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By Erika Knight

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Again, I was enthralled. I felt I had discovered the technique that would be the avenue to my expression in jewelry and metalsmithing. From the beginning, chasing and repoussé seemed magical. This was the connection, the communication with the metal I had been seeking. Some artists start with an idea, then determine the best materials to express that idea. Some begin with a material and the techniques they enjoy, then let the process affect their aesthetic. I am in that second group, using tools as if they are my fingers, feeling and responding to the metal in a dynamic dialog.

A similar alloy called commercial bronze has the same two constituents (90 Cu–10 Zn) and is also a good choice for handworking, though it is difficult to find outside of large industrial sources. Silver and Its Alloys Fine silver has been known since ancient times. It is a beautiful milky white metal that is resistant to tarnish, soft, and easy to manipulate. However, if overworked or overheated, the surface will crack or develop an orange peel texture. Another drawback of fine silver is that, like copper, it is very soft and flexible at thinner gauges such as 24 gauge.

Continue heating all surfaces of the chunk and shape it into a mound using a cold steel hammer face to move the hot pitch. If the pitch begins to stick, cool the hammer in water, chip off the pitch, dry the hammer and continue shaping. Add more chunks in the same way. Be careful to avoid creating air pockets between chunks of pitch. Joe Muench Molly's Dream Box, detail: brass, 3½" by 5" Photo by the artist. Using a Crockpot Another method for filling pans and bowls is to heat chunks of pitch in a crockpot or rice cooker, using low heat and placed under ventilation.

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