Somewhere I acquired some heavy brass sheets that I have used to raise a series of three large pieces.
What I've noticed is that my skills increase proportional to the time I put into hammering. I recently took a workshop from the master metalsmith, Greg Wilbur, who was my initial inspiration over twenty years ago. I acquired a new hammer at the workshop, hand forged from alloy steel by Arkon Kartmazov, a Russian born blacksmith who is a good friend of Greg's. This hammer is Arkon's own design, inspired by the raising hammers he saw while he was in Japan studying with Japanese metalsmiths. This new hammer is much more aggressive than the hammers I've been using, allowing me to raise metal much faster. My aesthetic sense has also been improving, resulting in more pleasing forms.