Improving Your Spoons (Part Four)

By Bill Gillham

Dealing with buckled bowls and curled over tips.

A buckled bowl, a common problem with spoons of light gauge, is perhaps the most unsightly of all defects, and can seem to be the most difficult to deal with. The following technique was taught to Tony Dove and myself by the late-lamented Martin Gubbins. The equipment needed (entirely home-made), is illustrated in the photograph below:

You see what I mean by home-made! Dimensions first: the wood used (teak in this case: it has to be hardwood) is roughly of 1.25" section. The large one (for tablespoons) is 9"long and the hollow is 2.25" long; the smaller (for teaspoons) is 6" long and the hollow 1.5" long. The depth for the tablespoon is roughly 0.75"; that for the teaspoon less the 0.5"- not that these measurements are precisely critical.

Chamois leather is stuck on to the hollow and over the edges (important because it is these that do the work); this prevents the spoon from becoming abraded. The chamois leather was stuck on using Evostik wood glue; the ugly little nails were quite unnecessary.

Now this is where a video would be helpful... Taking the buckled spoon in your left hand with your thumb at the point where the handle joins the bowl and the thumb of your right hand inside the bowl towards the tip you PRESS at the point where the bowl is buckled onto the edge of the delve using a sliding, rubbing motion. You will need to press hard (you will get bolder as you go on) and you repeat this while the buckling diminishes bit by bit. You hold the spoon up in profile to check progress, which is slow but progressive. It is in truth, a remarkably effective technique and, once mastered, a matter of minutes.

We are all familiar with spoon bowls that have wear on the top left side through decades of use; sometimes the very thin silver is sharp and curled right over (not much you can do about that). But more often the appearance of wear is exaggerated because the whole bowl shape is distorted. The hammer and pudding spoon technique I described in Part Three can help here; and it is remarkable how the shape of the bowl can revert to something approaching normal although the degree of wear is still there. A good specialised implement (which can be used in other ways such as squeezing out kinks in handles) is a pair of parallel-action pliers (specialist silversmithing supplier stuff). Ordinary pliers work in an acute angle fashion that does not grip evenly and easily damages silver.

The techniques I have described in this mini-series have provoked some debate but I hope it encourages you to look differently at spoons that might otherwise be disregarded. They may look in a poor way but if there are not: repairs, cracks, bits missing, excessive wear MAYBE you could bring them back to a state that they merit. Good hunting!


The Finial, October/November 2003

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