In 1987 I took a week long advanced goldsmithing class with a very
talented master goldsmith, Jeffrey Fillmore Thompson, at the Revere
Academy. One component of the fabrication project for our practical
exercise in this course involved an interesting approach to forming a
cone shaped element from very thick sheet silver.
For the articulated bale of our pendant each student needed one half
of a tapered cone, which would then have openings pierced for 3
marquise (navet) shape accent stones. We grouped into 2 person teams
to make this part of the project. To form the cone we started with 2
mm thick (12 gauge) sheet. We scribed and sawed out a circle, then
dapped it into a hemisphere using a dapping block and round punches.
We then formed the hemisphere into a cone using a round tapered
Just as Peter has described in his latest post, this was more a
process of compression than of expansion. We forced the dome of the
hemisphere into a rounded point by driving it into the tapered holes
of the bezel block, first with diminishing sizes of round punches,
until we were able to begin using the pointed bezel block punch to
refine the shape of our cone.
This process required very frequent annealing and the skilled
application of the bezel block and punches, which were struck with a
hammer. We did not use a vise or employ mechanical force. Those of us
who had good partners, and were careful to anneal soon enough and
thoroughly enough, succeeded in fabricating a perfectly tapered cone
with the point intact. This form was subsequently sawn in half from
point to opening, providing each partner with the desired 1/2 tapered
cone for our bale.
Those teams who worked the block and punch too aggressively,
annealed too infrequently, and used the pointed punch too early in
the sequence, punctured the dome of the hemisphere and ended up with
a ragged hole where the point of the cone should have been, just as
the instructor assured us would happen.
Jeff was a fantastic teacher and a talented artist. I learned more
about goldsmithing in the 5 days of that workshop than I had in the
previous 5 years of self instruction. He taught me to approach the
bench and the work with a professional attitude, with focus and
clarity, to respect tools, and to endeavor to control them with skill
and confidence. Nearly twenty years later when I sit at a
goldsmithing bench I am still mindful of the simple words he
emphasized in his class; posture, patience, practice, perseverance,
precision, and perfection. I am thankful to have been able to work
Michael David Sturlin