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Repousse panel for an art deco rail

Timothy Miller

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We are working on art deco rail for a local bar restaurant. We copied the design out of a book on art deco ironwork with some slight changes. I did this with mostly with hammers and stakes. I also used a urethane block for the lining. A zip max would have been handy for this job. ;) The material is 16ga navel brass copper would have been much easier to work. Total time about 6 hours. The edges will get folded over 90 deg to screw into the rail. It is about 5" by 6" and will be about 15' above the street.


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nice work timothy - you get some interesting jobs- i love this style of work but am only a beginner at it - you have some nice contrast in it with different heights and shapes, the rounded flower and the harder lines around it. i really like it. will we see it installed? :)

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I second Beth.Looks very good.
Do you have any progress shots?
A picture of the tools you used?
A picture of it next to something for scale? Or a sketch up of the plans showing how it will look with the rest of the rail.
Is it the only panel your putting in?
Sorry for all the Questions.
I look forward to seeing it installed.


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Have you thought of using air powered tooling? When we toured a smith's shop for a SWABA meeting and he was just finishing off a major commission, (I've owned houses that cost less!), with a lot of repousee work a lot of it was done with air powered tooling---taking an impact gun and making rounded tools for it.

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I am not at the point yet where I want to experiment with powered tooling though I feel this will eventually happen. I want to have a masterly grasp of the process before I go reinventing it cause that's how I roll. I have only been doing this kind of work for about 2 years. I also prefer the look of hand hammered work over machine hammered work it just looks more naturalistic to my eyes. Real stake repousse involves the use of a hand hammer striking a offset blow one the side of a stake not a tool that incises lines. Though I did use a lining tool that was like a blunted cold chisel to put the lines in the center shape. I tried pitch my shop is too cold and it kept shattering. I also tried lead to back up the brass and I had to keep remelting the lead to get a flat surface to work on not to mention toxicity issues. I wound up using a urethane block about 45 duro It ended up being the best. I do have some progress photos but to do a step by step is just more work than I am willing to do.

1. The railing that this is going into.

2. The tools I used to make this piece. Right to left a veining hammer heaver than normal to work 16 Ga. navel brass, basic veining stake shaped like a blunted wood chisel, flat top tool for planishing the top of the raised rib on the back panel, Three small ball stakes used to planish the center boss. Two small hammers I use for planishing and striking punches and such. Urthane block used to back up the brass wile I used the lining tool on the center bosses, and the lining tool resting on the block.

3. My repousse hammers and file rack

4. A basic set of repousse hammers made by Chad and brad Gunther

5. ditto

6. ditto

7. A set of stakes used in repousse








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Did you take the Repousse class at the Gunter's school in Moriarty as well as get the hammers from them?

As I recall they are using tin blocks now to avoid lead issues. Sounds like you needed a different formulation of chaser's pitch too. More oil if it was breaking on you.

Anyway very nice looking work and excellent design for the entire piece!

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I took the class about 2 years ago with Wendel Broussard . The hammers shown were the tools provided to the class forged by Chad and Brad Gunther. I went home and made my own hammers and stakes. I forge silversmiths tools as part of my regular work so making these tools is fairly easy for me. What was hard was duplicating the shapes of the faces on the hammers. When I have some time I will play around with the pitch formula.

Thank you You need the tools to do the work perhaps not as many as I have. I did a post about the scrolls

The rail was 18 grand throw in freight and a ticket and I'm there. I will even do the install for free.

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The rail is basically a copied design with a few changes. Everyone involved with the original it is most likely long dead so I have no qualms about using it. It is about 15 feet long it is also mounted on a steel platform. I will post pictures in a week or two of the finished rail. See the cover of this book link below.


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Edgar Brandt inspired you I see. Very nice work Tim , This kind of pics and descriptions is what I was hoping to see when Southshore Smithy "came out". I have been looking for the professionals amongst us to "lift up" the level of work posted on IFI , You have! Carry on sir!

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  • 1 month later...

It's amazing how much work can go into a simple design, so clean, precise and well crafted. What was the dimensions of the bronze cap? Your new site looks great as well, you both should be very proud of the fine work you have crafted over the years. That bronze rail with the dragonflies is one of my favorite, keep up the great work.

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  • 2 months later...

Very nice work Tim, the rail is beautiful, the brass panel is very nice simple design that fits well with the rail design. Nice looking tools, I have a feeling you made them for just such usage.

I have metal that is already shaped like few tools you have (I think it's tools steel), like the tools in the 2nd picture from the left in your post #6, I suspect it will not require much work for me to make some tools that look similar to the ones you have there, thanks for the post, incredibly nice work.

What do you think Tim will this work: post-23153-0-74981800-1339940140_thumb.j

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Thank you for the complement. That tool should work but a range of sizes of balls is better because it is often hard to tell what stakes you will end up using at the beginning of the process. The most important tools are the veining hammer and stake. The ball tools can be made by welding a ball bearing to the end of a bar that has been tapered. I forged all of my own tools in one piece from old jack hammer bits. These tools are not really for sale on the open market so being able to make your own is a necessity. The quality and scope of the work you will be able to do will suffer with out being able to make your own tools.

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