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TITLE
John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (14 of 39)
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_SILVERSMITH_14
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
PERIOD
1970s
CREATOR
John Fraser
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
2235
KEYWORDS
jewellery
jewelry
craftsman
craftsmen
metalwork
silversmiths
annealing
audio

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John Fraser, an Inverness silversmith, served his apprenticeship in the 1930s with Medlock and Craik, watchmakers and jewellers at 6 Bridge Street, Inverness. The firm later had premises in Exchange Place, and Queensgate.

In this audio extract from the 1970s, Mr Fraser recalls the technique of 'drawing' silver wire. The photograph, courtesy of Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (IMAG), is of one of John Fraser's pieces - a Clan Sinclair chieftain's badge with the motto, 'Semper Credens'.

'Say, for instance, you were making round wire and you wanted a quantity for a number of different jobs and you wanted some spare wire, well, you'd use a billet - we'll say perhaps of five or six ounces - and you would turn that into a round piece of wire, but heavy, thick wire, possibly half an inch across, and you'd beat that out and try and beat it down until you got it a bit thinner than that. And then you would point it and you'd put it through a very big draw plate, and you would need to have a bench for it, you know, with a wheel at the end and a big strap, leather strap, with fittings, from the wheel, up beyond two steel pillars which you put the plate behind. And then you would put your wire through the plate and grease it or put that candle grease on it and make sure it was well lubricated and that it was also soft - you would anneal it and soften it up.

Then you would put a big heavy iron pliers that was at the end of, the other end of the strap, and you would clamp it onto the point of the silver and then you would grab a hold of the wheel at the other end of it which had, I think, it was four or six spokes and you would just - at arm's length - and you would just pull that around until you got the clamps to tighten onto it and once it was tight enough you could leave it, without putting your hands on it, go to the wheel and start turning the wheel and putting the strain on it and pull it through. The thing you had to be careful about it was that you put it through each hole in turn, even if it was quite easy, the second hole, and the third hole. You never jumped the gun, you know, and put it - Because if you did, what you would find then is you got halfway through and it didn't matter how much strength you had, you couldn't get it any further and you couldn't take it back, you know, and you would spend quite a considerable time trying to push it, bash it and do everything else to try and get it through or get it back.

If it was thick like that, and you were putting a fair bit of pressure on it, you would take it perhaps six or seven holes and then you would anneal it. In other words, you would put it on a bench, on top of asbestos or steel mesh wire, and you would heat it up to blood red, almost, and let it cool off on its own - you wouldn't quench it - and then you'd do the same process again. And then you could actually cut off the wire as it was - By this time, I mean, it would becoming much longer and longer and eventually you'd have to take it off the draw bench when it got thinner, you see, you could do it by hand. Cos you'd have to walk all the way back the full length of the workshop with it. You see, it would be stretching and the billet that you started off with it, that was perhaps seven or eight inches long, it might be twenty feet now'

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John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (14 of 39)

INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona

1970s

jewellery; jewelry; craftsman; craftsmen; metalwork; silversmiths; annealing; audio

Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

Bill Sinclair Audio: John Fraser, Silversmith

John Fraser, an Inverness silversmith, served his apprenticeship in the 1930s with Medlock and Craik, watchmakers and jewellers at 6 Bridge Street, Inverness. The firm later had premises in Exchange Place, and Queensgate. <br /> <br /> In this audio extract from the 1970s, Mr Fraser recalls the technique of 'drawing' silver wire. The photograph, courtesy of Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (IMAG), is of one of John Fraser's pieces - a Clan Sinclair chieftain's badge with the motto, 'Semper Credens'.<br /> <br /> 'Say, for instance, you were making round wire and you wanted a quantity for a number of different jobs and you wanted some spare wire, well, you'd use a billet - we'll say perhaps of five or six ounces - and you would turn that into a round piece of wire, but heavy, thick wire, possibly half an inch across, and you'd beat that out and try and beat it down until you got it a bit thinner than that. And then you would point it and you'd put it through a very big draw plate, and you would need to have a bench for it, you know, with a wheel at the end and a big strap, leather strap, with fittings, from the wheel, up beyond two steel pillars which you put the plate behind. And then you would put your wire through the plate and grease it or put that candle grease on it and make sure it was well lubricated and that it was also soft - you would anneal it and soften it up. <br /> <br /> Then you would put a big heavy iron pliers that was at the end of, the other end of the strap, and you would clamp it onto the point of the silver and then you would grab a hold of the wheel at the other end of it which had, I think, it was four or six spokes and you would just - at arm's length - and you would just pull that around until you got the clamps to tighten onto it and once it was tight enough you could leave it, without putting your hands on it, go to the wheel and start turning the wheel and putting the strain on it and pull it through. The thing you had to be careful about it was that you put it through each hole in turn, even if it was quite easy, the second hole, and the third hole. You never jumped the gun, you know, and put it - Because if you did, what you would find then is you got halfway through and it didn't matter how much strength you had, you couldn't get it any further and you couldn't take it back, you know, and you would spend quite a considerable time trying to push it, bash it and do everything else to try and get it through or get it back. <br /> <br /> If it was thick like that, and you were putting a fair bit of pressure on it, you would take it perhaps six or seven holes and then you would anneal it. In other words, you would put it on a bench, on top of asbestos or steel mesh wire, and you would heat it up to blood red, almost, and let it cool off on its own - you wouldn't quench it - and then you'd do the same process again. And then you could actually cut off the wire as it was - By this time, I mean, it would becoming much longer and longer and eventually you'd have to take it off the draw bench when it got thinner, you see, you could do it by hand. Cos you'd have to walk all the way back the full length of the workshop with it. You see, it would be stretching and the billet that you started off with it, that was perhaps seven or eight inches long, it might be twenty feet now'