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Making of the Mice and Cheese Scoop

Since I have been a Silver Salon Forum member for years now and have had the pleasure of socializing with June and Scott. It was an honor to be asked to make a special scoop forJune and Scott's anniversary. Their good friends, Richard & Cheryl, wanted it to be a cheese scoop because their first silver purchase when the collecting bug hit was a Stilton cheese scoop.

Part of the challenge of a commission is to please the givers and the receivers. In this case the givers are silver experts and collectors of a very discerning sort. I felt happily pushed to a high bar by the silver acumen of both parties, not to just do the ordinary.

Sometimes I am lucky to have a flash of inspiration in the first conversation of the commissioning discussion. This was what happened, the thought of mice on a slice of cheese. When I sat down to start no other idea had come forward that was as appealing and fun. I did not do a finished drawing partly because I do not draw well and partly because the client did not ask for one and lastly because it sometimes works well to let the piece develop as ideas come.

First I carved the cheese out of a solid chunk of wax with holes of different sizes. Next, the cheese was hollowed out and a sprue added, which would become part of the handle. This was sent to the caster and when it came back in silver a "rind" sheet of silver was soldered on. Then the mice were started in wax to be the right scale with the cheese.

When the wax mice were away at the caster I started work on the scoop. I had in stock a thick rod the same diameter of the sprue but had no sheet the right gauge for the scoop end. A quick melt of clean scrap poured into an ingot mold and a bit of rolling it out in a rolling mill gave me the right gauge and size sheet.

Mice back, in silver, now needed to be cleaned up, sprues trimmed, fur re engraved, paws tickled - meaning - adjusted and positioned then drilled. All this in preparation for soldering onto the cheese. The working end needed to be formed, finished and soldered together. Then the mice were put on, the standing one and the one on top at the same time. The standing one had his paws drilled to accept a tiny wire that went through the paws into holes in the cheese and the handle so he would not slip off when the soldering was in progress.

After all the soldering the scoop end and the handle were hammered and bent to shape, to harden the silver so that the scoop would be functional. Lastly the little guy who is stuck in his hole had been cast in two parts after I realized I could make him wiggle in the hole. One of those unplanned improvements he was welded together after the 2 halves were joined from either side. The way I did this has to remain a secret... So says my wife!

The final job was to oxidize and polish.

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