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Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication

Lesson 6 of 22

Creating Non-Soldered Forms: Bending and Folding

Megan Auman

Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication

Megan Auman

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Lesson Info

6. Creating Non-Soldered Forms: Bending and Folding

Lesson Info

Creating Non-Soldered Forms: Bending and Folding

Let's actually move now from our paper, I got all kinds of little paper, to some metal and start to think about maybe how we can translate some of these ideas. (metal clanking) So when you're thinking about working in metal, and you're starting to think about bending, you really have a couple of different options. And a lot of them are going to depend on what you have at hand, the kind of form you're trying to make. But you can think about bending with your hands. Bending with your hands over a mandrel and by a mandrel you can use a ring mandrel, but literally I mean anything that has sort of the shape that you need it to. And then also using a rawhide mallet to hit over a mandrel or over a form. So the other question we are going to get to that in just a second is thinking about should you anneal your metal? So often times when I'm playing around with ideas like this like some of the ideas that we had with our paper models I might see how much bending I can do without annealing. So I'...

m gonna kinda do like a hand test on this guy. Can I bend it with my hand, you know if I wanted to that sort of round shape like we did that first example where you spin it around? Can I do that with my hand? And I'm starting to get there, but I can feel as I'm doing this that it also wants to kink a little bit right. It doesn't want to get a nice round form. So for me that says that in order to get that form I'm probably better off annealing. And I'm gonna show you guys that in a second. But the same thing I could do that test. So let's say I wanted to do that kind of folded form. And now as I mentioned I don't always use my ruler in paper, (metal clanking) but in metal it might make my life a little easier. You know paper, paper's cheap. I can bend it back, it's easy to cut. Metal little less forgiving, so I'm actually eyeballing this so I'm still not being crazy about this. I am not the precision metalsmith here. But I might say okay you know what I wanna do those bends. They don't have to be perfectly crisp. I'm not trying to get a crisp bend here. But what I am trying to do, you know, is maybe see if I can just bend this into a form. So with something like this where I would want to bend it into a corner, I am a fan of just sort of looking for whatever kind of sharp surface I have. So in this case maybe I start with my steel block. And I just going to line this up here, take my hammer. and bend that around. So that to me kind of gets to the idea of what I wanted to do here without necessarily having to anneal. So in this case annealing is not really gonna benefit me so I can kinda just do that little bend there. Now when you're thinking about something like this now, it gets a little tricky right. How do I start to think about the next side? So I might turn my block upright like this so I can let this overhang and do the same thing. And actually why not make this easier on myself as I'm trying to balance this upright, (audience chuckles) this vise right here, so this is one of those tools, you know I did not put a vise on the PDF tool list. And for those of you who haven't RSVP'd for this class most of what we're working with here there's a PDF tool list it has the links to everything. I didn't put a link to this vise on here but you can pick these at your hardware store. We got this one online in the place where everyone buys everything. So I can put this in this vise here and hammer this and it's going to make life easier, potentially. I've even seen people do bends like this where they actually put it in the vise it's self and use that to knock it over. So you could do something like that. Now of course now I'm like how do I do my next side. Well, since we happen to have it here I would personally say okay, I've got this nice little steel block here. It's not it's intended purpose but, look at that, does the trick perfectly. So I'll just use the corner of this, sit down there hammer one side. I actually did not plan the size of this at all. (audience laughs) So I'm really excited about this actually. There was no forethought literally the sizes of the circles were the bottom of my water bottle, and then the square as you just saw was me kind of eyeballing it so, (instructor laughs) (audience laughs) I'm pretty impressed that that actually worked out for us. If you have you know kind of limited to bend around you might want to think about that. But you can see here now we have this little shape which like I said would make really fabulous brooch. We'll do that later (instructor laughs) But this is something where again I didn't have to anneal this I kinda did the job. I don't mind that the corners are a little bit rounded. I kinda wanted that as sort of the aesthetic. So you can think about doing things like that. Now if you know you need to anneal a shape that's something that if you have to it's better. I would say air on the side of annealing rather than not if you've got access to a torch. So let's go ahead and do that. So basically what happens is metal comes in different types of hardness and all of that has to do with the molecular structure of the metal. Do not ask me, I'm definitely not a metallurgist. I'm just a metalsmith so I don't know the exact thing but it has something to do with the way that the molecules align in the metal. So as you work with metal it gets harder. But what we can do heat metal up to a certain temperature. And when it hits that temperature it'll actually make the metal soft again. So we can work with it until it gets to the point that it's hard. So in order to anneal we are going to need a torch. It's not something we can do without that unfortunately. So let's go ahead and pull our torch out. And I'm just gonna go ahead you saw me kinda move that stack of paper out of the way. I'm just gonna move a few things that are flammable out of the center of our table, safety first. You know you always wanna keep anything flammable out of your way, and again as I mentioned we are working on a metal table here. So I'm gonna set this in my annealing pan. This is just a pan with some pumice in it. Again there are links to this I believe in your PDF. And so when it comes to annealing we're actually looking for a certain color in our metal. And so if we can turn our lights down, perfect. So what I'm looking for here. Is I'm going to heat my metal up; and I'm gonna use a nice, big, kinda bushy flame on this. I'm gonna heat my metal up until it gets to a dull red color I don't want it to be red hot. I'm kind of looking for like a dull cherry red here. And it's a little bit hard to see. So what I'm looking for is it's just gonna start to go. So you guys see that it's going to get that's kinda gonna color change first. And now we should start to see just that dull amount of red in there coming through so it kind of is gonna go to those blue colors and then so just a little bit of redness just starting to come in, definitely not red hot. And so once you've done that, and you guys can leave the lights down cause were going to anneal a couple more. You can go ahead and quench it. So the only thing you wanna be careful with is if you're annealing silver you don't want to anneal you don't to quench your silver when it's still got any redness in. Because it can actually cause your silver to crack. So copper, brass, bronze, they're a little more forgiving. And I would recommend for what we're doing in this class at least as you're learning, work with copper brass or bronze first right. Because they're going to be less expensive. They're going to be a little bit more forgiving for you. If you watched our prereq videos one of the things that you'll know. So in brass we're looking for is just a slightly different color here. You're not going to see the redness quite as much. It's gonna look a little different than in copper. So you can see that red starting to come in there. So that's what we were looking for. So with this class I would recommend working with copper, brass, and bronze. So what happens is that the solders that we're working with the melting temperature of silver is a little bit lower than the melting temperature of our solder. I'm just gonna anneal a couple more things here while we're talking about that. So the melting temperature of silver is lower than the melting temperature of brass, bronze, and copper. And so because of that there's a greater chance that you're gonna melt silver when you're soldering. Sometimes your torch tip gets a little funky. Just turn it off and relight it. So when you're soldering and you're learning these techniques for the first time there's a much greater risk of melting your silver. Because it melts at a much closer melting temperature than your solder does so I'd highly recommend for these projects that you work with either brass, bronze, or copper. I happen to find that I don't love working with copper for learning how to solder because copper is just a little bit dirtier. So you'll see I did these projects in either brass or bronze As I mentioned I don't like smushy and copper is a softer metal. now that's said for some of this forming stuff that we're doing, it does make copper nice because it's a little easier to form. So I'm just gonna anneal these couple of pieces up really quick so that we can play a little bit more. While I'm doing that does anyone have any questions about annealing? [Man With Computer] I have a question from over here. Perfect. Does Rio or any companies do they sell preannealed metals? And what's your thought on that if they do. So most companies that you buy metal from, whether it's Rio or any other jewelry supplier, they do sell metal in what's called dead soft. So depending on the metal dead soft is pretty form able. That said, none of it is as soft as if you take it and then anneal it. So you can certainly buy dead soft and some of that's gonna be easier to bend than even what we're working with here. I tend to buy my copper and brass not so much from Rio but, from an industrial supply company, it's called McMaster Carr and if you guys forget that later it's not on the supply list but I can tweet it out to you. I tend to not recommend beginners shop there because it's a little bit more confusing. Because they're an industrial supply house and not a jewelry supply house. I tend to shop there for a lot of my metal because I can giant sheets. Like I'll buy my copper or my brass my copper in particular I'll buy like a 1 foot by 2 foot sheet or, even a 2 foot by 4 foot sheet sometimes. And the brass I usually buy in bigger sheets. So when you're buying a lot of metal it's just easier to buy in bulk. But the problem is when you buy from a company like that, even what they call like dead soft or machinable is not very soft so that absolutely has to be annealed. But with the stuff from Rio. You guys can bring the lights back up now. So with the stuff from Rio, it comes in dead soft but, you probably are still going to want to anneal most of it. And I would say do a test. try it the first time if it doesn't work then you can know and that you need to anneal the next time. Alright so I'm going to pull all of our stuff out of our quench water here. So when you are working with these tools it's really, really important that you are working with clean dry metal. Now that means that after I anneal I would generally put something in the pickle and let it get clean. That said, we're gonna keep trucking along but, as you can see well you can't see cause it's under the table but I am drying all of this stuff off on my apron. A lot of metalsmithing tools are made of steel and they will rust if you put water on them. So it's really important that you actually take the time to dry off what you're doing. I'm going to let some of those hang out for a second. So I could feel even as I'm drying this that, now see how easy this is to bend, right. It went from being like wanting to kink where now I can actually take this and make that little burrito shape, we'll call it, right with my hands. I didn't even need to use a mandrel. I didn't need to use my mallet. It just literally took that shape. And I can even tweak it still at this point. I think the shape's more interesting when it has that kind of angle on it. Cause suddenly I think what a cool pendant, right. So just by annealing so even if you don't want to solder even just having a torch on hand to anneal is going to let you do some really fun metal forming things. I'm gonna get you guys all over your torch fears by the end of the day 'cause, your gonna wanna make such cool stuff. So as you can see right, I could totally just bend that with my hand to do some really fun forming. You might also need to use kind of some other combinations so is that little kind of cone shape here. And so I want this top edge to be a little bit sharp so I'm might come in here and at least just start the bend over this so that it's a little bit crisper. And later we're gonna talk about really specific scoring and bending techniques for when you need really crisp corners but for now I'm kind of just a fan of what you can play around with. So I can start to sort of bend this around with my hands but as I kind of suspected to really get that shape this is one where I'm going to want to use a mandrel. And so I'm gonna use my ring mandrel here. So this is one tool that we didn't talk about in our intro. But obviously if you are going to want to make rings a ring mandrel is a pretty important tool. This is a steel one, it's a little bit heavier. It's a little more expensive. You can also get them in aluminum. And because you're not cutting into it, you don't have to worry about the aluminum contaminating. They're a little bit lighter. They're a little bit easier to carry around and they're a little bit cheaper. So definitely something you wanna probably pick up. So just because if you have a vise you might as well use it. You can certainly hold things in your hand but having a vise and again I think this vise was maybe 20 bucks right. So it's not a huge investment and it's worth it because it's gonna make your forming so much easier. So I could actually use this to sort of form around and even with just my fingers kind of being able to pinch it around a form instead of worrying about trying to pinch it in the air kind of helps. But then maybe I'll hammer on it a little kinda play with the form and literally guys I'm just making stuff up as we go along here, right. So the beauty is you know metal's not expensive. Nothing is so precious when you're playing with brass and bronze so I can kind of play with this form a little bit I don't love what happening at the top here so maybe I'll come back and try to sort of use a surface and tap it around without the form. So I'm just kind of hitting this with my hammer. It's doing a little bit more of what I was hoping. It's closing up a little bit here. So like I said I mean really with this kind of thing it's all about try it and see, right. You know what happens if I bend it, if I hit it with a hammer, oh that didn't work, I mean this is literally the process that I go through. It didn't quite work on the mandrel the way I thought it would so let's come back here and hit it on our steel plate and see what happens. So this kind of just a great way to start playing around and thinking about three dimensional forms that again with a simple drill two holes through this guy here, put it on a cord and I've got a great pendant. And you know, I could anneal this but I'm sure probably at least half of you who are like, it's so cool the way it is just leave the color and wear it. So you can certainly play with that as well. So it's kind of the first thing is just getting thinking about bending that way. Any questions about any of that? Yeah and while you do that I'm going to dry all this wet metal. When you anneal it stays soft until you harden it again right, like there's no time limit? Yeah, yeah that's a great question . Yeah so there's no time limit so if I took this thing that I annealed and did nothing with it then threw it in my studio and two years later came back to it it would still be annealed. But now this thing because I've been working on it now it's back to being hard so at this point if I wanted to shape this more this middle part is still kind of soft because I didn't hammer on it so much so like you can see I can still sort of bend it which of course I'm like ooh now what happens there but, as you hammer on it gets work hardened. Could you bend it so much that you could actually break it Yes, this is I think about 22 gauge and so with something like that if I were to keep doing this like I would never make this a design element as in like, letting a customer open and close this because eventually this would break but I also know kind of the limitations so I would probably do this little bit just to see if I can work harden it a smidge. The other thing I could do if I really wanted to work harden that was maybe just come in with a metal hammer. And so you can see here what I'm doing is I'm not actually hammering straight down on it. I'm using some glancing blows because I'm just trying to work harden it a little bit I'm not trying to change the shape. So hammering on that will start to get that and I probably have to hammer kind of out around it a little bit to to work harden it so. or I don't always recommend the tumbler for things with sheet and we'll talk about that later but if I really wanted to I could throw it in the tumbler for a couple of hours.

Class Description

There’s nothing quite like the magic of turning a two-dimensional sheet of metal into a three-dimensional form. In Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication, you’ll learn how to create volume in metal through various forming and soldering techniques and how to take those forms and turn them into unique jewelry that will turn heads!

In this one of a kind class, designer and metalsmith Megan Auman will show you how to take your jewelry making skills to the next level to create unique and distinctive designs.

In this class, you will learn how to:

  • Make three-dimensional forms in metal - including spheres, cones, and organic shapes, and more.
  • Use hollow fabrication techniques to create your own ring.
  • Tackle more complicated soldering projects. (Without investing in more tools.)
  • Finish your forms so they’re sturdy and stunning.
  • Turn your hollow fabrication explorations into amazing earrings, bracelets, and pendants.

Whether you’re just getting started in metalsmithing, or you’ve been dabbling for years, you’ll leave this class with the skills and ideas necessary to take your jewelry designs to the next level. Plus, you’ll learn how to create distinctive three-dimensional jewelry - perfect to wear, share, or sell! Join us for Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication!



After watching Megan solder in this class, I felt like it was something I could take on. There's a lot of soldering in this class! But there's also a lot you can do without soldering that's covered. I have a better understanding of how jewelry is made from this class. I'm looking at things that I own and thinking that I now know how to recreate them!

Silvia Rossi

I liked this course, Megan explains a lot of things about techniques and materials and it's simple follow all the operations to create these types of rings. I think I'd purchase other classes of her.