After my tips on saw piercing I thought it might be a good idea to
start a tread where us older generation metalbashers could pass on
some benchwork tips.
I hope some of you have tried saw piercing across the bench pin at
right angles to your eyeline as I said before this means you can see
where the saw is going, rather than where it has been. This method
also makes the sighting of and the blowing off of dust along the
piercing line much easier.
My next tip is about my collection of needle files, I use steel
files and have all shapes, sizes and cuts. They sit on my bench in a
length of wood that has holes, the size of the file handles, drilled
halfway through. This makes the choice of file easy. For filing
difficult areas some of my older files have the first half inch of
their tips ground down on a grindstone, I have some crossing files
files that I have ground off one side giving me knife edged semi half
round files. I do the same grinding on some safety back needle files,
giving me knife edged flat faced files with a safety back.
These files are ideal when filing interior, saw pierced angles,
leaving a knife sharp angle rather than the usual finish that has a
slight square the size of whatever sawblade you use. I also grind
shapes on three square and square needle file. When grinding the tips
of the files, it is important that you take your time and not over
heat the file, I have a cup of water by the grindstone and cool the
file tips after each touch of the electric grindstone wheel.
I assumed that these methods of altering needle files were common
knowledge, but I have a young friend who has learned her trade from
college only and she is surprised by my simple suggestions when I
show her my methods of benchwork. It never occured to her to alter
the shapes of her tools to suit the job. I am in the process of
shaping up some cheap jewellers hammers for her, once shaped on the
grindstone and then polished, these hammers will last her a lifetime,
I shape the hammers to various chasing tool shapes which makes the
metal shaping of the flowers she makes much easier. I hope this all
makes sense, it is intended for newbys so I appologise to those who
do the above anyway.
I am working on a new Ganoksin/MJSA book on bench tricks and tips. We
are looking for new, surprising, innovative, wonderful ideas. The
book is scheduled for publishing in very early 2010. I have
constructed a survey to gather the group mind of Orchid to help the
Please contribute your best to our project. The eventual book adds
money to the Ganoksin project’s income, and helps keep the Project,
Orchid and all it’s parts functioning and available to you.
If you would like to contribute to this bench tricks survey click on
It never occured to her to alter the shapes of her tools to suit
I think one issue is it that the current generation is so used to be
able to buy such a plethora of items, that they are used to be able
to get exactly what they want. So they really don’t think about
“making do” - which is what you are sort of doing when you adapt an
item to suit. The other issue is not being trained in HOW to adapt a
tool to suit! Once you know to think of it, then you must understand
the mechanics of how to do it. This is an area that I personally feel
very weak in - I know what I want the tool to do, but not always
what to do to the tool to adapt it to meet that goal.
That would be a great workshop - tool modification!
This is an area that I personally feel very weak in - I know what I
want the tool to do, but not always what to do to the tool to adapt
it to meet that goal. That would be a great workshop - tool
I agree 100% here. Several times now I’ve needed a tool to do a
specific thing, and haven’t known just what to do to the tool to make
that thing happen. A tool modification workshop, video or even a book
would be very helpful for people like me and Beth!
So–who’s gonna step up and take on this project? [smile]
I know what I want the tool to do, but not always what to do to the
tool to adapt it to meet that goal. That would be a great workshop
- tool modification
I agree it would be a great idea to have a workshop for tool
modification. I think as a woman it is harder to know how to adapt
tools. Men seem to have a better knack with this. I would even like
see a book with ideas for tool modification. Hey, may be someone out
there will write one.
I would even like to see a book with ideas for tool modification.
Hey, may be someone out there will write one.
The Ganoksin/MJSA book I am editing on Technical Tips second chapter
is on exactly this, Tool Modification. So far 24 Orchidians have
contributed ideas to the the Tech Tips book survey. Please add your
part of our group mind to the project!
It is interesting as the thread on altering tools is evolving that I
found this item on another unrelated site that I visit. I rely on
“available” materials and adapting things to be used for purposes
other than the original intent. See what you think. peace.
Don’t recall who mentioned that making tools is for of a guy thing.
Never thought of it that way. However I love making tools,
particularly punches. Like twisting an old allen wrench then shaping
and hardening the tip for what whatever purpose you might have.
I think as a woman it is harder to know how to adapt tools. Men
seem to have a better knack with this. I would even like to see a
book with ideas for tool modification. Hey, may be someone out
there will write one.
I think this is a fallacy. I am a woman and I modify tools all of
Granted, I have a background in architecture and sculpture but tool
modification is something that comes from a little practice, not
gender. The trick, for me, is to see each action as a reaction. So
if you need a curved result, you make a bulbous surface on which the
metal will form. If you need a bead on a prong, you create a
cup-like tool to go over the metal to be formed.
My husband is stronger in his hands and upper body, taller by a
foot, and can perform one operation standing up that I cannot. Other
than those differences, I feel totally equal in mechanical
creativity and problem solving.
I agree that a tutorial on tool modification would help out a lot of
folks, but in the meantime, be courageous! Buy a few pliers at the
dollar store and modify them. You’ll be surprised how inventive and
successful you can be!
Nel, I’m glad you addressed this… I reshape broken files, drill
bits, and any other scrap metal to make what I need in my studio.
It’s a necessity birthing invention sort of thing since I’m watching
my spending. Plus, I get a kick out of doing everything myself to
see if I can. Being a man or a woman has no bearing in my mind.
Here is a post on making your own dapping blocks from bolts:
I made a lot of my dapping punches from ball bearings silver soldered
onto steel rod. There are an almost infinite number of sizes of ball
bearings and a garage or engineering shop will often donate old
bearings for free.
First may I comment on Kevin P Kelly’s note about my book, The Work
of a Master Goldsmith; A Unique Collection, that is being published
at the end of this month.
Kevin is correct in saying that when I submitted my writings for this
book, along with around 200 photos, the publisher decided that they
would prefer to fill the book with some photos of my unique pieces,
rather than the 80 pages of my working biography. The publisher’s
editor asked me to reduce my biography down to eight pages. They had
decided what size book they wanted to publish and I was given the
choice of take it or leave it, I did try some USA based publishers
but the only one interested was Thames and Hudson and they wanted me
to find a financial funder for the project. My publisher Hale Books
offered to publish without the need for me to find finance for the
project. Perhaps if there is any further interest, Hale Books will
publish another book based on my work notes and working biography. I
hope those who buy the book will enjoy seeing the gold and silver
items that I have made. They are mostly all unique one off pieces.
Now to my bench tip, for those who use their rolling mills and find
that after rolling sheet, that the metal has warped or distorted from
flat. There is a process for flattening that is a heat treatment.
This is done on a forge. You will need some steel screw tightening G
clamps and two sheets of 3mm or 4mm thick flat sheet steel, over here
in the UK we can buy steel that is called Ground Flat Stock, which is
great for this process. First anneal the warped sheet of metal, then
when cool, grip this sheet firmly between the two sheets of steel
using the G clamps, a small sheet may only require one G clamp, but
this method is also used by silversmiths when flattening large silver
trays and then many G clamps are used, set at about three inches
Place the whole arrangement of clamped sheets onto the forge and heat
the whole arrangement of steel sheets and clamps until a dull red
colour on the steel sheets is achieved. Then let the whole
arrangement cool naturally. When cool release the clamps and you
will have a perfectly flat sheet of gold or silver. This method can
be used to flatten any distorted flat surface, it is even used by
silver box makers to correct any distortions that occur after
soldering bezels and such like to boxes. When flattening boxes and
photo frames the only difference is that you will need to cut one of
the steel sheets to fit inside the bezels clear of the solder seams.
I hope this all makes sense.
Peace and good health to all
James Miller FIPG
As to another posting I call myself a Goldsmith, because that is what
is written on my apprenticeship indentures and on my freedom papers
from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, London.
I agree it would be a great idea to have a workshop for tool
modification. I think as a woman it is harder to know how to adapt
tools. Men seem to have a better knack with this. I would even
like to see a book with ideas for tool modification. Hey, may be
someone out there will write one.
No offence intended for any guys on this forum at all… but who
thinks maleness is a prerequesite for increase ability in altering
tools? OK male muscle is useful for the heavy stuff and sure blokes
(and, sorry Aussie guys, but there’s a high level of this tendancy in
this country) tend to have the impression that “the shed” is their
domain. The latter is all “in the head” stuff Roxan. If you are
having trouble adapting it is, with all due respect, a limitation of
your impressions on the subject, not due to the fact that you are a
woman. We all have the capacity for creative thought. If you need to
do something, you do it with whatever resources you have at hand and
how you can think around the problem.
Sorry for the lecture but I’m feeling a bit pleased with myself.
Have just set an interesting “seal stone” in a setting which required
it to be in an oval setting which curved under it. Used the ring
stretcher’s "squashing part to start the downside inward curve, then
my doming punches. The largest dome was too small so used smaller
punches inside the largest depression and with the bezel at a steep
angle, slowly spread the metal stretching it enough on two sides so
that the outside edge was big enough so that with a little tapping on
the sides shaped the oval. Doing it in the doming punch kept the
curve intact. The end result was better that even I expected. Owner
was tickled pink with the result.
Anyway, the story of this is that I’m always working out how to do
things I haven’t done before. Where there is a will there is a way.
And I enjoy a challenge.
My husband Tim and I have some hand made chasing tools that we truly
cherish. They are the ultimate example of using what ever is at
hand. They are a little crude looking, but work just fine and we use
them as often as we can.
They were made from building spikes from Auschwitz by our late
colleague Stephan Burch during WWII when he was interred there. He
used to make trinkets for the guards in trade for food.
When ever we use them we do so with great reverence.
When we leave this earth I’d like to give them to the Holocaust
I think as a woman it is harder to know how to adapt tools.... I
think this is a fallacy.
It certainly IS a fallacy! I don’t understand why it’s still such a
strong assumption that men are better with tools. In my house, that
is CERTAINLY NOT the case. Sure, some women don’t have a knack for
it, but neither do some men! This is not a gender issue. It’s a
skill, talent, mindset, whatever issue. It always irks me (and amuses
me just a bit as well, I suppose) when I go into the hardware store &
ask a nit question about something, and to ask that question at all I
must have some idea what I’m doing, and they come back to me with
something like, “Do you have someone to help you drill the hole?”
WHAT??!! Usually it’s an old man, one who clearly doesn’t understand
that it’s possible for a GIRL to know how to use power tools. And NOT
ones that are pink with flowers on them (OK, that’s another pet peeve
of mine!). Oops, I might be getting off on a rant here, so I’ll stop.
I don't understand why it's still such a strong assumption that men
are better with tools. In my house, that is CERTAINLY NOT the case.
I absolutely agree with you Lisa. It is not harder just because your
a woman. That is just an excuse for those woman who do not have the
ability to figure out or do things. Common sense has allot to do
with it as well. You’ve got it or you don’t. And yes the men in the
Hardware stores do assume that you don’t know what your doing
because your a woman. But you do need to forgive the old men. Working
with tools is just not something their wives, mothers or sisters
would have done. It’s a generational thing.
And NOT ones that are pink with flowers on them (OK, that's another
pet peeve of mine!). Oops, I might be getting off on a rant here, so
My daughter works in my shop and on my properties including diverse
works as lathe, press, or millwork and moving logs or placing beams;
she still bugs me to find her pink or purple safety glasses, ear
muffs etc… Why not work and have tools look nice in your eyes. Dan
PS I still haven’t found what she wants even after 2 years of
Tool modification is a subject that has interested me enough to put
in time and money and create a business in this pursuit. Soldering
tools were the first ones I modified, and for those, I went back in
time to a SNAG conference, in a galaxy long, long ago. I covet
beautifully made tools and the little ornamentation touches that go
into creating them. All genders (and I include transgender here too)
appreciate something made well. What drives me crazy is a tool 95%
well thought out, and the last 5% has some tiny defect that makes the
entire tool useless.
Out here in Massachusetts, we have a huge outdoor antique show
called Brimfield. It is there I purchased a 1927 hand crank drill. A
flexshaft is a great tool, but sometimes, to drill a tricky hole, I
need a precision tool to do the job. This little drill nearly runs by
itself and the control is sublime. Added that it has a lovely design
on the tool itself says volumes about a maker honoring their craft.
Saying that, this is one reason I attend Burning Man each year.
Imagination, modification and altercation is the norm rather than
the exception. The different ways in which tent stakes are struck
into a lakebed floor so they don’t flap in 50 mile winds are pure
Several years ago I attended a jewelry conference of other art
schools. I watched cad cam jewelry on a screen from the students at
Tyler thinking they were all daft. Then the XYZ printers came along,
and all those wonky ideas are now coming to life.