Pewter Figure-Top Spoon

Pewter Figure-Top Spoon

I saw this spoon while randomly browsing the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website and decided that clearly I must have a lady-topped spoon.  Except instead of a little slash n’ puff German lady, I wanted a little Italian lady on mine!

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

Figure-top spoon, early 16th Century. Made of pewter, from German (Rhine Province) (?), 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm) long.

Isn’t she a cutie? And it’s nice to see a semi fancy spoon made of pewter, since many of the nicer ones are made of silver. Larsdatter has a good list of many spoons, and while there are a few with vaguely head shaped ends, or a few examples of apostle spoons (full body, simple detail), this spoon is the only clearly female example I have seen, except for this very fanciful design drawing of two spoons and a fork and this Mary Spoon.

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

Figure-top spoon (detail), early 16th Century. Made of pewter, from German (Rhine Province) (?), 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm) long.

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

I printed out a copy of the Met spoon (nearly true to size, it’s a smidge bigger) and started sketching out Italian versions.  I like the middle one most, so I’ll go ahead with that one.

With my inspiration set, I went to go buy soapstone from a local craft supply store. I found one that looked fairly rectangular and quartz-free. Unfortunaetly, I didn’t get any pictures of the cutting process, but here’s a little drawing instead:

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

  1. Get your stone mostly rectangular!  Pick where to cut the stone, remember to leave enough room for the concave bowl.
  2. Once the top and bottom have been separated, you need to start cutting away excess material from around the bowl.  I used a bandsaw, but a bowsaw would have been the more period option.
  3. Sand the bottom until you have a completely smooth surface.  The top is roughly bowl shaped, but the corners of the bowl need to be smoothed away with files and sandpaper
  4. Carve out the concave bowl on the bottom, and start working on the handle, but I’d suggest only carving the handle on one side until you finish step 5.
  5. Keep shaping the convex and concave parts of the bowl until the two halves fit together cleanly.  Once you are happy with the bowl’s depth, you can drill the register pins and start doing some test pewter pours.
  6. There will be a lot of time spent in step six, getting the mold refined until your spoon pours fully.  If you are having trouble, consider one of our Pewter Guild’s adages “Bigger sprue, more venting!”

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

As I said before, my print out is a little bigger than the original, but my mold isn’t.  See those little white marks along the handle, and around the figure?  Those are from taking a drawn paper mockup (carefully measured to be the correct size) and poking through the paper into the mold with a sharp tool.  It will leave little white pinpricks on the soapstone surface as your guide for carving.

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

Every mold requires adjustment.  I started to carve the back of my little spoon lady, and used a kneaded eraser to check what she looked like as I went.  Here her arms are still far too thin, and her head isn’t well defined.

 

 

I was changing the mold little by little, but to experiment with how I wanted the final result to look (without carving it into the mold and possibly permanently messing the mold up) I added bits of eraser to one of the impressions until I had an idea how where I wanted to take the mold next.

 

You can sort of see how my guide on the right influenced my carving impression on the left.

 

 

 

 

 

My mold has reached step six.  Time to start pouring!

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

In between each of these, I carved away a little more, sometimes from the convex side of the bowl, sometimes from the concave.

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.comThen I had most of a spoon!  At this point, the front of the lady needed a little more refinement and the bowl needs more work, but it’s getting close!

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

Now the spoon is casting fully. It isnt exactly smooth just yet, but it gets a little better.

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

The spoon still isn’t quite how I want it yet! But with another Dirty Dozen Donation Derby  on the way, I had to settle with what I had for now.  Above is 24 spoons, 12 for largesse and 12 for my friend Maddy’s pewter demo booth.  That is probably the most I will ever have done  at one time: this picture represents about 18 hours of work, not including any carving time!

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

Such a pretty basket! I have lofty dreams of someday being a peddler style merchant at events and this basket of spoons would be a cute addition.

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com
Here’s a close up of the little lady as she currently stands. I think I’d like to make her ruff a little more distinct and her hair and arms a bit bigger. The original spoon has facial details but I think I might be too chicken to mess with her face.

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com
I love the back! I might fuss a bit more with the skirt pleats though.

16th century, Pewter Figure-Top Spoon, at MorganDonner.com

This is part of the reason I was keen on the little shield: I can paint them!  Since I didn’t know who these would go to, I just painted them all a single color, but I look forward to painting super wee versions of heraldry in that spot :D

DSC_9825 (640x412)

Little blue lady! I might consider adding a line on the mold to create a natural stopping point for future painting projects.

Edit: I have had a few people express interest in buying spoons. In a few months, they will be availible on a local (to me) website geared towards reenactors, but until then, here is my newly made Etsy store.

I try to post my projects in an easy to read, dress diary type format. When I first started learning to sew historical outfits, I found dress diaries to be the most helpful learning tools. I want to contribute my projects in the hopes that they will prove just as useful for others.

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