Monday, March 1, 2010

Casting Pewter Spoons: Part II

The Farmers’ Museum is also the home to the Cooperstown Graduate Program in History Museum Studies.  This is associated with the State University of New York at Oneonta.  Recently the students came to the Blacksmith Shop to learn how to cast pewter.

An important part of metal working, particularly casting, is to use the appropriate safety equipment.  Required equipment is proper clothing, eye protection, gloves, and an apron.  We also have additional equipment such as full-face shields.  Here is part of the class modeling their safety glasses and goggles!

The students worked in teams with a Blacksmith “assistant” tending the fire.  This workshop is one of many they will undertake to familiarize themselves with the methods and results of traditional craft.  The molten pewter is poured into the mold and then removed after it cools.  The new spoon is then examined for flaws, voids, or other imperfections.

If the spoon meets the initial inspection it is then taken to the workbench or vice.  There the flashing is filed away and the spoon smoothed and polished.  The students worked hard and most made several pours to get a spoon that met their standards.  Then they worked to finish and customize their spoons.  I appreciated their good humor and hard work.

Of course in a class like this the pewter spoons are just the byproduct of the larger mission.  The real lessons were about working with artisans, the nature of craft, dealing with failure and trying to succeed when some variables are beyond your control.  A perfect spoon requires a flawless mold, clean metal at the perfect temperature, steady hands, and a perfect pour of molten metal into the mold.  It is important to strive for perfection while accepting that you may not get there.  These are lessons to augment those from their academic studies. 

I can’t resist ending with a cryptic quote from the movie The Matrix:
“Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.  What truth?  There is no spoon. Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”


  1. Thanks so much Steve for working with us to make spoons, especially those of us who needed multiple times to get a spoon right.


  2. Wonderful to see the skills being taught and appreciated.

  3. Going safe with safety glasses!

    Working with metal sheets is very dangerous to the eyes, that’s why we need to protect our delicate precious eyes.

    Uncle John a retired military still practices shooting every weekend. And he always wears his Wiley safety glasses to protect his eyes from ballistic blast. he always go out in the range with his buddy Dave who wears Wiley X. Prescription safety glasses keep their eyesight’s firm and direct to the target.


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