The embossing technique involving repoussage and chasing may seem difficult for amateurs, but with guided training and persistent practice, even complex or delicate works can be done with almost perfection, which would be practically impossible to achieve under other techniques. The exercise of repoussage and chasing is very time-consuming due to its need for repetition of certain stages. Following are the basic procedures followed in authentic silver embossing:
First step; preparing the metal for chasing / repoussage work by annealing and cleaning. Cleaning is done to remove the excessive tar from the metal. Followed by setting up the metal and careful work with punches. This process is typically repeated many times to achieve clean and rightly shaped raw metal. Then a thin sheet of silver is placed over a bowl of a pitch. This pitch should be made slightly soft with a heat gun or hand gas burner for relief work. Chasing work starts once these elements cool down and harden. It can become extremely soft or liquefied when heated extremely, turning the burn into hazardous smoke. Hence it is instructed not to heat the pitch to such a degree that it emits dense fumes.
The pitch used for supporting the metal is best worked in the form of a bowl or board. The pitch bowl can be an iron bowl sitting on a sandbag or on a rubber ring. This helps for more excellent balance and rotation. Once the metal sits on the pitch, tools made up of steel are used for detailing work. A liner is a steel tool/punch with a very thin, slightly rounded end that is used to create the initial lines. The liner is hit on the end with a chasing hammer, pushing a thin line of silver metal into the pitch. Once all the lines are hammered, the silver metal is then turned over from the pitch, followed by cleaning and re-annealing, before going for the Repousse technique. Repousse technique is then applied, using various other tools to push the metal so that it is raised on the front of the chased piece. After finishing repoussage, the metal design is inverted, and the voids are filled with small portions of the warm pitch to help frame its shape. The pitch should be allowed to set in the voids and cool before the piece is turned over and placed back on the main pitch.
The above steps are repeated many times, for fine and cleaner impressions, before the final product is finished. Turpentine is used to remove the pitch, every time the metal is turned over. A blow/ hand gas burner can also be used to burn the extra pitch off. Safety measures like wearing gloves and protective glasses should be ascertained every time the embossing work is undertaken. As there’s exposure to open flame, one should be in a workspace that guarantees proper ventilation, along with a fire extinguisher at a reachable distance.