The idea of tool making for repousse and chasing is that you make
your tools as the need arises. 'Professionals' who do this work
will have hundreds of tools accumulated over 100's of jobs. And if
students don't like making tools it may not be the best field for
them. Tool making is an integral part of the process.
Unfortunately, for people learning the technique on their own from a
book or video, making the tools can become a "chicken or the egg"
kind of problem. It’s difficult to know the nuances of the shapes of
the tools until someone tries using them, but they can’t use them
until they make them.
Just like in raising with nice hammers, repousse can only be as good
as the tools used to create it, which is why I devoted over an hour
of video time on my Eastern Repousse and Chasing DVD to teaching
people how to make them. (The whole DVD is 5 hours and 23 minutes,
and yes, I’m still recovering from producing it!) Still, I’m not
there in person to say, “No, your large line tool needs to be more
like this,” so I sell them already made and also have them available
for people to use during my workshops, which means I can teach 2 and
3 day repousse workshops instead of needing 5 days.
Speaking as one of those ‘professional’ you mentioned, I only use 8
tools for all of my repousse, as do many other smiths I know. I have
a curve tool that I use once in a blue moon but usually only for
stamping. (Of course, I have lots of stamps I’ve made to create
different textures and patterns, but that’s a different situation.)
Whenever I see huge sets of tools, I’m puzzled by how redundant most
of them seem. I rock back the line tool and use half of it to go
around the curves, which means that one tool does a multitude of
jobs, saving me a great deal of time. If I’m on a roll hammering, the
last thing I want to do is stop the flow of work to hang out at the
grinder for a while.
Once upon a time I too used to be more of a purist and considered
tool making an integral part of the process, but I made a choice
between requiring people to learn the way most of us had to (while
walking to school in the snow uphill both ways) and making the
technique more available to people eager to learn it.