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TITLE
John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (21 of 39)
EXTERNAL ID
GB1796_SINCLAIR_SILVERSMITH_21
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
PERIOD
1970s
CREATOR
John Fraser
SOURCE
Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
ASSET ID
2244
KEYWORDS
jewellery
jewelry
craftsman
craftsmen
metalwork
silversmiths
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 casting techniques. The photograph, courtesy of Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (IMAG), is of one of John Fraser's silver pieces - a Clan Fraser badge with the motto, 'Je Suis Prest' (I Am Ready).

'The easiest one would've been the sand casting and the process there was that you had metal frames - you could call them sort of male and female because they fitted into each other - and then you opened them out. They were square, some of them oblong. They could vary in size depending on what you were casting. If you were casting an object, say, about an inch across, your mould size would only need to be about 2½ [inches] by 2 [inches] and you used a mould in proportion to what you were going to cast. I mean, you could use sand castings right up to something the size of a car wheel but then you'd, you'd be going into what was known as 'foundry practice' then, which is quite different.

But, for our trade, you would use a master pattern, we'll say in silver or lead, and there were a lot of the patterns then in those days were made in lead. It was an easier metal to work in and you could cast it from something that you fancied or that you'd seen somewhere, and then you could remodel it yourself and then you finished up with a master pattern. Well, you would get special sand, it was a bit reddish in colour, and it was supplied by casting foundries - mostly from Birmingham - and it was suitable for casting with silver. Very fine sand. You damped it a bit, you know, you just took lumps of it out in your hand. You had a box with it and you filled the mould up until it was solid and then you opened it up and you had two sections.

Well, you pressed your pattern into the one section, in the centre, and then you closed it, checked it, opened it again, and you took runners off it. The first runner you took was the sprue which was the main one; it went to the top of the flask which had an open area on the top, like that, like a filler. Then you took spreaders out from the casting to let the air out; they were very shallow markings that you took along the sand and you spaced them perhaps three on each side, one at the bottom and then you just delicately, with a pair of pliers or a pair of tweezers, you lifted the pattern out and then you closed it.

You heated your silver up then in a crucible, small round crucible or a - you know, like a - just like a jar. You'd get these from people like Morgans round about Battersea, I think, somewhere in London - I think they were people that supplied a tremendous amount to the jewellery trade over the years - you would fill that up and then you would fill it up with your silver, heat it up, melt it, make it into a liquid form, then you'd put some borax in and some cleaning preparation to clean it. And then you would just pour it in, you know, hold it in a tongs, the flask, or stand it up somewhere, and then just take the crucible in the tongs and turn it up, with a lip on it, and just pour it in until it came up through the top and made a lump, and that's it. Then you opened your job up or you quenched it - you could put it in a bucket of water and quench it to get at it quicker - and you just broke your sand out, your sand would be useless then anyway, and you had a silver casting of the pattern that you'd put in'

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John Fraser, Inverness silversmith (21 of 39)

INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona

1970s

jewellery; jewelry; craftsman; craftsmen; metalwork; silversmiths; 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 casting techniques. The photograph, courtesy of Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (IMAG), is of one of John Fraser's silver pieces - a Clan Fraser badge with the motto, 'Je Suis Prest' (I Am Ready).<br /> <br /> 'The easiest one would've been the sand casting and the process there was that you had metal frames - you could call them sort of male and female because they fitted into each other - and then you opened them out. They were square, some of them oblong. They could vary in size depending on what you were casting. If you were casting an object, say, about an inch across, your mould size would only need to be about 2½ [inches] by 2 [inches] and you used a mould in proportion to what you were going to cast. I mean, you could use sand castings right up to something the size of a car wheel but then you'd, you'd be going into what was known as 'foundry practice' then, which is quite different. <br /> <br /> But, for our trade, you would use a master pattern, we'll say in silver or lead, and there were a lot of the patterns then in those days were made in lead. It was an easier metal to work in and you could cast it from something that you fancied or that you'd seen somewhere, and then you could remodel it yourself and then you finished up with a master pattern. Well, you would get special sand, it was a bit reddish in colour, and it was supplied by casting foundries - mostly from Birmingham - and it was suitable for casting with silver. Very fine sand. You damped it a bit, you know, you just took lumps of it out in your hand. You had a box with it and you filled the mould up until it was solid and then you opened it up and you had two sections. <br /> <br /> Well, you pressed your pattern into the one section, in the centre, and then you closed it, checked it, opened it again, and you took runners off it. The first runner you took was the sprue which was the main one; it went to the top of the flask which had an open area on the top, like that, like a filler. Then you took spreaders out from the casting to let the air out; they were very shallow markings that you took along the sand and you spaced them perhaps three on each side, one at the bottom and then you just delicately, with a pair of pliers or a pair of tweezers, you lifted the pattern out and then you closed it. <br /> <br /> You heated your silver up then in a crucible, small round crucible or a - you know, like a - just like a jar. You'd get these from people like Morgans round about Battersea, I think, somewhere in London - I think they were people that supplied a tremendous amount to the jewellery trade over the years - you would fill that up and then you would fill it up with your silver, heat it up, melt it, make it into a liquid form, then you'd put some borax in and some cleaning preparation to clean it. And then you would just pour it in, you know, hold it in a tongs, the flask, or stand it up somewhere, and then just take the crucible in the tongs and turn it up, with a lip on it, and just pour it in until it came up through the top and made a lump, and that's it. Then you opened your job up or you quenched it - you could put it in a bucket of water and quench it to get at it quicker - and you just broke your sand out, your sand would be useless then anyway, and you had a silver casting of the pattern that you'd put in'