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Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication

Lesson 7 of 22

Creating Non-Soldered Forms: Dapping and Sinking

Megan Auman

Explorations in Metalsmithing: Hollow Fabrication

Megan Auman

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Lesson Info

7. Creating Non-Soldered Forms: Dapping and Sinking

Lesson Info

Creating Non-Soldered Forms: Dapping and Sinking

Now we're gonna use some of our other tools to think about making forms through dapping and syncing. So, the first thing that we can do, is actually form in a sandbag. So, a sandbag is, you know, usually just leather, sometimes they're fabric, usually they're leather, they might be suede, they might be regular leather, filled with sand. You can buy these, you can also make them yourself. I've even made some out of fabric, like, just a nice, heavy upholstery fabric. So, you can use that. So, you can actually use a sandbag to do quite a bit of forming. And I have a round hammer here. Actually, before we do that, let me talk a little bit about some of our hammers that we're using, just because I keep throwing hammers around, and we haven't really talked about them. So, this first guy here, I don't know if we can see that, or I'll just hold it up. So, this is our rawhide mallet. I highly recommend everyone have one of these, just because they're pretty much good for anything. My first defa...

ult, if I need to smack something with a hammer, is to go with the rawhide mallet. And if you notice on mine, this side is pretty beat up, this side it pretty crisp. In my own studio, I am very anal about only hitting like hard metals, like steel, with this side of my rawhide mallet. What that means, is that it keeps this side pristine, so, that if I ever need a really sharp crisp edge, I've still got on. Because the more you use this, the more this is gonna mushroom. When I taught in studios with a lot of people, nothing drove me crazier than like these mushy, mashed rawhide mallets. So, like, you'll always see me pretty much hitting with this side, and preserve this in case I just ever really need a sharp edge. So, that's the first one. So, then this is actually just a plastic forming hammer. Really inexpensive. It's carved usually out of Delrin, and its just got a round side, like a little round side and a slightly bigger round side. This is just something that is gonna be good for basic forming in a sandbag, which I'll show you guys in just a second. I don't use it for much else. You can see, it's actually pretty pristine. You can also get comparable hammers like this in metal. So, I did not bring them, because they're heavy and expensive, but in my home studio I have a lot more, kind of fancy metal hammers, that do sort of this similar thing, with the small round face and a large face. But this is a good place to start; inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use. And then the other two hammers that I have hanging out here that we might use for a little bit of forming, are just, kind of ball-peen hammer, so, it's got a little ball in one hand, it's got a flat side on the other. Mostly used for texturing and riveting. And then the same thing with our little cross-peen here. So, this is a rivet hammer, but its got a cross end, so it's called a cross-peen. So, again, mostly used for flattening, texturing, hammering, that kind of thing. But you might, if you were trying to form something really little, you use this. So, actually, if I wanted to, and kind of, this guy here, I might decide that I want to open it up, and tap this middle part in here, and work hard in that a little bit more. So, sometimes it's a matter of, "Oh, look, this hammer fits in that place "where I'm trying to make a tiny bend." So, that's kind of the basic hammers that we're working with. And, again, trying to keep things sort of to a minimal. I didn't bring a 100 hammers, I just brought a couple that I think will do the trick. So, when we have our sandbag, we can actually use our sandbag to form metal. And what I like about this, is that we're gonna talk about the dapping blocks in a minute, but we're really limited on size and shape in a dapping block. A sandbag, you can do pretty much whatever you want. So, when we're forming metal in a sandbag, you always want to work around your metal, and from the outside in. So, I'm not gonna start to dome this by hitting the center of the metal, instead I'm gonna start hitting around the edge, and sort of work my way in. And I'm gonna use this hammer for this. What's nice about these plastic hammers is they're fairly non-marring, they don't leave a lot of kind of material. So, I'm just gonna sort of hold this here. What I'm doing, is I'm trying to create a little bit of space in the sandbag. So, I've got my fingers under this. So, you can see, I kind of worked my way around. And now I'm gonna start working into the center. There's a lot of sand coming off this sandbag. So, you want to be careful of avoiding things like tacoing. So, I've got a little bit of craziness happening there, so I might straighten it out with my hand. So, this is also, I will say, a fairly cheap sandbag. I personally like a sandbag that's a little bit more full. This is a little bit soft for me. But we wanted to just order an inexpensive on to play with, 'cause I was not about to bring my heavy sandbag in my checked bag. So, personally, I like one, this is a little bit empty for me as terms as a sandbag. Like, if it was mine, I would probably take the stitching out, dump more sand in, and stitch it back up again. But I can kind of keep hitting and forming in here. Someone tell me if anything is about go flying off our table. So, you can keep kind of going and adjusting the shape. At some point, this is gonna get work-hardened, and I'm not gonna be able to move it anymore, and, so, then I would just stop and anneal. What I like about the sandbag, is, probably, for most of your projects, you're not gonna be starting with a disc this big. But what you might find overtime, is that you have something that's just a little too big for the biggest shape in your dapping block, right? Let's see. Yeah, just a little bit too big to fit in there, right? It's like just not quite going. So, if I tried to form this in this block, I could actually end with an end ridge, that would 'cause a problem. So, I could take this form, dry it off a little better. And I could actually start forming it, kind of the first course... In my sandbag here. And if I keep going just a little bit more ... Something fell. In my own studio, I keep one smaller table that I just use for hammering, for this very reason. So if I keep going, now I can probably get it in here to do my next course, once I reanneal, right? Okay, so, questions about the sandbag. Yeah? Okay, I was wondering, A, back to the hammers, do you ever use rubber mallets? Just 'cause I have one. Yeah, I mean, you certainly can. For me, personally, I don't like the bounce of a rubber mallet. I tend to just prefer to have something that I can control the blow by doing a glancing blow, or a more harder blow. But a rubber mallet can work, it's not my personal preference. And then the other question I have is, yesterday you were talking about using ear protection when hammering, and I thought, sitting back here, like, "What is she talking about?" but then when we were doing it after class, I could see. So, for this too, for this operation, would use-- So, usually, for ear protection, I only really use it if it's metal on metal, and if it's gonna be really repeated. So, like this, I probably wouldn't worry about it, because it's not loud up here, the way that that is. So, generally, my rule was like, if you're hitting metal on metal, so, meaning I'm hitting a metal tool on a metal surface with, obviously, my metal in the middle, then I would definitely wear ear protection. This, you can probably get away without it. So, you have to reanneal like every so often as you're pounding on it, 'cause you're, okay. So, is that something that you do like repeatedly throughout the process? Yeah, so if you're trying to get like a much deeper form, you'll end up having to anneal multiple times. And you'll start to feel it. So, even with this, you'll start to feel. It's still got a little soften to it, but it's not quite moving the way that I want it to anymore. So, I would just reanneal, and kind of go again. So, I might try to see if I can get just a little bit more edge curve out of this, to try to fit it in there. And then once it feels like I can't move it anymore, then I would probably go ahead and reanneal. So, then, a sandbag is really good for kind of bigger shapes. But if you're really trying to get a really nice, you know, dome, a dapping block is definitely the way to go. As I mentioned, I don't actually own a dapping block. So, a dapping block, whether it's made out of wood, whether it's made out of steel, it's literally just a block with a series of half domes or spheres in it. Some of them are actually half domes, like this one is a true half dome. These are shallower, in my wooden block here. Like I said, I actually did not own one of these for a long time, but I don't do a lot of sphere making. Usually if I'm making something round, it's bigger, and I'm working in my sandbags, or on a stake. So, this is a good option if you know you're the kind of person who wants to make a lot of domes, a lot of spheres, you want to make some lockets, these are really great. This is definitely, the metal setup is definitely an investment. I picked up this wood block, which came with a couple of punches, for, I think, like $10, $12. So, if you're not ready to spend, usually you're in like the $50 to $150 range on a metal dapping block, depending on quality and the number of punches that it has, so, these are all called punches here, the dapping punches, you know, this might be a good place to start, because you can use this as well. So, I'll show you this one, and then we'll look at kind of a smaller one. I have a couple of other secret annealed circles under here. Magic of TV. So, the difference in kind of like this dapping block, is that it doesn't come with punches that sort of correspond to size. So, if I'm going to want to use this, I need to use these smaller punches with my hammer. So, just like we kind of did with our sandbag here, I'm gonna start kind of on the edge and work my way around with these smaller punches. And one of the things that I do like about the wood block, is the way that I'm kind of forcing this in here, I can get away with on a wood block I can't get away with on a metal block, because a metal block, this edge is gonna mar the surface on my metal. On a wood block, I might dull the edge of the wood a little bit, but it's not gonna destroy my metal. So, I can kind of get away with this guy being just a smidge too big for the biggest side of my block. Where you want to be careful, is you want to try to avoid what's happening there, where I'm getting this little ripple. So, I'll try to actually hit that out. So, I'll come back and hit against it. But you can see what I'm doing here, is I'm actually leaving space for the metal to move into. So, then I'll kind of work my way to the interior. There's a lot of metal happening on this table. Hold on. Let's dampen some of that vibration a little bit. What's interesting about this, is the table that I work on when I hammer in my own studio is wood, so, I wouldn't wear ear protection, but this against this metal table is starting to get kind of loud. So, I would either hammer on a different table, or I would hammer, you can also try to do things like this. I don't know if this will sit nicely for us. But, you know, if you set this in your sandbag, dampens our vibration at least a little bit. So, now I'm just gonna keep kind of working on this, hit that in there. And sort of what I'm doing when I take it out, is I'm kind of looking for high spots now, places where I didn't really hit. So, I'll kind of just keep working my way around. And the way that these dapping blocks work, is as you eventually get it formed into one block, you can jump down to the next one. So, usually what I say, is when you jump from one size to the next, that's when you should reanneal, right? You're probably not gonna be able to push it through two. So, I would do one, anneal it, and then put it back here and do the second one. So, that is the wooden block. Now, you can also do the same thing in the metal block, but usually with a metal block, what you've got are punches that are a little bit closer sized to the block itself, so it's a little bit less of that around hammering, and a little bit more of just kind of getting the shape. So, here's one that I annealed. This is a steel block, so I definitely want to make sure that it is dry. And, so, what I did here, was I kind of flipped it around. You want to fit it in whichever one it just fits in. So, you don't want to use too big of one, you want to find the one that it fits. So, I wanted to see if there was one that it fit in that wasn't this biggest size, and there isn't, which is fine. So, then I'm just gonna take my punch here, and, in this case, you can pretty much just get away with sticking it straight in the middle, and hammering it down. I got a little crazy in here. So, I'll kind of now try to get those ripples out. So, if you've seen a lot of people, a lot of jewelers online selling things that are made out of domed discs, this is what they're probably using to get that, right? They're using this kind of little dome here. This got a little bit crazy. The problem with these dapping blocks, is they give you all of these punches, but at the biggest sizes, like in this set, the biggest size, the punch still isn't perfect. Like, as we were to work our way down, you know, like this guy really fits perfectly in like this size here, right? So, if I had started out with a circle that fit in there, this I could pretty much get one nice punch, and it would work. This guy is obviously a little bit bigger, which is why we're getting that sort of crazy rippling there. So, that's how that dapping punch works as well. Questions about that? Yeah? Does pounding it like make it bigger in any significant way? Does it change the size of the circle? So, if you are doing a lot of metal on metal hammering, what you could eventually do is stretch the metal. So, what that would is thin it and make it bigger. But pretty much in any of these applications, you're not giving it enough force or enough hammer to actually worry about changing the dimension at all. So, then the other thing that you can do when you're thinking about forming, is you don't have to form, necessarily, round forms. So, especially when you're working in a sandbag. One of the easiest ones that you can do, is, just to think about, you can do an oval, and it's that same kind of hitting around the edge and working into the middle. But pretty much anything can be formed in the sandbag. If you're kind of using that, work your way in from there. So, like if I wanted to make this a random shape into like ... We'll call it a boat, I don't know. I don't know what I'm making here. But there's no rule that says you have to work. There goes our torch. This is exactly why, in your own studio, you should hammer on a different table than your work table. But I can sit here and kind of apply the same principle. I don't know exactly what this is, but maybe we keep playing with it, and it becomes, I don't know, like a little necklace piece, right? So, you don't have to use round things in your sandbag when you're forming. And, even, you can do that in your dapping block as well, just know that it's not gonna do that perfectly. So, like you can cut out, say, like a little leaf shape, lay it in your dapping block, hit it, and you can kind of like a curve shape there as well.

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.