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Making a Copper Jambonnière Part 3

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If you’ve been following the saga of pattern creation and remaking a vintage piece of copper cookware from scratch…here’s the final conclusion.  Likely you might be as happy as I am that this is done and I can start posting things like cheese recipes again…

So it was time to create the lid and handles to this crazy jambonnière project – finally! As always, it meant a large amount of guesswork, and fiddling with wood jigs.

Tracing the base, we added some fractions to allow for crimp seams, and went ahead to create a cover jig, which was similar, but not exactly the same, as the base jig. I’m learning, in a very tactile way, that should I ever own my own metal shop, I will inadvertently become an ad-hoc woodworker by necessity. We also went ahead and cut out a pattern to make the big top cover.

(Good thing my husband has lately been into buying every kind of saw invented…now I just need to convince him that a drill press is also necessary…)

Next we folded (twice) the band base and linked the two pieces before connecting them with a lap seam and some extra reinforcement pieces before bending the whole long band over the jig. With a little help from a lot of clamps, we finished forming the cover band inside the body to make sure it allowed for any tweaks and idiosyncrasies creating during the bending of the base.

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Creating the jambonniere lid band

Then it was a simple (for once!) practice of burring edges, clamping the cover piece to the band and hammering the seams together before soldering.

We only had maybe…five? ten?…hang-ups along the way… It likely didn’t help that all three of my children are off school and like to create while they’re at the shop with us and are constantly adding some sort of project to get soldered…

But we had a cover that fit, for the most part, so then it was time to form the handles. This is when Bob’s mini forge comes in handy. We fired up the propane (and Bob, bless him, made a sweet little jig for bending), heated up some super fat solid copper wire, and made handles that look very similar to the old photographs.

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Jig for creating copper handles

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Forming copper handles over a jig after blasting with heat.

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Buffing the copper handles

I should mention, as well, that Jan, from the Netherlands, found this blog and was amazing enough to send photos of the jambonnière pan he has in his vintage collection. The cover looks constructed almost exactly to how we did it in our reproduction, though I do covet the base, which looks either rolled to a bead or somehow wired.

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A vintage jambonniere pan – photo sent to us by Jan in the Netherlands!

After getting the handles connected, and folding and creating a simple, thick cover handle, we riveted and checked all the seams, worked together to double bottom the base for strength, and then settled on the final polishing.

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Top handle for copper jambonniere lid.

And suddenly, amazingly, it’s done!

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Finished copper jambonniere ham pan

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The (re) Making of an American Copper Skillet

In case it hasn’t been obvious, I’m a little enamored with the notion of recreating American copper cookware pieces that have been lost along with the slow disappearance of the hand-made, coppersmith trade itself.

So – surprise! I’ve made a skillet next.

Though most copper skillets were relatively small in terms of today’s expectations (and uses!), they all had high sides (not rounded) and a sharp edge. In fact, they were nearly identical in terms of form and shape to cast iron skillets, even though the copper pieces were made by hand and usually had relatively long wrought iron handles.


vintage copper cookware

Copper skillet in the tinshop in Metamora IN

Today, you’ll usually see low-sided copper skillets – some lined with tin, and some with stainless. They are softly curved, and have shorter handles. Part of this is because most of us don’t need to hang our copperware right next to the hearth, or stick it in and need an easier way to grab it out of the fire. It’d be very hard to wield the copper skillets of the 1800’s on today’s stoves, or put in the oven.

But I still believe there’s a place for the traditional, slightly tapered, straight-sided skillet in our kitchens. We just have forgotten they existed, and so have stopped looking to use them.

{Photo from American Copper & Brass book by Henry J. Kauffman}

Imagine a cast iron skillet that performs just like a copper pot!? That’s kinda what I thought. And I’m stupidly over-excited about this next piece. Thanks to the help from my good friend and product architect, who can take my sketches, the finds in old books, and my rough descriptions and make it a transferable file, and the master smith I apprentice under…AND all the guys from the tinsmith convergence this June, who are weighing in…as well as the feedback from the people actually spinning the bodies…

Well, it’s coming along!

It’s a big piece – bigger than the other pots in the House Copper line, and it’s thicker too (3mm) because I’m not flaring or rolling the edges (many older, (smaller) versions had wired rims or a beaded edge to help with strength, especially since these were usually formed by hand out of a thinner gauge copper sheet). And though the ductile handle won’t be long, it will still look similar to what was typical in the 1800’s for wrought handles.

house copper

Prototype of the 12″ American copper skillet

And of course, it will be lined with tin.

The skillets of old (and especially ones contributed to an American smith) are hard to find according to Henry Kauffman’s books, and yet they were the easiest to make for the beginning apprentice coppersmith. As it was typically formed from one circle and required no soldering, cuts (other than the circular blank itself) or fancy forming, it was typically a “trial” piece made with nothing but a stake and a hammer.

Traditional coppersmith copper skillet formation. {Photo from American Copper & Brass by Henry J Kauffman}

I’m excited to see each piece come to life – the guys in Ohio will be spinning the copper components from the Texas copper and the handles poured by the family-owned foundry in Lodi CA. And as for the actual drilling, riveting, tinning, polishing and buffing? Well, that’s going to happen (if all goes well) by…me. Because it will help with the pricing so more people can get pure metal cookware in their homes. And because I’d like to use much of what I’m learning in my own apprenticeship.

It’s just like the good old days, isn’t it?

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Creating Copper Cookware

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Sara here. Today I’ve spent the majority of the morning working with copper and nothing else. Copper is on the brain.

Copper cookware is an art form that is, to me, timeless because it really does last a ridiculously long time. Copper cookware has been dug up in Egypt, relics of cultures lost thousands of years ago. But what remains? The copper pieces. Copper doesn’t rust, doesn’t crumble the way iron can, and the beauty of my day job is that the tin-lined copper pieces I’m holding over the buffing wheel could very easily be dug up in an archeological dig 5000 years from now.

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That’s insane to realize, but very very true.

It’s not why you buy copper cookware, obviously. You don’t go in a store and say “Clearly, this will last millennia, and therefore I should buy it!”

You purchase cookware based on its ability to perform on your stove, or based on the contents of your wallet. I get it, because I’ve done just the same.

Yes, I create copper cookware in my garage/copper/tin shop. So I’m biased. But let’s go where the discussion about copper cookware purchasing goes first. Your pocketbook.

Figure you purchase a handful of (likely non-stick, paint coated) pieces from the local Target or Walmart. Or maybe you even go to Macy’s, but you’re still not spending top dollar. (I know I didn’t for years!) Fast forward about five years later, and your non-stick coating doesn’t work the same, and might even be chipping off and it’s time to throw that piece of cookware into the trash. The landfill. Then you go out and buy some more. Let’s be generous and say each piece of cookware is $40/e to balance out the really inexpensive and relatively expensive. And let’s say you only buy 1 kind of pot ever. But you have to toss it for safety reasons or because it breaks about every 5 years. And let’s hope you live to be 90, and you started cooking at 30. That’s roughly 13 rounds of $40, so you’re spending $520 to have one pot in your house, which all ends up in the landfill. And that assumes you only get 1 piece – most of us who cook have at least 4 – 7 pieces ofcookware in our kitchens.

Copper cookware is going to last you the rest of your life, plus it’s safe (copper cookware is not made with any non-stick stuff that’s um…not exactly safe and pure) and healthy and green/energy efficient (it’s 25x faster using less heat than stainless), so your gas bill is lighter too.

One copper pot and lid will run you around $500, give or take. And it’ll last you…you know. Forever. No landfill. No unhealthy plastic in your food. Just pure metal cookware. Healthy, transparent, and safe. Just like what we say we want with our actual food. Is it so much to want the same from our cookware?

(You all know tin is non-stick, right? As in… ‘nature’s teflon’ – it’s honestly just like that. Except made in nature. You know. Healthy and safe. Pure.)

I create my copper cookware knowing that I’m supporting a lot of craftspeople in the country – my neighbors, and other family owned and operated small businesses – by working with local sources. I like shaking their hands and watching them spin the copper bodies on the machine (which, by the way, is one of the few things I can’t do in my garage). I appreciate seeing the huge furnace at the foundry (because the other thing I can’t do in my garage is melt and pour ductile iron) where the owner is the guy answering the phones and my emails. And it’s a blast taking the kids up to the rivet maker, where they hunt for old rivets in the cracks while I get a lesson on machinery built in the early 1900’s that still works today to make my copper rivets right up the road from my house.

Am I old fashioned to like such handshaking and supporting local? Yeah, I guess. Do I love manufacturing copper cookware? Heck yeah. Am I obsessed with learning the vintage tinsmithing trade from the master smith, Bob? Definitely. Do I believe in making something (in this case, copper cookware made entirely in America!) that will actually help everyone in the long run, creating a wave of people who cook in something that’s cheaper to heat, won’t end up in a landfill – as proven for the past several thousand years? Absolutely.

So now I’ll get off the soapbox. Go buy some copper. Real copper cookware.