The first mode we shall describe is that of the braziers, or those who work with hammers. The nature of sheet metal is so similar to copper, that the working of itwith the hammer, into various forms, will be very similar to that used by coppersmiths, with the difference of more exact and complete tools, and greater care on account of the value of the metal. Formerly all the different shaped vessels were made with the hammer, which made the price of labour very great. Now, all vessels of simple form, and not of large size, are formed in dies by means of the stamping hammer. This operation is now so general, that some manufacturers employ as many as six or eight of these engine's. The dies are, or ought to be, made of cast steel; but it should be as hard as to weld to iron, so that the iron should not be much below the surface of the die. When the die is placed upon the anvil, and the metal cut into pieces of proper size, the next thing is to surround the top of the die with a paste made with oil and clay, an inch or two above the surface. This cavity is now filled with melted lead.
The under side of the stamping hammer has a flat face of iron fitted into it, about the breadth and length of the die; this is called the licker-up. When the lead becomes solid, the hammer is raised to a certain height and let fall upon it. The under side of the licker-up, from being cut on the surface into teeth in shape like those of a rasp, firmly adheres to the lead, which afterwards rises with the hammer; the metal is now placed over the die, and the hammer, with its lead, made to fall upon it till the impression on the metal is complete. If the vessel to be stamped be of any considerable depth, two or three dies are often used, one larger than another, the last being of the proper size and shape. It sometimes happens that when the vessel has a long conical neck, they are obliged to have recourse to an auxiliary operation called drafting. Cylindrical and conical vessels are mostly formed by bending and soldering. The bending is performed on blocks of wood with wooden hammers, to avoid injuring the plated surface.
Vessels intended to have other forms are generally soldered up in a conical or cylindrical form, according as the width at the top and bottom of the vessel varies. The metal is so malleable, even in the soldered part, that a skilfu. workman can give almost any form to a vessel with the hammer. Mouldings are sometimes formed upon the edges of vessels, which serve to give much (Strength and stiffness, as well as being ornamental. In forming substances which have a massive appearance, such as the feet of tea-urns, the handles of vessels, and plated table-spoons, no other metal is employed but the sheet. The mass is formed of two shells, which, when put together, form an apparent solid. Each of the concave parts is first filled with soft solder, they are then fitted accurately together, and heat applied till the mass fuses, so that the apparently massive article consists of a shell of plated metal filled with soft solder. Bulky ornaments in the form of shells and flowers are frequently put on in this way; some in silver: these have a similar massive appearance to, and strongly imitate, real plate.
All goods formed by hand with the hammer require great labour in finishing; for, after hammering the vessel into the proper shape, the marks of the hammer appear like so many flat places, but these are removed from the outside of the vessel to the inside, when the inside is concealed, as in tea-urns: this is effected by covering either the anvil or the hammer with a piece of the stuff called everlasting. The roughness is transferred to that surface in contact with the everlasting. In hammering plated metal from time to time, it requires to be annealed by heating it red-hot; this discolours both the silver and the copper. These are cleaned by boiling in dilute sulphuric acid, and scouring with Calais sand. The sulphuric acid to the water is in very small proportion. If the silver begins to appear black by boiling, the acid is too much, and must be watered. When the vessels are finished in every respect by the maker, and the surface free from oxide, it frequently happens that bits of rosin used with soft solder adhere to it; this is removed by boiling in a weak solution of pearl ashes: the same is also used for cleaning the surface of tinned copper.
The second mode of operation we shall describe is the candlestick-making. In this branch of the business there is great Variety. In the commencement of this trade, the object was chiefly to imitate those made of silver, and it began with the prevailing taste of imitating the different orders of architecture. The numerous points and prominences thus introduced were ill fitted for plated metal, as in a very little time their silver disappeared, which gave them the most shabby appearance possible. This obliged the manufacturers to make them more plain and simple, and it was not till the discovery of the silver edges that candlesticks of plated metal began to gain respect in the world of luxury and fashion. The stems of candlesticks have been made square; some with sharp, others with rounded corners; others oval, but the greatest number with round stems, which appear to be the most consistent and the most permanent. Of these, the patent telescope candlestick has had the greatest run: this consists in the cylindrical part lengthening and shortening at pleasure, by one tube sliding into the other. The feet of candlesticks, or the base, are generally made in a die by the stamp. The neck, which is sometimes small in one part, is also stamped.
The dish part of the nozzle or socket is made in a die, and the tube part in the same way as the cylindrical pillar. These, for the sake of neatness and expedition, are generally drawn by the wire-drawing machine, whether for sliding or not. The prominent moulding and beads are generally of silver. The different parts are soldered together, some parts with hard, and others with soft solder. The branches of candlesticks are formed in two halves, like the tea-urn feet, etc.
Lastly, in forming such articles as are made of wire, such as bread-baskets, toast-racks, and castors, the wire is bent into the given form with a wooden block and a mallet. When pieces require to be soldered together, the joinings must be accurately fitted, in order to prevent the copper from appearing. In these cases hard solder is employed. This branch of plated manufacture admits of extensive application, wires being capable of a great variety of positions.
When the different plated goods come out of the hands of the workmen, the metal, although clean, is of a dull white colour, possessing no polish whatever
This last finish is called burnishing, and is generally performed by females, in a distinct set of apartments. The burnishing tools are generally made of bloodstone, and some of hardened steel finely polished; the latter are to burnish the minute parts which cannot be touched by the blood-stone, which are employed chiefly for the greater and uninterrupted parts. The bits of blood-stone are let into little cases, made of sheet iron, and then finely polished. The burnishers, if used dry, would adhere to the silver in some places, and would scratch instead of giving the fine polish: this is obviated by frequently dipping the burnishing tool into a solution of white soap. After being burnished they are raised, and lastly wiped with clean sheep's leather.