Silver Wine Funnels – tricky! you can say that again

Having written earlier in the week about making the ‘difficult’ part of a sterling silver wine funnel I must now repeat the above -‘tricky you can say that again!’

In the making of a batch of 6 the forming of the tapered tubes (seam method) with their decorative lines and rolls was quiet straightforward. Now the tricky bit. The cautious bending of the first one was reasonably successful apart from the fact that 1) a tiny split at the mouth which repaired successfully and 2) not enough bend. On the second one the split was worse with the same insufficient bend. It was time for a rethink!!

I decided to visit my friend and mentor Lew Marlow who has advised, inspired and guided me at many times in my career. Lew makes a wine funnel at his company Marlow Brothers in London. His funnel has a similar tapered bent tube presenting the same problem which he has mastered.

To be continued……

 My silver wine funnel has a matching silver tray.

Silver Wine funnels – A tricky job today!!!!

Last Friday and thank goodness for a quiet day as I have got to make a batch of silver wine funnels. The job itself is relatively easy apart from the bending of the tapered tube – the bottom component which sends the wine down the side of the decanter causing the minimum of froth or bubbles.

The main problem is the batch sizes. We only make around 6 at any one time. This usually lasts for 6 months or so (quite enough stock to hold) If we made batches of 600 it would be worth spending the time to research and develop tools accordingly to make the job easy and quick. The actual problem is that the bend in the tapered tube is at the very end of the tube making it difficult to get hold of. As with all tube bending, tube kinks and folds at the point of bend. There are several ways of preventing this. Filling the tube with various materials such as sand or low melting zinc alloys which can be emptied out after the bend has been completed.The problem with this is the closeness to the end. Tube bend rolling wheels would be the answer except this is not a parallel tube , it is a taper and set diameter wheels would not cope with this.

No its back to the same method as before, a series of bent rods inserted in the end coupled with a tapered bending spring (which I have made from piano wire) on which to planish out the kinks as they start to form. The rest of the job which entails the spring remaining as taught as possible.

This will be enough skill stretching for one day, then its off home for a bottle of Muscadet, followed by poached haddock and parsley sauce accompanied by peas and mashed potatoes – a regular Friday night treat.

Remember one of my last blogs -too decant or not to decant white wine?

John Campbell

Master Silversmith 

Reorganising the Silversmith workshop

After 5 years now in our new ‘rural’ workshop location in Brentwood, Essex it was time for a minor workshop reorganisation. Sometimes you need to live with a situation for a while to know what is best.

It all started with bringing a new bench into position. This had been stored following the closure of my son Paul’s casting workshop some years ago. It was a good quality one and could not just be put in the skip. Landfill is not my way of thinking as those of you who read my blogs will know by now!

To continue, as it tuned out various existing benches had to be moved to new positions to make the best possible use of the space. It was plan A, plan B, plan C………….  We got there eventually.In the process, of course, it was clean as you go, this meant a lot of silver grindings and filings were found behind and underneath things and all placed in the appropriate containers for re cycling.

The new layout has made the walkway between the office, polishing shop, silversmith workshop and spinning shop easier to navigate. It also made it easy to find everything again!!!!

Silversmiths have to turn their hand to many things in the course of the working week, not just making silver tableware.

John Campbell

Upgrade your cuppa?

One of the best kept secrets of modern times (for those who enjoy tea) is the existence of leaf tea as opposed to tea bags.

As a manufacturer of amongst other things a selection of silver tea strainers I have a vested interest in leaf tea. So it came as a surprise to me when in the 80’s the tea bag started to become popular.

I thought this silly idea will never catch on, the paper must spoil the flavour of the tea, plus you have to open the cupboard door and waste bin to put the used bag into as opposed to flushing a few leaves down the sink. Personally I do not do even do that as I put mine into the compost heap and let it go back to nature rather than into landfill.

I have to confess though that I do use teabags myself at work, the reason – some staff are not very good at making tea!

Enough of the negative stuff, leaf tea does make a far superior cuppa, is environmentally better, and more economical which helps to save hard earned cash for more important things. Would you believe I am going to suggest buying a silver tea strainer! But before that read on ………

Some years ago a Swiss retailer ordered a batch of sterling silver tea strainers. After he had received them he telephoned me and said with a German Swiss accent – “Mr Campbell, the water will not pass through your strainers”, he continued, “do you think Swiss water is thicker than English water?”

I apologised, said I would look into it and get back to him. I still had some of the same batch in stock so I placed one over a cup and poured water from the tap into the strainer. Sure enough he was right and the cold water sat in the strainer without passing through the numerous holes. Next I made a pot of tea and tried that. Amazingly the tea passed through normally as you would expect leaving the tea leaves trapped in the strainer.

It would appear that the hot liquid has  a different viscosity than cold water. However to be certain to please the customer I drilled slightly larger holes .

Another strange phenomenon which has had some press coverage recently is the fact that hot water freezes quicker than cold water. Put 2 ice cube trays in the freezer, one filled with hot water and one filled with cold water and the one with hot freezes first. There have been many suggestions but no definitive answer as yet that I have heard – interesting!

 A sterling silver tea strainer – the perfect present

John Campbell

To decant or not to decant?

As a silversmith one of my most popular ranges consists of a selection of crystal decanters, each with a silver collar.

There are a range of different shapes and sizes, some more suitable for red wine some for white. I am often asked should we decant white wine or only red? I am no expert but have been led to believe that red should always be decanted and it is down to personal choice on white wine.

This leads me to think of our business trips to Germany where we always try and spend an extra day or two preferably over a weekend. This gives time to relax and have a bike ride along the river Ruhr and stock up on local Riesling to bring home with us. The riverside cycle paths are excellent with local cafes along the way. The Germans are very fussy consumers and everything has to be just right (I quite agree with them!) and we know the wine we buy locally there will be of a much higher quality than what they export. So it makes it ideal to buy from this area.

It is also very interesting from a cultural point of view with a rich industrial heritage and plenty of things to do and see in the area. I hope you get the chance to visit as I do. My first time was as an exchange with another pupil when I was about 12 years old, quite an adventure at that time in the mid 1950’s and not knowing a word of German. After a month I was doing pretty well. Good memories.

Back to the silversmith workshop for another successful day. Choose a silver & crystal decanter.

John Campbell 

Silver Corporate Gifts

Often individuals, when given the task to buy a corporate gift or prize, forget silver. Maybe they believe it would be outside their budget, but not necessarily.

What has the best ‘wow’ factor when that box is opened. The gleaming silver trophy or the glass bowl?

Just look at the players faces and those at the award ceremony. Pleased with their win they are then delighted with the trophy. The same can be said about the retiring chairman.

If you have been given this task then look no further as JA Campbell Silversmiths have a range of products that would suit all the above occasions and more!

John Campbell

Golden Wedding – Silver Jug – 1948 -1998

I received a silver and crystal claret jug back into our workshop last week. It was quite refreshing to see that it had been bought as a gift for a golden wedding.

In today’s sometimes depressing society of broken marriages, broken families and promises it was like a breath of fresh air.

This jug had been returned by the retailer on behalf of the owners and it had a broken crystal body. We were able fit a new crystal body and we sent it back the following day.

The ‘breath of fresh air’ I mentioned earlier was the fact that this couple, Andrew and Belinda had been married for 50 years. The jug had engraved on the neck –50 Golden years Andrew & Belinda 1948 – 1998. What a lovely memento and heirloom to be treasured by their family.

I am sure they were very upset by the breakage but will be delighted to have their precious memento returned as good as new.

A satisfying day all round

John Campbell

Master Silversmith