Hammering Textures and Forms: How to Get More Bang from One Hammer with Bill Fretz

Helen Driggs is our guest today, sharing inside tips and hints she learned from master jewelry artisan and tool creator Bill Fretz while on set during filming of his new Hammer Textures and Forms video.

hammer texture Fretz hammer

Form or Texture? One Hammer Can Do Both!

By Helen Driggs

One of the best parts of my job as a video content producer is the behind-the-scenes time I get to spend with visiting master metalsmiths. It’s fun to be on set. I learn a lot, and I recently was present for Hammer Textures and Forms: Master 20+ Specialty Jewelry Tools with the amazing Bill Fretz.

The time we spent before and after the actual “work” day taught me a lot too–because like many master metalsmiths, Bill was generous about helping me with some things I am working on in my studio. For instance: I’ll have better luck with my Little Torch if I set my regulator to around 5lbs. pressure; or, those fantastic protective earmuffs of his are from the MSC Direct Industrial Tool Catalog; and, that Pumice powder gives a really beautiful matte finish on brass. None of those things were in the video, but I learned them direct from Bill as we talked over lunch or dinner and got a dual benefit from being there. Now, you know too. Sweet.

form metal Fretz hammerBut, back to the video. Trust me–the content is incredibly informative, especially if you have ever wondered about which Fretz hammer does what and why there seem to be so many of them. To me, the most critical information Bill reveals in this video is the coding and logic behind his tool numbering system. I know a big issue many people seem to have is why there are so many hammers, and holy cow, do they need all of them or some of them–and then making a decision seems too big and too confusing to deal with so they freeze and don’t try metal forming at all. If you recognize yourself in what I just said, fear not–Bill explains and demos all in a calm and precise way. You’ll get it. Really.

texture and form metal Fretz hammerThe second revelation in this video is that each of those many, many hammers can do many, many things–so don’t get stuck thinking you can only do one thing with one hammer. Here’s another little secret: Any hammer can form metal or texture metal–depending on how you use it. Easy peasy, right? Every single hammer can do both things, and Bill will explain both texturing and the ins and outs of planishing, raising, embossing, and blocking, the four essential processes of metal forming.

Here’s another secret: Did you know that there are three categories of Fretz hammers? The jeweler’s hammers are coded HMR 1, 2, 3 etc. HMR stands for hammer and then, there is just one number. For the most part, these are the hammers jewelry makers will use the most. The larger silversmith hammers are coded HMR 101, 102, 103, etc. These are for bigger work–bowls, sculpture, and other large forms. The precisionsmith hammers are coded HMR 401, 402, 403 etc., and they are daintier than the silversmith hammers.

You will notice that faces of the Fretz forming hammers are curved–because they are intended to create curves when you want to transition from flat to formed metal against a stake. If you don’t want to create 3D forms, those hammer faces will create marks–or texture–on the flat sheet. So, that narrow raising hammer can also be used to create comet-shaped marks on flat sheet. The point is this: If you hammer intentionally, you can create gorgeous patterns. The same narrow raising hammer you use to create dimension can also be used to create texture that looks like the shimmering surface of a lake on a sunny day. Change directions while you are making the marks, and you can create starbursts, waves, or swirls–it’s up to you!

hammer texture Fretz hammersSo, now you are all set. Depending on the work you want to do, all you have to decide is which hammer is the right size and has the right shape for your job. It really isn’t any harder than that, and once you watch the video, the mystery of metal forming and/or texturing will be revealed to you so you can proceed with confidence. It’s really loads of fun to be a metalsmith, so go get yourself a hammer and some metal sheet, watch Bill in action, and then go play.


Whether you have one good hammer or a whole wall full, see all the wonderful things you can do with them in Bill’s new video, Hammer Textures and Forms: Master 20+ Specialty Jewelry Tools. See examples of textures and how to create them with which hammer while you create rings, cuffs and bangles, even bowls! And if you have no good hammers, we’ve got you covered there, too–our top picks of Bill’s hammers are available in the Jewelry Making Daily Shop!

Master metal forming with expert jewelry and tool designer Bill Fretz!

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