Hands on education day two. Wayan drove us 30 minutes to the town of Celuk. This town specializes in silver smithing with one book quoting that 90% of people are employed in this business. We entered a home compound. The workshop looked like a garage operation with 3 wooden table workstations. The master silversmith greeted us and immediately launched into his scripted tourist presentations. We heard him repeat this three times for other visitors while we were there. Yesterday, the woodworking master had his own, remarkably similar canned preso for all the tourists visiting. Today, it was all about silver, where it is mined (not on Bali), what the purity is, what techniques they use.
We had booked a three hour silvesmithing class for the boys. They stared out learning that silver jewerly is made from a mixture of silver and copper. They then melted the two metals, whose initial form were tiny balls, in a small clay crucible using a blowtorch. The blowtorch used liquid fuel – kerosene? – and a small foot bellows provided the oxygen. There was a definite technique to making this apparatus produce a flame hot enough to melt the metals. Justin went first, and his heavy stomping created too much of an oxygen mix and he kept blowing out the flame. It took a long time for him to melt his his metals. The three silversmiths huddled around him, fiddling with the gas-air mix valved, directing the flame, joking lightly the whole time. Justin’s leg got tired pumping. Eventually, he was able to produce a ball of liquid metal that was poured into an ingot mould and he then had a pinky finger shaped bar of .925% silver weighing 13 grams. Jordan immediately figured out how to correctly pump the foot bellows, and he had his siver-copper mix melted so quickly that the silversmith master invited him to come back one summer and work with them to learn silver smithing.
If Justin was jealous of his brother’s aptitude and this praise, he did not show it. Perhaps he was too occupied with the next stwp of hammering his ingot flat. Te tools for this were a small hammer, thick pliers and a small anvil mounted on a wood block. The boys needed to get the silver ingot flattened enough so that it could pass through the pressing machine, the third step in the process. The boys hammered and hammered, but they made slow progress flattening their ingots. The apprentice who was now helping them heated the metal to soften it. When the ingot was flat enough, they took it over to the press which functioned exactly like those penny pressing machines that then stamp the flattened penny with a logo memorizliing your visit to San Francisco or Yosemite. The metal was passed through several times and the boys’ job was to turn the hand crank. This was about the end of their physical involvement with the process. They had turned little balls of sliver and copper into a thin, flat finger silzed shape.
Next in the process was the jewerly design. The boys wanted to make a necklace pendant modeled after a pendant Jordan bought way back in Gamla Stan in Sweden and had been wearing this whole trip. The size, thickness and shape perfectly matched the raw metail they had to work with. The silve smith used tin snips to cut the silver into the proper sized ovals. We got four of them, one for each member of the family. The final physical part of the boys work was to use metal dye stamps to imprint their initials and testify that the silver was .925% sterling.
The pendant designs were to be made using silver wire that was soldered onto the pendant. The designs had to be simple given our brief time frame. Gigi chose a flower, Jordan three tight swirls, Justin a curly S shape. I chose a stylized manta ray. We watched as the apprentice first made a glue using berries from a bush in the yard mixed with borax to make the glue. While the silversmith was deftly making our designs and sizing them to the pendiants, Jordan and Justin’s attention waned. They had worked hard and were tired and the day was warming up. Justin wandered the driveway looking at the cocks locked in their basket cages, the catfish in the fishpond, the baby chicks running free, and of course the geckos. Jordan was playing chess against the computer on his iPad.
Although we were spent, the silversmith worked diligently on. He made the silver wire designs, soldered the silver wire and shaped and polished the pendant on the buffing wheel. A dip in battery acid produced shining silver finished products. We were all very impressed with our jewerly, which only 3 hours earlier had been just tiny beads of silver and copper. We thanked the two silversmiths and the apprentice for this
chance to see balinese silversmithing first hand.