Make Three-Dimensional Metal: Tubes, Spiculums, Synclastic and Anticlastic Forms

4 Jun 2014

Since I've been the official jewelry girl and gem geek here at Jewelry Making Daily, I've really enjoyed seeing our readers and friends take on new and more challenging jewelry-making techniques--as well as learning new ones myself! Many of you have shared that you've moved from basic techniques to more advanced ones, including wirework, metalsmithing, soldering, enameling, even mokume gane--and vice versa. I have a friend who is a masterful enamel and metal clay artist who recently asked me how to finish necklaces with end caps and crimp beads. There's always something to learn, no matter how much we already know. So are you ready for a challenge?

 
We've just created a new video with master metalsmith Andrea Harvin-Kennington on creating advanced dimensional shapes in metal using hammers and stakes. In Shell Forming for Jewelry Making with Hammers and Stakes, you'll learn the process for turning flat metal sheet into dimensional metal masterpieces (speaking of masterpieces, see the P.S., below) like tapered hollow tubes or spiculums, synclastic (sunken) and anticlastic (raised) shapes, and more using careful hammering-on-stakes techniques.

 
What Is Shell Forming?

Shell forming is a metal forming process developed by Heikki Seppä, a Finnish American master metalsmith, and explained in his book, Form Emphasis for Metalsmiths, published nearly 40 years ago. In the book (page 66), Seppä explains, "The word shell means the outer skin of any form. The shell form is never solid. It begins as a flat shape, but through the shell-structuring technique, it evolves into a three-dimensional object and finally into a hollow structure."

In addition to the shells we are familiar with finding on the seashore, consider the shells of many natural things we encounter in everyday life--an egg's smooth shell, a turtle's lumpy, a snail's spiral shell, a walnut's wrinkled and bumpy shell. All of these "shells" can be inspiring forms to a metalsmith pulling curved shapes from flat metal. Shell forming metal allows you to turn a relatively hard, solid sheet of metal into something that looks soft, curving, flowing, ethereal, even liquid.

 
Beyond Shell Forming

In Andrea's video, you learn to understand and take advantage of metal's malleability and the working relationship between hard and soft tools and forms--either hard steel tools and relatively soft wooden or nylon forms (stakes and mandrels) or hard steel stakes and mandrels with relatively soft nylon or wooden mallets. She even demonstrates how to make your own forms out of wood and alter them with hammers and files, as well as how to use your hammers like stakes in a vice. Once you understand this relationship and master the techniques for creating spiculums (tapered tubes), synclastic and anticlastic forms, you'll be able to craft basically any three-dimensional form in metal that isn't comprised of flat planes--and most of the world is not flat!

 
What Is a Spiculum?

According to Andrea's video tutorial, spiculum comes from the Latin word spiculae, which means a tapered hollow tube. The beauty of using spiculums in jewelry making is that you can create considerable volume in a design, in a cuff or necklace for example, that also packs considerable impact--but without the considerable weight or costly materials. Forming simple metal sheet into these stylistic tapered hollow tubes allows you to make a statement with your skill and craftsmanship, not how much you spent on the materials used in a piece, so it's also a great way to get more bang for your buck when working with metal sheet. Similarly, synclastic and anticlastic forms also pack quite a punch, volume-wise and design-wise, in jewelry creations.

 
But creating spiculums is just one of the ways that shell forming helps us create more interesting, unique, lively work--and wouldn't we all like to do that? Andrea, who holds an MFA in metal design, says in her video that every metalsmith should know how to pull metal from a flat non-dimensional piece into three dimensions, because it makes for more interesting jewelry. Seppä wrote that in metalsmithing, artists must create "forms that are inherently freer." Free your jewelry designs and take the leap from basic jewelry making or even introductory metalsmithing to advanced metal forming. Your jewelry designs will burst to life with flowing curvilinear lines, interesting depths, and eye-catching spirals and curls. Pre-order or instantly download Shell Forming for Jewelry Making with Hammers and Stakes and learn to enhance your jewelry designs using some of the most important tools in a metalsmith's studio. Also get a refresher on hammers and other tools in our jewelry tools guide.

P.S. Enter your metalsmithing or loose gemstone masterpieces in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine's Gemmy awards!


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