The Fretz Mini Forming Stake Set

This set of Fretz Mini Forming Stakes was on my 2010 Christmas list.  Yes, I asked for tools for Christmas!  And Santa….er, hmmm, Dan was very good to me.  It helps to provide a discount code, url, etc. when creating your Christmas Wish List.  Plus, Dan knew how much I wanted these little beauties, because they were on my Christmas list the year before.  At that time, I had expressed a bit of uncertainty about them.  However, as Christmas 2010 drew near, I knew I needed them!  That whole need vs. want thing……

For this week, I wanted to talk about how wonderful mini forming stakes are for the new work I’m doing.  Currently I’m working on flowers and leaves for some new jewelry designs.  I’m using very small pieces of metal, ranging from 1/4″  to just barely 1/2″.   These little stakes help me to add curves and a bit of a bow to make the metal take on the shape of a flower or a leaf.  I want to add a 3D effect to the metal.

I use this particular stake from the set a lot right now.  It’s pretty darn sweet in my opinion.  The stake holder firmly secures the stake on my work surface.  There are 7 stakes in this set and each one has a unique curve, dome, or depression to help you form the metal.  I think each of us who have forming stakes tends to gravitate toward a couple that become our favorites to use.  This one has become one of my favorites.

This photo shows how I position the metal on the stake.  This is a little copper flower I’m working on.  In the background you can see the Fretz hammer that I use to form the metal into the rounded shape I want, with the help of the stake.

My Fretz Double Ended Insert hammer that works extremely well with these stakes.  This hammer comes with a set of plastic heads (shown in the plastic bag in this photo) that you can switch out the hammer ends, depending on what you need to accomplish.  I got this hammer from Otto Frei after I got the stakes.  The stakes and the hammer are designed to work together.  I tried working with another rubber hammer that I had, but it did not work as well as the Fretz.  When Bill Fretz designs his hammers, he does a great job! Plus those rose wood handles feel divine!

The working relationship between the hammer and the stake is very important.  The insert tips for the hammer ends are plastic.  Why plastic?  Well the metalsmiths in the crowd know the answer to this one.  For those of you who don’t, the plastic doesn’t mar the metal when you are shaping it.  That’s important, really important.  You just want the metal to curve and take a desired form with the help of the stake and the hammer blows.  Marring the metal’s surface is not a desirable by-product.  A metal hammer head will cause marks and dings on the metal.  Not good.   Even though I’m discussing the mini stakes in this post, the hammer becomes an inseparable part of the process.  I guess this is a two for the price of one post!

I wish I could tell you this was an action shot with the perfect picture of the perfect hammer blow on the metal….  It’s ‘staged’ if you will, to show this….  The metal is positioned over the stake.  The hammer strikes the metal’s surface which causes it to form over the rounded edge of this stake and create the “puff” I want for the flower.  Pretty cool!  For this picture, I just wanted to show how the hammer head would strike the metal and cause the metal to form over the stake’s surface.  As I work at this, it tends to take a couple of blows and I move the metal around on the stake as I’m trying to achieve the desired effect.

As I mentioned earlier, the pieces of metal I work with for these new designs are pretty small and I do my best to keep my fingers out of the way.  It definitely helps that the hammer has a plastic head!  This hammer comes with 9 different heads as shown in an earlier photo above.  So far I’ve only used 2 out of the 9.  This is a very useful hammer.

So what have I made with these wonderful stakes?  The first thing was a pair of earrings pictured below.  They are a prototype for a show that is coming up in the fall.  I wanted to see what I could do, then develop the technique further.  At the time I started these, I wanted to incorporate stones with the metal shapes.  I’m still debating with myself on this design possibility.  What do you think?  Like the stones?  Just go with metal only?  A mixture of both?

I haven’t given the earrings a title yet….since they are prototypes, they are a starting point for me.  I have others that are only metal and represent leaves, Ginkgo leaves. Those have really evolved.  I will be posting pictures of that work, my new Arts & Crafts series, in the next week.

I hope you see how the metal flowers on these earrings have rounded edges and a flower petal look.  All created by those wonderful Fretz Mini Forming Stakes and their companion Fretz hammer.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Talkin’ Tools!  Do you have a set of these mini stakes?  Are you thinking about getting them? Let me know.

Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.