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Author Topic:   Decorative Swages
swarter
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iconnumber posted 03-21-2008 10:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
[19-0902]

Here is a set of swages for applying a Sheaf of Wheat design to silver. There are three sizes which might have been used for three sizes of spoons. They are cut into steel cylinders 27-30mm in height, and 30 (1) and 40mm (2) in diameter. Early designs were swaged onto the back of spoon bowls, and later onto the tops of handles.

There is no guarantee that these were used in the United States, but they may have been, although I have not seen an example from these swages. If anyone has an example, it might tell us who might have used these. Similar designs have been used, and a few examples are shown below, along with an enlargement of one of these swages.:

A is on a swage; B a design used by William Haverstick (Sr. or Jr.) on Lancaster, PA, before 1820 on the backs of bowls; C and D on handles in the 1830's by New York silversmiths George S. Gelston and Jordan Mott. The earlier designs are tied in bundles by knotted ropes, and the later ones include a scythe in the design. The Gelston spoon also has a shell design swaged onto the bowl back.

The Sheaf of Wheat is a classical but uncommon design; baskets of flowers are more often found, and various forms of shell are the most frequently encountered both on bowls and handles. Bowl back designs also include birdbacks (common only in the Mid-Atlantic region), scrolls, and other rare "picture-backs."

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agleopar

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iconnumber posted 03-22-2008 01:17 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for agleopar     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Swarter, if these are in your keeping why not strike a sample of one? It would be simple and safe to do (no harm to the die) and then you would have a positive image that would show it off and let you see any wear to the die.

I'll go a step more and suggest have a spoon made (I do not think copy right is an issue)?!

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Brent

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iconnumber posted 03-24-2008 10:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Neat to see some real swages! The nice rounded tops make me think of those incorporated into a milled band by one of the New York manufacturers. Do you have an example of the band I am talking about? I'm not sure if it is in the milled band glossary or not. Anyway, it looks like one from that band.

I have a set of George Haverstick spoons with a wheat back, which are presumably from the same swage used by William.

Brent

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seaduck

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iconnumber posted 03-25-2008 10:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for seaduck     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Swarter -- I wonder if this isn't a device that is more common in some areas than others. The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA recently had an excellent exhibition on Samuel McIntire, the noted Salem architect and carver. One of his frequently used motifs was the sheath of wheat -- and I suspect that led to its use in various media in the Boston/North Shore area.

The catalogue for the exhibition (quite wonderful, written by its curator, Dean Lahikainen) includes some background on the motif. According to the catalogue, it is, as you say, a classical device, associated with Demeter/Ceres, and tied to images associated with the Federal period and with English pastoralism. But it seems to have acquired additional meaning in the new republic -- as a 'symbol of the nation's bounty.' Lahikainen also notes that the symbol was promoted by the growth of a new class of wealthy gentlemen farmers, many of whom were involved in efforts to encourage grain production. The motif was popular in furniture, architectural ornament, even women's headresses. And I know I've seen it on many spoons. Apparently McIntire first used it (emphasizing here-- in wood, not silver!) in 1800.

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FWG

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iconnumber posted 03-25-2008 01:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FWG     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
See also the mystery set I posted back in 2006 for a different variation on the theme.

I am struck by these swages specific design (no pun intended!): I can't remember seeing in silver the nice neat highly symmetrical mushroomy form with the bow tied in front. Reminds me more of bread loaf molds I've seen, although obviously that's not what these are.

I'm with agleopar, I wouldn't be able to resist having them struck in silver. I've always wondered, though: when applying a relatively high-relief swage like these, would the piece be forged first to leave a thick area to strike? And I imagine annealing would be the last step before applying the swage?

[This message has been edited by FWG (edited 03-25-2008).]

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 03-25-2008 02:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have wondered about the high relief of some swages myself - obviously a finished spoon could not be used because the silver is too thin. I cannot answer the questions about manufacture - perhaps one of our silversmith members coud weigh in.

The commonest designs (shell, basket of flowers, sheaf of wheat) are supposed to have religious/biblical significance, and so could be used anywhere, but others like the birdbacks (doves and eagles) have political/patriotic significance, and so could be more local, occurring with greatest frequence about the nation's first capital (the "Cradle of Liberty"). The dove also has biblical connotations, but in this case symbolizes the coming of peace, and the American Eagle symbolizes independence, both occuring for a short period only after the Revolution.

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FredZ

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iconnumber posted 03-25-2008 05:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I suspect that these dies were not used for spoons and were probably used to press the design into metal and the outer metal would be removed.
The courseness of the background would have left the circular pattern on the spoon. I saw these go up for auction a while ago. Perhaps they were used to make applied ornaments.
They may have even been used to press into plastic or some other material. Alot would depend on the hardness of the dies.

Fred

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 03-25-2008 10:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by FredZ:
I suspect that these dies were not used for spoons and were probably used to press the design into metal and the outer metal would be removed.
Perhaps they were used to make applied ornaments.
A lot would depend on the hardness of the dies.

Fred


You may be right - they are pretty deep. There was a period when devices like these were applied to spoons in Europe, although I was under the impression that they were cast. I think there was a thread in which Blakstone mentioned this. I have an example which I will try to photograph in a few days.

The steel seems pretty hard - there are no scratches or dents to be seen.

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agleopar

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iconnumber posted 03-26-2008 03:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for agleopar     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
FredZ (as usual) is probably right that these were used for something that was trimmed after being struck. Still it would be fun to make a spoon with one! FWG (right too) you would leave a thick spot at the end of the handle when forging it and the spoon would be annealed before striking it into the die.

I would be happy to make one, gratis, as an experiment. It would take about an hour for a tea spoon.

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 03-26-2008 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here is a European spoon with applied (soldered) ornaments as mentioned above. Exact age and origin is unknown (initials in the mark are BIG, struck twice).

Agleopar, thanks for the offer - I may take you up on it.

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agleopar

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iconnumber posted 03-27-2008 07:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for agleopar     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Any time, it would be interesting for me because I only use tips, drops and carved handle ends for decoration on my spoons.

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FredZ

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iconnumber posted 03-27-2008 03:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FredZ     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
agleopard,

Is the blow you make for the impression with a hand held hammer or drop hammer? If hand hammered, What precautions are made to avoid chatter?

Fred

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Brent

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iconnumber posted 03-27-2008 04:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Brent     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Here is a sheaf of wheat swaged handle on a spoon marked S. BROWN, for Samuel Brown, also of New York. I think it is slightly different from "C" above, but may just be worn down.

Brent

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agleopar

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iconnumber posted 03-28-2008 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for agleopar     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
FredZ, I strike my tips and drops by hand and still, sometimes, have to reregister them after the initial exploratory strike. I have had a screw press for 15 years but have never used it as all my spoons are one offs (nobody has ever asked for a canteen after I quote them!) and I am not mechanically inclined and so have never set it up.

I am moving my workshop and perhaps I should sell it so I do not have to move it.... When I bought it at an auction of a jewelry school in Providence, RI I thought it would be useful some day to knock out small decorative items like Swarters die. But that is not my style and that sort of job has never come along from a customer.

Brent your spoon has small differences beside the wear and this makes me think that it would be fun to collect images of swaged elements, wheat sheaf’s, basket of flowers, shells, birds, etc. as in the swaged band thread.

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ahwt

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iconnumber posted 03-28-2008 08:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
John McGrew published an article in the March/April 1989 issue of Silver Magazine entitled "Basket of Flowers: Preliminary Study". It is an interesting study showing many of the various patterns used for this decoration.

I saw, but unfortunately did not keep a picture of a spoon from the third quarter of the 19th century that was very similar to the American basket of flowers design. Whether the American silversmiths copied their design from the die used on this spoon or from some other source I do not know. This spoon, as I recall, was from a northern European country.

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cbc58

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iconnumber posted 04-23-2019 06:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cbc58     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I recently acquired a spoon with a Shafts of Wheat embellishment on the handle and have been trying to figure out exactly what the process was to get it there. It is somewhat similar to the one marked "D" above and it seems like there is a fair amount of silver in the raised design.

I can see where the die is placed over or under the handle and then one or the other struck - but is that all there is to it? Or is there planning involved where the silversmith works some extra thickness into the handle in preparation of adding the design and then puts it on and then takes time to finish off around it. On my spoon there is no hint of any depression on the back or any hint of any die marks other than the design on top. There is an ever-so-slight thinness to the handle where the design is - but it is barely noticeable unless you think about it.

I also see that they put this design on the backs of bowls of spoons. Would this go on (maybe the same for birdbacks) when flat and then the bowl formed? If it goes on when the bowl is already formed - how did they do that so as not to have any corresponding marks or registrations on the other side of the bowl?

Tks in advance.


[This message has been edited by cbc58 (edited 04-23-2019).]

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asheland

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iconnumber posted 04-24-2019 10:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asheland     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Go to 1:50 in this video, it shows how it's done with the Swage. Unless I'm mistaken, the design is in the bowl shaped die and the drop hammer mashes the design and shapes the bowl all at the same time.

agleopar, is that correct?


See Video

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agleopar

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iconnumber posted 05-25-2019 12:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for agleopar     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ashland, yes basically. Although the video above is the process of sinking the bowl, not impressing the basket of flowers. The same drop press would be used when the spoon is forged out but still flat, to strike the basket of flowers. If it was on the bowl then the spoon would be annealed after the strike and then the bowl shaped as seen in the video. The tin/lead bowl die would not disturb the basket of flowers because it is so soft. After sinking the bowl would again be hard.

If the basket of flowers was struck on the handle nothing further would be done after except minor curving and finishing to the now hardened handle.

Swarter should jump in here because these are his dies and he did send them to me... if I remember rightly, after my usual procrastination I made a spoon and tried to hand hammer the silver into the basket of flowers die.

I failed miserably! Lesson learned:

1) The dies would need the mechanical force and alignment of a drop press, kick press or hydraulic press.

2) The dies were very deep and may not have been intended for spoons but appliqué (struck, cut out and soldered on to something - holloware or perhaps a large spoon)...

3) Don’t procrastinate, except I think when I got the dies I realized that it would not work, something that was not apparent from the images. Partly because there was no good way to hold them when striking them and partly because of the depth. I was embarrassed that I’d fail as I did!
If Swarter still has the spoon he might post it as a lesson and contrast to how to do it right. I would not mind at all but I would not blame him if he had quickly scrapped them!

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asheland

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iconnumber posted 05-28-2019 10:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for asheland     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very interesting, agleopar! Thank you for the information. smile

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