Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Fold-forming was developed by a Canadian (by way of the UK) who lives in Calgary, Charles Lewton-Brain. It is generally acknowledged to be the first new metalsmithing technique developed in thousands of years. When you fold-form metal, you take a flat piece and transform it through repeated steps of forging (hammering) and annealing into a three dimensional work. It's magical, and the journey is satisfying in so many ways.

I've said to my students, over the years, that I must have been a blacksmith in another life since I get such satisfaction out of hammering on metal. There's nothing like heating metal then listening to the sizzle of quenching it. It is so gratifying to apply hammer blows and see the elasticity of the metal move it into a new shape. There's a picture below of one of the first rueger fold pieces I made.  I created it specifically to complement the viking knit chain I had created.

Charles and his students have developed variations on the fold-form over the years, from the basic line fold to the rueger fold to the star fold and the boat fold, to name only a few. Check out his web site at http://www.brainpress.com/Foldforming.html to see samples of Charles' work and to learn more. He also has a beautiful book that is long on inspiration, if a bit short on information, that will take your imagination soaring.

I have tried a variety of folds, from leaf shapes and pods to a simple line fold in 1" x 1" squares to create a bracelet joined with chain mail mobius links that is very elegant. The possibilities are endless and the curving forms you can create are perfect reflections of shapes you will recognize from the natural world: pea pods, leaves, ram's horns, seashells, boats.

Here's a link to the first fold-forming video I ever watched. There are many more now, and this one is about five years old, but it gives an overview and shows you the tools you need.

If you are interested in learning this exciting technique for metalsmithing, don't miss my fold-forming class on August 29 at BeadFX. Fold-forming Basics and Beyond will give you an overview and practical experience creating fold-formed components to add to your jewellery. You will also use and assess the tools required before deciding to buy some and jump into this technique. Plus you get to bang with a hammer and play with fire. What better way is there to spend a Saturday morning?

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