Metalsmith’s Little Known Tools Compendium

Compass set (from my 2D design class in college), protractor, dividers, and paper circle dividers
Compass set (from my 2D design class in college), protractor, dividers, and paper circle dividers

This summer I introduced you to a number of tools that aren’t normally associated with metalsmithing, but are nevertheless one’s that I need to complete my pieces. In case you missed them, here is a recap of those posts.

And some older posts about tools:

My Favorite Hammers
My Favorite Hammers

And some toolmaking tutorials:

And of course, a link to the list of Better Know Your Hammer posts I did:

A Compendium of Hammers

A Metalsmith’s Drafting Tools

notebooksYes, I know that I’ve said in the past that I don’t sketch out every idea that I have. But I do have some that need to be sketched, at least in part. Especially when I’m working on larger formed pieces I need something to figure out what size disk to start with and an angle comparison to use while raising it.

So what sort of tools would a metalsmith need to sketch with (besides notebooks) ?

Don't forget something to write/draw with.
Don’t forget something to write/draw with.

It’s similar to other types of drafting. I’m sure that you could use CAD or some other type of 3D drafting software to do this. But I like to use pencil and paper because that’s what I’m comfortable with.

Usually I’ll just freeform it, but there are times where I need to be more specific. So I use rulers, a compass, maybe a french curve to get the exact size and shape that I want. Many times I refer to my circle divider from Tim McCreight’s Complete Metalsmith (or I make one myself) in order to keep things evenly spaced in a bowl. Then, of course, there are all my paper templates too.

Compass set (from my 2D design class in college), protractor, dividers, and paper circle dividers
Compass set (from my 2D design class in college), protractor, dividers, and paper circle dividers
Ruler, T-square (also from college), calipers, and measuring tape
Ruler, T-square (also from college), calipers, and measuring tape
French Curves (Obviously I'm a fan of Staedtler)
French Curves (Obviously I’m a fan of Staedtler)

Sheet Metal

Sheet Metal Drawer – Thankfully it all came this way!

If you look at my in process posts, you see that all of my pieces start out as wire or flat sheet. I buy my bronze, brass, copper, nickel, and silver this way. Prior to the industrial age this wasn’t possible. So as much time as I spend forming each piece now, it’s nothing compared to what metalsmiths from the past had to do.

In pre-industrial times a jeweler or metalsmith would have to form their own sheet and wire. They would melt

What my sheet becomes…

down gold, silver, etc. into ingots. These ingots were then hammered down by hand. After hours and hours of making the sheet or wire, it was then possible to begin actually forming the piece.

Thank goodness I can buy nice, even thickness metal in the gauge (thickness) that I want. I like to make things using hand tools, but there is a line even I won’t cross. It takes enough time to actually form my pieces. In fact, I should be getting back into the studio right now…