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ponder craft & design


Materials of the Trade


What are you using this crafted piece for? Is it appropriate and safe in the space?

How to properly care for this particular metal, for example, polishing and cleaning; some metals can react differently to different cleaners.

Is the design appropriate to the piece’s function?


How to care for your metal, what information is provided?

The piece should be clean, meaning excess solder minimized and excess resin removed. Seams should be completely even – avoiding excess filler. No tool marks should be visible unless intended by design.

The work must not contain lead or cadmium bearing alloys if in contact with food for health safety.

Was the iron brightened before finishing, with rust-proofing?

...Ask the Artist About

The Material

Metalwork is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies or large-scale structures. The term metalwork includes a wide range of work - from industrial projects such as large ships and bridges to smaller technological parts for engines and electronics, and even fine jewellery. Without metals and the skill of metalworkers, goods and services would cease to move around the globe on the scale we know today.

Since the times of ancient populations, metalwork and precious metals have held a significant value, requiring rules of ownership, distribution and trade. Metalworkers were very skilled at creating objects of adornment, religious artefacts, trade instruments of precious metals (non-ferrous such as aluminium and copper), and of course weaponry usually of ferrous metals and alloys. 

Today, metalwork objects and techniques have only become more common and grown progressively complex in skill and form.



Identifying Features:

Precious Metal: Precious metal usually has a high lustre and is high in value such as gold, silver and platinum.


Base Metal: There are many metals that are considered base metals so they have a range of features and are inexpensive, examples include copper, zinc, lead and nickel.



Precious Metal: Precious metals are rare, naturally occurring metals with high economic value, known for their high lustre and ductile properties. They are noble metals (which includes the precious metals as well as various alloys) and are therefore resistant to corrosion and oxidation even at high temperatures. While sometimes used industrially, they are known for their use in art, jewellery and coinage.


Base Metal: Noble metals are more common, and are defined type of metal that oxidizes fairly easily unlike noble metals and include steel, aluminium and tin (as well as examples listed above).


Common Uses:

Due to metal’s durability and versatility, it is a natural choice as a medium for a range of items. These range from everyday items such as cutlery, serving utensils, coinage and electronics. It can be used for delicate products such as jewellery but can also be used in large scale sculptural work or in industrial machinery.      




Brazing: A similar joining process to soldering, however, brazing melts the filler metal at a higher temperature and involves parts that are fitted together much more closely. Brazing is favoured over soldering for its strength.


Casting: A forming process that requires no mechanical force. Molten metal is poured into a mould, where it then cools into the desired shape.


Cutting: A series of processes where the metal is transformed into a specific shape, by removing excess material, also known as chips or swarf. Some technologies include manual cutting (chisel, saw), machine (milling, grinding), welding (laser, oxy-fuel burning), erosion (water jet, abrasion) and chemical (photochemical machining).


Forming: When the metal is modified by shaping the material through mechanical force and often heat as well. Forming is different from cutting, wherein no metal material is actually removed during the process, instead, it is simply re-formed.


Joining: Refers to the process of attaching metalwork pieces. The right joining method ensures stability and quality – though, sometimes cement or epoxy is used when the following are not possible/practical based on the design.


Riveting: A permanent metal fastening process, typically used in machinery, where a metal rivet consisting of a tail and flat or cylindrical ‘factory head’ that is placed into a drilled hole. Once inserted, the rivet tail is ‘bucked,’ meaning it is flattened with force into a ‘shop head’ to resemble a deformed factory head, keeping both the rivet and metal pieces in place.


Soldering: The joining process where metals are joined together by melting a filler metal or solder into the joint. They filler metal will have a lower melting point than the adjoining workpieces. Thus, upon heating, only the filler metal will melt fusing the pieces together, while the workpieces remain intact.


Welding: A fusing process where unlike soldering or brazing, in welding the workpieces or base metals are melted in addition to a filler metal. It involves a higher temperature of heat, melting the base metal as the main fuse, with a filler metal to strengthen and further stabilize.

For Your Reference

Beading edges: A means of finishing a metal edge, i.e. soldering, commonly applied when making stained glass.

Burr: A raised edge or leftover material attached to a workpiece after any sort of modification. Typically an unwanted result of metalsmithing. Burrs are removed with the use of various tools in what is known as deburring.

Fire-scale: A reddish purple “stain” that occurs on silver and copper alloys (ie. Sterling silver) when heated in the presence of oxygen (metals with high silver or copper contents). Takes the form of blotchy patches, making it appear as a blemish tainting the reflexivity of finished silver.

Workpiece: The term workpiece refers to the base metal pieces a metalsmith is working with. Conversely, other metal materials involved in metalwork includes filler metals, rivets, solder pastes, etc.

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