Get to Better Know Your Hammer – Chasing Hammer

Chasing Hammer
Chasing Hammer

***Better Know Your Hammer – the book is now available as a paperback or ebook!  It includes info about all these hammers plus a glossary, hammer resources, and info on why hammers work the way they do and tips on using and buying one. (updated 7/2011)***

The hiatus is over, my hammer series will now continue.  Chasing hammer is a tough one because it really is used pretty much for one thing and one thing only-chasing.  The handle is shaped “funny” because it makes it easier to do the kind of tapping that chasing and repoussé require.  The broad flat pein makes it easier to hit the chasing tool every time you try.  And of course the short nubby end can be used in place of an actual chasing tool.  This nubby is the only reason I use this hammer for anything but chasing, I can use it when making tube rivets.  Ok, I also occasionally use this hammer when bezel setting stones, but it’s for the flat pein when I use my magical horseshoe nail bezel pusher.

Bubbles in Pitch-the early stages
Bubbles in Pitch-the early stages

For those of you who aren’t too familiar with chasing and repoussé, I’ll give  brief description.  Please keep in mind that I am but a beginner in this technique and that I haven’t had any more than a brief introduction to it during my art school days.

Basically, repoussé is the French word for push and that is exactly what you do, push your metal using a variety of strangely shaped tools.  If you want to nitpick, repoussé is when you push the metal out from the back of the piece and chasing is when you work it from the front.  Usually you use both techniques when making a design so I try to use both terms.  I have been know to just say “chasing” when trying to make it easier for people to understand what I’m talking about.  You can start from either a flat sheet of metal (as I did with Bubbles) or work on a formed piece (as I did with my Spiral Dance chalice).  Most times you use pitch (something derived from pine tar) as a backing that offers support for the piece while also being able to give as you press into it.  This is extremely messy (at least for me), but is how this has been done for centuries.  I’ve heard that you can also use hot glue (once it’s dried) or carpet or rubber sheet.  But I can’t vouch for these methods.  If you want to see work by a master of repoussé, look up Valentin Yotkov or check out one of Victoria Lansford‘s workshops.

Spiral Dance - detail of cup
Spiral Dance - detail of cup