Metalsmithing
by Judy Ellis
We talk a lot about working with metal, but I realized the other day that we've never really defined what metalsmithing is. So I did a bit of research and gathered a few basics that I thought might be helpful to anyone just getting started. I hope it is helpful!

If you love what you see here and want to get started working with metal, consider our Instructional DVD Series called: Metalworking 101 by Patti Bullard. It's a great series and walks you step-by-step through several projects.
What is Metalsmithing?

We define metalsmithing as "creating jewelry through the manipulation of various metals." Those manipulations or metalsmithing techniques include fabricating metal jewelry by forming and shaping it with hammers, mandrels, and other tools, sawing with a jeweler's saw or cutting with metal snips, doming with a metal dapping set, forging, fold forming, drilling holes for design elements or for use with cold connections such as rivets and screws, soldering, texturing metal with hammers and other metalsmithing tools, and metal stamping.
Other specialty metalsmithing techniques include: (defintions included)

  • Chasing and repouss√© - is a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief. It is a form of toreutics. (Source: Wikipedia)

  • Etching and engraving: Etching is a method of using chemicals to cut a design or pattern into a metal surface. Engraving is the art or technique of carving designs into a surface. (Source: Google)

  • Electroforming and Electroplating: Electroforming, the intricate process of fusing copper onto another medium where a low voltage charge is passed through the materials to create a relief that becomes a separate part in its own right, allows artists to create thicker copper structures layered over other materials like glass or wax. Electroplating, creates a totally new layer and is actually a science, a method that reflects the best copper use in art. (Source: Copper Development Association Inc.)

  • Raising: Forming metal over (or on) a stake (of some sort) using a hammer to compress and stretch the metal. (Source: Jewelry Arts Network)

  • Swaging: Is a forging process in which the dimensions of an item are altered using dies into which the item is forced.[1] Swaging is usually a cold working process, but also may be hot worked. (Source: Wikipedia)

  • Reticulation: Produces a ridged or ripply surface through controlled heating. The ridges of a reticulated surface are more pronounced than any other surface treatment. (Source:MJSA Journal)

  • Casting: Is a manufacturing process in which a liquid material is usually poured into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowed to solidify. (Source Wikipedia)

  • Creating settings such as bezels
  • Metalsmithing Basics


    Cold Connections:

    The term "cold connections" means to join or "cold join" materials without the use of flame or solder. No heat means more design possibilities!

    Using a cold join, you are able to join materials that might otherwise melt in the soldering process.
    Safety:

    Safety first. In order to make fabulous metal jewelry, you'll be drilling a lot of holes in sheet metal and perhaps some other materials.

    Protect your eyes from flying bits when you drill by wearing safety glasses. Protect your lungs with a mask when you're filing or sanding. Little metal bits in your lungs will never make their way out once they're in.

    Be kind to your ears, and wear earplugs when you are banging and pounding your metal.
    Jewelry Bench:

    Set up a metalsmithing work surface that you're comfortable with. Ideally you'll need a drilling surface.

    Clamp a piece of scrap wood to your work surface with a c-clamp and save your bench pin.

    You'll also need a metal anvil or steel bench block for punching and texturing .

    A bench pin (shown below: Deluxe V-Slot Bench Pin) is an ideal work surface to brace your metalwork on or against when you need to file or saw interior and exterior shapes in sheet metal.
    Judy Ellis's Metalsmithing - , Metalwork, Dapping, Dapping Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, Forging, Forging Jewelry, Jewelry Forging, Oxidizing Wire, Oxidizing, Antiquing Wire, Antiquing, Sawing, Saw, Wire Saw, Texturing, , Bench Block
    Judy Ellis's Metalsmithing - , Metalwork, Dapping, Dapping Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, Forging, Forging Jewelry, Jewelry Forging, Oxidizing Wire, Oxidizing, Antiquing Wire, Antiquing, Sawing, Saw, Wire Saw, Texturing, , Bench pin
    Finishing:

    Finishing with files and sandpaper will reward you with a professional-looking finishand is well worth doing.

    Use files to round off corners on rough-cut sheet metal. Sand with sandpaper in successive grits. The lower the number, the coarser the grit.

    Start with the lowest number and move up to the highest number. You can make sanding sticks with sandpaper and paint stirrers.

    You'll be reaching for your small set of needle files to flatten the end of your rivet wire, and the round ones are perfect for deburring drill holes.

    Flexible shaft accessories (shown below: Variable Speed Rotary Tool with Flexible Shaft) are ideal for polishing and texturing sheet metal.

    Steel wool and polish pads are a great final step to highlight and bring shine to areas after patination.
    Judy Ellis's Metalsmithing - , Metalwork, Dapping, Dapping Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, Forging, Forging Jewelry, Jewelry Forging, Oxidizing Wire, Oxidizing, Antiquing Wire, Antiquing, Sawing, Saw, Wire Saw, Texturing, , Files
    Judy Ellis's Metalsmithing - , Metalwork, Dapping, Dapping Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, Forging, Forging Jewelry, Jewelry Forging, Oxidizing Wire, Oxidizing, Antiquing Wire, Antiquing, Sawing, Saw, Wire Saw, Texturing, , Rotary tool
    Patina:
    .
    Liver of sulfur is used to antique or darken the finish on copper, bronze, and silver. You need only a tiny amount in a large bowl of heated water to achieve many different effects on metal.

    Use rubber gloves.

    Warm your metal, dip in the liver of sulfur bath, and quickly quench in cold water. Dry it off and repeat until you have the effect you desire.
    Use wooden or rubber-tipped tongs to avoid making marks on your jewelry.If you patina your metalwork, and it's not too fragile, try a tumbler for a really nice polished finish.

    Use one pound of jeweler's shot in the tumbler with a couple of drops of dish detergent.

    Fill the tumbler (shown left: WireJewelry's Rotary Tumbler) with just enough water to cover the jewelry and the shot. Turn it on for an hour or two, depending on how many pieces and the effect you desire.
    Judy Ellis's Metalsmithing - , Metalwork, Dapping, Dapping Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, Forging, Forging Jewelry, Jewelry Forging, Oxidizing Wire, Oxidizing, Antiquing Wire, Antiquing, Sawing, Saw, Wire Saw, Texturing, , Liver of Sulfer
    Judy Ellis's Metalsmithing - , Metalwork, Dapping, Dapping Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, Forging, Forging Jewelry, Jewelry Forging, Oxidizing Wire, Oxidizing, Antiquing Wire, Antiquing, Sawing, Saw, Wire Saw, Texturing, , Tumbler
    Basic Metal Forming and Shaping:

    Basic forming uses metalsmithing techniques that quickly bend sheet and wire into simple or more complex forms for jewelry. Ring shanks and bangles are examples where basic forming is utilized.

    Basic metal forming often involves using a combination of mallets, mandrels, stakes, and pliers.
    Metal Forming Tools:

    It is useful to have a good range of pliers with different profiles.

    Flat-nose, snipe-nose, and parallel pliers are used for bending angles in metal.

    Half-round pliers are used for making curves and are useful when starting to bend a strip of sheet metal to form a ring shank.

    Round-nose are used for forming tighter curves and are particularly useful for wire.

    A rawhide or nylon mallet will not damage the silver and can be used for the basic forming of ring shanks and bangles by hammering the metal around a steel mandrel.

    Mallets are usually flat-faced and available in various sizes.
    Judy Ellis's Metalsmithing - , Metalwork, Dapping, Dapping Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, Forging, Forging Jewelry, Jewelry Forging, Oxidizing Wire, Oxidizing, Antiquing Wire, Antiquing, Sawing, Saw, Wire Saw, Texturing, , Round nose pliers
    Texturing Metals:

    Metal is soft and malleable and will easily receive pattern and texture from rolling mills, hammers, or punches. It's important to prepare silver before texturing. It must be annealed to make it soft, which will help it to take up the texture more readily (this is particularly important for fine details), and it will also prevent the metal from splitting.
    Judy Ellis's Metalsmithing - , Metalwork, Dapping, Dapping Jewelry, Filing, Finishing, Forging, Forging Jewelry, Jewelry Forging, Oxidizing Wire, Oxidizing, Antiquing Wire, Antiquing, Sawing, Saw, Wire Saw, Texturing, , Red Brass Sheet Metal
    Finishing Metalwork:

    Finishing generally refers to the removal of scratches and marks on the surface, as well as the nature of the final finish, such as satin/matte or polished. The type of finish given can transform a piece, so it is important to plan the finishing before and during the fabrication stages.

    The finishing steps should start with:

  • Using a file to remove solder and any marks left by tools.
  • Sanding the surface with emery or wet and dry sandpaper is the next stage to remove firescale and scratches.
  • It is important that the various stages required to remove the scratches are worked through; this is a process of removing deep scratches by replacing them with finer ones until a fine satin or mirror-like surface has been reached.
  • If you're interested in learning more about Metalsmithing, take a look at our collection of instructional books and DVDS. We have multiple titles that will help further your knowledge of metalsmithing and the art of making wire-jewelry!

  • Source: Silversmithing for Jewelry Makers: A Handbook of Techniques and Surface Treatments by Elizabeth Bone, Interweave, 2011

    Materials

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    • Category: Metalwork
    • Technique(s): Dapping, Filing / Finishing, Forging, Oxidizing / Antiquing, Sawing, Texturing, General Education