If you work with metals at all, you know there are a multiple of tools available on the market to help you shape your work. These tools include dapping (which are the topic for this article), bench pins, which provide support for the project, anvils which provide a base for repairing, forming, shaping and bending and stakes which are used for planishing and shaping.
Even if you aren't a metal worker, depending on your area of arts and crafts, a basic metalworking tool can be used to add another level to your pieces. However like me, you probably don't have an abundance of space to store little-used tools or the money to buy a bunch of metalworking tools if you aren't a metalworker. If new to the area of shaping metal, but think you may have a use for adding this technique to your area of art or craft, I highly recommend starting out with a dapping tool
This handy metalworking tool give you the ability to easily shape sheet metal into domes and other uniform shapes. Dapping tools are made of both metal and hardwood. The hardwood type of dapping tool is recommended for beginners, as hardwood is normally less expensive than metal. And a dapping block which comes in a variety of shapes is the easiest to use.
How Does a Dapping Block Work?
A dapping block does its job by having carved depressions, also known as cups into which pieces of metal are placed. The metal is then gently hammered using a punch to form a shape similar to the cup. A punch is merely a wooden stake sized to fit the particular cup in use. Depending on which side of the metal you deem to be the 'good' side, your metal shape will be either convex or concave.
Uses for Dapping Blocks
If you handcraft jewelry, it's an invaluable tool. But what about other types of arts and crafts? Well, to name just a few - you can use it to make your own buttons, knobs, bases for other arts and crafts projects or cabinetry and woodworking accents.
Buying Dapping Blocks and Supplies
You'll need a few different types of tools and supplies:
- Dapping Block: I buy a lot of my metalworking tools at Contenti. Their prices are good, shipping is reasonable and customer service is stellar. Their basic wood dapping block comes in three different shapes: round, pear and oval.
- Punches: If you are just going to use a circular shape, you can buy a set of punches in various sizes that simplify using the dapping block down to its lowest common denominator. Contenti sells circular blocks and punches as a package deal. This eight block is the one I own. Although it was half the price when I purchased it ten years ago, it's still a good buy.
- Hammer: You could also use a hammer to shape the metal in the block. To keep from marring the metal, make sure the hammer you use has a nylon head.
- Sheet Metal: Last but not least, you'll also need some sheet metal to form. My suggestion is to start out with a base metal such as copper, nickel or brass to practice on before moving to a more expensive metal like sterling silver.
The next article in this series gives instructions on putting this tool to work on an project.