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Before & After
Gorham Sterling Match Safe

 



Restoration on this 19th century Gorham match safe started with this steel burnisher. This isn't a specialized silversmithing tool – it's a modified and polished mason's jointer.

Positioned for burnishing.

I apply pressure on both sides of the safe's body, raising the dent.

Reforming the cover.

I used a chasing tool to remove a cover dent.

The dent was removed by pushing the cover down on the tool, rubbing it back and forth, raising the metal. Lighting is very important, especially in this area of the workshop. The four-foot florescent tubes overhead give me a perfectly straight reflection, highlighting any imperfections appearing on the object I'm working on.

The most tedious repair on this safe was closing the seam (or joint). The first order of business was to open the seam to remove any solder. Ultra-fine 0000 steel wool was used inside to remove any grime around the seam, making the surface smooth for burnishing.

This is another modified burnisher. Metal burnishers are generally highly polished to allow their surfaces to glide smoothly along the object. Burnishing is the least invasive technique in removing dents. Virtually any material can be used as a burnisher, including stone, plastic, and wood, providing its surface is smooth. I have even ground down and polished steel files for this purpose!

I'm wearing a 2.5-power magnifier from this point on in the safe's restoration process. Here I'm raising the seam with the burnisher past its normal state, opening the joint for greater access when I scrape the seam walls.

This modified dental tool has a narrow triangular scraper on its end. It is used to remove all solder in the joint so the filler wire will be welded to the clean sterling. Pulse arc and laser technologies will not fuse successfully to solder that previously melted. The filler metal will combine with the existing solder and produce a grainy alloy with a color that doesn't match the surrounding material.

Cleaning around the seam with a fine glass brush will aid in successfully filling the joint.

The joint is now tapped closed using a rawhide mallet. The left and right side of the seam are aligned to the same height. There still exists a very slight taper from the bottom of the seam to the top, which will enable me to deposit sterling filler wire.

Here, a pulse arc welder is used to close the seam. This technology allowed me to use .005"-.010" diameter sterling wire on this repair as opposed to brazing with hard silver solder. Silver soldering would have taken much longer:  fluxing the piece to prevent firestain, clean-up of the solder joint around the chased detail, and extensive repatination. Pulse arc welding localizes the heat and surrounds the weld area with argon gas. This gas totally eliminates oxides from forming in the sterling. As you can see, the heat required to melt sterling (1,640°F) is so localized, the safe can be handheld!

The joint after welding.

A rotary compactor is used to hammer down and compress the sterling wire that was used for the weld.

A fine rubberized abrasive wheel removes any compactor imperfections.

A polished burnisher is then used to redefine the chased planish marks and refine the restored seam.

This is the result before repatinating. 

A patina that will match the existing patina is applied.

Wadding is finally used to remove any unwanted patina and to produce a soft antique finish. The match safe is then degreased and wiped with a lint-free Selvyt cloth.

 

Match Safe Mechanicals & Care


Home Page About Me Before & After Images Services Offered Repair Issues Resources
 Frequently Asked Questions Silver Care Silver Glossary Shop Views The Library
Engraving Samples Testimonials Work Order.doc / .pdf Contact

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