Silver “Fireball” Dinghy

An enthusiastic fireball racing sailor asked if we could clean up his model silver dinghy. He lived nearby and so I asked him to bring it in for an appraisal.

When it arrived it was quite black through many years of tarnish. Not only did it need cleaning (which would involve dismantling it) it also needed protecting from any future tarnish.

Boat 2

One of the best ways of protecting such an intricate piece of silver from tarnishing is to electro-plate the article with Rhodium. The problem with this is that the rigging (running and standing) was fine wire which would be difficult to handle once Rhodium plated. So I chose white gold as the best material for the rigging.

We agreed a price and then I set to work dismantling the dinghy into its main components. It was then sent away for Rhodium plating. Upon return it was re-assembled and re-rigged using the white gold wire.

Boat done1Boat done 3







Result: a nice clean shiny dinghy fully protected from future tarnish.

Another satisfied customer!


Two wounded pieces of Silver

2018 got off to the usual start with some repairs. It is usually claret jugs or decanters before Christmas with people wanting to get their Christmas lunch table ready and everything else comes after. This year was no exception, although the claret jugs were a bit thin on the ground.

The two pieces so far are a worthless Britannia metal bottle frame and a 1930’s five light Corinthian candelabra.

First the Britannia Metal frame:

This is going to cost more to repair than it is worth in economic terms. The owner knows this but still wants it repaired. It is in quite a bad way and is going to take all our skills to repair. The bowls are suffering from metal fatigue which is obvious with the numerous cracks. These cracks will need to be soldered using a very low temperature solder. We will have to make this solder by alloying a high percentage of tin to some lead and rolling it into usable rods. The addition of tin will lower its melting point. Once the piece is all back together again and the cracks repaired the bowls can be gently rounded up.

3 bowl frame

Co-incidentally this item is from a local stately home where I had the pleasure to do some amateur archeological work as a teenager many years ago. The organizer Ken Marshall was undertaking a survey on Essex moated houses some of which had not survived. I and a team of youngsters from the Essex field club were the helpers.

Second the Silver Candelabra:

This is owned by a local freemason’s lodge which has several of them apparently. Being a rather poorly made palladium style piece made in the 1930’s in Sheffield it is not made for the regular use it has received and consequently is in rather poor condition. It has been made down to a budget from stampings and poorly assembled. It mainly needs a new finial making for the centre section. This would have been reasonably straight forward until it fell out of the car which delivered it. It now also has a broken arm as well.


Fortunately the workshop is not too busy at present so a slow and careful start can be made. This is by far the best philosophy with jobs of this nature which can often go from bad to worse if any attempt is made to rush the process.

Two Diana’s – Goddess of Love!

I have been a brasssmith this week. An antique dealer found me via an Internet search probably deciding that a silversmith was the best person to make some missing bits on two figurines that he had bought. In this case it was a bronze of the Greek goddess Diana who standing on one leg on a rock should have been holding a bow aloft. Unfortunately the bow was missing.

Enter the Silversmith. The bow should be in two parts, either side of her hand and held in place by screw threads. Apparently last week he bought another of the same at auction with, would you believe, her bow missing too.

In theory the second bow should be easier to make than the first but who knows I have not seen it yet.

I must say though I do enjoy a challenge!

Silver Adorned Sword Stick

An interesting job came in on Saturday. A nicely made sword stick with a silver feral and knob.

The gentleman who brought it in wanted the badly dented top repaired. Although the feral on the stick carried English hallmarks for 1900, the blade was made in France.

Firstly the knob was gently heated to melt whatever was holding it to the wood. In this case it was a cutlery cement which is largely natural resin based and melts quite easily. The knob came off. Then I melted the remaining amount out to examine more carefully the hollow knob, how it was made, the thickness of the material and made a judgement on the best way to proceed with the repair.

In this case it was reasonably thick but impossible to get any tools inside to push out the dents. I decided to cut the top off, remove the remaining dents and spin a new end cap.

This all worked successfully. It was then just a case of carefully soldering the two components together, fettaling the solder seam and polishing.

Lastly, the knob was refilled with molten cement and the stick end pushed into place. A light repolish and the job is finished.

Hopefully another satisfied customer!!

Repair to a Golfer

Several weeks ago a customer found my JA Campbell silver website. He had a silver-plated golf cup trophy which had a swinging golfer as the finial. This had been broken at the ankles and he had lost his club. The customer phoned and asked if I could perform a repair. Before I committed myself I suggested he get it to us for a visual assessment. When it arrived I found it had been made from a low melting material like lead or antimony and then silver plated. It had been nicely modelled however. Someone had also attempted a repair previously using one of the 2 part epoxy resin glues.

I asked the customer if he could leave it with me for a more detailed inspection and to report back. My best guess was that the metal was antimony. I did some research on Google on how to solder this material, as soldering was going to be the only way to make a successful, neat and strong repair. On this basis I quoted him £80 on the understanding it might not be successful. For me, I like a challenge and he seemed happy to accept the option.

Firstly, every trace of the resin glue had to be removed from the fracture area as this would deter any solder flow. Once the joints were thoroughly clean, the parts, body, legs, ankles and shoes were clamped together in a vice. Bakers fluid flux was introduced into the joint and using a soldering iron tinman’s solder was teased into both sides of the ankle joints. The solder flowed in beautifuly and neatly without any extra damage to the ankle area. After a thorough wash, careful removal of ecess solder followed by a polish of the repair area, the figurine was perfect once again. Probably stronger now than when it was made as the break was probably the result of shrink cracks in the original casting process.

Finally the golfer had to be fitted with a new club. Being silversmiths we do not have any base metal in stock so he now sports a ‘solid silver ‘club!

Mission accomplished, customer delighted. Perhaps he would be interested in a golf decanter to stand alongside his newly refurbished trophy.

Another interesting piece of work for the Silversmith.

Damaged Silver Communion Chalice

An interesting job came in a couple of weeks ago (I like interesting jobs) It was a damaged silver communion chalice from a prison chapel. It was originally made in sterling silver by Vanpoulles Ltd in South London circa 1965 – 1970. Busy, involved in another job at the time, I had a brief look and quoted £150, thinking it would probably take a couple of hours to repair. The quote was approved and when I came to start the repair I realised it had some quite bad creases/folds in the trumpet shaped base. Once metal has been folded (like a sheet of paper) it is difficult to rectify. However, I like a challenge and I always stick to a quote.

The story behind the damage, which was rather extreme, was that it had been stamped on by an individual, flattening both the bowl and the base, it didn’t seem accidental. I had thought that maybe it had been shut in a heavy door or something similar, not just knocked or dropped.

Rising to the challenge, the work commenced. Using various stock tools to gradually open up the flattened parts, followed by making a wooden spinning chuck to fit inside the base and another inside the bowl, I re-spun these 2 components and the creases came out very nicely. Following a re-polish the chalice was like new again. Result – a very satisfied customer. It always gives me a good feeling when a job turns out well, even if the economics are not great. The overall job had taken 5 hours, rather than the 2 hours I originally guesstimated!

Silversmithing to me, is as much a hobby as it is a business.  At 68 years of age, I am as interested today, as when I started my apprenticeship at the age of 15, probably even more so.

It is worth noting that no matter how badly damaged you think a piece maybe, always ask the question of the Silversmith. But make sure you ask a reputable and competent one, as with all industries, cowboys exist! Some people call themselves silversmiths when they are actually the village plumber.

JA Campbell Silversmiths -reliable, reputable and competent.

Confessions of a silversmith – salt grinder problem solved!

Having made many hundreds of salt mills during my career, had a few back for repair, considered writing some good maintenance information but backed off due to the possible complexity of the subject.

Today I found myself, a user, with a clogged up salt mill that was not functioning due to the salt crystals becoming damp at some stage. Having cured the problem relatively easily I now feel able to write the following simple maintenance procedure.

1) Remove salt mill knob and cap and empty salt crystals into the rubbish bin (do not be tempted to reuse)

2) In a glass measuring jug fill to the 1pt level and heat to 60 degrees centigrade. Immerse  mill body, cap and knob fully for a few minutes until remaining salt crystals have dissolved. Holding the grinder spindle and dunking up and down will speed up this process.

3) Remove mill parts from the jug and discard the liquid

4) Repeat 2 and 3

5) Repeat 2 and 3

6) Drain and dry thoroughly inside and out using kitchen paper (cap drains better upside down) and place overnight, upside down on a warm surface covered again with kitchen paper. A central heating boiler or radiator will be adequate. Any hotter will burn or melt the perspex base.

7) Re assemble and polish using Silvo or similar product. Refill with fresh salt crystals.

Important!!!! There must not be and never be any water present in any parts of the mill as this will immediately create a problem and serious damage.

Enjoy the experience of using silver for good food and dining, as we do, everyday.

John Campbell

Master Silversmith

‘More satisfied customers’

One of the services we offer on our website is a replacement crystal/repair service.

Many items in our range are a combination of crystal and sterling silver, for example decanters and vases. Quite often the crystal breaks and hopefully all our customers will have read our ‘in box’ leaflet and know to pick up the phone.

One lady who rang last week was obviously well informed. However her story made me chuckle.

She arrived home to find her housemaid in tears and confessed to having broken the lady’s best and favourite claret jug. She thought she would be in trouble and may lose her job. Luckily the lady was able to reassure her and got straight on the phone to me.

I arranged the repair for her and got a lovely email thanking me for the prompt repair and good service. It is always nice to get a thank you and especially when someone goes to the trouble of putting it in writing.

It was quite a coincidence that the second call I received last week was for exactly the same repair to the same item, another broken claret jug and again I received a very nice email to say thank you and that she would recommend me to her friends.

It was a good week!

Please look on my website and see all the extra services provided – replacement, repair, engraving, gift wrapping…..

 I hope you enjoy browsing – sterling silver- a lifestyle to aspire to

John Campbell

Probably the best production silver salt & pepper mills in the world!

My sterling silver salt and pepper grinders have been designed for modern living and are part of  my ‘Appetite’ collection. 

The salt mill is gold plated inside to prevent any corrosion from salt, they are both fitted with  Peugeot mechanisms and carry a life long guarantee. The pepper grinder has a black enamel spot to distinguish it from its companion which has a white spot. Both are since the summer of 2008, made from Tarnish Resistant silver if purchased from J A Campbell direct. Some retailers may still have the non Tarnish Resistant models in stock.

There is nothing nicer than grinding fresh salt and pepper over your meal with these luxury grinders. I use mine twice a day every day (except when having cornflakes) and take great pleasure in their use. Your friends and relatives will envy you and admire your taste. 

In the last couple of years various styles of antique salt and pepper mills have been sent to me for repair all containing Peugeot mechanisms – but not working properly. After a general clean up and a few new screws these antique mills with their Peugeot mechanisms worked perfectly once more.

Enjoy using silver everyday!

John Campbell

Designer and Master Silversmith