After metal ingots, sheet stock, wire and tubular stock are fabricated into serve-ware by artisan or mass-production factories, a range of artisan or mass-production techniques can be applied to decorate or embellish the metal surfaces. Most of these techniques are probably familiar to you.
Engraving tools displace slivers of metal from the surface of serve-ware
to create designs, monograms, dates, endearments, awards , etc.
• Hand engraving demands skilled craftsmanship.
• Machine engraving has become standard because of a shortage of skilled engravers, but for me—machine engraving looks too perfect. Although engraving machines are guided by hand, they cannot replicate the fluidity and nuances of hand engraving —which has become very costly.
Designs that simulate engraving are commonly die-stamped on metal surfaces of waiters and trays to prevent inevitable scratches from showing.
Chasing resembles engraving— but does not displace metal.
Chased designs are made by hand-tapping sharp tools to ‘indent’ metal surfaces.The ‘look’ of chasing can be mass-produced by die-stamping.
Etched designs are hand-painted onto metal with acid— which bites into the metal —leaving a frosted design. Stencils are used for duplication.
The design on this champagne bottle coaster is repouseé—a technique that creates a three-dimensional surface in metal. ‘Relief’ designs are pushed ‘out’ from the back of the metal —and refined by working on the front. Repouseé is mass-produced by die-stamping or casting.
Engine turning is an engraving technique using a special machine. A skilled crafts-person guides a power-driven tool with one hand while guiding a second power-driven tool in a different direction with their other hand. The result is a fine-grained, repetitive (usually geometric) pattern on metal.
Filigree is an open, lacy design made by manipulating wire by hand or machine. The lacy design can remain open— or it can be soldered to a metal backing.
Piercing is also open and lacy. It differs from filigree because the designs are created by cutting-out shapes of metal from a flat sheet of metal.
Minute round granules of metal are applied to a flat surface of metal — as a design or all-over texture. Granulation is unique because both granules and base metal are heated together almost to their melting point— and pulled from the heat — as soon as the granules adhere to the flat surface —without solder.
Transparent, translucent or opaque glass is ground to a very fine powder, applied to metal and melted — without melting the base metal. After man learned to make glass, the art of enameling on metal flourished in many cultures.
Oxidation is a chemical ‘tarnish’ used to darken silver in order to exaggerate and enhance ‘relief’ designs. The darkened color remains in the lower recesses of the design and polished off all raised surfaces to create highlights.
Most metal products can be polished to varying degrees of luster —from a soft butler finish, achieved with special abrasives to look as if they have been polished for years ‘by the butler’ or to a bright, mirror-like finish—and many stages of luster in between.
The polishing and plating departments of every metal factory I visited were busy and so clean, they looked like four-star kitchens !
Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY
MY NEXT POST: WHICH SERVE-WARE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?