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

Wato to one and all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time all my very best wishes.

Stu Art

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Hammer chased beaker example of air chasing with modified hammers

Hello, I had a thought that perhaps I could show an example of a lesser known chasing technique, hammer, or as it’s sometimes known as air chasing. If this style excites you as it does me then please check out the following master craftsman Hiroshi Suzuki.

http://www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/exhibitions-promotions/who’s-who-in-gold-silver/designer-makers/hiroshi-suzuki/

Mr Suzuki appears not to have his own website, the Goldsmiths link above should give you a flavour, a Google search will keep you enthralled for hours. No, oh well just me then : )

I approach all of my work by first making models, in copper mainly. I have found that recycling copper domestic hot water tanks is very cost effective and the material is plentiful making me more care free, spontaneous and less conscious of the cost implication of mistakes, oops sorry design opportunities. I will go into more depth as to the pros and cons of this approach in another post. As I have stated drawing is not a skill I possess sufficiently enough to communicate the three dimensional ideas I visualise so I make models and, for want of a better way of putting it, sculpt the design as I go along. I was self conscious about this until I discovered that Hiroshi Suzuki uses a similar approach. I would highly recommend you search out any literature that goes into depth about him as he has a very different and, to me, refreshing spontaneous approach that is remarkable when compared to the design design check and re check before you make approach that many of us take.

The hammers you see in the pictures were all modified from second hand ball peen and cross peen hammers, bought from a local market trader that specialises is house clearance. It is easy to be seduced by the artisans tools that, I’m sure you like me drool over in the tool catalogues. However perfectly serviceable and effective versions can be made with a little elbow grease and some imagination.

The results from this process are very effective and take far less time to achieve. The technique lends itself to more abstract designs giving a good opportunity to imply movement. I have not added texture to this piece as it is only a model and best left to use as a visual reference for me to return to. I will show others later with hammer and punch textures applied to show more.

To help give a personal, visual explanation of this approach I ask you to pinch the skin on the back of your hand with your thumb and forefinger. If you compare what you see with the raised sections of the design then you will have an idea of how it is achieved. First the broader faced hammers are used to create the valleys on either side of the lines drawn. Careful to alternate a little each side of the line to work towards the line. Then using the smaller, less broad hammer profiles you can refine the peaks to create the ridges. I have deliberately left these somewhat ‘soft’ if you will. If you look to some of the Suzuki examples you can see that it is possible to create a very accurate and defined sharp line if your design requires this. The danger with this technique, as I see it anyway, is that it is easy to get carried away with the rapid progress that the hammers make and annealing is neglected leading to a real danger of cracks and tears appearing in the overworked material. Keep this in mind, anneal often as you feel and hear the material, be it silver copper or whatever to keep this risk to a minimum.

Repairs are time consuming and a pain to do. I will show a repair in another post to show that all is not lost, even with the biggest mistakes, time and application of learned techniques can dig you out of most holes.

Silversmithing being a very expensive discipline to learn as the cost of the material becomes ever more expensive, makes silver-plating a direction that you may wish to consider. This would be a very attractive option for larger vessels of sculptural approaches using copper of gilding metal to create your work, sending it off for plating.

Cost in terms of tooling can also be off set by learning some toolmaking skills and make or modify your own. Of course if cost is not a consideration you will save a lot of time by buying off the shelf models. However the satisfaction and learning you gain by modifying or making to your own specifications and needs is priceless in my opinion, also it is a nod to how the greats that precede us have made their masterpieces in a time when tool catalogues did not exist.

Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to cover in other posts. Until next time keep on making. Very best wishes.

Stu Art

Chasing and repousse lining tools

I would like to introduce you to the lining tool first as this is the tool you will most likely be using to start with.

I was very inspired by the work of Victoria Lansford http://www.victorialansford.com/

If you have not seen her awesome work please follow the link or just Google her name. Her very raised style appealed to my love of three dimensional sculptural objects, her work really did, and still does blow me away. Her tool profiles made me re think the way I approached the craft of chasing and repousse. She has very progressive and innovative modern approaches whilst still being mindful of past masters. Looking at her signature lining tools shows the versatility and ease of use, especially for a beginner. I made my own versions shown on the left. In the next picture I hope I can convey the advantages I feel this tool has over the traditional style shown on the right.

In the second picture you can see that as the flats of the lining tool extend further up and end in a waist, this creates a natural ledge for your third finger to rest upon. This helps you to feel the direction of the tool, also helped by the removal of more material making the line of sight to the line being chased more visible. Whichever style you use the anchoring of your little finger against the work helps to make the tool more stable as it is struck making deviation from the line less likely. You could perhaps modify a screwdriver to create your own version of the Lansford design if you wished to see which style you prefer.

By angling the lining tool slightly backwards you can describe an arc. However if the turn is  a very tight radius curved liners are preferred as shown. These tools are made to the size required as you need them, both the radius and thickness, just like all liners as you chance upon challenges met by new designs forcing you to adapt using existing tools or make a new one.

The final picture shows ‘special liners’ I made for specific projects. The first tool, number 1, ¬†I used for a bowl to raise the design above the surrounding area. I did this by using this as a liner, pushing the surrounding material down and creating a ‘wall’ of the design border. Number 2 and 3 show a similar effect but the surrounding material was made to taper towards the design border rather than the abrupt stop of number 1.

The last two I used to make the lines rounded by pushing the tool in towards the raised design. The half circle in the punch forced the material to conform to this shape as the punch was struck giving me a kind of beaded effect.

I hope this is helping and look forward to your comments. Next time I will show a Chasing and Repousse hammer, also showing some other types of punches.