Thanjavur art plates require to be made in strategic manner. The making of art plate consists of three components.
• The base plate,
• A circular plate of metals with primary relief and
• The secondary relief.
This processes in three levels done by a metal worker (who works on preparing base plate), jeweler (who makes reliefs on circular metal plate) and a stone – setter (who makes the secondary relief). But a single craftsman could also carry out all these three levels of work.
Initially in the first stage, the base of the art plate is made which involves the desired metal cutting as per the required size and shape. This base is usually made of brass. The front side of the brass is carefully polished. It is then firmly fixed on a wooden base with an asphalt bed. The entire frame is heated with a blowpipe and leveled until the base design is prepared. Further the silver and copper sheets are placed on the base to cross check the required size and then they are cut accordingly. They are then heated slightly with the dye to form an impression. Hence the impression is made by refining and etching using punches and chisels.
In the next stage, metal sheets are super imposed and encrusted on the base. This is done by filling a mixture of wax made of brick powder, gingili oil and frankincense. These ingredients are used to fill hollow depressions at the back of the metal relief sheets. Thus the relief sheets are then placed on the base plate and encrusted by punching along the grooves. Relief sheet is then polished and prepared for the final designs.
As the last process the secondary relief is made. The designs on the central circular metallic disc are usually made are the figures of deities like lord Nataraja, goddess Saraswati, goddess Ashta Lakshmi and lord Ganesh. Apart from the figures of the Hindu deities, some of the floral designs are also etched around the central motif and sometimes they also replace the figures of the deities on metallic disc.
Besides Thanjavur art plates, other products like key chains, paper-weights, bowls and boxes are also made using the same technique. Even the logo and emblems of corporate firms and organizations have also been embossed using the same technique.