The classic example would be forming a bowl from a flat disc. If you just want to take a quick look at a series of photos of this pendant in the making, click on 'read more' and skip to the bottom of this post. If you want the gory details, read on…..
First, a bit of background. I made a similar pendant a while ago.
That was made out of copper, and a started with a strip of metal which I bent round and soldered to form a very large, flat, thin ring – almost like a small napkin ring. I then formed that to give the final curved shape. Doing it that way (soldering a ring) meant much less hammering to do.
The downside was that there was a line of silvery solder visible at the joint. That didn’t matter, because I had the piece gold-plated, so the silver was covered up.
I used the same technique to created what I can only call the woggle. It’s just smaller and less formed than the main part.
That wasn’t just a decorative feature: it holds the knots at the ends of the plaited cord.
The main problem was that, since the metal would not be plated, if I made it using the same approach as the copper one, the line of silver solder would have been visible. Of course, done correctly, the line of solder would have been extremely fine and, in reality, would have been barely noticeable. But, who likes to settle for second best?
I decided to try making it from a solid piece of metal with no joins. And I did mean 'try’, because I was moving into the unknown.
I’m very familiar with working the various standards of silver, and I also know copper. But bronze is actually a rather a general term for a whole range of alloys. They are all mainly copper and tin but, for example, the exact mix of metals used in a bronze intended for casting will be different to that to be shaped using a milling machine.
As well as affecting things like the colour of the metal, the different alloys also have quite different hardnesses (in just that
same way that adding copper to silver makes sterling silver harder and more suitable for jewellery than pure silver would be).
The bottom line was that I wasn’t sure what sort of bronze I would be able to get hold of and how amenable it would be to hammering.
The second main problem was one of design. I wanted to use the same plaited leather cord again. I think that it fits so well with the style of the pendant. The problem is that I have not been able to come up with a design for a conventional clasp at the back of the neck. Well, not one that I like and which I could make at a sensible price. For the copper pendant, I felt happy to make it so that cord does not undo, but just slips over the wearer’s head. I plait the cord myself, so it can be any length needed but, to be long enough to go over the head typically means that it will be at least, say, 18″. So fairly long.
I think that would suit most women quite well but, I suspect that it could be
too long for many men:
a) because we tend to have bigger heads (yeah, empty);
b) because we ain’t used to wearing long dangling pendants; and
c) because we have enough trouble with other dangly things to be going on with.
So, a design to allow the cord to be unhooked was called for. This small hemisphere design has a slot in the back to allow the cord to be unhooked, but the knots are hidden when worn.
But enough about that. This blog is about bashing metal with hammers. The hemisphere is made from a flat disc and hammering it with rounded punches into a block of steel with a series of increasingly smaller curved recesses. The punches are known as dapping punches, and the block as a doming block. The back was soldered on but you can’t see the join because, yes, I did a really neat job so the line of solder is extremely fine but mainly because it’s at the back.
The third unknown was whether I could reproduce the unpolished finish in one side of the metal. The rough surface of the copper pendant was a by-product the repeated annealing of the metal, and I thought is really helped to make the overall effect of the piece so I left it unpolished.
In the event, the finish that was left on the bronze was pretty uninspiring. The inside bit where I was hitting it with my hammers was bright and shiny and ready for a final polish, just like with the copper, but the other face was just badly marked; the result, I think, of the bronze being harder to work and the fabrication approach needing much more hammering. We had already agreed that, if necessary, I would polish the whole piece inside and out, but I decided to have a go at producing the texture manually.
One of the thing you soon learn when making jewellery is that improvisation is the key to enabling creativity. For example, it is possible to buy texturing hammers and/or punches (ie. with patterns cut in them to mark the metal) but they are never what you really want and you would need far too many to solve every problem So, as an alterative to vast expense, you soon learn to make some of your own tools. A 4″ nail, flattened off and roughened a bit and tapped all over the metal (takes ages!) makes a really nice surface.
So, that’s the story of raising a bronze pendant. Yes, I understand that hubby loved it. And I got another order from the lady a couple of months later. I’ll update this post with a link if I put that item up on the web site.
And, at the time of writing, the original copper pendant is still for sale.
And so to the pictures………