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Forming and Texturing Silver Jewelry with Hammers

Forming and Texturing Silver Jewelry with Hammers

Table of Contents

It’s Hammer time!

 Caveman rock

Since man first evolved opposable thumbs. The first tool he used was likely a rock to bash things. Whilst technology has moved on a little, the hammer is still the most essential tool for a wide variety of tasks. Here we look at some of the latest and best options available for the jeweler.


Goldsmiths' hammer.

The classic jeweler's hammer is a must have on every jeweler’s bench or craftsman’s toolbox. A small round flat head, perfect for detailed work, bending shaping, and forging precious metals. It also features a small cross peen (sharp chisel end), which can be used for drawing out bars and wire, flaring rivets, or applying a bark texture.

Fretz Goldsmiths Hammer

The Fretz goldsmiths hammer (in my opinion) is the best hammer you can buy. Mirror polished faces, a light but strong Padauk wood handle, contoured to the hand. Couple this with an amazing balance and center of gravity. It gives precision and comfort, with perfect repeatability. It features a small flat round face, perfect for small forging, bending, and shaping jobs. The sharp cross peen creates a beautiful texture and is perfect for fixing small rivets. Perfect for 101 small jobs, it is an essential jeweler's tool.  Beautiful Fretz design and quality, it's almost a piece of jewelry in itself. If you only ever buy one hammer- make it this one.

The term mallet usually refers to a hammer that does not have a steel face. Many options are available, from wood, leather, brass, and nylon. But modern hammers now offer a combination of steel shafts and heads with nylon, rubber, and brass faces. Hence the terminology is somewhat interchangeable. You will find the term “hammer” now refers to many variations and materials.


2Lb Brass Mallet


2LB Brass mallet.

When working with punches and disc cutters you need weight and force. However, using a traditional steel hammer can be very dangerous. As the cutters and tools are often hardened, striking them with a steel hammer can cause them to break or shatter. The solution is a brass mallet, incorporating a large heavy head, made of solid brass. This gives a lot of weight and force, but as the brass is softer than the steel punches, it will not damage them. The mallet itself may eventually become scuffed on the face, but this is easily filed and sanded flat again, should it be required (which it isn’t). In use, the brass mallet also has the advantage that it doesn’t tend to slip off the tool, like a highly polished steel hammer might, if used in the same manner. You still need the brass mallet to be strong. A brass handle might not last long. Hence, a steel shaft and rubber grip, give the benefits of strength and comfort. The Pepetools 2LB brass mallet is an essential tool for use with the Pepetools disc cutters, or indeed anytime you need a little extra weight without the risk.


Perhaps you want the safety of brass, but a little more precision. Fretz make several brass faced hammers. Giving the benefit of the Fretz padauk handles, and steel heads but the safety of a brass face. Ideal for stamping, punches, and where you need to strike a steel tool with precision. Perfectly designed and created for metal stamping, giving the weight you need, with the brass face to minimize damage to your punches. The opposite face is polished steel.

Fretz Stamping Hammer


Rawhide Mallet.

Traditionally jewelers used a rawhide mallet, made from a roll of thick leather. Still preferred by many for marking the metal. Typically used with a steel ring mandrel to round rings, or with a steel block to flatten sheet and wire.

 Rawhide Mallet

Traditional rawhide mallet (new).
The head is made from a roll of hard leather, see the pattern on the face.

Tip: - it’s important to note that when you first buy a rawhide mallet, it can be very hard and unusable. The mallet must be “worked in”, to break up the hard varnish and soften the face. Old mallets may look shabby but are the best ones to use. Remember, you can’t use one new, it will be way too hard.


Nylon Faced Hammers.

For this reason, the modern alternative to a rawhide mallet is a nylon faced hammer. Many feature interchangeable screw in faces. These can give different options of hardness, by using rubber, nylon, or acrylic faces. The advantage of a nylon hammer is that it's ready to use immediately with no preparation. Also when worn out or damaged, the faces can simply be replaced.

Nylon Faced Hammers

Above. Interchangeable Nylon faced hammers.
Note the different hammer faces, and the handle materials.
One wooden and one nylon.

These modern nylon faced hammers are used by jewelers, furniture makers, double glazing installers, and auto repair shops. Available in a whole range of sizes and weights, they feature an assortment of face materials. Often the larger hammers have nylon handles to absorb shock. The smaller ones have wooden handles and are perfect for jewelers as an alternative to the traditional leather mallets. Perfect for use with a steel ring mandrel, for gentle sizing and reshaping of rings. I own several of these in a range of sizes.


Fretz HMR-7.

Fretz also offers several hammers with small interchangeable nylon heads. Intended for forming bangles with concave and convex stakes. The various shaped heads allow access inside tight shapes.  These hammers offer great versatility for forming soft metals. They are also great for knocking out dents too!

Fretz double ended insert hammer

Chasing and repoussé

Sadly, becoming a lost art. Chasing and repoussé is the art of shaping flat metal to create three-dimensional relief. This is done by setting the sheet into pitch and hammering it with various steel punches. By repeatedly using the punches on the front (chasing) and then on the back (repoussé). The metal is slowly shaped to create raised and sunken areas. This can be very beautiful but requires skill and practice.

Above:- Photo of myself chasing a sheet of gold.
Note that Im looking at the metal, not at the hammer, which is striking the top of the punch.


To accomplish this, the artisan must be focused on the tip of the punch, where it contacts the metal, noting the angle and orientation of every strike. The artisan needs to know without looking that every hammer blow will hit the top of the punch. This explains the unusual design of the Chasing and repoussé hammer. A wide flat head ensures contact with the punch. But note that the opposite face is usually a very small ball peen. This has many uses for applying texture. But its main purpose is to reduce weight on that face, this, in turn, moves the center of gravity towards the wide face. The result is that with a loose grip the hammer will invariably fall face down, striking the top of the punch, without the need to even look at it.  Note the unique long handle with a slightly curved bulbous end. Designed to be held at every end, with the handle horizontal.

Once again Fretz offers one of the best on the market. The combination of the perfectly balanced head, with the Padauk wood handle, mean every blow is perfect. Designed for comfort, control, and predictability.  Allowing you to focus on what you are doing and not on the hammer. With a couple of steel punches and some pit, even an amateur can produce some surprising results, with the help of this hammer.


Fretz HMR-20 Chasing hammer


The chisel shaped end of a hammer or the rounded ball shape is referred to as a cross peen or ball peen. Peening simply means to shape and move the metal. A ball peen hammer will move metal out equally in all directions. Hence it is perfect for flaring out rivets and similar cold connections. A ball peen hammer also gives a beautiful texture to polished metal.


Fretz Cross Pen and Ball Peen Hammers

Above: Fretz Ball Peen and Cross Peen Hammers


Likewise, a cross peen hammer incorporates a wedge or chisel shaped face. Similarly, this can be used to flare rivets and cold connections. But the difference here is that it will tend to move metal at 90 degrees to the face. Hammering the cross peen on a silver bar at right angles will have the effect of thinning the bar and increasing the length. Using the cross peen, parallel to the bar will widen in. Hence by careful control of the angle and the blow, you can create a variety of shapes from bar stock, by moving and flattening the metal in different directions. Experiment with one. The cross-peen hammer is a lot more useful than you might initially think.!

Raising Hammers.

Rounded Wide Raising/Embossing Hammer, Fretz HMR-109
Rounded Wide Raising/Embossing Hammer, Fretz HMR-109
A great all purpose hammer for forging and raising metal..


A similar term is “Raising”, which again means to move and stretch the metal. Originally a silversmith would hammer a flat disc, with a peening type of hammer. As the disc is worked and expanded outwards the sides of the disc would be ‘raised’ up to form a bowl, dish, or similar object with walls. Hence this action is described as raising. Raising hammers typically have a small square or rectangular shaped heads, with curved faces. These act to move the metal out from the face, to expand and “raise” the metal. 


Again Fretz offers a huge array of peening and raising hammers. hammers, designed for forging metals. Larger hammers give more force, whilst smaller hammers allow more precision. The blunt head will flatten, whereas sharper heads will add texture as the metal is moved. Wide curved faces, give maximum movement with minimal marking. So whatever shape you wish to form, Fretz will have a hammer suitable.



Note also that Fretz make a vast assortment of stakes. Combined with the Fretz raising hammers and the nylon faced hammers, you can create a vast array of convex and concave forms.

Fretz Stakes
Above. Fretz stakes, with bench mounted holders,
Perfect for forming bangles, convex and concave curved shapes.


Best buys.

Fretz Maker Set


Pepetools offer classic Fretz hammers in several sets. These represent great value compared to buying the hammers individually.


Pepetools also offer the Fretz “maker” sets, made to the same quality they feature wooden handles and steel heads. The Fretz quality you love, at a great price. These sets are ideal for hobby jewelers and students. They also make a great gift!


NEW !  Now that’s a hammer! 

Now thats a hammer

Above. Fretz Now that's a Hammer.
Double Ball Peen, Riveting Hammer, Double Cross Peen.
Note the take son the pommels. 


A recent addition to the Fretz range is a series of hammers called “Now That’s a Hammer”. They might at first appear strange, but they have many features which make them unique. Firstly, they have a one-piece solid steel construction making them very robust. The steel handle adds weight to the head but is perfectly balanced. All these hammers feature very small, long heads, with an assortment of ball peen, cross peen, and flat faces. Alone, these small heads would have almost no weight, but the all steel construction gives force behind the small faces. This makes them perfect for texturing, and detailed forging jobs, combining force with precision. Note too that the ends of handles incorporate small domed stakes. The handle can be held in a vice and the hammer used as a small stake. The addition of this heavy stake also acts like a pommel on a sword, bringing the point of balance back towards the hand, giving that perfectly balanced feel of a Fretz hammer.

 Textured Ring
Above. Textured silver ring by Dave Wilson,
made with the Fretz double cross peen Now that's a hammer.

The small cross peens create a beautiful bark texture when overlapped. Likewise, the small ball peen creates the classic hammered look but is much smaller than most other hammers. A perfect small texture for handcrafted rings and bangles.

Other unusual hammers.


Fretz make several hammers that are solely for adding texture. Made to the same Fretz quality the faces incorporate precise patterns, which impart a beautiful relief onto a polished surface.


Fretz Sandstone texturing hammerAbove: Fretz Sandstone texturing hammer.
Note the raised pattern on the hammer face.

Texture Inserts.

For ultimate flexibility, Fretz offer a set of assorted textured steel faces. These can be inserted into the Fretz insert hammers MKR-7, HMR-7, or HMR-6. Note the Double Ended Insert Hammer - Fretz HMR-7 allows the use of different shaped nylon faces as well as the texturing faces. This is an economical solution, offering a wide variety of textures and combinations, without the need to buy and store lots of different hammers.

Fretz Texture inserts
Above the Fretz texture inserts,
Shown with the corresponding texture on brass discs. 

Insert in hammer
A texture insert shown in the HMR-7 insert hammer
(which comes with shaped nylon inserts) 


The range of hammers is constantly growing with new creations offering exciting possibilities for creating new forms and  textures. Check out Pepetools for a hand picked selection of the best available, along with stakes, mandrels and bench blocks.


Written and illustrated
by Dave Wilson

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