Jeweller’s hammers are near the top of the list when it comes to our workshop essentials. It won’t be long before you find you have to pick up a hammer or mallet and get stuck in to some forming and shaping. ‘Bashing’ metals with a hammer is also one of the most satisfying – as reported by most of my new starters at the studio. It is one of your most relished techniques!
However, if you have a quick look at the array of jeweller’s hammers available for this subject, you will soon realise that the choice is vast. So I’ve put together a brief description of each type of jeweller’s hammer and its use. You will find that you can make do with just a couple at first. But as your skills evolve – you will no doubt find that several different jeweller’s hammers will become essential to your workshop practice. They will also become like old friends!
So let’s categorise these tools for you. You will need a couple of basic hammers and mallets to start off with:
This is a metal hammer – usually made of steel. It has a flat face and a domed face. You will find a cheap and cheerful ball pein will do most of the basics. You can use the flat face for tapping punches and shaping metals. The domed face will give a lovely beaten look to your work. This is your most essential jeweller’s hammer.
Again, a metal hammer – usually made of steel. This has a flat face and a ‘chisel’ shaped face. The flat face will do the same as the above. You can use the chisel face for fold forming and riveting. You will probably find that this becomes more of an essential jeweller’s hammer when your skills expand in to more subject areas.
From day one you will need a mallet in your jewellery making kit. This can be made of rubber, plastic, wood, or leather. This tool is used for shaping and forming metals without marring the surface. You will find a couple of different sizes useful. A medium to large size is good for shaping bangles and rings. A smaller sized mallet will come in handy for shaping bezels and more delicate items. Also, if fold forming becomes your thing – both sizes of mallet will be essential.
In essence these are the top three. When you get a new hammer, you can turn either of the cross and ball peins above in to ‘posh’ jeweller’s hammers straight away by giving them a bit of a make-over. First of all inspect for defects in the domed or chisel faces. If there are some dints or gauges use a file to carefully smooth them out. (Use an old file that you’ve designated specifically for filing steel) Next give the surfaces a good going over with emery papers. Finally, when you are happy with the result you can buff the hammers on the buffer.
This will give a mirror finish to the steel. When you use them to tap silver this mirror finish will be transferred to the metal. So if you keep your jeweller’s hammer shiny – your work will stay shiny. Keeping your tools in top condition like this can take a bit of effort – but your finishing skills will instantly go up a notch! You can also give this treatment to one of the flat faces. However, don’t use it for hitting punches or you’ll have wasted your time.
So if these are the top three hammers and mallets – why are there so many different choices. Basically there are other hammers for doing specific jobs:
This is a jeweller’s hammer for – you guessed it – repousse! It has a specifically shaped large round head for tapping punches. It also has a small rounded end for beaten texturing. The handle of this hammer is shaped so that it fits in your hand comfortably and to allow the hammer to move with minimum effort. The weight and balance of this hammer is also designed for the continual tapping motion required for repousse. So all in all you will find this is a perfect tool for the job.
You will find this particular hammer good if you have a small workshop space. As one hammer does the job of four. It is a jeweller’s hammer that has different faces that are screwed on and off. The added advantage is that you can buy replacement heads for this type of hammer without replacing the shaft.
This type of jeweller’s hammer is normally at the higher price level. But a texturing hammer will quickly texture a much larger area than using punches or a ball pein hammer on its own. There’s usually two textures, one on each face of the hammer. I use texturing hammers a lot in my work. I like to use them because it’s a quick way to add surface texture and it gives an identity to my work and designs.
This type of hammer is often made of brass. It has a smaller sized head. You will find this smaller hammer useful for gently stretching bezels if your stones are a bit tight! It is also really useful for coaxing metals in to shape when a rubber mallet just won’t quite get there. This is a good addition to your kit if you generally work in quite a small scale.
So what’s the difference between steel and brass and which should you use? The answer to this is that you’ll probably need both at some point. Steel is harder than brass so will give good texturing results to your work. It will also move and stretch metals quicker and more effectively. However, brass is a softer more yielding metal. So if you are working in a small scale or doing very fine work then this will be a good choice for you. It will do less surface damage to the metals. I must emphasise that brass is soft. If you are ‘rough’ or very heavy handed with a brass jeweller’s hammer it will not last very long!
Whichever jeweller’s hammer you choose, at whatever price point – look after it. It will give you years of service and stress busting pleasure.
There’s an array of hammers stocked at the studio shop. If you ever want any advice about what to buy or use – just ask.
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