Adding dapping tools to your jewelry skill set will enable you to create domed shapes, which can greatly enhance your designs.  We’ve put together some of our best tips to help you get started dapping your metal work.  

1. Wood vs. Metal Dapping Sets

  • Metal gives a harder strike, and is good for working with thicker metal.
  • Metal sets tend to move the metal more and produce deeper indentations, allowing you to create higher domes such as what might be needed to create half of a round bead.
  • Wooden sets tend to preserve surface texture and details better.

2.  Larger cavities tend to have a shallow dome, smaller cavities tend to have a deeper dome.

  • Start in a larger, more shallow hole and work down so you don’t split, ruffle the edges, or crease your metal.
  • Use a punch that is slightly smaller than the cup.
  • Use a hole larger than your metal when you first start so it doesn’t get stuck in the cup and so the edges don’t ruffle.
  • It is often helpful to move the metal around in the cavity to form it into the desired shape and to keep it from getting stuck.
  • Once you have formed the metal to the bottom of the hole, move it to a smaller cup and repeat the process until you reach your desired shape.

3. When using the channel block, also called a swage, if the metal gets stuck in the wood, you can tap it gently from the side to slide it out.

4. Be aware that metal can stretch when dapping, which can be especially important to consider when the metal has a hole in it, such as a bead cap.  The hole can become bigger and/or distorted by dapping, so take care if it needs to be an exact size.  It can be difficult to use plier punches to punch a hole once a piece is domed, so drilling a hole after dapping might be the best approach to consider.

5. Do all texturing, stamping, and the cutting of your shape before dapping.  The domed shape makes it much harder to make these changes after dapping.

6.  It is best to work with dead soft metal.  If you texture the metal, it would help to soften or anneal it if the metal is 22-gauge or thicker or if a deeper dome is desired.  It is possible to lightly texture dead soft 24-gauge copper or silver, and then slightly dome without annealing it. However, the doming process is always easier with dead soft metal and hardened metal should not be used.

5.  Using the correct hammer to strike the punches is important. When using metal dapping punches, you can strike it with a brass hammer, ball peen hammer, or a chasing hammer reserved for striking tools. You would not want to use your polished chasing hammer that is used to form, flatten, or texture your metal because the steel punches will mar the face of your polished chasing hammer.

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