Improving Your Spoons (Part Three)
The Finial, June/July 2003
By Bill Gillham
Removing Dents From Bowls
This must be the most common problem of all; but it is also the easiest to deal with.
However, you do require at least one special tool - the leather-headed hammer illustrated below which has a conventional wooden handle but with a head made of a tightly glued roll of leather. Steel-headed hammers, of great variety, are used in 'raising' silver objects; and sometimes these are used in the kind of unacceptable repair where the bowl has been 're-hammered'. We can all recognise the spot-hammer marks that result from this, although these can be disguised by rubbing them with fine emery paper and then polishing.
The leather-headed hammer will not mark the silver even though, to the touch, the leather feels quite hard. You need to go to a specialist shop to find one (if you have a local art school there is likely to be a local supplier). I got mine from J. Blundell and Sons of 199 Wardour Street, just off Oxford Street (Tel: 020 7437 4746). It costs about £12.00.
Desirable is a set of dome-headed punches (made of box-wood). These look like small skittles, of varying size and are only obtainable at very specialist shops. But there are alternatives: the rounded end of a beech wood broom handle and pudding spoons made of the same material: see below.
Dents are almost always from the back of the spoon upwards. Shallow dents are the easiest to deal with. Depending on the size of the spoon and/or the size of the dent you put your dome-headed punch in a vice (bearing in mind that this punch may be the rounded end of a pudding-spoon handle!) invert the spoon bowl and put it on the punch so that the dent is located exactly over it - and wield your hammer.
You will probably be a bit cautious to begin with but you will need to hit quite hard. The main thing to watch is the exact position. Sometimes it is a good idea (particularly with table-spoons) to use the wooden spoon-bowl end as the support: this helps prevent any distortion. But you will gradually find all this out for yourself.
The golden rule is to start by dealing with a simple, shallow dent; and then go on to the more difficult stuff.
Deep dents require a different approach, at least to begin with. Sometimes these are so pushed up that there is a crease in the centre of the dent (quite hard to eliminate). The difference is that with these deeper dents you start by working on the front interior of the bowl.
Silversmiths use what they call a 'sand bag' which looks like a giant leather pouffe, filled with sand, which will support whatever you are pushing or hammering out. I find the firmly upholstered arm of an armchair a satisfactory alternative.
And it is here that you find a wooden pudding spoon very useful. Putting the back of the silver spoon against this firm support you push hard at the dent using a kind of circular rubbing motion. With a teaspoon I use the handle end; with a tablespoon I use the bowl end. You need to push really hard and to keep repeating the motion; and gradually you will find you are pushing the dent out of shape.
When it has reached the 'shallow dent' stage then you treat it as described earlier. Other slight distortions e.g. of a bowl edge, or a handle, can be dealt with in a similar way. With confidence and experience you will find that this sort of remedial action is almost routine: a matter of minutes.
Next instalment: Dealing with buckled bowls and curled edges.
Scotland and the Saxon Ampersand
By Edward Daw
The English (Roman) ampersand is claimed by some as devised by Marcus Tiro, in 63 BC as part of his shorthand system, which others claim it is simply a ligature formed by the 'e' and 't' of the Roman 'et'. The name is said to be a conflation of the words 'and per se' (Schott, 2003).
An alternative ampersand was used in Scottish silver work. Firstly as a date letter for Edinburgh in 1778-80 (see Jackson, p.549). This is identified as a 'Saxon Ampersand' in the minute book of the Incorporation. The reason for it's use is not clear - possibly to 'fill in' an odd year between the previous 25 years cycles (omitting the letter 'J') and the full 26 year alphabet cycles started in 1780.
Some Scottish silversmith's used this 'Saxon' ampersand; e.g. William Jamieson and Co. of Aberdeen, circa 1805 (see The Finial, Feb/Mar'02, p.117). Jamieson and Naughton of Inverness, circa 1813 used both versions (see Fig.1)*.
Why should Celtic Scotland use an (Anglo) Saxon symbol, particularly when Scottish law is based on Roman law rather than English? What is the origin of the 'Saxon' version? Was it used by other Scottish Silversmith's?
* The two varieties of Jamieson and Naughton's ampersand, one recorded in "Highland Gold and Silversmith's" by G.P. Moss and A.D. Roe (pages 47 and 64), but not commented upon in the text. There is a definite different 'J' with each example.
Schott, B; Original Miscellany, Daily Telegraph, 11th May 2003.
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