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Diary of a Silversmith

Broken Restaurant Decanter

The silver decanter collar in the picture below has been in daily use at a well known Notting Hill restaurant for over 7 years. It is one of several in use there and they do occasionally get broken.   At JA Campbell we keep adequate stock of all decanter bodies in our range and can fit a new body onto an existing silver collar or Claret Jug. This is providing the silver is not damaged substantially. Minor damage to the silver can be rectified prior to fitting to the new crystal body.It will look like a new decanter again.   Most of the decanters in our range are highly suitable for use in a demanding restaurant environment being thick enough to withstand minor knocks. However the Admiral and the Chalice decanter and Claret Jug are the exceptions.   What looks really smart and elevates the restaurant image is to have the name or logo engraved onto the crystal body. This is just one of the many services provided by JA Campbell.  

Silver Coaster - a new addition

When I had the Chalice Claret Jug re-shot a couple of years ago (both in the silver and in the gold version) I inserted a small coaster into the picture just as a prop, to get a bit of lifestyle. It had not occurred to me to that this shot may actually create a sale for the coaster. We have now had several requests for this particular coaster.     Unfortunately we did not make one of a suitable size! we have previously sold the middle size coaster from the "appetite" range which was not quite ideal, being a little too big and rather on the expensive side. Last week when a Claret Jug sold the lady requested the coaster to match but could not afford the above mentioned one so I bit the bullet and set about making one of exactly the correct size and thickness to come in at a suitable price. That evening when the workshop was quiet I prototyped one, did a quick costing £275 and put it to the lady the next morning. She said "yes" so the first one was produced and went off to the Assay Office for hallmarking. Not something I like to do too often as the minimum charge makes it quite expensive. However needs must on this occasion. The lady took delivery of her Claret Jug (which was to be presented to a retiring colleague) complete with prominent inscription and newly designed coaster. Delighted!!      


Christmas is here once again - well nearly - and yet again the most popular items in our range are Silver & Crystal Decanters.  We have a large selection to choose from and hopefully something to suit everyone's tastes. White wine, Red wine, Port, Spirits - all look so much better when served from an elegant decanter. Have a look on our website now as there is still time to order and have one delivered for Christmas. It can be for a present or simply for your own use to enhance your Christmas table. There is even one that holds two bottles of wine - the Magnum - if you are having a large gathering. See the sparkle of Silver and Crystal together!!!!!

Want to buy a surprise SILVER present?

I took a call from a lady yesterday who was initially checking stock and availability of a product and then asking if we would take the order over the phone using her credit card. The reason she gave was that if she ordered on the website confirmation emails would be sent and she wanted to keep the purchase as a surprise wedding anniversary present for her husband. She obviously did not want him to see any evidence on their home computer. She also asked for it to be delivered to a relatives address for the same reason. I was also asked not to phone and check any details!!! and so give the game away. This senario is not unusual, it often happens with quite a lot of purchases. Anyone preferring not to order via the website please just give a call to John or Colin. We like to talk to people!!! We take great pride in our work and everything we make we do with enthusiasm and care. 

Engraving on Silver

One of the last tasks in the long line which makes up the Silver & Crystal Claret Jug batch is engraving! In this instance, the customer has requested their club crest to be engraved under the silver lip. As there are quite a few to engrave it makes economic sense to machine engrave them rather than hand engrave.  This is one of the only processes that JA Campbell sub contract. First the crest is drawn into the machines software programme which will instruct the three motors what to do. The part doing the actual engraving is a diamond tipped tool which is raised and lowered as it starts and finishes each character or line. The other two motors move the object left or right and forward and back. This machine engraving method is highly suitable for quantities above two, where repetition can become quite tedious for the hand engraver. It also frees him or her up for more creative work. On return to our Brentwood studios the articles are lightly polished and cleaned prior to plastering on again to remove any finger prints scratches which might have ocurred at the engravers. More to follow.....    

From the Workshop 4

Continuing with my production stories today shows a handle being soldered onto a Claret Jug  

Claret Jug City!!!!! Part One

January marks the start of a big production batch run of Chalice Claret Jugs. At the outset, the components when assembled are quite compact, two packs of silver discs, one thick for the upper lip section and one thinner for the lower neck section (photo claret jug ingredients). A bag of cast handles, a box of spinning chucks and a stack of crystal bodies. The engraving element as yet unseen is at my friends Derry Keen in Clerkenwell, Mike and Don Keen are the second and current generation of Keen’s. I had originally worked with their father and co founder Derek who sadly passed away last year. It never fails to amaze me that since I first designed and started producing this piece I have made over 5000 of them. Where they have all gone I do not know! For the first two or three years we experienced annoying and intermittent porosity problems with the cast handles and we could never get to the bottom of it. The handle at that early time was slightly soft triangular in section. One day a customer asked if we could produce a variation of our Claret jug as an exclusive special for them. The special was to have a different style handle, oval in section. Well what a difference! All the porosity had disappeared just by redesigning it. Everything else was the same, the foundry metal/oven temperatures etc. The only difference was the section of the handle. Presumably with the oval section the molten silver was filling the plaster mould in a less disturbed manner. Thankfully about 50% of the silver used to cast the handle is recycled from the scrap cut from the body, two blanks from the two spinning’s and some from the top lip spinning when it is cut to an offset oval to form the pouring lip. The batch moves forward to another stage on another day, this time the two spinning’s (top lip and bottom neck) are soldered together. The pictue below shows the ones at the front with thier lips cut off and the stack at the back waiting their turn.       Just one cock up yesterday, one of the top lip spinning’s lifted up in the blanking tool and came down off centre. On the first look, a right off but with a bit of patience maybe it can be saved. On completion of the soldering operation they are pickled to remove all the flux and argotect residues, rinsed and dried. The next stage is to dress the seam (between the two components) and push in the two decorative lines. Next stage, mark out for cutting the lip into its oval elliptical shape, condense all the scrap product to make it easier for the caster to load into the crucibles for melting the metal to cast the handles. Following on from this the lips are set into a primitive press tool and the pouring shape formed, then using a collet hammer and tool in a vice the final oval lip shape is set, helped by the lip setting plate. A line is scribed around the inside edge of the lip to be filed back to. To be continued