Hammer It: Great Tips from Bill Fretz on Texturing Metal Jewelry
When you run a finger along a hand-hammered metal surface, you can almost feel the hammer blow come down and leave its impression. Just seeing a hammered surface like that gives you a sense of the handmade quality of the piece, and sets it apart from all the machine and computer-aided production work out there. No wonder hammer-textured jewelry is so popular today!
If you love hammering, then you know about Fretz jewelry hammers and stakes. An accomplished goldsmith and jeweler, Bill first went into tool design so he could create bezels for irregular stones more easily. Inspired by the specialized stakes for larger silver pieces he’d learned about while studying silversmithing in Denmark, Bill developed smaller stakes with just the right sizes and curvatures for forming those needed bezels. Before long, he went on to develop a line of jewelry-scale stakes and hammers.
But these specialized jewelry tools do more than form metal to give it the shape you want. They also texture metal to help you create interesting surfaces, and some have been designed specifically for texturing. Here are some great tips from Bill on using Fretz or the newer Fretz Maker hammers and stakes to produce interesting texture on your metal jewelry, excerpted from the September/October 2017 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.
He starts by suggesting you make sample texture disks, and indicate how you made each texture. Very good idea.
by Bill Fretz
Make Sample Disks
Making and keeping samples for various hammer shapes is a good way of having reference for future designs. It will soon be very obvious to you what you can do — but not necessarily to your patron. If you sell your work, being able to show your customers samples of all the textures you can produce will give them a chance to participate in the design process and greatly enhance their experience with custom design work.
Simply cut out a circle, dome it, and mark the hammer number on the blank for future reference. It’s a good idea to buff the blank to a scratch-free surface before the texturing begins. It is important to remember that each hammer may produce two textures, as do all Fretz hammers.
Fretz hammer numbers run in series: HMR- single -digit hammers are those scaled for jewelry. Others include the HMR-400 series hammers, designed for very small projects; the HMR-300 series for the largest hammers, and HMR-100 series for silversmithing size hammers. Other hammer companies will also have hammers scaled for different size projects.
Store Your Samples
These brass blanks are stored in plastic gem boxes to keep the textures from tarnishing and for easy presentation. The larger hammers use larger 2″ brass circles, the jewelry hammers use 1-1/8″ circles, and the very small hammers use 1″ circles. The disk size helps remind the viewer that the scale of the hammer is relevant to the size of the hammer marks.
The Fretz planishing hammers, like most brands, come in different sizes. The largest is the HMR-101, suitable for hollowware or larger jewelry projects. The HMR-1 is the middle size and heavy enough for most jewelry projects. The smallest is the HMR-401 and is used for delicate bezels and fine texturing.
Each hammer has a flat face with rounded edges and a domed face with rounded edges. The flatter the face, the more subtle the texture. This group of hammers will not work on concave shapes, as the face will not fit into a hollow curve.
The domed hammer face will texture deeper and leave more obvious planish marks. Planishing is intended to leave even marks that overlap to refine the surface shape. The domed brass shape was planished over a mushroom stake while the hammer struck the middle area of the stake and the metal was moved under these repetitive blows. The hammer is held very lightly and merely lifted so the weight of the hammer does the work as it is aimed.
Raw Silk Hammer
The HMR-14 raw silk hammer is part of a group of hammers with faces that are either raised or etched for the purpose of achieving interesting surface enrichment by striking the metal directly with the hammer face. They are dedicated to texturing and are not intended for forming. The domed face imparts the texture and the flat surface may be used to burnish the surface for a multilayered effect if desired. The hammers are best used on the final form as they will impart the most defined texture.
The HMR-22 looks like a miniature meat tenderizer. The round flat face is for convex work and the domed hammer face is for flat metal texturing. Under this hammer’s repeated blows, the metal takes on the texture of a broken piece of sandstone.
Delicately curved textured flutes are possible with a rounded oval hammer like the narrow HMR-8. The curved profile makes both forming and the resulting texture possible over specialized stakes or by filling the form with pitch. The broader HMR-9 hammer will give different results on wider curves.
Bold texture is sometimes more effective when contrasted with smooth or lightly textured areas. Here, round wire was first hammered with the HMR-22 for a sandstone -like texture, and then placed next to smooth, half round wire on this wedding ring. Sometimes less is more.
One of the pleasures of jewelry is to rotate it in the hand and find unexpected designs or textures. Working the sides of a wedding ring can accomplish this.
7 Hammer Heads for Fluting = 7 New Texture Hammers!
The new Maker hammer #7 from Fretz was designed for direct fluting of metal, on a very small scale, for metal imbedded in or filled with pitch. It includes seven different, interchangeable ends that are held with a set screw.
An unexpected benefit of this design is that each of the seven ends allows the hammer to make a different, really interesting texture. Another “after it was designed” discovery is that you can rotate the heads and get textures in different directions while still holding the project in a comfortable position.
Merle White is Editor-in-Chief of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist