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Tools for Shaping Metal



The Voice: Hey, Kevin. What are you doing?

Kevin Caron: I'm pounding metal for a sculpture I'm working on. Would you like to know how to shape things?

The Voice: Yeah!

Kevin Caron: Come here. I'll show you. There are lots of different options.

If you want to bend or shape something, you've got anvils. Nice, flat surface. You want to pound something flat: get a nice 90-degree edge on something or you just want to peen it over a little bit, anvils have that nice, rounded horn that you can work with.

This is an old farrier's anvil; used for shaping the horseshoes. I got it out of a blacksmithing school that went bankrupt here in town. These are called hardy holes. This is a little shaping hardy for rounding things over.

It's got a nice, different tapered shape on it with a different shape to the crown of it. This shape on the bottom of the post won't fit this anvil, so I made another post that fits down inside here. Now it's at a nice work height for me here inside the studio. It's the right height where I can see, with a light right above me.

The Voice: Show us what that would look like, Kev.

Kevin Caron: That brings us to the different hammers. This is a small blacksmith hammer for pounding on hot metal or coming over to this surface and getting a lot of work done quickly.

The Voice: What is that you were pounding on?

Kevin Caron: Oh, this thing? This is actually the cut-off bottom of a compressed gas bottle. I used the top half to make a sound sculpture. Well, the bottom half was just sitting out there in the back yard, and it occurred to me that I could use that nice concave shape to create metal art, especially when I want to get that curve going in four directions all at once.

I do my rough shaping on here, then go to the air shaper and do all my finish shaping. I can smooth things out, get it done. It might take four or five blows with a big hammer to get my rough shape started, rather than spend 15 or 20 minutes on the air shaper trying to hammer it all together.

So, that's just a good, rough way to start. Get yourself one of these old steel gas tanks; weld all these little pock marks and grind it all nice and smooth. Once you get that all smoothed off, it'll do a really nice job; it'll give you a really nice shape after awhile.

Let's look at the different sized hammers: blacksmithing hammers, ball peen hammers for machine work, such as working on cars. They work great on metal as well.

This is a flattening hammer. It's got a nice, flat surface on it, nice square edges. It's used straight down on top of the anvil to smooth something off. If you get your curve wrong and want to take a little bit of that shape out, it smoothes it right off; gets it nice and flat. It doesn't normally leave hammer marks as long as you hit flat down on that metal. If you catch it at an edge, it'll leave a little hammer mark in it; then you'll need to grind those out.

There are also rubber mallets; all different kinds of tools you can use to shape metal.

This is a little finishing hammer. I think that's what it's called. The little pick on the end is for when you want to get right down into a curve or something like that. It's a nice, light hammer, so you don't make a big bend if you don't want to. You can just throw a piece of metal up here, work that edge over; shape it around. If you get a little too much, then just shape it back the other way. It's a great stress-reliever.

You can do a lot of your rough shaping here, then go to the air shaper and finish it off. You can also take off your little hammer marks with the air shaper; do planishing work. That's what it is: taking off hammer marks.

There are many different ways to shape metal. You've just got to have tools, or the brains. If you don't have the tools, figure out a different way to do it. If you want to make a curve, go get a rim off a car. Bend it around the rim. Improvise. That's what I do.

I've got to go back to work. See you later.

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