Easy Metal Forging: Twisting, Tapering, and Moving Metal with Richard Sweetman

With every metalsmithing video I watch or class I take, I’m amazed at how metal moves. You know that hammering with a steel hammer on a steel block will stretch the metal, moving it away from the hammer. But you can get even more precise with the types of hammers you use and in which direction the hammer face lands on the metal itself, which I learned watching Richard Sweetman’s forging video, Fast Forged Silver Bracelet with Richard Sweetman.

Richard Sweetman forming, stretching, and tapering metal

Forging with a Hammer

Richard demonstrates how metal moves in various directions at various speeds by hammering on children’s clay with a cross-peen hammer, which has a narrow, sharper, linear face. Near the middle of a long squared log of clay, Richard starts hammering across the width of the clay with a cross-peen hammer and moves toward the end. The clay grows in length as he goes. Richard says hammering across the metal moves it quickly in two directions: length and width. He uses this technique on heavy 6-gauge square wire for cuffs and bangles, but this is also how his spoon handles are formed.

Richard Sweetman forging, stretching, and tapering metalStill using a cross-peen hammer, Richard shows how hammering lengthwise along the clay spreads the metal in width only. This is how he spreads the metal out to form the bowls of spoons. Spoons! Did you know you can make your own spoons?

forged metal to make silver spoonsOnce you’re happy with the length and width of your metal, switch to a planishing hammer, which has a more rounded face, to flatten out the sharper marks and divots made by the cross-peen hammer. The rounded-face planishing hammer moves the metal in all directions, at a slower, more gradual rate.

And that’s how you turn heavy-gauge square wire into a curvy spoon or flare metal ends for bracelets and other jewelry designs–at least that’s one way to do it.

More Metal Forging: Rolling Mill

In his video, Richard also demonstrates roller forging or roller tapering heavy-gauge square wire in a rolling mill. I’d never heard of roller forging until I watched Richard’s new metalsmithing video. Roller forging involves running a piece of heavy-gauge wire into the rolling mill part of the way and then backing it out, over and over. After doing that a few times, a taper develops on one end of the metal rod, and the other end is left untouched.

Richard Sweetman fast forged silver cuffs and bangle bracelets

Metal Forming: Twisting in a Vise

Another way to add easy style that doesn’t look easy at all is by twisting the metal. Richard’s video shows how to create perfect twists in heavy-gauge square wire using only a wrench and a vise, along with some great tips to prevent marring the metal. The process is much simpler than I assumed it was, and Richard builds on it with additional hammering and forging techniques to ensure that each twisted wire cuff or bangle is truly one of a kind. Along the way you’ll learn how to ensure your twists are centered and even, that the wire aligns properly after twisting, that the bracelet’s shape is rounded perfectly for comfortable wear, and more details that elevate your handmade jewelry.

making twisted and tapered metal jewelry with Richard Sweetman

Now I’m excited to make twisted, tapered bracelets, sure–as well as brooches/pins, hair pins, and other decorative jewelry components (most of which require no soldering)–but I really want to try out Richard’s techniques for making spoons! For tea or cocoa, ice cream, sugar cubes–and babies!–how special and luxurious is a handmade silver spoon? Download Richard’s video tutorial; within minutes, you’ll be hammering your way to tapered, twisted bracelets and other metal jewelry designs that only look difficult to make. They’re surprisingly easy, with Richard’s expert instruction and brilliant time-tested tips.

Learn more about metal forging and fabrication with Richard Sweetman!

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