Metalsmithing Mastery: Make Exceptional Metal Jewelry with Expert Bill Fretz’s Finest Forming Tools

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Buy the best tools you can afford.” It sounds great in theory, but it didn’t mean a lot to me until I put it in practice and used the finest cutters I’d ever used. Once I could feel the difference, I understood the saying, and I’ve experienced the difference many times since then. The value and ease that comes from using excellent tools is something that you can really only understand once you’ve experienced it for yourself.

I felt the same way when I first used a Fretz hammer. Everything about it–how it felt in my hand, the impression it left on the metal, the “bounce” I felt when using it–it was all noticeably different. Noticeably better. And my metalsmithing work got better, too. Using better tools makes your fabrication and forming work easier, cuts down on time finishing, and allows your metal jewelry designs to look more professional.

form fluted metal shapes with Bill Fretz

We had all of these great qualities in mind when we created the Fretz Specialty Tool collections. There are two luxurious metalsmithing collections to choose from, and Helen Driggs shares more about them below.

Join the Tribe of the Hammer and Stake!

By Helen I. Driggs, Senior Editor, Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

I’ve always made it a point to study with the best teachers. You get the secret good stuff in a class, and that totally rocks, no matter who the teacher is. To me, it’s a great honor to spend time with a master jeweler or metalsmith who will generously share the lifetime of metalsmithing techniques they have perfected over the course of their career. One of those master teachers I’ve been lucky enough to watch live, in person, and in action at the bench, is tool designer and master silversmith Bill Fretz.

master metalsmithing bangles with Bill Fretz

Bill is well-known for his expertise in the technique of hammer forming, which to me is one of the most fascinating of all the metalsmithing techniques. Metal forming is one of those processes you must observe and then practice–because there are no patterns, no shortcuts, and no hacks for it. You just have to hunker down and do it in order to really understand and learn it. The problem is, without any help it’s hard to know where to begin, or if you are headed in the right direction, so, it always helps to have some expert instruction. Even if you can’t study with Bill in person like I have, he can still help you. Here’s how: Metalsmith Essentials: Hammer Textures and Forms: Master 20+ Specialty Jewelry Tools with Bill Fretz. This video is one of my personal favorites, because you not only learn Bill’s methods of forming and forging, creating surface textures, proper planishing for a mirror finish, and how to correctly wield your hammer for control and precision; you’ll also gain a basic understanding of most of the tools in the extensive Fretz Tools line, which I know can be daunting to the uninitiated.

And, because I’m certain you’ll be on fire to try some metal forming after watching the video, I think some tools are in order, too. If you already own some Fretz hammers (and who in their right mind doesn’t?), no worries. We’ve taken all the guesswork out of choosing the stakes for you. We’ve selected three really versatile stakes and the holder for them, plus the instructional DVD and the current issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist (January/February 2016), which features Bill’s most recent silver bangle bracelet project–and collected them together in the Basic Fretz Bangle Tool Collection for creating convex and concave curves in metal. Use the hammers you’ve already got, and start creating some gorgeous formed bracelets in a snap!

form concave and convex metal bangles and other shapes with Bill Fretz

Don’t have any Fretz hammers? Never fear, we can fix that, too. Check out the Deluxe Fretz Bangle Tool Collection, which includes the Fretz HMR-1 Planishing Hammer and HMR-3 Narrow Raising Hammer, the H-1L Long Holder (with hardware) and four stakes (one more than the Basic collection): the M-113 20mm Convex Cuff Stake, the M-114 10mm Convex Cuff Stake, the M-117 Flat Cuff Stake and finally, the M-107 Extra Small Convex Cuff Stake, plus the DVD and magazine, too. What’s not to love?

Once you try some metal forming, I guarantee you’ll be hooked. The process is so much fun, the bracelets you’ll make will be so beautiful and the time you spend watching your metal move will be so darn cool. It’s just magic to watch a flat sheet of metal move into 3D, and by using just a hammer and a stake, you too can create a gorgeous piece of handwrought jewelry your friends and family will fight over. And, once you get started and understand the process, you’ll want to make multiple bracelets, and trust me it will be hard to stop. When it comes to making work, it just doesn’t get any better than that!

form concave and convex shapes and bangles with Bill Fretz

So, what are you waiting for? Order yourself Bill’s stakes and hammers, grab yourself some metal, and go have some major metalsmithing fun in the studio. I can’t think of a better way to pass the dull, gray winter than the prospect of learning a new technique. In fact, I am headed down to the studio right now for some metal forming fun of my own, so I’ve gotta bounce. But, I’ll catch you soon from the pages of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist… –Helen

The only decision left to make is–how deluxe do you want to go? Get the Basic Fretz Tool Collection if you already have Fretz hammers (though it’s anything but basic!), and get the Deluxe Fretz Tool Collection if you want two amazing Fretz hammers plus a bonus fourth forming stake. Either way, don’t miss the chance to own such fine, exclusive metalsmithing tools to help you create bangles and other dimensional metal forms.

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