6 Tips for Hammering and Forming Metal from Master Metalsmith Bill Fretz

When I saw master metalsmith and toolmaker Bill Fretz‘s first DVD about hammering and forming metal jewelry, I was amazed at how effortless and easy he made it look to create bangles using only brass tubing, hammers, and stakes. The bangles Bill created were stylish and looked like work that should take a metalsmith days, not mere minutes, to make. I was amazed that such impressive work could be done through the simple proper placement of metal tubing on a stake, first one way and then the other–while hammering the dickens out of it. And who doesn’t love hammering?

Now I’m amazed again, as Bill has created another great video about hammering and forming metal jewelry–this time creating pierced and three-dimensional hammered-metal pendants using a simple two-inch diameter flat circular blank of 18-gauge metal sheet.

creating dimension in metal, metalsmithing tips from Bill Fretz

One of the best things about watching and learning metal jewelry-making techniques on a video of a long-time instructor like Bill Fretz–in addition to the fabulous projects you’ll learn to make, of course–is all of the clever little tips that slip out during the process. Imagine how many tried-and-true lessons Bill has learned through decades of making metal jewelry and teaching hundreds of students! I couldn’t help but notice these great tips while I was watching Bill’s newest DVD.

metalsmithing tips from Bill Fretz - start with a domed blank

1. Starting with a slightly domed metal blank, rather than a perfectly flat one, can prevent warping from the heat if you solder it later or if you were to fire it in a kiln. Hammer the blank gently with a flat nylon hammer on a flat anvil, turning it in a circle as well as turning it over from time to time and keeping pressure on it with your other thumb and finger, to form a gentle, slight dome.

2. You can create that slight dome with a steel (rather than nylon) hammer, too, but be careful not to twist your hand or turn your wrist at all as you hammer; hit straight down onto the metal to avoid creating divots on it. This is important to remember for all hammering in order to avoid creating marks and texture on the metal that you don’t want. (See number 6 if you do make a mistake mark.)

move the metal not the hammer

3. When hammering on an anvil, move the metal, not the hammer. Keep the hammer bobbing in a straight-up-and-down motion and just turn the metal piece. Hold the hammer lightly in your palm and let it bounce off the metal in a fluid motion. Hammer each blow with equal effort for uniform marks or textures. If you hammer softly most of the time and harder once in awhile, those harder blows will stand out. It might create a look you want or one you dislike–just know that it will create a different and noticeable mark.

use tape to keep metal from slipping in a hole punch

4. When you’re ready to cut a hole into a blank using a circle punch and a ball-peen hammer, a little piece of double-sided tape on top of the mark you want to cut out will help keep the metal from slipping while you hammer the punch into the circle punch hole.

5. While you’re working in your studio, face the lamp or the window that is providing your light. Keep the light in front of you rather than to the side or behind you for the best visibility on your work.

make a mistake divot? flip the hammer over and hammer it out

6. After planishing with the round side of the hammer, you can refine the surface of your metal blank and smooth out the slight hammer marks by turning the hammer over and continuing with the flat side. Bill recommends this as a good exercise for creating better hammer control and accuracy. It is a more advanced hammering technique, because you risk errant blows creating unwelcome half-moon marks or divots on the hammered surface. If you do create a half-moon divot while you’re hammering metal using the flat side of a hammer, you can turn the hammer over and use the round side to hammer it back out. Then continue refining the surface with the flat side.

To learn more about hammering and forming metal jewelry as well as other metalsmithing techniques and to make your own hammered-metal pendants (or whatever jewelry your heart desires), check out master metalsmith and toolmaker Bill Fretz’s newest metalsmithing DVD, Hammering and Forming Metal Jewelry, Vol. 2. Through Bill’s eight lessons, you’ll improve your metalsmithing skills in sawing, chasing, fluting, soldering, and more, plus learn to create inside curves in pierced forms, soldered joints, and twisted shapes. In the end, you’ll know how to create domed, textured, curved, Mobius and double Mobius, full-twist, fluted, and half-moon pendants. All from one incredibly instructional video!

creating dimension in metal, metalsmithing tips from Bill Fretz

If you want to learn how to fabricate metal, it would be hard to find a better teacher than Bill Fretz–but even with such an expert teacher, you can only go so far without the appropriate tools. Bill can provide those, too, as the designer and manufacturer of coveted Fretz tools. We’ve put them both together in the Fretz Mobius Pendant Deluxe Kit, which includes Bill’s five-star-rated video download, Metalsmith Essentials: Hammering and Forming Jewelry, Vol. 2, along with the Fretz Maker planishing hammer and narrow raising hammer, the Fretz stake holder with mushroom stake and a thin shell stake, and a digital issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine that features a mobius pendant project tutorial from Bill. Get expert instruction and expert-quality tools, all in one limited-quantity kit!

P.S. Want a sneak peek? Preview Bill’s five-star-rated video Metalsmith Essentials: Hammering and Forming Jewelry, Vol. 2, with Bill Fretz.

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