The Studio – Jewelry Blog by Rio Grande

Chasing and Repoussé with Megan Corwin: Creating Low-Relief Design in Copper

Mar 10, 2011

We are pleased to present this project, excerpted from Nancy Megan Corwin’s book, Chasing and Repoussé: Methods Ancient and Modern. In the book, Ms. Corwin takes the reader on a marvelous tour of chasing and repoussé, including the tools, techniques, and history behind this vibrant artform...

In this project, Ms. Corwin makes a leaf from copper using chasing techniques on steel and rubber surfaces. Enjoy!

Simple Low-Relief Design
Here is an exercise in chasing with copper on a steel forming block followed by repousse on a rubber sheet that has been taped to the block.

  1. Apply the design to the copper. Tape a sheet of annealed copper to a forming block covered with a thin sheet of cardboard (e.g.: file folder) to reduce unwanted marks on the back side.
  2. Go over the design with a liner to create a groove. Use less force than when lining in pitch; because the steel doesn’t give from below, the metal will compress and become thin where the liner strikes.
  3. Apply stamped images or textures at the same time. As you work, the surrounding metal will begin to warp, creating space under the metal. Some of these spaces will become the low-relief areas of the design and some will be flattened in the next part of the process.
  4. Flip the sheet so the back side is facing up. Slide a piece of neoprene rubber under the metal and use a running punch to give volume to the center vein of the leaf.
  5. This is what the leaf looks like from the front at this stage.
  6. Reverse the leaf and finish the repousse with a rounded punch. You will be surprised by how much height you can achieve by working against the neoprene.
  7. Flatten the surrounding metal with a wooden dowel or plastic rod.
  8. Define the outside edge by chasing on steel. Cut out the leaf.
Nancy Megan Corwin
Comments (4)
  1. Thanks!
    I like the cardboard idea! It will save me a lot of time buffing.
    Lisa O

  2. This was a very good reminder that simple things like cardboard, or a wooden dowel, can give you the effects that you want/need, without having to look for high tech new tools for every little move you want to make. Sometimes it is the simple things in life….. Jesse B

  3. Hi, can you tell me what the thickness is of the copper you used for this? And do you need to anneal again after you have been working for a bit and can you just anneal a bit at a time. I am wanting to do a large fireplace surround and don’t have equipment of annealling a large bit of copper.
    Hope you can help.

  4. Hi to everyone. To answer glengirlie’s questions: The copper is 22gauge. I usually use that gauge as it stands up to many of the processes without getting too thin. However, if you are working on a big panel, you might find 22 too heavy. I’d practice with thinner first. When I’m working on large pieces, I do spot anneal as I go. When I was in Mexico a couple of years ago at Santa Clara del Cobre, one of the silver smiths was working on the outside of a vessel and he would occasionally spot anneal. If you find that the surrounding metal is getting too soft, you can place a sheet of steel where you do not want it to get too hot. Then you will need a hotter flame than before to heat the area you want soft. Good luck.

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