The Best Jewelry Hammer for the Job

Say hello to my new baby.

Best Hammer for Stamping IMO

Fretz chasing hammer

I finally found the best hammer for the job of stamping metal. A chasing hammer is one that is used to form metal. One side of the head is to flatten metal, and the other is meant to shape it. I didn’t buy mine for that, though. I am using it strike my metal stamps. Blasphemy, right?

Trusty Old German Ball Peen Hammer

German Ball Peen Hammer

This old German hammer is the first one I got, about 15 years ago when I wanted to try out metal smithing. It’s not fancy, but over the years it has worked the best–and I’ve tried many others. It’s not weighted well, and with a lot of texture stamping it quickly causes forearm fatigue.

So, I continued my search for the perfect stamping hammer.

The Small Dead Blow Hammer

Stubby Ball Peen Hammer from Harbor Freight

I’ve seen shops that specialize in stamping kits recommend these little dead blow hammers so the last time I was at Harbor Freight I picked up this Stubby Ball Peen Hammer for $3. It has a nice blow to it and a nice solid weight, but I don’t like the balance of the short handle for a long duration of stamping.

Fretz Stamping Hammer

Small Fretz Stamping Hammer

Next I splurged and got the Fretz Stamping Hammer thinking, good heavy weight, like the stubby one, but longer handle for more balance. I thought it would be perfect because Fretz’s are so well balanced which insures that the tool does the work instead of taxing your muscles. Unfortunately, it’s too heavy and meant more for wider-faced stamps that require and harder blow. It is good for punch dies, though.

Tiny Intricate Silver Stamping

Fretz Chasing Hammer with Liner Stamp and Eye Clasp

See all those little lines around the eye piece? Those are each a hammer blow, and there are two layers of them in the finish piece. Now think of doing a run of 10 at a time. That’s a lot of striking so the perfect hammer is a must.

Flat Faced Shaping Hammer

Old Lightweight Chasing Hammer

I had this other hammer that I’d been given a long time ago when I first started. I haven’t used it because it’s really light and not very productive. I liked the larger surface of the flat head, because I thought it would make it easier to hit the stamp and not miss and hit my knuckles. Because of its feather weight, it just couldn’t do the job.

4 oz Fretz Hammer

Closeup of Fretz 4 oz chasing hammer headAfter all of my attempts over the last couple years I knew I wanted a hammer that was around 4 oz, I wanted the larger head, and I wanted it to be Fretz-perfect.

I’ve had “4 oz Fretz Planishing Hammer” on my Rio Grande wish list for a long time. Of course, when I went to order it last week, I realized that it was a chasing hammer that I wanted.

I got it today, and it’s perfect. My Fretz hammers are probably the sexiest tools that I own and when you have the right one for the job…they’re like a little bit of heaven in the palm of your hand. Seriously, it’s like hammering with a cloud.

Holy Guacamole Collection

Guacamole is So Much More Appetizing

I had a feeling this was going to happen. While I like the whole Ketchup on Steak Collection concept and idea, the image isn’t exactly one that makes you want to buy jewelry. Especially when the jewelry is green. But, the name did get me over the hump of being reluctant to go forward with this collection.

I should have stuck with my original plan and waited it out until I got deeper into the collection before I named it. 

This Silver and Mosaic Turquoise Ring Did it For Me

I liked the sketch, and idea of this ring, but I had no idea how much I would like it until I saw it finished. I mean, look at that band!!! It’s a mosaic of tiny little sterling silver bits that have been hand-stamped with dots.

To be honest, I was skeptical because I’m not very fond of working with stones with squared corners. In fact, in my recent Tucson shopping spree I chose mostly stones that were rounded for that reason. But, a few did sneak in.

I guess I should know to never say never.

To say that I am loving the pieces that are coming out of this collection is an understatement. You know I had to do an eye, or two. I didn’t use texture as much in the last collection and I missed it. So, texture is back in full force…it just adds so much more, don’t you think?

I have a few smaller pairs of stones that I’d planned to use for earrings in the collection but as I started to show sneak peeks of finished pieces on my Instagram, I quickly realized that I needed more. Having spent my budget in Tucson, buying additional stones was out fo the question.

So, I put on my thinking cap and got out my lapidary saw and grinding equipment.

One Pair Becomes Two Pair

I took this pair of oval cabochons, cut them in half, then beveled and polished the edge to form two pair that worked perfectly as earrings. I had another Holy Guacamole! moment. 

They look substantial, but they’re still lightweight. And I was able to include matching mosaic and hand-ribbed elements without getting too big.

I’m still looking at these in disbelief that I made them.


Ketchup on Steak Jewelry Collection Inspiration

All About the Holy Guacamole Collection

How's that for a Collection Title?

I’m going to be honest with you here…I’m nervous about putting this collection out into the world. But, in an effort to be true to myself, I’m stepping outside of my comfort zone and jumping off the cliff.

In reality, it’s not a big deal. The only thing I really have to lose is a bunch of my time that it will take to create it. I don’t know why I create these silly stories in my head.

Here’s the thing…the stones that I’m going to be using aren’t 100% formed naturally like a lot of other stones that I use. In fact, I cannot tell you exactly how they were made. I do know that they contain turquoise that has been reconstituted into a composite with copper, maybe another metal, and maybe even some dye. Cringe. There it is. I said it.

I was reassured that they don’t fade. My stone dealer is reputable, and I trust them.

I’ve really been struggling with this, y’all. When I create any type of art I’m all about durability and longevity. I want my pieces to be able to withstand anything that comes their way, short of being run over by a truck, or abused or mishandled in some other extreme way. I can also be kind of a purist when it comes to materials, which is kind of funny because I used to work with polymer clay, which is a plastic. (I still love polymer, though).

But when I started my shopping for the year at the Quartzsite show I saw these stones and fell in love with them. I resisted getting them because of my reservations. I also had never bought from this vendor, and they were from out of the country and I didn’t want to take a chance on something that I couldn’t return easily if they didn’t work out.

A couple weeks later I went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and there they were again. This time I found them at my regular dealer’s booth, and the cuts and finishing was even better. I bit my lip, walked around and had a little conversation in my head. Then I heard my husband’s voice:

“If you like it, you like it. Who cares if they say you shouldn’t eat ketchup on steak? Eat what you like.”

That man can spit some pretty wise words sometimes when I’m being such a rule-follower. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t eat ketchup on steak at a fancy place because there are too many other good, expensive things I can get on top. But give me a regular old grocery store steak at home? I’m all about the Heinz 57.

So that’s how the collection name came about. It has me thinking a lot about why we do the things we do, and how we can miss out on things we like because we care too much about what other people think. My resounding conclusion has been, F%$@ it. Life’s too short. That seems to be a common theme with me these days.

I love these damn little stones, and if I want to put them into jewelry, I’m going to do it. I hope that you love what I come up with. I’ll be sharing more about the process and inspiration as the days go by, leading up to the collection debut.