Real Primates Make Tools...A Primer on Chasing Tools and Stamps

Making your own tools will cut costs and give you absolute control over quality.  Many metalsmiths make their own chasing tools for personal use and/or to sell, and these tools tend to be much higher in quality than mass produced tools. They're easier to use, leave a better mark, and are aesthetically pleasing. 

While I can usually nudge my college students into making their own chasing and repousse tools, some are more reluctant to delve into the world of tool-making.  This is understandable. Making these tools is not necessarily a quick process, and it takes practice to make a great tool, so if you are scrounging for time more than money, tool-making may not be your cup of tea. 

Tim Lazure, who teaches workshops on tool making taught me how to make chasing tools in graduate school. His tools are not only incredibly well crafted, but they are also beautiful because he takes the time to really clean them up. I always appreciated the scrutiny he used when evaluating my liners and curved liners because precision in layout, tapering, and finishing is absolutely key to making a good chasing tool. Without that scrutiny, I would never have learned to see the tiny differences that differentiated an excellent liner from a mediocre one.

 

Tool steel is relatively inexpensive, costing about $1-2 per tool.  I’ve seen handmade chasing tools sell between $18-28 a piece, well worth it considering the time, care, and skill involved in making them.  Compare these to the short, round, stumpy mass-produced jewelry stamps that rarely leave a complete impression, and you’ll see what I mean. Whether you make them or buy them, you’ll appreciate the value of a finely crafted tool.  

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Making one's tools has many benefits well beyond anything financial.  The tools you make for yourself can have special aspects that fit your work more exactly.  I make my own clay modelling tools and love using them.  

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Those are lovely, Tom!

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Mixed media sculpture based on my son Ky's childhood.
Copper, earthenware, encaustic, mica, teeth, resin, patina.
10.5" x 14" x 8"

2008-09

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