Finish on dapping punches

I just got my first set of dapping punches and am wondering what is
the expected and/or required level of finish? A cursory inspection
reveals the 5mm punch has a somewhat flat, rough end while the 45mm
punch has a dent or gouge about 1mm x 4mm x 0.1mm deep. Then there’s
the block which has a couple of the corners on one face milled off in
a strange way and yet is still too large to fit into the heavy
plastic stand which came with the set. Is this just the way these
things are? Should I be sending them back, trying to fix them myself,
or just relaxing and not worrying about it?

Hi Cadmon,

The expected finish depends entirely on price point. (It shouldn’t,
but realistically, it does.)

If you picked them up from harbor freight for $50, that’s about what
I’d expect, and I doubt replacements would be better. If you paid
much more than that, send them back. Real (expensive) ones should
have mirror polish, or at worst a very fine turned finish.
Non-round, and pitted ones shouldn’t have been shipped. (There’s a
reason the real ones are so much more expensive.)


I just got my first set of dapping punches and am wondering what
is the expected and/or required level of finish? 

Better finish is desireable. So is high quality steel. But you get
what you pay for. The inexpensive sets from India are sometimes only
barely usable, but for the low price, you put up with the defects and
make do. Pepe Tools does a decent job on finish and look, but they’re
not the best designed tools (the dapping block’s depressions are a
full 180 degrees, making dapped half domes very hard to extract from
the block, for example. There’s a chinese made copy of the Pepe tools
you can get from Harbor freight, which is cheaper, somewhat better
than the junk Indian tools (not all India made tools are junk. But
some are.), but not as good as the Pepe. All these have quality
roughly proportional to price. If you really want beautiful wonderful
quality, you can get it. But a good set of Italian made Dapping block
and tools can run over 500 dollars. Or more…

You get what you pay for. if you have dramatic obvious defects, send
them back. They matter inside the depressions on the block, but not
generally the ouside corners of the block which normally are slightly
rounded or milled off so the corners aren’t sharp. Likewise, defects
on the ball ends of the punches are not good. Rough shanks on the
punches, though, can be tolerated unless you wanted to be able to
also use the punch shanks as forming surfaces…

Peter Rowe

the dapping block's depressions are a full 180 degrees, making
dapped half domes very hard to extract from the block 

I believe that if you want to make perfectly round beads, you need a
dapping block that has depressions that are 180 degrees. I was taught
that the dapped dome ends up taller than the depression and the
height is filed to the same measurement as the diameter. Is it not
right that a depression less than 180 degrees can only give you a
lentil shape?

Richard Hart G.G.

Well, the set I got is the $250 set by Durston, which I bought from
Rio Grande. I paid more than HF prices and was expecting more in
quality, but wasn’t sure if my expectations were justified. There’s
nothing about the set that’s what I’d call mirror finished, though I
think most of the surfaces are smooth enough for the intended

Dear disappointed customer

My humble opinion. Don’t settle for trash. Maybe you got these
cheaply? Then you got what you paid for. Or maybe you paid a high
price for them? Even more reason to send them back and ask either for
your money back or for your money’s worth. The defects you describe
are just the ones you can see. What about the ones you can’t see; un-
tempered steel or other defects, brittle or cracked casting or ?? Do
these “tools” represent the standard of care and excellence to which
you aspire in your own work? If so - then you got what you asked for.
Show some respect for yourself. Maybe you made a bad choice based on
low price. Well, that’s a learning experience. Don’t throw this
experience away without getting some use out of it. Every lesson
moves you forward if you accept it and learn from it. Put yourself in
the place of the people who sold you those things. How would you
handle a customer complaint or question about the item? How will you
handle such questions about your own work? This is the biggest
question - How do you want to see yourself? Any level of
craftsmanship is OK if you are honest about it and accept who you
are. There is a market for every level of work, even for poor work -
as you have found out by paying for poor work. If you are
comfortable at this level then buy cheap stuff and make cheap stuff
and sell it cheaply. If you sell enough of it you’ll make a living.
But, ask yourself if that is where you want to be. Is “a living” all
you want out of your time and energy? Or do you want to give and to
feel other satisfactions?

Marty in Victoria BC

If you paid for them then you should be sending them back… Tools
paid for should arrive in good working condition and any marks,
dents or irregularities on the steel tools will transfer to the
metal. Buying from new and paying the prices for these things, you
shouldn’t have to take a grinder or sand and polish the tools to get
them right. If you’d found them on ebay or in a thrift store or
something, then you can expect to clean them up… But bought from
new, they should be set to go and usually oiled to protect the steel
from rust etc…

If yours came with a block/stand/holder, then the tools should fit
in it!! The dapping block should not be ground away weirdly at the
edges and the punches should not have dents in them!! Dapping tools
should be well honed to form to each corresponding well - if you
have to start sanding and getting rid of dents, it will upset the
snug fit! In the main you get what you pay for, but in this day and
age there’s no excuse for such shoddy tools= being sold…

Send em back!

Dapping tools are ever useful, and the set you buy should last you
for years to come - so start with a good set, with a nice variety of
sizes… perhaps even a swage block too - you can always use the
dapping punch handlesin the swage block…

Tools make all the difference - if you don’t know how to refine
them, or don’t want to spend the time refining them, buy good ones
that don’t need adjusting.

(You can also get some hardwood and whack or grind hemispheres into
it to act as a dapping tool - there is tonnes you can do with wood
to make your own custom tools… Also things like screwdrivers and
old files can be gently ground - keeping cool with water - into
various shapes that you can then form with… not tempering them will
just mean that they don’t last as long, so if you don’t know how to
temper, it doesn’t mean you can’t still play around with making your
own tools!)

Hope you manage to get your dapping set sorted out…

kind regards, Gia.


I have the set from Harbor Freight and, after someone told me about
their experience, I checked each one of mine and did not find any
defects or deformities. I would return a set to Harbor Freight for
replacement if I had.

Pat Gebes

last year, i returned a set of daps and dies from rio, because they
were rusty… …glad for RMA’s. i’m going to look at some of the
otto frei offerings. anyone have other favourite vendors?

Hi Irias,

I would not accept those punches. They should be without gouges and
totally smooth highly polished. Some of my punches are 30 years old
and still shiny and without gouges. When ever they get a little mark
will mark your piece with a gouged out dap, the mark will appear on
your Silver or Gold piece you’re dapping. My advice, send them back
and go to another company, the should be totally smooth and highly


I s it not right that a depression less than 180 degrees can only
give you a lentil shape? 

No. I have several old dapping blocks. One french, one german. Both
are slightly less than 180 degrees, as well as having slightly
softened top edges to the depressions. You get a full 180 degree
hemisphere by slightly tilting the piece and dapping several times,
rotating it. Then you file the top flat, getting 180 degrees by
actually measuring both the diameter and the depth. The advantage of
not having a full 180 degrees (and these blocks are only slightly
less, by the way.) is that the dapped shape can be removed more
easily, and as well, the whole setup does not require such an exact
fit between the block and punch as regards a specific metal
thickness. With a full 180 degrees, if the punch fits right but the
sheet is a trace too thick, it pinches the sheet thinner at the
edges. If the punch is smaller, then you have to tilt either the
punch or the piece slightly anyway, so you end up doing the same
thing to fully shape the thing. And the blocks that fully attempt to
take advantage of a full 190 degrees (the pepe block and chinese
copy are the only ones I know of), then they need a fairly crisp
sharp top edge to the depressions. That seems to frequently lead to
unintended scars on the metal. it sounds counterintuitive, but the
blocks with less than 180 degrees are actually easier to use. I have
both. I bought the Pepe block because I thought the same as you, only
to find, in practice, that it didn’t work as well as the french and
german blocks that were made by people with long traditions in
jewelry tools, who knew how to make the tools as well as how to best
use them. The Pepe tools were designed and made by tool makers with
great skill as machinists I think, but little to no experience in
what the tools were actually intended to do, or how they are used.
This is the same reason why those wonderful looking Pepe dapping
punches are an exact precise fit for the matching depressions in the
blocks. They look really cool. But there’s no clearance for the
metal thickness, so with their sets, there is actually almost no way
to cleanly dap the full 180 degree shape their block seems to
promise. If you drop down to the next smaller punch, as you must do,
then it’s too much of a difference and again, harder to use. So then
they had the gall to come out with a seperate set of "undersized"
punches. It’s a part way fix, but actually making the tools correctly
would have been better.


Well, the set I got is the $250 set by Durston, which I bought
from Rio Grande. I paid more than HF prices and was expecting more
in quality, but wasn't sure if my expectations were justified.
There's nothing about the set that's what I'd call mirror finished,
though I think most of the surfaces are smooth enough for the
intended purpose. 

If you want a set of punches with mirror finish ( I am not saying it
is required ) and willing to spend some time, you could have one for
under 100 dollars ( in USA )

There are sets of steel balls of the highest quality in finish and
precision with graduated size intervals of a millimeter. It is
produced for quality controls and available from industrial supplies
for around 70 dollars. Grind a flats spot and solder handles. These
will be the best punches one could ever have.

Leonid Surpin

Well, the set I got is the $250 set by Durston, which I bought
from Rio Grande. 

I have experience with both of these companies as does most every
professional and semi-professional goldsmith on Orchid. I am
surprised to hear of less-than-acceptable quality, especially from
Durston. I am sure they would like to make it right and will, if you
give them a chance.

A quick call to Rio will get you a return authorization number, and
a new set will be on it’s way, I can almost guarantee.

No affiliation with either company, just a very, very satisfied
multiple-time customer of both.

Dave Phelps

Really surprised that you would have received such a poorly milled
set of dapping tools.

I got mine over 30 years ago from All Craft, when they were still
located in Calif. To this day they are just perfect, and I use them
regularly. Send your back and ask for a better set.

Alma Rands

Return it! I have bought the same set. There was a minor scratch on
one of the punches, and it’s hard to get the cube in and out of the
stand. But that is it. So yours must be second choice.

But I must say that I thought the price was very good for such a set
and did not expect first class professional quality. And to answer on
Richards comment: having less than 180 degrees does not hinder you
from making round balls. By laying the hemisphere you have achieved a
bit beveled into the hole and punching the sides of the hemisphere
you can get even more than a hemisphere. Careful - there comes the
time when it starts to enclose the punch and you cant get it off
anymore ;-)).


Just an update, I was contacted by Durston and they are going beyond
my expectations trying to resolve my problem. It appears their good
reputation is well deserved.