It’s not everyone who has a conversation with a friend including the sentence: “I found one. I dragged it to the park and hid it in the bushes. You can come and see if it’s what you want. but you should probably come at night”. Sounds like the beginning of a thriller – and in a way it is. It’s pretty exciting to me anyway …
My friend was talking about a tree stump. I had finally acquired a silversmithing hammer, but I had nothing to hit! I needed the stump as a solid base for hammering – sort of a wooden anvil.
I have set myself the task of making a bowl a week so that I get familiar with the hammer. This first one was small – just a three inch circle of copper, turning into a little bowl about 2 1./2″ across.
It took about an hour and three annealings to get the shape. Metal hardens as you work it – so you have to anneal it (heat it up and quench it) to make it go soft again. For those of you who are interested in such things – when you hammer it you disrupt the even placement of molecules, which is what makes the metal get hard. When you heat it (to about 1500 for copper) the molecules are regulated again. If you keep baging it after it is too hard, it will break.
The next part was ‘planishing’ which harderns the bowl into its final shape and adds shine. Traditionally you use a stake and the flat side of the hammer – both are highly polished – and the metal between where the two strike becomes shiny and hard. You also create a pattern of hammer marks that is beautifully reflective with the light sparkling off the many planed surface. I was challenged here, becasue I didn’t have a stake! (silversmithing tools are quite expensive – one small bowl stake being about $100) So I got creative, and used the hammer itself as a stake by putting it in my vice.
I then polished the flat side of an old ball pien hammer that I had and used it for planishing
The results were lesss than perfect – but I was impatient to finish my first bowl! The planishing stake is in my budget for next month…
For me as an enamelist who has worked almost entirely two dimmensionally for years, it’s very exciting to feel shapes forming under my hand. I hope that this will lead to a whole new world of design for me.