Tool Time Tuesday – Using a Swage Block

You might all recall that my Father-In-Law made me the most beautiful black walnut swage blocks, well, not everyone knows how to use them. I have to admit that when I learned how to use them I was relieved as I had already bought two different ones and didn’t know what they were for. I think there are a lot of people out there that are the same, or so I hear. Either they already have a block and have no idea what to do with it, or they haven’t bought it because they don’t know what it is used for.


Swage blocks are used for many different things, but I use them to form round shapes from flat pieces of metal with my hammers. Look at the banner on my blog. That lily sitting up there was formed with a swage block. The lily is the same project I created for the Art Jewelry Magazine a few years back. In fact, the video for this Tool Time Tuesday shows how to create the beginning form for the lily.

Swage blocks are also known as forming or grooved blocks. There are various types and shapes out there as well as different materials. My first blocks were made of steel. I also have a block made of delrin (a type of plastic.) Depending on the block I use, I change the type of hammer to form the metal. If I use a metal block, I use a nylon hammer. If I use a delrin or wooden block, I use a metal hammer. Now, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes I use a metal hammer with a metal block. But the thing you have to know is that when you use a metal hammer with a metal block, you are going to risk stretching the metal as the metal you are forming compresses between the steel of the hammer and block. You also get a lot more tool marks that way. So it just depends on the look I am after when it comes to choosing my forming tools.

Without further ado, here is my tutorial and video on how to use a swage block. I hope this helps those of you that may have questions on what a swage block is and how to use it. As always, if you still have further questions, feel free to contact me any time.


4 thoughts on “Tool Time Tuesday – Using a Swage Block

  1. woojoo

    Thank you, Melissa! Excellent video! Just what I needed, because I’d have started hammering in the center. What gauge copper are you using here?

  2. Angie Simonsen

    Thanks for this!!! I started playing with my block last weekend and see LOTS of possibilities!!! The block is gorgeous too – your FIL does great work!

  3. Melissa Muir

    You know, when I first got my block and started to play, I did just that. I forgot that you should start on the edges. And when you hit just the middle, the edges don’t round out. As far as the gauge, the lily in the video is 20 gauge, with the end rolled to 24 gauge. 

  4. Melissa Muir

    Angie, I am so lucky to have him. He is such a great woodworker. I am glad you like it. I love working with this tool. And yes, there are TONS of possibilities with it. I hope you show me what you make when you get done.


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