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.



  1. You hit all the notes, John. A fine treatise on the difference between the two hammers. The Fretz is a lovely hammer! It should give you many years of use.

    It's funny that the Fretz chasing hammer comes with a mirror polish on the head. For that reason alone I couldn't buy one: being too enamored with the finish, I'd probably never dare use it! But they sure are pretty!

  2. Thanks, John for the nice comment! Yes, I know what you mean about about the finish on the chasing hammer. I really like that goldsmiths hammer.

  3. Oh, very informative. I just LOVE learning new things....I AM a the sound of it!!! Thanks!

  4. Oh, very informative. I just LOVE learning new things....I AM a the sound of it!!! Thanks!

  5. Thanks, Gibsongirl, for the nice comment!

  6. I confront this issue in every single class or workshop where there any students who have taken previous instruction with teachers that are basically amateurs, hobbyists, crafters, and dabblers.

    The reason amateur teachers and the rest indicate incorrect use of the chasing hammer is because they simply don't know what the tools is for. Ask them who taught them to use that particular hammer for forging or flattening or bashing metal and undoubtedly it was another amateur person who also did not know what the tool was designed to do, who in turn was taught by another of similar background, same before them, etc. etc.

    Few of these teachers even know why the handle has a unique shape among metalsmithing hammers, or the correct way to hold a chasing hammer, or why there is such a specific relationship between hand and tool, or ESPECIALLY how to use it correctly.

    When the students later develop finger, hand and wrist problems and suffer injury from improperly using a tool that was designed for a very specific DIFFERENT purpose, who should be responsible for that?
    I hope some of them ring up that "teacher" and tell them "Hey, I have been using this tool the way you showed me. Why do I have pain and problems now? What am I doing wrong?"


  7. Thank you, Michael for you excellent comment. I appreciate your taking the time the discuss this issue further.