One woman's adventures in the land of hand made jewellery

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A Useful Skill - Planishing

Metal workers use planishing to finish shaping and smoothing an object after roughly forming it with other techniques. Copper washers are cheap, plentiful and with a little bit of planishing can easily become very pretty bling.  Mine cost me 200 Bahraini Fils (about 36p) each in an automotive supplies shop but you can probably buy them in bulk much cheaper from fastening suppliers.

The washers were stamped out from a sheet when to make them so the edges on one side can be a little rough. I gently hammered the inner and outer edges on both sides of each washer with the flat end of a cross pein hammer until they felt smooth to touch. Then, using the thin end at various angles, I added texture to the surface on both sides - planishing. I do need to offer an apology to my neighbours in our apartment block as until I found that a small well stuffed cushion under my steel planishing block reduces the noise considerable my tapping in an echoey room must have driven them mad!

Once planished you can clean and polish the copper rings, leave them "au naturel" or add an antique patina using liver of sulphur and then rub off the black with a burnishing tool to reveal the copper colour again and polish. There is a good descrption of how to patinate metal here , just remeber to do it in a well ventilated space.

For the necklace below I left my lovely copper discs unpolished, just giving them a good wash in soapy water before stringing them to remove any oils from their manufacture. The necklace uses six smaller washers which were originally about 1.5cm in diameter and one larger one plus some green cubic glass beads, a quantity of clear glass bicones and two 60 cm lengths of tiger tail. There are two grey-black nickel crimps on either side as the work is quite heavy and I couldn't the tigertail back down the bicones once I'd added the clasp.

I made a bail out of copper wire to hang one small copper loop inside the larger one. The basic shape is a figure of eight with a small spiral at either end turned at right angles to the eight shape. The bail was threaded onto the two lengths of tiger tail and centred. Next the beads were added with both pieces of tiger tail threaded through them on either side then separating the ends to weave around the copper washer, through a bead back round the copper washer and onto the next set of beads.

The clasp loop is a planished washer whilst the toggle is made from a length of copper wire just over twice the diameter of the washer. I used a wire jig to put a loop in the centre of the wire (this will enable it to be attached to the necklace). Then bent the wire back on itself at either end, ensuring the overall length is wider than the clasp loop and twisted it as I brought the ends back to the centre in an attractive way. Trim the ends if necessary where they meet in the middle. I planished the toogle lightly with a hide hammer to firm it up but not flatten the wire too much.  Once the toogle and loop were attached I bent the toggle bar slightly relative to its attachment point so it laid flat against the loop when worn, that way the tucked in ends of the wire shouldn't come into contact with skin or clothing.

I've spotted some other copper items that might make lovely decorative jewellery with a little bit of inspiration: copper garden labels, off cuts of central heating pipe and of course the copper in electrical wire.

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