Q: Does anyone know how to prevent causing dings in metal (such as silver or Nugold) while doming? I domed a piece of Nugold with a white plastic pear-shaped mallet in a hard wood dapping block and am having a heck of a time removing the dings! The mallet is round on both ends.
A: You need a tool with the same profile as your desired dome, rather than one of smaller radius. This could be a hammer or a dapping tool, or a raising stake, or whatever. The idea is that the metal ends up in complete contact with the entire surface of the tool, rather than being formed by multiple impacts. You can then form in a dapping block, or a sandbag, or against a urethane rubber pad, or whatever. Easiest, if the pieces are large or stiff, would be to use a die in a press of some sort against that urethane pad. If you don’t have a press, even a vise can work well enough. If you can’t arrange the means to do it this way, then the answer is the traditional one of raising technique. First “bouge” out the bumpiness as best as possible with a mallet against a domed stake with the correct, or slightly smaller radius, and then finish with a well-polished planishing hammer, leaving a smooth domed curve with lots of faint planishing hammer marks, which can be left as is, for a nice sparkly look, or filed and sanded out. Works well, and is a skill you should know, but it’s also the hard way to produce a simple domed shape…
If you have a dapping block of the correct profile, but no hammer, dap, or other tool to fit it other than your nylon hammer, then you can still come pretty close. The trick is to work it first into a larger curve, getting it domed as close as possible into that larger curve. Then anneal and switch to the right depression. With less distance to move the metal, you have less work to do. Use very light blows at first around the outer edge, then move in to the center as it domes it; this way you won’t be bumping up those large dents in the middle first off.
by Peter W. Rowe M.F.A., G.G.