Repousse, Chasing
& Art Sheet Metal Working

Return to Sitemap

Rev. 2004-10-29, 2005-01-31, 2006-07-09, 2007-01-02. -07-10, 2009-08-06, -08-30,
2011-04-13, -05-02, -06-04 (edits), 2012-11-19

Related pages
Metal Center

Note: Although Microsoft FrontPage demands that repoussť be spelled with an accented e,
neither MS Internet Explorer or Firefox render it as other than a square, so I have gone with the plain e.

Sheet metal for art work is considerably different from sheet metal for modern uses that were developed since the industrial revolution.  Art sheet metal working in gold, silver, pewter, brass and copper includes repousse and raising while modern sheet metal working is mostly duct work which is folding and body work (like on autos) which includes rolling to shape. Art metal work results in work hardening so the metal must be heated and annealed - a slightly different process for each kind of metal - to avoid cracking the brittle metal.
The Ganoksin Project provides hints and suggestions to and from jewelers on the fine details of metal working and has decided to bring out PDF files of older metal working books for which they charge under $2.  See information on the first group here

Repousse Homemade tools and example roosterRepousse is hammering and using punches on the back of sheet metal to put patterns and designs in the metal.  The best source of information is silver smithing books.  It is normally done by working against a moderately soft pitch (pine pitch or asphalt) body which allows, but controls, the metal's movement.  The pitch may be inside the metal for forming a bowl shape or outside in a separate container for forming flatter (shield) shapes.  In the montage at right are home made tools ground in drill rod, the image used and the result of my first working with repousse on brass sheet. [Notes from e-mail reply in 2011]:
  The tools shown in the picture were made from steel rod with a grinding wheel to make the shape of each one, which was then carefully rounded to avoid corners that would crack or crease the metal. They are about 3" long.
  I used drill rod which can be hardened by heating to red heat and quenching, but I didn't do that because I realized I was not making tools for hours of use each day for months/years of use. Ordinary 1/4" steel rod sold in hardware stores should work on aluminum, brass and copper. I would probably harden drill rod to use on steel.
The shapes depend on is to be done. I chose to make a variety as I needed them - of course each one can be rotated to any position before striking. Note that in the image [click to enlarge] there are short and longer straight lines of different widths, a bulging line, a center bump (lower right, perhaps not clear, but the small yellow area is a blunt point) and over on the right a curved one. The big yellow one just has rounded edges to work an area out like a little tiny hammer.
The normal metal worker would have a variety of tools at hand from previous work but would also make new ones as needed - I have no V shapes for the corner of an eye nor any circular or semicircular cups for around a ball/animal eyeball. 2011-04-13

I bought pitch from Northwest Pitchworks and  made a working surface by melting it into a small cast iron fry pan as well as nailing and gluing edge pieces on a 3/4" board and pouring some in there.
Chasing is working the design from the front, normally to add detail or to refine the shapes produced by repousse.  (The word is also used for the finishing work done on cast sculptures.)
Sinking is forming metal by hammering it against a shape or using tools to form the metal.  The shape might be a sandbag or a bowl or an outline of a more complex form.  The tools can be anvils or specialized spring shapes that rebound to form through openings.  The metal normally becomes thinner as it is stretched into shape.  Glossary of sheet metal working. Once formed, the metal is smoothed by planishing - hammering with a very smooth flat hammer face against a shaped wood surface.  Pictures below show a small sandbag I made beside a planishing hammer and various shapes and materials - brass and steel - that were sunk against (another) sandbag. 2009-08-30  Larger metal curved forms can be done with hammering, but the English Wheel is a preferred tool. 2012-11-19
Metal forming sandbag and planishing hammerMetal bowls formed by sinking brass and steel
Raising is forming metal by hammering repeatedly off an anvil so it tends to bend and fold, but working the bends before the fold to hammer it down into itself, thus becoming thicker.  As strange as it seems to me at times, by increasing the thickness you make a bowl close in around its center. Raising on Internet

Forming sheet metal can also be done over a wooden mold, against a bowl or dome shaped log end or against a sandbag.  I sewed up a couple of small and moderate size using tight weave canvas and play sand and did a couple bowls. 2009-08-19  Photos show pick hammers for auto body repair and ball peen hammers in 3 sizes for general work.
 Metal working pick hammers, larger for automobile repairMetal working ball peen hammers in 3 sizes for general work

Commercial sheet metal working is divided into folding and seaming used in air conditioning duct work sheetmtl.htm and body work used in repair and reconditioning autos and airplanes.  There are a number of heavy tools used in these fields including shears for cutting, brakes for bending, English wheels for curving as in making fenders.  Air conditioning sheet is invariably galvanized steel.  Body work sheet is normally plain weldable steel. Irvan-Smith Inc. - English Wheels  English Wheel: Information From 


ink jet printer image transfer  I-  a method for water based ink jet image transfers  [MF note: now that inkjet inks are becoming more waterproof, this may no longer work as well. 2006-07-09]


  • a brightly colored ink jet printed image on HP Colorfast Photo paper (glossy)
  • warm water
  • iron
  • cotton rag paper (to transfer image to)
  • towel


  1. Print image to glossy photo paper.
  2. Dip into tray of warm water for 5-10 seconds
  3. Cover with a towel and iron for about 10 seconds.

This method was given to me over email.  "It produces an interesting transfer with rich colors and sometimes adds an unusual texture."

ink jet printer image transfer  II- a method for water based ink jet image transfers


  • a brightly colored ink jet printed image on lightweight paper (24 lbs. or less) - it will not work if you have printed your image onto specially coated inkjet paper; plain paper must be used
  • rubbing alcohol
  • clean cloth or cotton ball


  1. Lightly dampen the paper you will be transferring the image onto with the rubbing alcohol using a clean cloth or cotton ball.
  2. Quickly arrange your printed image on top of this dampened area, image (ink) side down.  Do only one image at a time.
  3. Wet a clean cloth or cotton ball with rubbing alcohol, and begin to rub the back of image until you see evidence of ink coming through the backside.
  4. Let your image dry.

Note:  I have been experimenting with ways to use my ink jet printer as part of my art.  This is the transfer method that I have come up with so far.  I have tried a variety of methods and substances, but I seem to get the best results with rubbing alcohol.  Having said that, I have to say that I am not fully satisfied with the resulting image transfer, as it is very faint, not detailed, and has a harshness about its color.  I also do not expect it to be light-fast.  I am still experimenting with different ways to use the ink jet images.  If anyone out there has, for some reason, come upon a better method, please share it with me.

Contact Mike Firth