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How to carve 14 gauge silver sheet


These examples of Valentin Yotkov’s work are stunning. I’d argue with anyone that it doesn’t belong on a Craftsman or Mission sideboard along with any piece of Roycroft metal work.

Don Meixner

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another thought would be to combine techniques…

for example i have started out by creating synclastic shapes using gouged out or hammered wooden blocks (end grain end), or eid/ longhi plastic stakes, or synclastic/ anticlastic metal stakes, along with metal hammers, delrin mallets, etc…in order to get the bigger, general shape/ volume

then go in using chasing and repousse tools to add additional volume/ details, etc

could probably combine starting with hydraulic press too…ie: make a cuff, the add detail…?

just a thought while vacumning!


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Hi Don,
Actually, having seen Valentin Yotkov’s gallery, I would have to argue that his work and that of his students is more refined and artistic than the Roycroft stuff, nice as that is. Really masterful chasing and repousse! -royjohn

My brain wants simplicity so I’ve got an idea of sawing out the shapes I want and then using rock hard felt wheels saturated with all the tripoli I could ever want to cut in some freeform waves. Not the degree of finesse I’d visualized but it might be interesting.

sounds like a plan!
cant wait to see how it comes out!
perhaps knife edge wheels too


John I hope you have deep pockets. If this is a one off piece you won’t loose too much. You are wasting a lot of sterling. First Tripoli will take forever to do what you want. Next you are taking sterling off the piece into a form that will loose most of it’s value if you recycle. The chasing Repossee work for waves is not hard. It would be something you would do in a beginner class. A couple of chasing tools, a hammer, and a thick semi soft background and it would work for you. Long ago when I was just learning I was introduced to C&R. My very first piece with little instruction other than one demo was a dragon done on 20 gauge silver. I wish I still had it. Another approach no one has really touched is Engraving. Since you are looking at a flat piece, Engraving would be perfect. A few gravers, a combo whet stone, and a good book on the subject should get you started.

Test your method on a piece of copper first. Idea and execution are not always simple.

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I’m appreciating everyone’s input and I respect everyone’s encouragement to develop the traditional skills.
To get the smooth flow and dimensionality that I want, within the available time frame, wax carving may have the highest likelihood of giving me the finished pieces that I want.
I’d like to start a new topic regarding wax. Thank you all for giving me your opinions so clearly; you’ve been very helpful!

Also check out Fabrizio Aquafresca, a chasing and repousse master in Florence, Italy. I was delighted to travel to Italy and do a weeklong chasing and repousse class with him at Alchimia in 2019. His work is beautiful. Very active on Instagram as well. I think his name/handle there is @ilmaestroaquafresca

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I think that the the best bang for the buck would be chasing and repousse. The tooling investment is a lot less than a hydraulic press or pneumatic engraving and it is a very satisfying process. I just started chasing and repousse late last year and have made a lot more progress than I have with engraving. It also helps if you are able to make your own tools, but a starter set can be found from several of the previously mentioned artist for $100 - $300. I have a couple resin bowls, but do a lot of work on a thick lead pad and even a sheet of rubber or urethane on an anvil. Since you have 14 gauge sheet, you will have to have it reduced to something thinner, maybe 20 gauge to chase or repousse. On the plus side, you will have more material to work with. You should plan on a lot of practice first using copper or even brass sheet. If you are using resin, plan on a separate work area from you regular bench because resin can get a bit messy, especially if you burn it off. Attached is a picture of one of my first pieces that I actually planned and made…Rob

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hi again.

i get the sense that you are gravitating toward the carving, flowing “body thru to object” type of contact, versus hammering, vibration, recoil, or blunt force type of action…although i will say that Nc Black nylon mallets are simply delicious to use on metal forming!

i have the micro and nano!

i kinda think wax may still be your best option, although castings can have rough surfaces that need to be finished, which sounds like something you are trying to avoid or limit

i will suggest that wax casting can be amazing if you keep in mind that the casting surface will be as the wax surface…

if you refine the wax surface, and “gloss” it using a flame or wax gloss product, then your resulting casting surface will be smooth too (hopefully)

i have seen my mentor teacher take a ring casting and “polish” it by rubbing it on his jeans…it was prepped that smooth…

if you take your time and put more of the work into the more forgiving wax, and have a very good caster, and refine the master equally as high polish before getting molded, then hopefully you can reduce the dreaded finishing…?

depending on the objects design, a 2 spindle polishing motor/ dust collector cabinet (for tripoli and rouge) will make quick work of polishing…many orchidians mention jool tool as being wonderful, but i do not (yet) have one!

if you have hand/ wrist issues you might also consider a micromotor versus a traditional flex shaft…where you would not be “ wrestling” with the flex cable…i am investigation these!


Hi Julie,

If that’s what you really want then CNC milling is the answer. How big are you expecting your pieces to be?

When I think about CNC milling I feel like I’m a dinosaur watching the incoming asteroid.

I Hear you.
Engraving requires gravers and a great deal of time consuming experience. The last failed stroke can ruin the piece.
Repousse is similar in learning but slightly more forgiving. However, the resultant design will not have crisp clean edges. Rather, the edges will be more rolled, almost like a radiused junction of vertical and horizontal surfaces. Also you would need much thinner material.
CNC requires computer, CNC milling machine with liquid coolant, software (some is available online) learning curve, milling cutters. You may be able to find a facility that will accept you design, even just sketches, create CNC file, mill and return to you for final assembly. Also Ag is an expensive material to grind up and attempt to recycle. Is there a “ maker” coop near you?
Casting is a traditional method but wax carving can be tedious and challenging but rewarding. Silicone mounds can be made of them and casting services can make the casting charging for metal and service. Local art centers may offer classes. Even our local library offers design classes and fabrication by 3D printing. The resultant casting requires careful finishing.
Press forming a sheet into a die ( a negative of the design made by a petter maker) using silicone and high pressures is really high speed repousse but offers rapid fabrication of multiples compared to repousse.

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some one suggested metal clay. it would probably do just what you want it to do without the expense of time to learn chasing/repousse, gravers, tutorials on these techniques. Also the waste of material is not so much. I do all my “planning” with polymer clay so i know my direction then use m.c. to do the work. You can make hollow forms very easily and they are structurally very strong. there is so much more to say about this amazing material. I will try to attach some pix of things that may be in line with what you want to do.

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I concur with Rone. Silver clay would be the answer as you have already demonstrated wax carving. Good luck.

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Thanks again to everyone for sharing your expertise! My new bench and flex shaft should arrive in a couple of weeks so I’ll soon be able to try out some metal bending/grinding/twisting on the 14 ga sheet. If that doesn’t work, I’ll find someone with a rolling mill to make some thinner sheet. Meanwhile, looking forward to receiving ferris blue wax and some wax burs. If the wax models turn out, the 14 ga sheet will find new purpose in life and will reincarnate as smooth, flowing silver waves.

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This discussion has prompted me to try something that I have been meaning to try for some time. I wanted to see if I could cut out a shape from the 16 gauge sheet steel that I have be using to make pancake dies and transfer this shape to a piece of sheet silver using my hydraulic press. The actual shape that goes into the press is a negative of the shape that I want to raise. Following is, I hope, a link to a PDF document that describes this process. I sometimes have trouble posting these PDFs, so if it doesn’t work, I will keep trying…Rob

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nice result!