Raised Britannia silver bowl

wato wato,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All my very best wishes.

Stu Art.

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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 🙂

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 ; )