Chasing is a wonderfully effective way to add a level of artistry and sophistication to any sheet metal piece. Experienced artisans can create truly stunning forms in a wide variety of metals from brass and copper to silver and gold. the biggest barrier to entry for the hobbyist is acquiring a set of tools. large tools can be forged from silver steel, but may not be necessary for the vast majority of designs one might attempt.
You can make a set of tools for under five dollars, with common tools and a bit of patience.
Step 1: Supplies
For this project I used:
- mill bastard file
- 400 grit sandpaper
- kitchen stove
Alternatively, you could use:
- bench grinder
- angle grinder
- propane/mapgas torch
- bench vise
My material was a piece of 5mm steel rod.
Step 2: Shaping the Round Tools
For my set of tools, I made three round ones in various sizes. One had a point about the size of a pinhead, the next had a head about 2x the diameter of the first, and the last had a head about 3/4 the diameter of the rod.
If you are not using power tools, the shaping will be effectively freehand, but solid work-holding will make the process go quicker and have better a finish. I held the workpiece in a pair of pliers situated to support the work in a consistent and stable position, but if you have access to a bench vise you can use that with a set of soft jaw pads to hold the work. A stroke which rocks slightly to follow the curve of the piece can be used to achieve final round.
If you have access to power tools, each piece can be filed to round while chucked in a drill. Light passes are necessary to avoid too much side load on the drill, so I recommend doing the initial shaping freehand. This shaping will just be a quick roughing out, so you can take heavy passes to quickly establish a square taper, then shift the strokes to knock off the square corners and bring it to an octagonal cross section. This octagonal profile will come into round very quickly when turned in the drill.
Step 3: Lining Tools
I also included two lining tools in this set. These tools are basically screwdrivers with polished tips. One of the tools has about a 1/16 inch thick tip, and the other has about a 1/32 inch thick tip. Both have the corners very slightly rounded to avoid marring the work if set at a slightly off angle.
Hand filing the flat requires a stable work-holding apparatus. This is where either figuring out how to situate a pair of pliers or setting up a bench vise becomes very important to keeping a consistent surface. I shot for a roughly 15 degree taper on my tools. this keeps the tool from obstructing view of the work and allows the tool to be more versatile.
I sanded all of my tools to 400 grit, which seemed to produce an adequate surface finish.
Step 4: Tempering the Tools
Once the tools are shaped and polished, it is time to harden them. When hardened, a file will have very little effect, so make sure that the tools have the level of surface finish that you want before you start to harden them.
Situate a glass filled with water near your heat source such that you can quickly submerge your piece vertically in it.
Find a heat source that can bring at least the working end to a bright cherry red. I was able to use a gas stovetop for mine, though a propane torch or anything hotter would be even better. The key is just to get the working end hot.
When you judge that the piece is hot enough, quickly plunge it into the water. Use a swirling motion as you submerge it so that bubbles can't cling to its surface and insulate it.
After the quench, the tools need to be softened slightly to avoid shattering in use. One option, you can sand the oxidation from the surface of the tool and heat it with a propane torch until a light straw color appears, quenching it again at that point. Another option is to put it in an oven set to 300-400 degrees for thirty minutes.
And that's it. your tools are ready to use!
If you're curious about how to use these tools, check out This instructable where I go over the basics of chasing and repousse work.
Step 5: More Notes
There are many details of toolmaking which I either glossed over or didn't bring up in this article. Many things just didn't fit the scope/intent of the project. These aren't forever tools but rather a significant step up from what I was originally using, and a reasonable starter set for someone just getting into chasing/repousse.
For much more a detailed discussion on making a top quality tool, check: https://www.ganoksin.com/article/how-make-a-chasin... This page relates how to forge, polish and temper a larger tool.
I hope you found this helpful
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