Back when I first started silversmithing a year ago, I had my sights set on making a bowl. I think it's one of those things you have to make. It's big, uses lots of material, makes loads of noise and requires a lot of physical effort (this is the main reason I put it off for so long!)
There are two ways to make a bowl, to raise it (hammer the shape over something and raise the sides up) and to sink it (hammer it into something and dip downwards) both terrible explanations sorry. I chose to sink as I had heard this was an easier one to start with, I'll be able to explain it a bit better with pictures!
To to begin I started with a scrap piece of copper, the reason I chose copper is because it's cheap (I got this piece for free - thanks Adam!). A piece of silver this size would cost about £100 and if it went wrong that's a very expensive mistake!
This piece was covered in scratches and dents so it wouldn't actually be that great for making a bowl, but we're going for the rustic look so it's perfect (that's just my excuse for when it turns out all wrong...)
Before I did anything I annealed the copper, this consists of heating the copper evenly using a blow torch or in this instance the scary fire machine. The idea being to soften the copper so it's easier to work with, you know it has reached temperature when a black shadow effect appears.
I drew a random sized circle, the size I wanted my bowl to be (after making a mistake the first time). Under the masking tape is a piece of copper held in place for the pin of the compass type device (it has a pin at both ends I'm pretty sure its not called a compass, engineers - if you know comment below) this stops the bowl being damaged with a dent in the middle - handy tip.
I attempted to cut it out with the saw, it took ages and the corners meant I the saw wouldn't go any further so I resorted to the curved tin snips (basically metal scissors). Which was actually equally difficult as the metal was very thick, I'll definitely end up with blisters tomorrow.
Once I had finally cut it out, please note how neatly and round I managed to cut it out, I filed smooth the edges and finished off with some sand paper.
Then the fun part... Bash, bash, bash. I think I managed to annoy every single person in the workshop, its very, very loud doing this, the kind that leaves a ringing in your ears. I tried to hammer to a beat, I think they appreciated it.
You have to work a little bit at a time with the hammer. In the picture above I would hold the disc in this position (hands obviously well away from the hammer) and the idea is you hammer with space/air underneath so that the metal dips a little bit each time. Starting from the outside and working your way inwards.
After continual bashing it starts to work harden so you need to re-anneal the metal to make it soft again and also give your arm a bit of a break - hammering is a full on work out.
Once I was happy will the overall bowliness I switched to a metal planishing hammer (polished on the end) and a stake - domed chunk of metal held in the vice, to start smoothing out the bumpy parts and give it that neater bowly look.
*Drum roll* and here is the finished result, I'm really pleased with it, there is something very fulfilling about seeing something being made from nothing. I'll admit I got a bit lazy and didn't finish off the surface and polish it, but I will do this at some point when I have a bit more time. For now though it's going to be a rustic looking bowl with some decorative potpourri in it.