Google+ House Revivals: How to Make Garden Markers From Vintage Spoons!

Monday, January 19, 2015

How to Make Garden Markers From Vintage Spoons!

Here is a lovely gift idea for yourself, or the kitchen gardener in your life!  These plant markers made from vintage silverware are so pretty.

(this tutorial contains affiliate links)

Through much trial and error, I have figured out how to flatten and stamp vintage silverware. There are probably as many techniques out there as there are people who do this type of craft. I struggle with wrist and elbow and shoulder issues, so after trying several of the different methods for making these garden markers, I realized I would need to work smarter, not harder.

As you all know, I tend to craft frugally, but having the right tools is worth the investment, if you plan to do more than a couple of these markers. When it comes to swinging a hammer and pounding on metal, it's easy to put too much wear and tear on your body by using the wrong tools.

First, you will need a steel bench block -- I used the Beadaholique Solid Metal Bench Block Wire Hardening and Wire Wrapping Tool.  You will also want a rubber bench block to place under the steel block. This will absorb a lot of noise and vibration. I used the ImpressArt Crystal Rivet Setting Mat, 4-Inch x 4-Inch. It stacks perfectly with the metal bench block.

To do this project, you will need vintage silverplate (go HERE to see my tutorial for flattening vintage forks). I prefer to look for vintage silverware that has quite a bit of wear and has outlived its useful life, and that isn't in nice enough condition for up-cycling into jewelry. The patina of worn silverplate simply adds to the charm of these garden markers.

I've tried several different hammers, and this little one-pound brass hammer (ImpressArt Stamping Hammer, 1-Pound, Brass Metal) is just about perfect. It fits the hand nicely, is easy to aim, and is not too heavy for repetitive use. The flat side is used for flattening and stamping, while the round side can be used to add a hammered texture to your pieces. The handle has a shock absorbent coating that makes this hammer easy on the hands and wrists.

Begin by turning the bowl of your spoon upside down on your bench block. Using the flat side of the hammer, first give several firm whacks around the outside of the bowl, to stretch the metal, then give the center of the bowl a few whacks. Now, turn the spoon over and finish flattening. As the metal warms ups, it will begin to flow and move better under your hammer.

Once your bowl is flattened, you may want to add some texture to it with the ball side of your hammer. This gives a pretty effect, but is totally optional.

To stamp a word or saying onto your spoon, you will need a metal stamping alphabet set. The letters I used here are from this 1/4 inch set (Enkay 3505 1/4-Inch Letter Stamping Set). I like their height, and that they are simple enough in design to be very versatile. This set is affordable, and works on softer metals. The biggest drawback, was that the punches came swimming in oil, and had to be cleaned well before using.

I also have a 3mm (about 1/8th inch) high set, from Vintaj, Beadsmith 3mm Alphabet Punch Set with Case, Uppercase Letters, 27-Pack (it was only $15.40, with free shipping on Prime). While they did still have some machining oil on them, they were not dripping oil like the other set. I was able to simply wipe them off with a dry paper towel. The nice thing about the Vintaj sets is they come with a canvas case that makes it easy to keep your letters organized.

To stamp your spoon, you may find it easier to secure the spoon to the bench block with low tack tape. Don't use high tack tape, as it may leave a sticky residue on your block or your silverware. I placed my tape lengthwise across the flattened bowl of the spoon to use as a guide for stamping. If you will be orienting your text the other direction, you will want to place your tape widthwise.

Next, find the center of the area where you want your text to go. You will stamp the middle letter of your word first, then build out from there.

If you look closely at the spoon above, you will notice I got a double impression. I finally realized it was because I placed my bench blocks on top of a folded towel to muffle the noise. Unfortunately, the thick padding caused the hammer to bounce, creating these double impressions. Once I placed the blocks on a solid surface, I got much cleaner impressions.

Depending on the softness of your metal, how level the surface is, and how much metal the stamp must displace (for instance, an M displaces more metal than an I), you should be able to stamp your spoons in one to four firm whacks. Try not to let your hammer bounce, and if you must re-whack, make sure your punch is sitting firmly in the initial impression that you made. Double impressions are not the end of the world -- after all these are handmade items, and imperfections can add to the charm -- so don't throw out your spoons with less than perfect impressions!  If you accidentally misspell a word, don't throw out the spoon -- use it for practice, instead. I have also successfully "saved" a utensil by texturing it heavily, so that the mistake was camouflaged.

Be sure to check out my fork flattening tutorial, if you haven't seen it yet!

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Have you done any silverware up-cycling projects? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments!

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