Hammer Time: Get Familiar with Basic and Specialty Hammers for Metalsmithing Tasks

Fold forming metal is a unique metalsmithing art. I’ve learned that successful fold-forming relies on two points: the right metal and the right hammers.

Travis Ogden, expert host of the metalsmithing video tutorial Basic Jewelry Fold Forming, recommends 24-gauge metal sheet for fold forming. Even when annealed (and your sheet should be annealed before you begin), heavier gauges can be difficult to fold form. Remember that metal sheet gets harder as you work with it, as a result of all that hammering. Frequent annealing might be necessary. Fine silver is easier to use for fold forming than sterling silver for the same reason–it’s softer and easier to unfold after it has been hammered.

Fold forming is achieved through hammering, and like any task, the right tool is key. There are many kinds of hammers, and some of them have broad and varied uses while some are intended for basically just one special task. Let’s get familiar with various kinds of hammers.

(from our jewelry-making tool eBook by Sharon Elaine Thompson)


nylon raising hammer narrow raising hammer spiculum forming hammer
rawhide mallet goldsmith’s hammer forming (L) & planishing (R) hammers

Raising hammer: two rectangular, blunt, or wedge-shaped cross-peen faces, used to “raise” the metal from flat sheet to dimensional form by striking the outside of the form.

Mallet: identical faces and can be made of plastic, rawhide, or metal.

Goldsmith’s hammer: one flat and one cross-peen head for riveting and other work.

Forming hammer: a heavy hammer with flat or domed faces, used to move metal.

Planishing hammer: flat or convex faces, to smooth metal that has been worked by other hammers or to harden metal.


ball-peen hammer flat-faced chasing hammer nylon mallet
bordering hammer large embossing hammer riveting hammer
curved-face chasing hammer jeweler’s embossing hammer texturing hammer
Photos by Jim Lawson.

Ball-peen hammer:  an all-purpose hammer with one round and one half-domed face, for flattening and shaping metal, removing dents; can be used to drive chisels, punches, stamps.

Chasing hammer: one flat face for striking other tools (such as stamps) or planishing metal; one round face for forming and riveting; handle has a bulbous end and a narrow neck for more bounce back and less strain on the wrist.

Riveting hammer: one round and one chisel-shaped face, for riveting, tacking, and lightweight forming.

Embossing hammer: two rounded, differently sized faces, for a variety of metalwork.

Texturing hammer: machined or patterned faces, for striking texture directly onto metalwork.

Ready to see how you can combine metal sheet with some of these hammers to create unique dimensional shapes? Order Travis’s Basic Jewelry Fold Forming DVD or instantly download the video in high definition. You’ll learn the metalsmithing and fold-forming skills required to create three-dimensional, organic shapes in 11 lessons, including the T-fold, quarter folds and their variations; synclastic and anticlastic folds; and more.

Bonus: Learn more about manipulating metal and try your hand at a quick fold-formed leaf tutorial.

About Travis Ogden: As an independent jewelry artist with over 40 years of experience, Travis holds both a BFA and an MFA. His award-winning, superbly crafted jewelry is currently represented in three Colorado galleries. He taught metalsmithing at the university level for more than 15 years and currently teaches at the Denver School of Metal Arts, which he owns along with the Naja Tool and Supply in Denver.

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