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Forming Tools & Equipment For Jewelery Making

Mar 10, 2008
Adam Hunter of Cookson Precious Metals covers the essentials of forming metal, and the tools and equipment required for this combination of essential techniques.

Forming Metal

Forming metal is an essential part of jewellery making, and as a process the level of skill involved is often overlooked. Forming refers to any process that maneuvers metal into the desired shape or design. Unlike many other skills in jewellery making forming is more a combination of a range of techniques that change an objects shape, rather than one particular process.

Under the heading of forming are processes such as bending, chasing, repousse, sinking, hammering, using stamps/dies and forging. These processes will affect the pieces shape, thickness and often the texture of the metal being worked on.

Forming Tools

The range of jewellery tools used for forming metal is as wide and varied as the different processes contained within the skill. The key forming tools available are:

Mallets

The simple mallet allows the craftsman to apply direct force without stretching or damaging the metal. The head of the mallet is softer than the metal so as not to mark the surface.

Mandrels or Triblets

Mandrels or Triblets are used for forming shapes, and are most associated with rings or bangles. Mandrels are available in a variety size and shapes, and in both steel & wood.

Hammers

Hammers can complete a variety of jobs from stretching the metal, polish/smoothing or adding texture. Jobbing hammers are ideal for general use and metal forming. The planishing hammer is used for smoothing, shaping and polishing metal. Riveting hammers are designed with a small head for detailed rivet work. Raising, bossing and chasing hammers are used in the different stages of forming.

Doming Blocks & Punches

Doming blocks & punches are the ideal way of shaping metal and making domed, shaped pieces or hollow beads. Pieces of circular metal/discs are place over the hollows of a doming block, and then using punches and a hammer the metal is formed into a shape.

Steel Blocks

Steel blocks provide the ideal flat surface for working, flattening sheet or wire or to support work as it is raised or forged, riveted or textured.

Swage Blocks

Rather like doming blocks, Swage blocks help form metal into tubes, curves and channels. Different blocks will allow different shapes and sizes to be formed.

Sandbag / Grit Filled Cushion

These bags provided support whilst you work and form your piece. They help keep your work firm and in place whilst working.

Pliers

Pliers have a multitude of uses but they are the most basic tool for holding/gripping, forming and shaping wire. Having a basic selection of needle nose, round nose, flat nose, half round and a pair of parallel action pliers, will give the jeweller the flexibility to complete most jobs.

Stakes

Often used by silversmiths, the metal is placed over the stakes (usually clamped independently into a vice) and hammered to achieve the shape required. Various shapes can be achieved by using different stakes.

Files

Files are essential for removing excess material, and fine tuning and shaping your piece. The different sizes available allow the jeweller to work large areas or at a more intricate level. To start with buy a selection of shapes containing round, square, triangular, half round and warding. Plus consider the cut ranging from 0 the coarsest, to 6 the finest.

Draw Plates

Draw plates are most commonly used to reduce the size or change shape of wire. Each plate has a series of holes through which the wire is passed through, this then changes the size of the wire. The holes in the plate are of decreasing size allowing you to continue draw down the wire to the required size.

Rolling Mills

These larger machines often seen in jewellers' workshops are ideal to reduce the thickness of sheet, or help decorate sheet. If used with Square and D shape sections rolling mills can be used to form or shape wire.

This selection of forming tools & equipment allow jewellers, and metalsmithes to create any number of shapes, textures and patterns. As with all jewellery projects the range of forming tools jewellers have will start with the basic i.e. pliers, hammer and perhaps a doming set, and then expand as their projects demand.
About the Author
Adam Hunter - E-commerce Marketing Manager of cooksongold.com. Cookson Precious Metals offer a choice of supplies from over 10,000 products including jewellery tools, findings, precious metal clay, wire and precious metal sheet - gold, silver, platinum and palladium plus technical information for jewellers, jobbers, designer, craftsmen, artisans and students.
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