Easy Ways to Texture Metal

Nov 9, 2009

Hammer Metal to Make Your Jewelry Unique
I believe we can make jewelry out of anything. Put things together in a well-crafted, interesting design, and voilà, wearable art. Might not be “art” jewelry at a certain level, but it’s still fun to make and to wear. In the September '09 issue of Jewelry Artist, Editor Merle White spoke to the intrinsic design potential in anything, and most of us probably agree. I do, for sure!

Create Art from the Ordinary
Let’s talk about that term “art” jewelry for a minute. We assign things different levels of artistic value according to technique, aesthetics, and especially materials. Take metalwork, for instance. Metal kicks up the look as well as the perceived value of a piece of jewelry. I love using metal in my work, but I don’t make my own components (yet). I use purchased metal beads or cool bits from the hardware store. I decided to coax out the inherent art in the mundane by altering hardware-store components to look more hand-crafted. How? I am mostly a beader, but I have a few metal-related tools because I do make many clasps. I have a hammer or two, so I looked at texture as my easiest path to transformation.

Find Materials and Tools You Like
I had fun searching the drawers and bins of my hardware store and ultimately used the following inexpensive, available things: hole-punched steel plaster washers, bronze washers called bushings, and flat steel washers. I also had some polishing brush wheels from a jewelry supply house, simple little soft-bristled things with holes, so I knew I'd use them in some sort of jewelry. A safety precaution: Hold anything you plan to hammer with another tool, such as a nylon-jaw or round-nose pliers.

Here are some of my explorations. See what you think.

Spacer 10x10 pixels flattened steel plaster washer Spacer 10x10 pixels enameled steel plaster washer
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I really liked these steel plaster washers. About 1" in diameter, they already had holes, perfect for embellishment or linking to other components. They are thin, lightweight, and malleable.

 

I easily flattened a plaster washer with a chasing hammer on a steel bench block. Hammering gave the washer a dappled texture and took off some of the shine, leaving a much softer surface patina.

 

This washer was hammered face down on cement. The texture was subtle, so I brushed it with black nail polish and then lightly wiped the polish off the surface. The remaining color nicely revealed the texture.

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plain allow steel washer   hanmmered alloy steel washer   Leslie Rogalski hardware pendant
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Here's a plain, ordinary steel alloy washer about 1" in diameter. I thought the wider exposed surface would provide a good pounding surface to inscribe some texture. Ha! Steel is way harder to alter than I expected.

 

Little did I know how hard I'd need to pound these washers just to make a dent. I used the flat part of the hammer to bezel the edges and the round end to dap the finish. The result reminds me of the edges on flint arrowheads.

 

I had to try to create a focal piece to see how much my hardware looked like art to wear. Using 24g annealed steel wire from the hardware store, I wired a jewelry supply polishing wheel to the hammered steel washer.

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large bronze washers   small bronze washers    
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I love the color of these 1" bronze washers called bushings. Bronze is even harder to hammer than steel! I used a hefty, household hammer for this. The original washer is untouched. I chiseled lines in the bottom washer, then I banged the edges with the round part of the hammer.

 

Two of these three 3/4" bronze washers took a beating. The middle one is textured using the edge of the flat part of a big hammer. The bottom one was textured on my driveway. It was so cathartic to swing that big hammer I actually smashed one washer into smithereens!

   

Want to learn more about texturing metal or try unique techniques and materials?
Discover a new path to explore in Jewelry Artist!

And be sure to share your tips on adding texture to your metalwork right here on Beading Daily!


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Comments

Larry.Linson wrote
on Nov 9, 2009 12:40 PM
You know, I subscribed to Beadwork magazine for articles about beadwork, and then signed up for Beading Daily for the same reason. The more articles I see about wirework and metal work, the less interested I become. I wouldn't want to restrict the editors' personal interests, but If they feel a compelling need to expand their scope, aren't there other magazines in the Interweave stable that deal with those interests for which they can prepare articles?
bylynette wrote
on Nov 9, 2009 12:50 PM
Not only is steel hard to work, its dirty - often coated with oil to prevent rusting. But great fun to work with. Just don't use your good tools to try to make holes the same way you do with silver or copper - I've broken or dulled drill bits and punches. Rust also can add texture and can be added intentionally. (The fastest way I've found is to accidentally leave my jewelry on a damp bathroom vanity.) But if you don't want your jewelry creation to rust, add a thin finish of Future floor polish (a light acrylic) or Renaissance Wax. For wire, coat with wax before wrapping objects.
on Nov 9, 2009 3:37 PM
I enjoy revealing what our other jewelry-making titles offer because not every Beading Daily member is lucky enough to have found a medium of focus to be passionate about yet. But I hear you, Larry. I'm an avid beader. Hey Lynette, good tips! To rust or not to rust, that is the question... Thanks! Leslie Editor, Beading Daily
Beadorables wrote
on Nov 9, 2009 10:51 PM
USE TEXTURE HAMMERS! Sold at jewelry tool manufacturers/distributors such as FDJ tools online. The whole world of jewelry tools on this site and much more. Have fun! Dori Rhodes of Beadorables, Cypress, CA
chris me wrote
on Nov 10, 2009 1:17 AM
i'm always on the look out for car smashed hardware components on the road. the have that natural look i like. u'd be surpised how good many busses and cars texture a component.
chris me wrote
on Nov 10, 2009 1:17 AM
i'm always on the look out for car smashed hardware components on the road. the have that natural look i like. u'd be surpised how good many busses and cars texture a component.
on Nov 10, 2009 12:28 PM
Hey Chris I have loads of road warrior metal stuff, too. Love the aged by apocalypse look, hehheh. L
Julia S wrote
on Nov 10, 2009 1:06 PM
I love this!! I love going to the hardware to get jewelry supplies. Can anyone give ideas on how to "patina" these metals in other ways to show the details of my efforts? I love the natural, earthy feel of using these hardware items.
pearlgirl64 wrote
on Nov 10, 2009 1:25 PM
Great article, inspired me to look again at my hardware finds that lately are looking too... NEW. Love the patina look that has been creeping into jewelry. Maybe it has something to do with me starting to look pretty "patinaed" myself, duh! :-P
robbsl wrote
on Nov 11, 2009 9:47 AM
Hi! Thank you Leslie, for this blog! I am apparently in the minority on here as far as not being into beading as much as wirework, but enjoy all the tips that are shared here. The tips that I tend more to read and save are about metal and wire, so appreciate it! Just wanted to comment about Chris M's post too! It sounds like fun, like a treasure hunt! I haven't gone out purposely to find anything, but have picked up a bit of 14 or 16 g. wire that was next to the car in the parking lot of the grocery store just a couple weeks ago. Reading this makes me realize that there must be plenty more to find! Hope you stay safe out there on the road!
MartiH5 wrote
on Jan 27, 2010 7:23 PM

If you have a torch, annealing the washer first makes it easier to texturize. Anneal both sides if the washer is thick.

on Mar 22, 2010 11:08 AM

Liver of sulpher can add patina to metal. But I actually prefer my husbands gun blueing.  I works on all metals and it doesn't have the offensive odor.