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Making a 22K Gold Bottle

By Bill Fretz


Alloying Before the Melt


Alloying the metal is a good way of making a special alloy or using scrap metal.

About 2 ½ troy ounces of 22k  metal was melted in a crucible, with boric acid flux, and then poured into the hot ingot iron former.


 Forging the Ingot


The ingot was forged with a heavy rounded crosspein hammer (HMR-301)* to widen and compress the metal at the same time.  It is important to use a polished hammer so a flaw from the hammer is not repeatedly transferred to the ingot.


Flattening the Ingot


The marks from the crosspein were removed with a very heavy planishing hammer  (HMR-303) or forging hammer.  The bottle has varying metal thicknesses from a thick top to a much thinner body and this process is started with the beginning blank.




A four inch circle shape was sheared from the blank with a 14 gauge middle section that thinned to a 22 gauge circumference area.  The metal was domed with a nylon insert hammer by holding it on an angle against the workbench and hammering from the inside of the form.  The top edge was thickened with a planishing hammer (HMR-1) by hammering straight down on the opening rim.  After this first hammer forming, the metal must be annealed by heating it to a dull red color with a torch in an annealing pan with pumice chips.


Opening the Top


A circle template was used to locate the middle hole.  This was cut out with a deep throated jeweler’s saw to form a small circle opening.  A round bezel mandrel was hammered into the hole to true it and also flare it. Again the metal was annealed.  Each time the project is hammered and annealed it is called a course, like a chapter in a book.


Crimping the Blank


Crimping the edge draws the metal up to make raising the form into a bowl shape much faster than raising with out crimping.  A special crimping wood stake (SWS) is used with a rounded groove on one end and a curved flat surface on the other end.  This wood piece


is held in a large vise.   Crimping on wood has the advantage that it does not stretch the metal.  A narrow crosspein  (CP-1), designed by Michael Good, is used for this step.


Raising the Bottle


The wood stake is reversed in the vise and the shape being raised is held at a slight angle to the wood. The goal is to have an air pocket between the stake and the metal to be raised. With each blow of the hammer the metal is moved more and more into a domed form with the perimeter being compressed and made smaller.  As the form gains height the outer circumference is made smaller and the metal gauge thickens in the process.  

This fluting and compression process was repeated five times.


Stretching and Upsetting the Top


The top of the bottle was stretched out from the thick middle section of the blank and raised in at the same time on a small blow horn stake with narrow end of a straight crosspein hammer (HMR-3).  The top edge of the opening was repeatedly hammered with the domed end of a planishing hammer (HMR-1). By driving the metal back on itself the edge becomes quite thick making it unnecessary to solder on a rim later. Thick edges have a more substantial look than thin ones.


Raising on a T- Stake


After the form reaches a cone shape the wooden raising stake begins to get in the way of the bottom section of the now small bowl form.  The solution is to switch to a metal T-Stake (R-101) with the raising end of the large nylon insert hammer (HMR-107) . This allows the raising process to continue because this stake can reach inside the shape so the perimeter can now be compressed further.  This process is often referred to as angle raising as the shape takes on an angle as the metal pivots inward. It is important not to make sharp angles as these may be hammered out later over rounded or curved stakes.


Continuing the Courses


The raising continues until the metal reaches the desired shape.  With each raising the opening on the bottom will get smaller as the bottle gets slightly taller. On a small vessel such as this the shape will close in about ¼ inch with each course.


Selecting the Stakes


The mushroom stakes (M-102, M-111, and M-112) chosen will be a major design decision as the form follows the stake’s shape. All Fretz mushroom stakes (M-100 Series) fit into a holder (H-1L or T-101) that make it possible for the bottle to be planished smooth.  On a freeform bottle the different curves require different stakes.


Planishing the Bottle


The raising hammers (HMR-107 or HMR-102) form the shape but leave coarse hammer marks.   These marks are removed with over lapping hammer blows called planishing, while the work is held against the stake and hammered.  The domed side of the round planishing hammer will leave a pebble finish that is quite attractive.  If a smoother finish is desired the hammer is flipped over to the flat side and those marks are replaced with very subtle facets.


Refining the Bottle’s Neck


The neck of the bottle was formed into a compound curve on a special small T-Stake  (F-7) that has a concave area. Often this stake is referred as an anticlastic stake.

A very narrow crosspein (CP-2) hammer was used to smooth this area.


Starting the Flutes


Red pitch was warmed in a pot and poured into the open shape. After the pitch had cooled the fluting pattern was drawn with a thin marker pen. The pitch was then warmed in small areas with a heat gun and hammered with a rounded crosspein (HMR-9) on either side of the lines to roughly form the flutes.  The metal then became work hardened from the hammering and needed annealing.  To accomplish this it is first necessary to remove the pitch from the bottle. The bottle is placed over the pitch pot and warmed until the pitch runs out. The process of filling the bottle with pitch, hammering and annealing was repeated four times as the shape became more refined.


Finishing the 22K Bud Vase


The base of the bottle was trued and rubbed flat on a sheet of emery cloth. 

The round disc for the bottom was slightly domed on a large mushroom stake and then stamped with the quality stamp and the registered Fretz trademark. Doming the metal insures that the bottle will only rest on the outer edge and not wobble. It is then soldered onto the bottom of the bottle. The excess metal was sawn off and filed flush. The complete piece was buffed with a very fine polishing compound so the hammer marks would not be compromised. 


* Fretz codes are mentioned in case the reader wants more details on hammers and stakes.  Please go to for information on size and tool shapes.



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