Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Goldsmith's Hammer

Here is an article I posted on

For quite some time now, I have been wondering why so many wire artist gurus have advocated the use of a chasing hammer to flatten wire in their various books, articles, and tutorials. My guess is, and I most certainly could be wrong, is that some wire artist somewhere, somehow, obtained a chasing hammer, used it, found that it would flatten wire and wrote about it, and everybody, or almost everybody, picked up on it and followed suit. So now, the chasing hammer is in vogue, as "the" hammer to use. When you get right down to it, the chasing hammer is really being misused. Flattening wire is not it's intended use. You are supposed to use it to hit chasing tools and ding it up. Oh, there is no doubt about it, the chasing hammer does flatten wire, and it does a pretty fair job of it.

If you subscribe to ART JEWELRY magazine, or pick it up in the magazine section at the bookstore, you probably noted articles by Michael David Sturlin on metalsmithing. Mr. Sturlin is a well known jewelry designer and teacher. His articles are well written and instructive.

In the September, 2010 issue, in his article "Metal Forming 101: Forging", Mr. Sturlin takes you through the basics of forging. For the exercises shown, forming wire into various shapes, he uses a goldsmith's hammer.

Anyway, I was intrigued by Mr. Sturlin's article and subsequently purchased a goldsmith's hammer. Following Mr. Sturlin's instructions, I put it through its paces. Now, I am wondering why I ever got trapped into using a chasing hammer to flatten or form wire! Blindly following the leader! The goldsmiths hammer is so, so much easier to use and control. Because of the smaller head it is so much more accurate, so much better to use than the chasing hammer. And, should you decide to go further in metal work, you have the perfect hammer to start.

One of the reasons, I believe, for the goldsmith's hammer not being used more, or mentioned by the wire artist gurus, is that it is the hammer's very name that may tend to make people shy away from buying and using one. One might say, "Oh, that is for goldsmith's to use and I'm not a goldsmith. I don't work with gold. Why should I buy a goldsmith's hammer?" Well, as Mr. Sturlin has pointed out in another article, if you work with metal in making jewelry, you are actually goldsmithing, not silversmithing. Silversmiths make utilitarian objects; tableware, tea service items, urns, trays and the like. And, of course, silversmiths use chasing hammers with chasing tools, so perhaps the odd connection is made, silver wire/silversmithing/chasing hammer. Maybe, maybe not. Anyway, both smithings would fall under a general catchall heading of metalsmithing.

Granted, the goldsmith's hammer is not the end all of hammers, Various hammers have specific uses and it's better to use them for the purpose for which they are intended.

Goldsmith's hammers are not all that expensive depending on what brand you buy.

I went with the Fretz goldsmith's hammer for two reasons. I got it at a discount and it comes ready to use, already polished. With other brands, you may have to do some prep work, polishing the head and cross peen.

I'm just sorry I didn't try and use the goldsmith's hammer earlier.

And the chasing hammer? Retired from wirework, and now it's properly dinged and dented.


Some Leafy Components

The photo shows some different leaf components in various stages of completion for a necklace I'm working on. Autumn will probably be over by the time it's finally finished. The piece at bottom left, will probably end up in more of a pod shape than a leaf. What you see is not all that will go into the finished piece.

I though I'd better post something so you know I'm still on earth and not out in space somewhere.


Two different metals, brass and copper. Different textures

Sunday, October 10, 2010

General Commentary

Hi, folks. This has been a month of frustration as far as getting anything done.

First, though, I must make a correction to a previous blog entry concerning the Circle Dividing Template. I had posted this tool on site and I gave proper credit to the person who originated the tool, Pauline Warg, from her book, "Making Metal Beads." I omitted that credit from the posting here. So, apologies to Ms Warg.

Second, the bench improvement went on hold due to the lack of suitable small dimension lumber. Apparently, students from the university had projects to make requiring the same stuff. And, who knows when the material will be restocked?

Third, the wife's mother, going on 91, fell. Fortunately no broken bones. But it's meant trips to hospital, doctor, drug store and unfortunately, some incontinence. Every time, it seems, that I want to get started on a project, I have to leave it to do laundry, go to the drug store, cook, or something else. So, nothing gets done in the jewelry making department. There is improvement in sight, keeping all fingers and toes crossed.

All for awhile, John