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Diary of a Silversmith

Tusk Silver Trophy

A local engraver to us, Steven Alexander, asked if I could fit an additional silver plate to the above mentioned trophy. Commissioned in the 1950's it had run out of space to engrave further winners names. Quite a bizarre object, it appears to be made from a hollowed out top end of an elephants tusk with the handle made of what looks like Rhinoceros horns. A glass bottom enabling it to be used as a mug. The making of an additional plate was quite tricky given that the only means I had of fixing it to the tusk was dress making pins which although good at driving into the wooden plinth. They really were reluctant to hammer into the ivory tusk. Pilot holes needed to be drilled but this in itself was problematic as the material was so hard and the drills so fragile being only 0.4mm in diameter. A three feet diameter arc had to be scribed onto the silver sheet prior to cutting it out. This enabled it to fit snugly onto the slightly tapered tusk. I got there eventually! It took just short of a day to do but I had only quoted one and a half hours C'est la vie!  

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.  

Diana's second visit to JA Campbell

Bronze figurines of Diana, Greek Goddess of Love. Just before Christmas 2015 my antique friend brought in another bronze figurine of Diana by a well known French sculptor. This one had lost her bow, as had the first one. For those who are not familiar with the piece, Diana is standing on one leg on a rock, shooting a bow up into the sky. The bow actually has no strings and is made in two parts which screw onto threads either side of her left hand. The bow although stylised is basically tapered from thick in the centre and thin at the ends. It is also slightly triangular in section. The first stage after doing a scale drawing is to select some brass rod and make the taper. On the first one this was done by rolling it in stages to get the rough taper and then grinding/filing it to a smooth taper and then grind into a triangular section. This worked well but was slow. On the second one all the tapering was done by grinding and filing and was indeed quite a bit quicker. The other slow stages were making the male and female threads and soldering the triangular bow section to the round boss section. Finally aligning the bow in relation to the figure and polishing. I personally would have left the bow polished bright as it made a beautiful contrast against the dull green/bronze of the figure. However the dealer did not want it bright and intends to "patinate" it himself. Job done. A bit of variety for a Silversmith!    

Figurine Restoration

Several weeks ago a neighbour who is moving to Devon came across and asked if I knew where he could dispose of a pair of figurines. He had one in his hand. I recognised them as made from spelter and probably French from about 1890. They were a bit scruffy - for want of a better description. I suggested he tried the antique shop at the top of the road. He said he had not thought of that.  One of the figures was a woman with arm held aloft holding a hammer encircled with laurel leaves. That is it should have been but the arm was broken off. I offered to solder it back on for him in order to get a better price. Whilst I had the figure in my Brentwood workshop I grew to quite like this figure  and repaired it very carefully. When I saw the partner figure this was of a man standing in the stylised bow of a ship holding the ships wheel with one hand and a pennant aloft with the other . That was it I really felt I would like to have them for myself.  I asked the neighbour if we could have first refusal. He said yes but after he had obtained a more accurate valuation. Clearly this pair needed some attention to restore them to their former glory. A quick look on the internet indicated that they were French and a pair called Le Industrie and La Commerce. They will need new plinths making as the originals have had a bad case of woodworm and need new name plates attaching. More to follow after the restoration!! For now here is a picture as they look at present.

Brass Figurine of Girl with Hoop

Life is never dull is it! Some months ago my pharmacist asked if I could repair a figurine for him. He said he would bring it into the shop for me to assess. Each time I went in to collect my repeat prescription he said he had forgotten to bring it in. This went on for many months. I jokingly said "don't wait until I have kicked the bucket because it will be too late then" The pills were not ready on Thursday, so I had to call back on Monday and on this occasion (low and behold) he had brought it in. It was in a bit of a sorry state with the large hoop the girl was supposed to be holding, broken in three places and held together reasonably successfully, with matchsticks and sellotape. I took it to work and set about removing the hoop. It became obvious after several attempts at soldering the broken ends together that the rejoining was not going to work. The hoop had been made from iron wire with a high carbon content making silver soldering impossible. Even f it had been possible I thought that the grey iron would have looked out of place against the brass of the figurine. Luckily I had some brass rod in stock of the exact same diameter and so set about to make up a new ring and then soldering it into the girl's hands. Finally, a good buff up and a new piece of baize under the marble plinth and she looks great again. A very worthwhile and quite enjoyable exercise restoring a rather sad figure to her former glory.  

A Silver Adorned Sword Stick

I never know what will come into the workshop next!! This weekend brought a very unusual repair. As well as manufacturing we offer a repair service for any of our own products and a more general service to anyone needing help with a silver item. On this occasion it was a silver adorned sword stick brought in by a gentleman. He requested that we try and return it to it's former glory as some parts were very badly dented. Another interesting fact was that although the feral on the stick had an English hallmark from 1900, the actual sword had been made in France. In order to make a decision on how to proceed I had to fully assess the job. This involved in the first instance gently heating the knob to melt whatever substance was attaching it to the wood. As it turned out it was held in place by cutlery cement which is mainly a natural resin base and so melted quite easily.After the knob was taken off I melted the remainder of the cement out and examined it inside. I need to see how it was made, check the thickness of the material to finally decide how to proceed. What I found was the silver was reasonably thick but there was no way I was going to be able to get any tools inside in order to push out the dents which were the main problem. So what to do next, based on my findings I decided to cut the top off completely, allowing me to remove a few of the dents and then to make a completely new end cap. This was done using the spinning method which I describe fully in many of the pages on my website. All went to plan and then it was just a case of carefully soldering the two components together using silver solder, fettling the seam and giving it a final polish. To complete the repair the silver knob was filled with molten cement and the sword stick end pushed firmly into place. One final visit to the polishing shop and all looking good again. A satisfied customer once again.  John Campbell  

Pepper Mill refurbishment

Six of our Sterling Silver Capstan Pepper Mills recently came back for a refurbishment from a retailer in Oxford, England. They were owned by one of the local colleges. Although in surprisingly good condition, in that there were very few dents, they had some structural problems mainly surrounding the aluminium drive shafts. These were corroded which had caused three of the finials to seize on and so breaking the threads off. After a complete dissemble, three new knobs, six new spindles and a good ultrasonic clean and re-polish they looked like new again. Question: How did the aluminium spindles become corroded? I suspect they have been allowed to get and remain damp, probably from a dishwasher. Tip: If a dishwasher has to be used ensure the cap and knob are removed and these parts stood on absorbent paper in a warm place such as the top of a central heating radiator or boiler for a couple of days to ensure all the hollow spaces are thoroughly dry. Give them a good shake to check before re-assembling. Repeat the above if any water drops are seen. If any users have any questions on the subject please give me a ring personally on +44(0)1277 217 829 John Campbell