Pewter is a soft, pliable and extremely versatile metal. Use it to make beautiful gifts and décor items for your home.
What is pewter?
Pewter is a soft metal with a faint sheen. It is
an alloy of lead and tin, but lead-free pewter so that the item can be used for eating
How do you do pewter work? What does pewter look like?
Pewter has been around for many centuries.
It was recently made fashionable again by
designers like Carrol Boyes, who makes
sought-after cutlery and other décor
items from pewter. There are two ways
to work with pewter: the relief modelling
method and the cast pewter method. Relief
modelling traces the design onto the pewter
and it is then modelled from the back using
special tools. This creates a raised or relief
design on the front, from which this method
takes its name. The cast pewter method is
completely different. It requires special skills
and tools, and involves melting down the
pewter and pouring it into moulds. We will
focus only on the relief modelling method.
Pewter is sold by the metre in thin sheets of
varying widths. Some sheets are shinier than
others, which means they have a higher
tin content. Most manufacturers place a
thin layer of tin over the sheet to make it
shinier. If you polish the pewter, this layer of
tin can be rubbed away to expose the layer
underneath. Pewter sheets are easy to work
with, relatively inexpensive and you can use
them to make anything from photo frames
What tools do you need? Pewter sheets
Item to be decorated: Anything with a hard
surface, such as a box, frame or bottle.
Work surface: It must be smooth and hard, something like a smooth wooden board or
large, thick piece of glass.
Modelling tools: Find them at art or craft
shops. A tracer is used to trace the design
onto the pewter; a paper pencil (also known
as a torchon) is used to flatten and neaten
the areas around the modelled design; a
hockey stick is used to model the pewter for
high-relief work; and a ball tool has a ball at
the tip and is used for doing low-relief work
to make a wider line than a tracer.
Filler: This is used to fill the back of a
high-relief design to prevent it from being
pushed back or flattened. Beeswax works
best because it hardens quickly and doesn’t
contract when it cools. Exterior crack filler
mixed with a little cold glue can also be
used. Do not use candle wax as it shrinks
when it cools, and cracks easily.
Lubricant: Use petroleum jelly, baby oil,
sunflower oil or liquid paraffin to help the
modelling tools glide over the pewter.
Patina: A liquid chemical to corrode the
metal and give it an aged appearance.
Degreaser: The front of the pewter has to
be degreased using a degreaser such as
baby powder, so that the patina takes.
Metal polish: Use a household metal polish
such as Brasso to polish the pewter.
Glue: Use an adhesive that is suitable for
metal and the surface you are glueing it to.
Turpentine: For removing excess beeswax
Soft cloth: Work on felt, a duster or a
chamois when you 'push out' the pewter.
Glass droppers: To fill the back of the relief
design with beeswax. If it clogs up, place the
dropper in boiling water, but do not let the
rubber come into contact with the water
otherwise it will perish.
Rubber roller: To flatten the pewter sheets.
Cotton wool: To apply the patina, to polish
and for cleaning.
Tracing paper: To transfer the design onto
Scissors: A small pair of curved nail scissors
works best for cutting out designs.
Craft knife and cutting mat
Pencil and ruler
Rubber gloves: To protect your hands
Apart from modelling tools, you don't
need any special materials and tools to do
pewter work. This is a general list: