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Repousse...and cuff bracelets

Hi Aurora,
The Foredom hammer? and air? hammer hand pieces? now can you point me in the right direction as I have never needed either in the way i worked over the 50 yrs! ive been at this game, so can you give the names, model nos, and where there from in a reply so i can look them up.
as mentioned, air hammers come in all sorts of industrial sizes with which im familiar, but a small hand piece? interesting.
As It would be the easiest thing to make up a set of tools to fit these hammer hand pieces to match the hand repousse tools offered at Rio Grande.
await your guidance.
Then to Julie, thanks for your thoughts on the history of jewellery factories. youll be jealous to know I have here all the equipment you read about, and a wonderful collection of historical dies as well as well as all the dies ive commissioned for my contracts.
Perhaps i should open my factory for tours !!.

Ted, you raise some interesting points about one-offs via traditional techniques vs multiples by sophisticated machinery. I don’t think many people are going to follow you into die struck medals, but hydraulic presses are used quite a bit now and that does allow the fabrication of pushed out forms with urethane a lot quicker than repousse and in identical mulitiples. I think some folks have used them with repousse accents, which shortens the time for the whole piece. Or it is possible, I think, to do cuffs that way, too.

I understand what you’re saying about folks being too slow and precious in their work. I do some pottery…a friend of mine is a professional potter and he can make 80 cups in a day. They are good forms and they are done fast…someone else often does the glazing, as he is primarily a thrower. Some of the wanna-be potters I know take hours just to trim one bowl…yes, that’s a hobby. However, there are beautiful pots, such as those done all over with sgraffitto, or majolica which are worth the time. Victoria’s cuffs, thin and in high relief, would, I believe, be impossible to do with a die striking machine and also impossible with a hydraulic press. While it wouldn’t be as persuasive to make something via repousse that could be made identically by quicker means, I think that the idea is that a segment of the public will pay for traditional crafts done in a time consuming traditional way. Not everything can be done with a fly press or by casting 100 identical waxes in one flask. When you can’t tell a 3D printed cuff from Victoria’s chased and repoussed one, then perhaps the prices will come down and she’ll be out of work…if that’s even possible. As I’m sure you know, forged metal has a different structure from cast…I don’t know if that is ever going to change.

Hi Roy,
A couple of thoughts to look more at your reply,
sophisticated machinery?
I guess thats relative, it was in 1880, but today very old hat .
The jewellry quarter in B’ham was only a small part of the whole industrial area of the midlands, which grew rapidly after the spread of the steam age, the railways here in the UK, and the steam ships that took the products of that region of the UK to the empire which this country had developed.
The jewellry quarter was not a retail area but a wholesale one that worked as follows.
Factories made the products which were sold nationwide by travelling reps who took orders posted them back then they were shipped when invoiced and paid for. the reps travelled from town to town by rail, calling in on every jewellers shop who were primarily retail outlets, not makers.
So the factories tooled up to meet the growing demand, using equipment used in many other trades that pressed, cast, bent and stamped metal for all metal products from agricultural tools to locks hinges etc to just name a few.
So the tools were very simple by todays standards but they were fast, The dies were made from 2 types of steel, the bodies were wrought iron relatively cheap to the huntsman steel top 1/2in thick layer of the die block fire welded together prior to engraving by hand! in the negative into the hardenable top 1/2in layer of steel.
the drop stamp was really only a very big hammer accurately delivering its energy when and where it was needed.
I mentioned 1/4in thick medals as thats the limit of my equipment, but they were/are just about 1% of what i make.
The above equipment which I have here makes rings, pendants brooches bangles buttons and buckles and ear drops , all blanked with punch and dies with fly presses then struck or hyd pressed with dies to form of produce the detail.
I heard on the s/smith grapevine here in the UK, that there was one of our kind retiring not far from here , all the modern kit had gone and all the old rubbish was still there and my contact said I was the sort of idiot who might look at it.
well, i did go and it was the following.
Mr A.J.Bailey’s great grandfather started the business in Tenby St B’ham in 1851 and moved to Gillingham Dorset in 1941 to get out of the bombing in B’ham. He was 62 in 1987 and wasnt well. Everything there was from his G’fathers, the dies and the associated tooling the catalogues, price lists, tools fly presses bolsters the drop stamp, circa 889, Hazelwood and Dent, etc.
Around 5 tons of it all.
well had to have it didnt I?
the rest is history.
Regrettably he died only 6 months after I aquired it all and never saw where I took the drop stamp. More on that another time.


Hi Ted,
“Sophisticated” compared to most bench tools? Probably. Perhaps you would call a flexshaft more sophisticated than what you use. I haven’t seen your machines, so I can’t say. Perhaps I should have said more mechanized. Well, as always, your stories are interesting…I did not know about the jewelry manufacturing process of the 19th century…so I suppose one could say you are making reproduction antique jewelry. My main point, to which you did not respond, was that different techniques play to different markets. Leonardo and his “hand tools” made one Mona Lisa, and given what we know about his way of working, it wasn’t quick. Nowadays you can buy a poster copy which could be printed on a press of the type used in the 1800’s, or a modern press or even a color printer. Any of these processes would make a good copy of the lady. The market for this would be different from the audience for the original (ha) or a brushwork copy. You could not make an oil painting with a printing press, at least not yet. The price for the print would be different from the price for an oil copy and even that would be vastly different from the price for the original. I hope you can step back and get the big picture rather than focusing on one sentence here. My point was that Lansford’s cuffs are one offs which take a lot of time and some would say quite a bit of skill and artistry and the price reflects that. I don’t think you can stamp out something on a press that is exactly like one of hers, nor can you cast an exact duplicate. There are many people who would prefer a stamped cuff for $100 (I’m guessing here, I don’t know what such work costs), but some would want a $500 to $1000 (another guess) hand chased and repoussed one. Each is a valid piece of jewelry, but they aren’t the same. Their prices and markets are different. That’s what I was getting at.
Best Regards,

Hi Roy,
Perhaps I should say with regard to sophisticated, instead of sawing out a shape one makes a press tool , a punch which is half hard and the die which is hard.
Its called open tooling, not used any more in the trade, its all die sets today, with strip fed into an auto feed press.
but it is the ability to make many of the same outline that justifies the tooling cost. Set up in a fly press one can blank out by hand 100 an hour. you see, that means for example i can make a finger ring using one of my button dies, blank out the shape in 3/32 sterling, then stamp in the minting die the tudor rose, , braze on the shank each side and have plenty of stock in different sizes at the exhibitions where I sell my work.
I use the production techniques but sell retail. Suffer all the work but get all the profit. Has worked well .
Re the flexshaft yes i have one but use it for die grinding . not needed otherwise.
As to making victorian reproduction jewellery no, I do not, but I use any die that opens the door to a new product. Ive comissioned lots of new dies to meet production needs and comissions.
Biggest production run was 8000 coins for a castle on the Rein in Germany, in pewter. That was 8 days work.
For example I have a lovely spoon handle die set, but I use it to make sterling ear drops. One would never know it was originally for a spoon!.
But I do have what I call sophisticated tools, for example i make using s/steel a dark ages cuff bracelet, polished and fire oxidised you wouldnt know it needs tig fusion with argon to assemble.
Thinking about Langfords cuff repousse, it could be done with tooling, but the cost of that would rule it out, regardless of what non ferrous metal you made it from.
The bottom line is how many does she sell to keep the door open? Looking at her site the gold cuff was around $5000.
i do one off’s too, but there to commission.
Ill get my IT guru to put up a picture.
Its a forged bowl in sterling, dia 15in , thickness 1/8th in and weight 8.5lbs.
also in bronze, and finally in titanium.
Never a dull moment here.
Glad you enjoy my work processes.

I saw a short video some time ago on the web; don’t remember what site it was on. It was a poor man’s hydraulic press. The work piece was held in a vise, covered by a thick slab of rubber, and the gentleman was pounding away on it as hard as he could with a small sledgehammer. I thought it was amusing, but I like low tech. Obviously, I’m just a hobbyist, not in business. I very much enjoy reading the discussions on this list. Please keep it up! Thanks, Seth and all!
Vicki K

Hi Julie,

Gee, thanks.
We aim to please. (actually, we aim to make thing easier than I had it, but that’s a whole different story.)
Glad you found the handout useful.


Hi Ted

The flex shaft you can buy a set of tools for the hammer handpiece from foredom. I have a Badeco hammer handpiece and the anvil points from foredom fit it.

I’ll need to modify the foredom points for repousse as I have modified the air hammer - those are sold for auto body work

I use a 3 gallon compressor with it however a 5 gallon would be better choice.

Check out Jeremy Maronpot’s work his pieces are huge and he uses a similar air hammer for his work, there is a video on youtube I think it is

The Foredom hammer? and air? hammer hand pieces? now can you
point me in the right direction as I have never needed either in
the way i worked over the 50 yrs! ive been at this game, so can
you give the names, model nos, and where there from in a reply so
i can look them up.
as mentioned, air hammers come in all sorts of industrial sizes
with which im familiar, but a small hand piece? interesting.

Hi Aurora,
Thank you for getting together the above info. Ive looked at the jewellers hammers and think they may well be too low on power to raise 1mm silver.
however I do have the what you describe as the auto body hammer here. This is a great tool but much too powerful for doing the cuff bracelets described. This air hammer would be fine if you were doing repousse on a panel of say 3ft by 3ft.
what there is a need is for some air tool thats inbetween in size and power of the 2 examples you describe.
i had a look but there doesnt seem to be one.
Will talk to my friend who’s into air etc.
If i find something ill post the details.
One thought has just come to me, I do have somewhere! an electric engraver, designed to be used for marking machine parts with id nos, I look it out and give it a try.
That in between in size to the ideas you mention and held in the hand like a pen, tho much bigger of course.

Hi Aurora and other workers with repousse,
so whats the plural of the word repousse?
Cant be repoussers?!! or repousseri?
Joking aside theres some good news on the electric hand held engraver.
i dug it out of one of my storage units and had a play.
Its Called the Burgess hand engraver. currently on Ebay. for under $30.
1stly on some 10/1000 th in s/steel.!!! The results were most surprising, it was like painting the contours into the metal. Then I tried it with a piece of leather on top of the wood to simulate the results of pitch. It seemed more resilient.AND, what more to the message its FAST!!. forget doing it by hand, especially if you can get the same results in a fraction of the time.
Next, i tried it on a piece of .5mm copper, not quite as good because all I had was a bull nosed tool 3mm dia.
so tomorrow, i think i may have some pitch lying around somewhere from 40yrs ago and will

  1. Make up some tooling and
    2 repeat the tests using pitch as a support. ,
    Now I also had a poke about on Utube and lots of tinker,s have made their own air gravers very clever, but for engraving ,not repousse.
    The impact weight was a 10mm steel ball.
    to up the energy one could just replicate this idea with a 15mm ball. Lots of power with that.
    Will update when the tests are done.