An (email) Conversation with Kevin Potter – Or don’t be afraid to ask.

by laurie jane kern on August 22, 2010

In Silversmithing by Feingold and Seitz (and a few other books on making holloware) they discuss raising using the “crimping” method.  To do this you need a stake that has a groove or shallow long concave depression in it. You use  this groove to put linear depressions that radiate out from the base/center. This initial crimping results in the sides rising up. Then as you progress to raise the sides further, you hammer and distribute these crimps.

Finding a crimping stake is almost impossible these days. I have been doing a lot of googling for almost 2 months – yes I am a persistent searcher – hammers, books, stakes; anything to help me in my craft.

So after much searching, I decided to ask for one. So who in the USA is making stakes these days? Kevin Potter of Potter USA. Kevin makes the “OttoTech” stakes for Otto Frei, other raising and planishing stakes, a hammer or two and a nice little hydraulic press and the dies to go with it.  The first stake I bought is the OttoTech Combo Flat stake (11″ long by 1.5″ curve) and it is great.

Kevin makes stakes – so I figured I would ask about a crimping stake, I had nothing to loose, the worst he could say was NO, cause if you don’t ask you will never now if it could be made for you.

So what you are reading below is the email conversation that has transpired:

My email to Kevin titled “How about a…”

Crimping stake – No body makes them anymore!
How much for a one-off if you don’t want to add it to your product line?

Kevin’s Response to Email #1:

Hi Laurie,

I can definitely make that for you. I’ve been thinking of making some. You are the first person to ever request one, but lack of demand has never stopped me. Send me a picture of the style you want, if you have on available. I think Otto Frei has some pictures of some, I just want to make sure we are on the same page of what you are interested in. do you have the book, Silversmithing, by rupert Finegold or William Seitz? It has a lot of different stakes pictured in it. You could even send me a pencil sketch, I just want to be sure I make the right thing. It should cost about the same as my regular T-stakes listed on my website.

I look forward to hearing from you.

My Email #2:

Thanks for the response, Otto Frei does not have any pictures nor does every other place, on the web – trust me I’ve spent many days googling!

YES I do have the Finegold book – I but I do not see a crimping stake in it – just a diagram for a wood one. There is also a diagram for a wood one in the Holloware techniques book by Douglas Steakley. I don’t know what size or shape would be best as I new to all of this – But if there is a shape in the Finegold that you want to reccommend, then tell me what page and I will look at it. For reference, at the current time I work on a medium scale – nothing bigger than a 12″ diameter disk of metal.

Kevin’ Response to Email #2:

Hi Laurie,

Page 39 shows a wooden stake, I can definitely make you a steel one that would fit in my stake stand. It looks like a very easy thing to make.

On page 336 picture 38-7 is a crimping stake I’m familiar with. I can definitely make you one of those. I think it would be the most useful. I have seen antique stakes that have two crimping forms on them just like a T stake.

Do you have a means of supporting the stake? I was thinking I would put a tapered tang on it just like my T stakes so that it can be mounted on a bench or on a log. I was thinking of making these in the past but as you probably know, making holloware is not exactly a growth industry. But like I said before, that’s never stopped me from making a tool. I want one for myself as well.

I can do the t-stake version for the same price as my other t-stakes.

Let me know if you are interested.

My Email #3:

The stake shown on page 336/337 is it – I knew i had seen one in there somewhere, thanks for locating it.  And Yes, I agree that a tapered tang would be best.

Currently I hold my stakes in my vise on my benc. No, I have not mounted the one stake holder i have as I am still uncertain as to where I want to put it. I have an office/studio upstairs in the house and another workbench down in the garage – I am considering a “stump” table that can be moved depending if I need the A/C during the heat of the summer.

But I digress ;=)

Having two different sized on each end of the stake would be a good idea. Even though I am doing some pieces that use 12″ diameter metal; I am mostly now working with 6″ diameter only because they take less time – but as I learn, there will be more 12″ in my future.

Personally I think since nobody here in the USA is supplying them, that if you add it to your line, I bet you will sell more. SO YES PLEASE CAN YOU MAKE ME ONE. Hey, will even post about it on my blog, so maybe you can get some more orders.

And speaking of stakes…. I have 3 large stakes currently:
a otto – Drop Forged Bick Iron 8″ by 1″
an otto tech combo flat 11″ by 1.5″ (I assume made by you?)
and a Grobet/Dixon Silversmith Cylinder Forming #116  which is 14″ by 1″

Since i am making smaller holloware, I am also looking for a combo flat that is actually a bit smaller possibly more like the Grobet #3 on the Otto Frei site (but at a lower cost) Can you do this too????

Kevin’ Response to Email #3:

Hi Laurie,

I am looking forward to making that new stake, I will start on it this weekend. I have a little bit of thinking to do about how I will go about it since I machine mine from solid bar – it’s not cast. And you are right, Otto Tech stakes are made by me!

I can make you the Grobet #3. Those are neat. I’ve tended towards larger tools but I can see where something of that size would be useful. I would charge you the same price as the other t-stake, $199.

I’ll make it out of 1.25″ bar instead of 1.5″. Let me know if that would be okay.

I checked out your website. You make some cool stuff. I LOVE raising – even though it’s alot of work. I’ve never tried crimping, but I”m gonna as soon as I make a tool – I’m making one for me too – I’ll give you the first one off the mill. I’ll keep the second. I was going to ask if you knew of David Haung, but you have a link on your webpage to him. He’s a super cool guy. I bought one of his pieces from him at SNAG. I try not to spend hours fondling it.

anyway, give me about a week and I should have the crimping stake done for you.

My Email #4

Thanks for the update and yes the 1.25″ bar would be great and perfect for my smaller items.
As you can see from my website I am new at this – thus the desire for the crimping stake. I was reading both the Finegold and the Steakley books and saw it and thought that I should give it a try because the books say that it makes raising go faster.

No, unfortunately I DO NOT know David, and yes – I too have spent time caressing one of his pieces. I have taken repousse classes from Nancy Megan Corwin and she owns one of david’s pieces and brought it to the class in May (there is a picture of it on my web, near the bottom of the class pictures) – Some day when I stop buying tools and sell a few pieces maybe I can own one too

Kevin’ Response to Email #4

Hi Laurie,
I checked out your site, you make cool stuff. I’ve never tried crimping before, only traditional raising. I can definitely understand wanting something that is a little faster. I figure my elbow has only so many hammer blows before it’s shot. Have you ever tried using the plastic mallets instead of steel on steel? I’ve tried it and it works really well, but I like the sound and the feel and the markings of traditional hammers. I’ve got the material cut out for the crimping stake and I’m trying to think of the best way to go about it. I should have it done by late next week and I’ll send it out.

So, if you do holloware and need a crimping stake – NOW IS THE TIME TO CONTACT KEVIN!
OR if you want a custom item then Kevin is your go to guy – as he will be mine from now on!


laurie jane kern

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jane Walker August 25, 2010 at 12:44 am

I’ve never come across people more generous to each other, especially to ‘newbies’ with their time, knowledge and even their goods than those in the jewellery world. Enjoy your stake, Laurie, and your new friendship with a really nice guy!

Bentiron August 22, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Kevin has visited some of the other forums that I’m active on and he is always helpful and ready to offer kindly advice. His hydraulic presses are impressive devices also and he is not a prima donna in the least, a real down to earth fellow, ready to help. I’m glad he was able to help you in your time of need.

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