Easy Ways to Texture Metal

Hammer Metal to Make Your Jewelry Unique
I believe we can make jewelry out of anything. Put things together in a well-crafted, interesting design, and voilà, wearable art. Might not be “art” jewelry at a certain level, but it’s still fun to make and to wear. In the September '09 issue of Jewelry Artist, Editor Merle White spoke to the intrinsic design potential in anything, and most of us probably agree. I do, for sure!

Create Art from the Ordinary
Let’s talk about that term “art” jewelry for a minute. We assign things different levels of artistic value according to technique, aesthetics, and especially materials. Take metalwork, for instance. Metal kicks up the look as well as the perceived value of a piece of jewelry. I love using metal in my work, but I don’t make my own components (yet). I use purchased metal beads or cool bits from the hardware store. I decided to coax out the inherent art in the mundane by altering hardware-store components to look more hand-crafted. How? I am mostly a beader, but I have a few metal-related tools because I do make many clasps. I have a hammer or two, so I looked at texture as my easiest path to transformation.

Find Materials and Tools You Like
I had fun searching the drawers and bins of my hardware store and ultimately used the following inexpensive, available things: hole-punched steel plaster washers, bronze washers called bushings, and flat steel washers. I also had some polishing brush wheels from a jewelry supply house, simple little soft-bristled things with holes, so I knew I'd use them in some sort of jewelry. A safety precaution: Hold anything you plan to hammer with another tool, such as a nylon-jaw or round-nose pliers.

Here are some of my explorations. See what you think.

flattened steel plaster washer enameled steel plaster washer

I really liked these steel plaster washers. About 1" in diameter, they already had holes, perfect for embellishment or linking to other components. They are thin, lightweight, and malleable.


I easily flattened a plaster washer with a chasing hammer on a steel bench block. Hammering gave the washer a dappled texture and took off some of the shine, leaving a much softer surface patina.


This washer was hammered face down on cement. The texture was subtle, so I brushed it with black nail polish and then lightly wiped the polish off the surface. The remaining color nicely revealed the texture.

plain allow steel washer   hanmmered alloy steel washer   Leslie Rogalski hardware pendant

Here's a plain, ordinary steel alloy washer about 1" in diameter. I thought the wider exposed surface would provide a good pounding surface to inscribe some texture. Ha! Steel is way harder to alter than I expected.


Little did I know how hard I'd need to pound these washers just to make a dent. I used the flat part of the hammer to bezel the edges and the round end to dap the finish. The result reminds me of the edges on flint arrowheads.


I had to try to create a focal piece to see how much my hardware looked like art to wear. Using 24g annealed steel wire from the hardware store, I wired a jewelry supply polishing wheel to the hammered steel washer.

large bronze washers   small bronze washers    

I love the color of these 1" bronze washers called bushings. Bronze is even harder to hammer than steel! I used a hefty, household hammer for this. The original washer is untouched. I chiseled lines in the bottom washer, then I banged the edges with the round part of the hammer.


Two of these three 3/4" bronze washers took a beating. The middle one is textured using the edge of the flat part of a big hammer. The bottom one was textured on my driveway. It was so cathartic to swing that big hammer I actually smashed one washer into smithereens!


Want to learn more about texturing metal or try unique techniques and materials?
Discover a new path to explore in Jewelry Artist!

And be sure to share your tips on adding texture to your metalwork right here on Beading Daily!

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