Swage Press and Form Plates

by David Cruickshank on 13/09/2009

I was introduced to the Swage techniques at Grays School of Art in Scotland and used the same techniques while working in Denmark, usually for the decorative / strengthening  edges on bowls and plates and trays.

Years later when I set up my own workshop in London I found an old screw cutting press with broken screw cutting plates in a street market, it had long handles on each end to rotate the tool, immediately amputated.

After removing the screw cutting plates I cut and fitted pairs of tool steel plates with carefully shaped  grooves or recesses and sometimes a recess with a smaller raised area to almost fill the recess.

The plates have to have entry tapers on either side of both plates as the silver is not drawn through as with a drawplate, but stopped with about 2cms protruding. The screw is now tightened and the press reversed and the protruding end gripped by the drawtongs. And so on until the plates come together or the desired thickness of strip is reached. It is necessary to carefully prepare the proportions of the silver to fit into the open plates while ensuring enough silver to fill the closed plates. It is not necessary to taper the end as it is placed between the plates which are tightened gently onto the silver, drawn, tightened gently, reversed, redrawn, and so on.

I have said ‘silver’ in the above I have always used silver to test the plates function and to get the metal dimensions.

I have used this technique to produce: rings, bangles, necklets, chains, edges for bowls and plates.

From small 1.5 X 1 mm for a replacement 22ct antique chain, to knife edge bangles and necklets in

silver 3.5 X 12 mm.

It is obvious it is not economic to do this for one ring but if you have a decent order and repeats it is good.

I have had rings cut by CNC recently but I like to keep things inhouse. It is not generally possible for larger work.

David Cruickshank
I went to Sydney Australia in 1982 from London, previously from Aberdeen Scotland. Grays School of Art, Silversmithing and Graphic Design 1963 Since 1982 I have run a business in Terrigal supplying shops and galleries in the major cities of Australia. I produce several types of work: commissions for wedding and engagement rings, special pieces for shops. Then ranges of rings in gold and gold and titanium often layers of gold and titanium rivited together,the rivits being a feature. I have made series of pendants and brooches in silver, containing large semi- precious stones and 24 wearable pieces influenced by several visits to Morocco. I have a well equiped workshop, and am still working at 70.
David Cruickshank

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Robin September 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Hi David
I went to Grays as well and had forgotten about the draw plates until your post, I will have to have a word with my local blacksmith to make a press for me.
Was Gorden Burnett there when you attended Grays.
Regards from Rainy Pitmrdden

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