The art of chiselling: history, techniques and tools
The art of chiselling, which consists in the cold working of metals, is a noble and ancient technique and is at the heart of our production, being used to make lamps, furnishing accessories and giftware.
The chisel is the tool used to create precious textures and decorations made by hammering on brass or bronze sheets.
To make it softer, the foil is applied to a bread of hot pitch: it is then heated and left to cool slowly, thus obtaining the primitive elasticity of the metal.
Today we will discover together its history, the techniques that characterise it and the indispensable tools that a good chiseller should never lack.
Art is decoration, it is the will to express oneself.
The art of chiselling has ancient origins, with the first examples of decorative metalwork dating back to the Bronze Age.
The art of chiselling developed in parallel in all the world’s civilisations, from Egyptian to Mesopotamian, from Celtic to pre-Columbian America, and reached its peak during the Renaissance period with artists such as Cellini, Botticelli, Donatello and Ghiberti.
The art of chiselling was widely used not only in the production of jewellery, furnishings and vases, but also in the field of weapons and armour, which became finely decorated in the late Renaissance period.
Today, chasing is still widely used in the production of silverware, in goldsmithing and in all those fields where it is necessary to embellish and adorn objects using metal sheets.
Chiselling is a complex technique to master and, especially at the beginning, a tiring one: hammer and chisel must be held firmly in the hands, the chisel must never swing and must never rest on the plate, remaining about half a millimetre apart.
The four important stages of chiselling are:
– The fixing of the slab on a support, usually a pitch-based mastic or sometimes a lead sheet.
– tracing the design, which is obtained by hammering the plate with special tools, known as chisels
– The roughing of the figure, during which larger chisels are used, which is generally carried out on the back of the slab
– Finishing, always carried out on the obverse side, which can sometimes be preceded by other phases, on the obverse and reverse side, depending on what is required by the design.
The main tools used by the chiseller are the embossing hammers, the chiselling hammer and the punches.
The embossing hammers are used to gradually deform the metal and are generally flat-headed or cylindrical.
The chisel hammer is unique and has two heads, a small hemispherical one and a larger one. The size and weight may vary depending on the work to be done, as well as the types of handle. One thing is certain: the habit and safety of gestures are so important that no chiseller would use a different hammer from their own!
Punches are indispensable for the work and are not easily found on the market: every chiseller makes his own from rods of hardenable steel.