Repoussé Medal

I’ve started reading a book by Nancy Megan Corwin on a new metalworking technique, new for me that is, the technique is a few thousand years old. That technique is “Repoussé” which is forming shapes in sheet metal by pushing from the reverse. It is often complemented by chasing which is pushing from the front.

I was looking for an excuse for a quick project and remembered there was a re-union of the Student Television of Imperial College on 16th Jan. I’d made a 3D printed medal for the winner of the “Something” competition the previous year so I thought I’d make another for this year.

Initial Working I started with no experience, limited knowledge and just a few tools. I used a paper pattern and transferred the shape using a nail punch. This was fleshed out using a crudely formed “oval” shaped tool formed by grinding some mild steel bar.

Anealing As I progressed, I read more of the book and followed the advice such as annealing the piece once you’ve worked with it for a period. I also realised that the tools needed to be very polished on the ends or they will mark the metal. I swapped to using hardwood dowels for finishing off, these did distort after a bit of use but you could simply saw the ends off. I’ll likely make some mild steel tools and once I’m happy with those swap to toolsteel and harden it.

SolderedOnce I was happy with the basic numbering, I punched on the letters as I realised that I had yet to advance to the point of fine detail such as 3mm high letters. I trimmed the outline and used the anvil point to get the edge nice and round and filed it so that it was flat when pressed on the anvil. I then silver soldered it onto a second sheet of brass.

FinishedMedal The finshed medal was cut out of the backing sheet, filed and the polished with a wire brush in the drill.

Winner The finished metal was fixed with some Union Jack ribbon and presented at the dinner to the person with the best “Something”. A lot of people thought it was a casting so I was given a chance to explain the method of creation.

I’ve a lot to learn and would need some better tools as well as techniques. It will be interesting to see how working with pitch changes the technique too. It’s not an area I am likely to develop quickly but watch these pages over the next few years to see how I get on.

6 thoughts on “Repoussé Medal

  1. I’ve done a little of this, and enjoyed it.

    I’d suggest you move to tool-steel punches forthwith, they don’t take long to make and you end up making better work once you are happy to knock up a new punch shape whenever you need one.

    Working the metal from the back then the front can get you much better definition. For your outside ridge, for example, you might form the ridge from the back with a rounded tool, then use a liner from the front to sharpen the line between ridge and background with a liner punch, then flatten the background with a flat punch.

    I’d do the first part on a soft surface – carpet or rubber or pitch – and the second part on a flat wooden surface. The supporting surface makes as much difference to the outcome as the punch does.

  2. Thanks Richard useful tips. A nice chapter on making tools at the end of the chapter. Might need to save up for some tool steel blanks as I don’t have any the moment.

  3. I generally use round silver steel rod, cheap in small quantities on eBay or from http://toolsteels.co.uk/index.php if you want more.

    For the occasional square punch, key steel (from the same sources) will do fine.

    Oh, the only place I ever found to buy pitch was Fischer: https://www.goldschmiedebedarf.de/product_info.php?products_id=8096

  4. Thanks again there do seem to be some cheap supplies of tools steel.

    I spotted pitch on Amazon the other day there’s a company doing both German and American in a range of hardnesses

  5. […] good start in January as the contemporary sculpture was started in 2015. The repousse medal was swiftly finished in the first week too. Later, in the spring I made a simple bird table from […]

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