(Excerpted from the Tools & Toolmaking chapter)


(2-1) Basic tools used in chasing are hammers, punches and a pitch bowl seated on a 'donut' (a sandbag will do or use one made of rubber, wood or industrial felt). A chasing hammer is intended to allow the user to concentrate on the effect the punch is having on the design while ignoring the rise and fall of the hammer. It should not ricochet off the punch or cause the  user's arm to grow tired and sore after hours of hammering (see Chapter 11). (2-2) Conventional chasing hammers come with either a ball-shaped or revolver-grip handle. The working face of a chasing hammer can be either curved or flat. On the opposite end is a ball peen face useful for hammering directly on the metal. With Japanese hammers, the working face is flat but the opposite face is pinched down to a horizontal wedge. The handle is normally very long to achieve a whipping action during hammering. Chasers often make use of more than one weight of hammer. Suppliers ordinarily stock hammer heads which range from ¾" faces weighing 3 oz. to 1¼" faces weighing 6 oz. The reason for this is that the initial repoussé stage can call for high impact hammering in order to achieve maximum movement of the metal. A larger hammer can withstand the force of the blows. Students often use a ballpeen hammer from the hardware store for this work. Using a lighter hammer for this purpose will result in splitting the thin neck of the handle.

Chasing Metal by Marcia Lewis - Image of steel, plastic and wood punches.


Chasing Metal by Marcia Lewis - Image of pitch bowl, chasing hammer and punches.



(2-3) Steel is the most common material used for making punches, but hard wood and some plastics can also be used. The latter two move the metal more slowly and require the use of more force, but they do not leave marks on the metal the way steel punches do. They are particularly helpful in the initial repoussé stages of developing a form. Sets of punches can be purchased from most suppliers. These sets are predominately square stock too large for jewelry scale work and usually require modifying to be useful. It is less expensive and more practical to purchase lengths of tool steel or drill rod (often sold by the pound at scrap metal yards) and make your own. (2-4) A punch should be long enough to fit comfortably in the user's fingers, protruding slightly above them. The larger the user's hands, the longer the tool should be. Standard lengths are 3" to 3½".

Chasing Metal by Marcia Lewis - Image of steel punches.