Pinder Brothers was established over 100 years ago in 1877, originally manufacturing silverplated holloware which, over the years, developed into cutlery manufacturing and, more recently, pewterware manufacturing.
Pewter has come to the fore in the last 25 years due to an increased understanding of the metal by the general public and the fact that it tarnishes very much more slowly than silverplate. When correctly treasured, pewterware will last even in general use, for a lifetime.
Price also plays a very important part in gift and presentation choice and currently the price of Tin and the competitive manufacturing costs in Sheffield, make pewter particularly attractive on price point for high perceived value. To some extent pewter is being re-discovered as Sheffield has been famous for pewterware manufacture for over 500 years.
Before the use of stainless steel and silverplate, pewter was one of the most common materials for the manufacture of many “everyday” quality table articles.
Pewter was originally made of pure Tin with the addition of some Lead but today’s metal is completely free of Lead and, in addition to containing pure Tin, small amounts of Antimony (to add to lustre) and Copper (for strength) are also used. Pinder Brothers continually have samples of the production independently tested to make sure that the product meets the high Consumer Protection Standards demanded both at home and abroad.
Tin was originally mined in Cornwall and was bought as long ago as 1200BC by the Phoenicians. In modern times the majority of Tin comes from the Fast East and South America.
Manufacture of Pewter is highly suitable for the manufacture of tankards, spirit flasks, presentation cups and various measures. Pinder Brothers offers a range of approximately 1,000 items of spun pewter and this is believed to be one of the largest ranges offered in the world.
Pewter is the ideal metal for the Presentation and Incentive trades as high quality personalisation is possible at competitive prices by hand or machine engraving, acid etching or rolling. Pinder Brothers sell to all parts of the UK from the Orkney Islands to the Scilly Isles. A large proportion is exported with Estonia becoming the 65th Pinder Brothers territory.
The best selling items in the pewterware range currently are the traditional tankards but production figures show that flasks are rapidly catching up. Tankards are usually in bright finish, one or half pint but a quarterpint and even a gallon size are available. They come with metal or glass bases in plain, lined or hammered finish with or without lids and a choice of many different handles. The range of flasks is particularly stunning, there being over 150 different types ranging in size from 1oz to a gallon. Again they are mainly in bright finish and, although plain is the biggest seller, they are also available in a variety of finishes including hammered, barley, etched sports designs, scrimshaw and embossed motifs.
Pinder Brothers are always delighted to welcome trade customers from home and abroad to their extensive showrooms and factory tour.
Modern pewter is composed predominantly of tin (Sn) with small additions of antimony (Sb) and copper (Cu) to increase its strength. Occasionally, other metals such as bismuth (Bu) are also added. In the past, for certain items of pewter, the alloy contained a small amount of lead, which accounts for the confusion, still around today, regarding its definition and acceptance. There is no lead added to modern pewter and the impurity level is severely restricted by the relevant standards throughout the world. In the UK and Europe the level is limited to a maximum of 0.5%. Apart from its toxicity, lead has the effect of darkening the pewter and causing it to tarnish easily, which contributes to the difference in appearance between some old and modern pewter, although the lack of cleaning of antique pewter is the main factor.
The major constituent, tin, is produced from tin ore, the major source of supply being the Far East and South America. Tin is completely non-toxic, melts at a relatively low temperature, 232°C, has very good fluidity when molten, has good formability, and readily forms alloys with other metals. It is a relatively soft metal and it is for this reason that it is alloyed with other constituents before being used in the form of pewter.
In the alloying of pewter it is important that the mix is accurately controlled both on quantities and temperature for repeatability. Once manufacture procedures have been established in a pewter workshop, it is important that the supply of raw materials is consistent from batch to batch, whether it be casting ingots or sheet materials.
The alloys are made up in large iron melting pots and after melting and thorough mixing, the alloy is cast into ingots for producing cast pewterware or slabs for subsequent rolling into sheets.
The slabs of pewter in their ‘cast form’ will have a rough surface and the upper surface will have considerable shrinkage marks and depressions.
The upper and lower surfaces are therefore machined off. The slabs are then passed through banks of rolling mills, which successively reduce the thickness. It is important that the rolls of these mills are polished to a high finish and every care must be taken to keep the sheet clean to avoid dirt or other foreign substances into the surface. During the reduction process, the pewter softens quite considerably from its original ‘cast’ hardness. This is mainly due to a reduction in crystal size and distribution, caused by the rolling and reducing action. The rolling and reduction continues until the desired sheet thickness is reached.
Spinning is a metal-forming technique, done on a suitable spinning lathe, by which flat sheet can be easily formed into hollow vessels.
Using formers or burnishers, the spinner works the pewter discs on to former chucks following the many various shapes and sizes.
Pewtersmiths are experienced in soldering which makes it one of the most important techniques in the pewter workshop, as it is the standard method of joining individual components to form an assembly. When carried out with skill and the correct materials, the joints are extremely difficult to detect. Using various solder alloys for the many varied items made nowadays, the pewtersmith has to use his skill in bringing the components to a soldering lamp, or in certain circumstances the lamp to the component.
Casting is the oldest method of producing pewterware and in some countries, it is still the dominant method. Gravity casting in permanent metal moulds is the traditional technique of producing cast pewterware. The technique has been in existence for hundreds of years, and even today, the bulk of cast pewter is produced by this means.
Slush casting is a method of making hollow castings without the complexity of using cores, particularly where the profile or surface finish of the inside is relatively unimportant. This makes it an ideal method for reducing the weight of a handle or other attachment to a main article therefore not upsetting the balance or feel.
Rubber mould casting by the centrifugal method is, today, a very common method of producing small items quickly, accurately and to a high standard of finish and complexity. Impressions are formed in two thick circular sheets of rubber, which are then clamped together. The top sheet has a central hole, which connects with runways in the rubber, which lead to the impressions. Molten pewter is poured into the central hole of the top sheet, whilst the mould is rotated at high speed. The pewter is forced along the runways into the cavities by the centrifugal force. When the metal has cooled, the two halves are parted and a radial display of cast parts is seen.
Finishing is the last process in the production of a piece of pewterware, but is by no means a technique tacked on to the end of the other processes. It is the finish that determines the final appearance and characteristics of a piece of work. Firstly, using stitched mops dressed with abrasive compounds to cut away the surface, to remove irregularities and imperfections. This is then followed by the final polishing on swansdown mops, using rouge based compound. This gives an extremely fine, sometimes mirror finish and brings out the colour of the metal.
Only British Pewter is allowed to carry the marks illustrated on this page. These will be found stamped into each piece of British Pewter, individually or part of a collection of marks, known as ‘touchmarks’.
The EPU mark of European Pewter Union indicates that the pewter conforms to BS EN611 parts 1 and 2. A number in the centre is registered to a particular factory or firm. All UK numbers begin with a 3.
The ABPC mark stands for the Association of British Pewter Craftsmen, whose members must make their objects to quality standards of craftsmanship and alloy composition.
The Seahorse mark is only allowed for use by ABPC members on their finest wares. The emblem comes from the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers in the City of London. The Company was authorised to police the industry following the granting of a Royal Charter by Edward IV in 1473. The right no longer exists, but nowadays the ABPC has a role monitoring standards through the licencing of this mark to members.
It can be seen that there are many different skills in the making of pewterware, too many to fit into this short introduction. The skills mentioned have been handed down over the centuries and the craftsmen of today are still proud of their heritage. We owe them all a debt of gratitude for their continued efforts to turn out superior articles of beauty.