows the

difference between cost and value as they will need to if they desire to own one of my larger pieces.

This would not be on Mr. Rattners mind, merely maximizing of profits, much else being of little consideration. To many a re seller with no connection, or intreats in obtaining a connection to the things sold in their outlets, economies of scale make this a commercially sound practice.

A maker, living in a very different reality, will have a huge amount of themselves invested in the work they produce. It may become very easy to loose confidence when faced with selling work in a marketplace that is predominately highly cost conscious.

This nation has been evolved from much suffering, enduring great hardship and exploitation to get to this moment. As the workshop of the world, the hub of the industrial revolution, we have progressed to the relatively privileged positions most here enjoy. We are all enjoying the fruits of our ancestors toil, the sacrifices they made, the continuing struggle with the owners of capital for the realisation of a life for living, rather than a working life for little living. All have benefited from the security of a childhood free from exploitation from unscrupulous business interests and all benefited by state provided schools and healthcare systems.

If a company were to set up in this country and employ children and people the way they are recruited in developing countries, as conditions were once here. Justifiable public outrage would result, these business owners would be likely be jailed, held up as an example to all of unacceptable, greedy and unscrupulous persons. These are the realities many people are not aware of, like the air breathed, cheap goods just happen. Would buying attitudes change if consumers were more aware?

As a nation we blindly buy ʻcrapʼ like Mr Ratner provided, safe in our ignorance of the sacrifices made by unseen people who have to suffer so we can have cheap goods. This is justified by the business community in the name of giving them the opportunity to grow as we did. How many of us would watch blindly as a person suffered a debilitating fall that we may have made, smug in the knowledge that they have to learn and experience it for themselves rather than speak up and guide them around the avoidable obstacle.

By thoughtful It was meant to imply a person who is aware and cares about their fellow citizen, having an awareness of the truth behind many businesses. Many consumers may not care, value always being associated with cost in their paradigm, possibly nothing could, or would change that. Others may take a different, more considered stance if presented with the realities highlighted previously. Many people may not be aware, some perhaps may change their perception as this perspective is better understood. A maker may find it productive, appealing to potential customers, perhaps, higher reasoning. The points raised are to give food for thought, this is to enable a reasoned debate with people, less a defense of ʻhigherʼ prices having to be realised to thrive rather than merely survive.

Goods perhaps have become a right if you will. Little thought as to need, rather want driven by avarice or entitlement rather than a true desire or appreciation of an item. The mass production of things that were once the domain of the craftsperson has distorted the equation of cost verses value. As a maker it is very important to make your offerings something other than a thoughtless product. Far more rewarding to elevate your work, making it special, helping to add value, perhaps even exclusivity to your brand. Be mindful that no one can produce high volume repousse work, that is special, customers may have to be better informed of this for enable improved sales success.

From the authors firsthand experience of selling a high ticket price piece to a woman accompanied by her husband, a new understanding that some peoples perception of value is altered when a fuller understanding was appreciated when discovered. The woman in question, at first, dismissed the bracelet saying she would buy the item if it were half the ticket price. After the woman and her husband came to understand the design process, experimentation, prototype model leading to the finished article, they were both genuinely astonished. So much so that they bought the item for the full asking price, both shaking their heads, saying that they would not put in so much effort for so little financial reward. The spouse congratulated the maker and now called it a piece of art, quite a turn around, the piece was the same, only the perception in the buyers mind had changed. It is mentioned in the context of a challenge highlighting this issue, one a maker is often presented with when handmade U/K work is compared with mass produced overseas offerings. In this instance the

ʻexpensiveʼ item the people were viewing was completely turned around after a full understanding of the process was realised.

Just as the point make about the diamond solitaire being little more than a tick box item for many people, perhaps an equal but opposite way of looking at the perception of value could be that a relatively low cost diamond can be viewed as highly desirable as it ʻlooksʼ expensive. Is this what many consumers may want, to look expensive whilst spending as little as is possible? In many instances it would appear so. It would be perhaps be less realistic attempting to appeal to sell such a person a piece such as this, it would not necessary look as though it required as much of an investment when casually looked at.

The ʻexpensiveʼ item was now viewed as cheap as the people framed the cost against the time taken to create it in their own point of reference. As working people in this country they, as we all do, face financial challenges that mean, metaphorically speaking, people in this country canʼt live on a bowl of rice a day, or less than a dollar as others have to enabling them basic survival in less fortunate countries.

Thankfully they connected, realised that the piece was unique, special and a one off that may be re made, but will still be unique as no two will be the same. This presented them with another reason for desiring this piece.

I could be suggested that, due to their being able to discuss the process with the maker, they will always view this item as special and it will likely be something to be cherished for years to come, one of the authors goals.

On a slight tangent, mentioned here in the context of giving hope to the new maker, wishing for a better informed, more understanding consumer. At this time an awakening in the conciseness of a great swathe of the public is taking place. The realisation, for example, that prices paid to farmers verses the profits made by supermarkets is unacceptable. Large faceless corporations are increasingly sourcing our produce from abroad where welfare for animals is largely ignored for the sake of higher profitability, this is being made more aware to the public. Large companies and super farms have been pushing out the smaller farmers by unfair subsides or tactical business strategies. Many have been farming for generations leading to less home grown choice in the high street due to cost being the overriding factor in production rather than the multifaceted value that diversity the smaller concerns present. Many consumers are starting to voice concerns, some no longer blindly buying food without first looking for assurances. Businesses are starting to cater, increasingly for a growing minority of more conscientious, discerning people.

As a maker, it is hoped to hitch a ride on this new awareness. As was written previously no plans exist to make jewellery for everyone. A hope is fostered that a way can be found to better communicate value against the overwhelming weight of hidden cost low price products carry.

These costs, when made apparent to some people, may make a difference to how homegrown handmade work is perceived, perhaps leading to more appreciative customers who now, hopefully make positive connections towards work offered.

Watching the internet grow from its start, seeing how it has transformed peoples attitudes to shopping some observations are worth being mindful of if the maker wishes to peruse this avenue. Engaging with, or overhearing conversations with consumers, when talking of an internet purchase they inevitably insert a phrase something like; and it was cheeper. This is a challenge for unbranded higher ticket items on two fronts. First the choice that this presents to the potential purchaser of products is truly mind numbing. It is very hard to make a piece stand out when many sites have price filters and people will inevitably compare a higher price ʻpictureʼ with a cheap one. This leaves the maker at a distinct disadvantage, a person, ideally, has to wear the item, the full effect being hard to imagine from an image on screen. If a makers reputation is good then this will not present as much of a challenge, providing the potential purchaser is familiar with the makers wares. An extreme example could be perhaps a Rolex watch, the same bought on the internet form Penzance or Paris. Not being in this instantly

recognisable category puts the new maker at a disadvantage that leads onto the challenge of finding the person who will invest in an unknown makers offerings in this environment.

An advantage of the internet not to be overlooked is the ability to use it as a means to show, or promote work. This can be useful as a kind of on line catalogue of the artists achievements, giving pictorial examples of the kind of work produced. Working towards perhaps engaging a persons interest enough for them to contact the maker to purchase or make enquiries for a personal commission.

Social media is also an effective means of promoting work, unpredictable it can also aid creativity by the visiting of others sites and gaining new perspectives. Other people can engage with the maker, perhaps not buying work, but leading the maker to discover many more things than would unlikely on a solitary journey looking to find information. Used as a new type of business card it is also great to be able to send your on line address to perspective outlets or clients, letting them browse at their leisure. The creation of a website is now becoming ever easier, cost effective and normal to expect from outlets that the newcomer may approach to represent them by displaying work produced.

Good representation is perhaps the most productive and the main approach that is invaluable to the new maker of low volume work looking to establish themselves in this diverse marketplace. One of the places to seek this is a gallery of some description. Consumers who visit such establishments are already

primed to expect prices that reflect the exclusivity of bespoke or low volume produced work. Upon entering a gallery many are more accepting of higher asking prices for often unique works. This being perhaps a reason for them to visit to be able to find one off special pieces, rather than a cheeper items available most anywhere from a branded high street retailer. Careful selection of the gallery is important as the makers work must be able to be seen in a like context with competing makers. Not much good selecting a gallery that are specialists in unrelated disciplines, or very much lower price point work that may make yours look expensive by association.

Going back briefly to the woman mentioned previously who bought a costly bracelet after speaking to the author. That piece was in a shop that predominately sells low priced items. This set the context for the person before they started as the pieces leading up to this piece were many times cheeper. One can only imagine the shock when the price is realised after browsing the items next to it. Perhaps this set the mindset that led to the comment by her ʻhalf price.ʼ

This would have been, in the shop owners opinion, most unlikely to have been the result had the maker not been there. The customer, perhaps, would not have been able to re think their first opinion that it was one hundred percent too expensive. In the context of that shop, perhaps she was right, It was very fortunate for the author to be able to connect with their values face to face on that day. This is presented to illustrate that even surrounded by less expensive work,

some people will understand and still buy. However it would not be wise to rely upon these chance occurrences for future success in selling work. Actively seeking out outlets that will support and promote you as a maker is invaluable. With this in mind Galleries were looked at to discover what they had to offer.

It pays to be very mindful of the effect that a strong personality can have upon the buying decisions of a potential purchaser. It is a fine line between informing and bulling that is a real skill few posses. Watching with fascination as a woman at a gallery selling various types of work engaged with potential purchasers. Her whole persona was professional yet warm, friendly and approachable. A middle aged woman of immaculate dress and a warm smile she was able to seamlessly guide conversation from the mundane polite chit chat towards finding out a little about people who entered the gallery. Asking questions that were never probing, although giving her an insight into the taste of the strangers before her. Her ability to engage eye contact and gently lead people to specific works was inspiring. The way she talked about the artists she represented was warm and very informed leaving the person in no doubt that this person could answer any question they may have about an individual artist, or would be untroubled to find out if she did not. The reason this is mention here is the obvious effect this has upon potential customers. A person representing a particular artists work of this caliber and dedication is priceless, they attempt to convey their enthusiasm for that persons work every bit as well as the creators of the pieces themselves.

 

 

I hope you managed to stay awake to read this, as always please do share your thoughts.

Very best wishes.

Stu Art 🙂

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 🙂

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 🙂