If I Had a Hammer: 5 Tips for Stamping Metal Jewelry

When people ask what I do for a living, I usually tell them I'm a beader. It always gets those silent little brain wheels turning…"Did she just say she was a beater?" My out-loud spelling, "b-e-a-D-e-r", plus a quick air-sewing gesture usually quells any concerns. But really, my journey into jewelry-making did kind of start with beating: Beating metal into submission using smithing techniques.

The beauty of having both beading and metal-smithing experience under my belt is that I often combine the two into one multimedia project. What I've found when I teach those multimedia classes is that the students, who are usually more used to needle and thread, broaden their faces and their eyes light up when I bring out the hammers. Across the board I see that most people (especially the women!) find something wonderfully cathartic about the power and sound produced when smacking metal on metal.

With this general joy of hammering in mind, I was pleased to see Lisa Niven Kelly's new book, Stamped Metal Jewelry arrive on the bookshelves. In it, Lisa describes not only the proper way to stamp metal with letters, numbers, and designs, but also how to texture, saw, punch, dap, rivet, and oxidize metal. It's a great book that's full of projects to get your hammering ghoulies exorcised.

Talking Smack

Using a hammer and metal stamp to tap designs into metal sheets or findings is a great way to personalize your designs. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

Settle down

When I teach I can tell who has been having a bad week…they often hammer their metal sheets or findings into unrecognizable bits of rubble. If you've found you're having a week like that, it's probably best to take out your hammering aggression out on an old wooden board. Once you've calmed down, head back to the jewelry bench and channel that same power, but use a little restraint.

  Keep it straight

It's important to keep your stamp perpendicular to your metal sheet as you hammer it. This way the weight of the stamp will be equally spread and you'll get a more true impression.

Think Goldilocks

If you hit the stamp too lightly, you'll only get a light impression and it will be difficult to see, even when oxidized. A too-hard smack might register the edges of the stamp, and that's just unsightly. So while you're hitting the stamp, think Goldilocks and hit it Just Right.

Rehammering's Okay

Sometimes, you'll tap a design and it doesn't quite take. In Lisa's book she shares her "Tap and Tilt" method, where she'll hit a stamp in the middle, then, keeping it in place, tilt it slightly to the right, hit it again, tilt it slightly down, hit it again, etc., until the design fully takes.

Explore many ways of stamping metal jewelry by diving into Lisa Niven Kelly's new book, Stamped Metal Jewelry. Learn metal stamping, texturizing, and test your skills with loads of fun projects.
Are you like most of us and get a kick out of hammering? Any more tips for stamping metal? Please share your ideas on Beading Daily.

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About jeancampbell

Jean Campbell is the founding editor (and currently the senior editor) of Beadwork magazine and has written and edited more than 45 beading books. She has written for Beading Daily and has appeared on the DIY Jewelry Making show, The Shay Pendray Show, and PBS' Beads, Baubles, and Jewels where she gives how-to instructions, provides inspiration, and lends crafting advice. Jean teaches jewelry-making workshops throughout the United States and calls Minneapolis home.

6 thoughts on “If I Had a Hammer: 5 Tips for Stamping Metal Jewelry

  1. Saying you’re a beader does not make this issue of BEADING Daily about beading. This is not why I subscribe to this newsletter. BEADING Daily means we should be getting information about beading EVERY day, not just once in awhile as it has been lately.

  2. Am I the only one who is getting frustrated with “Beading” Daily???? Leave the metal stuff for Jewelry Making Daily and let’s get back to the great BEADING tips and thoughts and ideas you used to share. Anyone interested in metal can get on the Jewelry Making Daily blog. PLEASE!!!!!

  3. Great article I will have to pick up Lisa’s book….I have had very little success with my stampings….Kind of come out like a third grader did the stamping….
    Hadn’t thought of changing the angle of the stamp and where to hit the stamp with the hammer…Hym…may have to go and play with it some more.


  4. Hi,

    This is my first visit to this blog and I really enjoy it. I am a newbie to this and am soaking up all this wonderful information that is shared here on the net. It’s also great to see that this site doesn’t just focus on beading, but also on other forms of art that can connect to beading and jewelry making.

    Thanks so much for sharing this awesome stuff and I know that I will check back frequently for more.


  5. I have been beading for about 5 years. Still, there is something more out there that will make my pieces more. I discovered several books on working with metal and wire. I was so excited with the idea of making your own bases, tags, chains and then adding the beautiful beads that I had to make the pieces my very own creation from the ground up. This is what I have been looking for. This is my first time on your blog. I really enjoyed the info and really see a familiarity in the stories. I have really enjoyed my evening with you. Keep it up. Thanks for the friendly atmosphere and great information.