Dapping Metal or Wood

by Deb Mae
(Dearborn Heights, MI)

Hi Stacy, Can you give me some beginner info on a dapping block wood vs metal. How to judge which size on the block to use. Thanks I appreciate any guidance here.

Deb Mae

Stacy's Answer:

Hi Deb Mae!

Both tools are important bench tools and I use them frequently. They are both for doming metal, more specifically round discs, but you get a different look with each one. Here are some differences between the two, plus some advice on how to use them.

Basically, dapping cubes are created from high-grade hardened steel and sometimes wood. Designed with hemispherical depressions or dies in varying sizes to give a curve to flat soft metal discs as seen in bead-caps.

The wooden dapping cubes do not have as many choices in the size of dimples to choose from (6 being average). They are also usually more shallow than their metal counterparts. Because wood is soft, it will not mar or damage the design you've added to the disc as you dome it. As long as the disc is pattern-side down, you can hit it using either the round part of a chasing or ball pein hammer, a steel dap or one of the wooden ones they usually come with. If you are needing to make the disc concave with the pattern on the inside, then you would place the disc pattern-side face-up. Using the wooden dap to shape the disc will not distort your texture pattern.

The wooden cubes put a nice gentle dome on a disc. I tend to use the largest dimple because sometimes discs can get stuck in the smaller dimples. You can dig them out, but it's rather a pain. :-) Wooden cubes are very inexpensive and come in a variety of sizes from very large to the standard 2-3 inch cube and even flat-ish rectangles sporting several different dimples.

The metal doming blocks have more dimples - 18 being standard. The metal dimples are much deeper than the wooden ones creating a more dramatic arch to the disc. They are great for forming bead caps and lentils, "pods" for earrings and necklaces, etc. Because hitting steel-to-steel will damage any design you may have in the disc, you must place a thin, soft protective barrier between the disc and the dimple. They are available in steel and bronze.

Steel dapping mandrels or punches to go with the steel cubes can be purchased together with a cube as a set or separately and vary greatly in price. The punches are used with a dapping block to press the metal into a spherical shape. Sizes correspond with the depressions in the dapping block. The thickness or gauge of the metal determines which punch and die set you should use. Thinner gauges or sheet use a punch and die with similar diameters for a close fit. Thicker gauge metals require a larger die and a smaller punch to compensate for the metal thickness.

Metal thickness determines the punch and die size you should use to form sheet metal. For thin-gauge metals, a punch and die with similar diameters work best together for a close fit.

Thicker-gauge metals require a larger die and a smaller punch to compensate for the metal thickness.

When doming, work the metal into shape slowly. Starting with a larger or more shallow die and working your way down to the size you wish to end up with. Don't try to complete the dome in one step unless you need a very shallow curvature.

I prefer to use a brass dead-blow style mallet to strike the metal daps. Provides a soft dead weight that reduces bounce. Used for stamping, dapping and chasing and for hammering with disc cutters. You can safely deliver a good thwack to the daps when doming discs with a steel block without fear of damaging one of your good hammers.

Comments for Dapping Metal or Wood

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Oct 04, 2011
Thank you
by: Deb Mae

Thanks Stacy, The information is great, for some reason the dapping tool has been a challenge for me, I just am not getting a comfort, but I am sure I will, I really appreciate the explanations and the help ALWAYS.

Nov 16, 2011
Need clarification
by: Sharon

Thank you for this valuabla information. I am confused on one thing. You stated "you must place a thin, soft protective barrier between the disc and the dimple. They are available in steel and bronze"
Please tell me where I would find these barriers and what they are called.

Thank You.

Jan 23, 2015
parts to a dappel
by: sandi

This may sound dumb but please tell me exactly the parts to the dapping set up. What is the die? What is the dap? What is the punch? Tell me the procedure with the named parts please....

Thank you

Feb 08, 2015
What Are Dapping Sets?
by: Stacy

Hi Sandi!

A dapping block or cube has dimples of varying sizes cut into it. These blocks can be wood, steel or brass. You can buy dapping sets which inlcude a dimpled dapping block and coordinating ball daps used to give metal shapes a convex or concave shape like a bead cap or half sphere. The different products available produce different results depending upon your jewelry design needs.

A simple small wooden dapping set has a block with more shallow dimples and not many size choices and just 2 ball daps. Metal sets have more of an arc to them (think half a sphere) and more size choices for creating large and small domed shapes. A metal disc is placed into a dapping block dimple and then he ball dap is placed on the disc and hit using a heavy hammer or mallet which drives the dap into the disc and forces the metal to form to the dimple shape. This is called "dapping". Sometimes the holes or dimples in the cubes are referred to as dies.

Basically, using a dapping cube and daps to form metal into domed shapes is a type of die-forming also used to create shapes in sheet metal which is hammered or pressure forced into a depression. Below are some examples of dapping cubes and block sets.

A "protective barrier" could be a small square of chamois, paper towel or small pieces of toilet or Klenex-style tissue paper between the steel and your disc. This prevents the textured parts of your disc from coming into direct contact with either the steel block or dap.

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