That’s what Steve Wager calls his occasional classes in making a silver spoon, which is pretty accurate because, when I went to one last weekend, we did spend five hours hitting a silver ingot with a hammer. There’s a way of doing it, of course, and it was interesting to me because I’ve never worked in metal before, except occasionally to cut a brass profile to shape clay, but all materials have their own way of behaving and all have to be treated with respect. Silver hardens as it’s worked and has to be softened in heat – not too much, not too little. Steve’s rule was “until salmon pink”, and if too much you ruin the silver.
By lunch – which Steve serves to his students – our little ingots were still little ingots with hammer marks, but Steve assured us we’d have a spoon by the time we left. Sort of. There was still a lot of filing and polishing to do when we got home. Obviously not a professional job, but I’ll take pleasure in serving jam from one of my jam pots with my silver jam spoon. For information about Steve’s classes you can contact him here.
Steve Wager, whom I’ve known for several years as a fellow trustee of the Society of Designer Craftsmen, runs classes in his south London workshop for people who’d like to know something about the craft of the silversmith. Just for fun I went to one of his spoon bashes at the weekend, where he taught us how to take a small silver ingot and to beat it into something vaguely resembling a spoon. It was a change from clay, a very different material.
He’s been in the trade for forty years, serving a traditional apprenticeship with Asprey and then working for them for many years before setting up independently. The large piece he’s holding is a loving cup in silver and silver gilt with inlaid jewels, which he talked to us about between our sessions with the planishing hammer and which I persauded him to take out of its box and to show us. It has a maritime theme, with a Neptune and a mermaid. (Price on application to S. E. Wager.)
Steve, with his great skill and experience, has a low opinion of jewellers and silversmiths who can do no more than assemble prefabricated components – he dismisses their work as “modern craft”. On the wall is his very formal admission certificate from the Worshipful Society of Goldsmiths in 1983, acknowledging that he has been apprenticed to a master in the ancient mystery.