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removing engraving from pewter


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#1 Sjöröveren

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 06:43 PM

I got a beautiful Williamsburg pewter tankard at a thrift store today. It is engraved on both sides. Has anyone ever tried to remove engraving before? When I look close, it looks like a bit of the metal has been pushed up and out at the edges of the engraved letters, so I'm wondering if it may be possible to somehow chase some of that metal back into the grooves. Barring that, is it possible to simply buff out the engraving? How about filling it in with silver solder or the like? I only paid $1.69 for it, far far below it's retail price, so I'd like to try to salvage it if at all possible.

#2 Ransom

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 08:20 PM

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#3 Fionntan Murtaugh

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Posted 16 April 2009 - 08:33 PM

Rub it out ...if it doesn't work you may get a colonial genie.

I have been told that a dremmel tool will do the job ...have yet to try it ...let me know if it works.
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#4 Cannibal Chrispy

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 12:57 AM

Sanding is the only way I have found for removing engraving, it provides a more even finish than a dremel and to remove any pesky emblems. Fill cup with dry ice, wait a few minutes and pop off emblem. A leather "gauntlet" will hide a multitude of sins and keep the pewter from sucking the cold out of your drink so quickly.
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#5 Quartermaster James

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 03:26 AM

Be careful that whatever you do does not leave the piece worse for the work!
I think you would be better off using a sanding block than a Dremel tool for a surface this large.
Several of the other options you mentioned I would avoid entirely.
Filling the engraving before sanding and polishing will leave you with a solder inlay.

That all said, I have seen good looking rescued tankards. These were to a one all done by sanding and polishing. They can be done; but they can also be done poorly.

I suppose the engraving is a problem because no pyrate worth his rhum would advertise stolen goods? ;)


#6 Sjöröveren

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 04:28 AM

I suppose the engraving is a problem because no pyrate worth his rhum would advertise stolen goods? ;) [/font][/size]

The engraving is a problem because it's from some conference in 1982, with a huge corporate logo. I get so fumed when I see this kind of thing. Why take a fine piece of pewter, worth $75-$100 new, and ruin it with some ugly engraving to commemorate a conference that the honoree probably didn't want to go to in the first place? If this was a cherished memento, then why did it end up in a thrift store? Geez, just buy one of the much cheaper and crappier cast aluminum tankards from "Things Remembered" like everyone else! Leave the good stuff alone!
(end of rant)
Thanks for the advice, folks. I wouldn't trust myself with my dremel. I usually remove too much material on wood projects, so I would probably ruin pewter in less than a minute. I have a sanding block made of foam rubber, with 250/600 grit on it. I'll give that a try, then track down some polishing compounds. I'm guessing using a bench grinder with a buffing wheel would be OK for the polishing stage. The rest I'll do by hand - don't want to grind a hole thru the damn thing.

#7 Quartermaster James

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Posted 17 April 2009 - 05:39 AM

I have a sanding block made of foam rubber, with 250/600 grit on it. I'll give that a try, then track down some polishing compounds. I'm guessing using a bench grinder with a buffing wheel would be OK for the polishing stage.

Bench wheel should work, but is not really necessary. If you have access to one, fine. Otherwise, just start with the block you have, then work to 1000 grit and crocus cloth. You can also use polishing compound by hand.

#8 Captain Jim

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Posted 19 April 2009 - 06:54 AM

Sjöröveren, you might also want to try a file, a regular old metal file, either single or double cut, to remove most of the metal before moving to a finer polish to finish up. Don't hesitate to move the file sideways (called draw filing) to create a fairly smooth finish before final polishing.
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#9 Silkie McDonough

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 09:33 PM

...The engraving is a problem because it's from some conference in 1982, with a huge corporate logo. I get so fumed when I see this kind of thing. Why take a fine piece of pewter, worth $75-$100 new, and ruin it with some ugly engraving to commemorate a conference that the honoree probably didn't want to go to in the first place? If this was a cherished memento, then why did it end up in a thrift store? Geez, just buy one of the much cheaper and crappier cast aluminum tankards from "Things Remembered" like everyone else! Leave the good stuff alone!
(end of rant)...

Because if they do not put a logo or an emblem on it and it is from a place of work the receiver has to pay taxes on it. Well that is the most common reason ...you should see my lovely luggage with the BIG red C logo on the front. lol

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#10 Patrick Hand

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 10:36 PM

My only concern is how deep is the engraving?


A (real) pewter tankard's body is only so thick.... (well it's kinda thickish.... but not as thick as some of the aluminum tankards)...

But if the engraving is only 1/4 thought the pewter or less... you may get away with it... half way... eeergh... and if it's really deep... you'd be better covering it with a chunka of leather ....

Obviously, you can look at the tankard and decide ......




I was wonderin' 'bout a tinkers Damn..... but that would leave the engraving still there. just a different colour of metal... so that wouldn't work....peaning over it might not work any better.....(but it wouldn't hurt to try.....ie... hammer over the engraving before you start to file it leval.... may or may not work...))








<A tinkers Damn fer those wot don't know wot I'm typing 'bout.... A pot has a hole in it... so the tinker would make a raised edge around it with clay or even flour (remember Play- do ?), and a plug on the other side... then pour molten metal (most likely zinc or tin) to fill the hole... then they would file off the excess metal, and thus mend the pot.... a tinkers damn is the clay edge and plug to form the repairs... they were broken off once the job was done.... so a tinkers damn is something cheap and expendable......

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#11 Patrick Hand

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 10:39 PM

OH yeah.... but it got the job done.....


that part for some reason is always kinda left out.....

guess no one liked tinkers....... :D

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#12 Sjöröveren

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Posted 23 April 2009 - 02:12 PM

I've done a few test projects to remove engraving. The first was on a cheap pewter tankard, straight sided with fairly thin gauge metal. I started with a file, trying some draw filing along the way. This removed all but the deepest engraving. I then moved to 0000 steel wool (at least I think it's 0000. I've misplaced the packaging.) That removed the biggest of the filing marks. I then moved on to a foam backed 600 grit sanding pad, sanding by hand. That brought out a dull polish, but fine marks are still visible. I'll need to get some crocus cloth to get closer to a mirror finish.
I was so impressed at how quick and easy this was that I decided to see how it would work with a cast aluminum mug. I figured that aluminum is cheap and ubiquitous, so if I wrecked it, I wouldn't be out that much. The engraving wasn't as deep as on the pewter, but of course the metal is quite a bit harder. Filing did a fair job, but I was getting a lot of marks from the edge of the file (not holding it properly, I'm sure) So I put some 300 grit on my orbital sander and dove in. Not too bad. I switched to 600 grit, and it looked even better. No trace of the engraving left, now just the little swirly marks from the sander. I think I'll proceed by hand from this point.
I'll do a few more before I tackle the Williamsburg pewter. The tough thing about that one is that it sides are curved - inside and outside curves. So I won't be able to use either a flat file or the orbital sander. I'm really left with hand sanding for that one. I might try flattening the edges of the engraving with a little brass ball peen hammer I've got, if I can find something to work as a mandrel inside the mug. And I'm not sure if brass is harder than pewter - it sure seems like it is. I'll do a test on some beat up pewter before I try it on the good stuff.
Thanks to everyone for all the advice given here. I've only dabbled in metal work up to this point, and that was only very small scale blacksmithing, nothing with white metal. But things have gone well enough, and the local thrift store seems to have enough pewter mugs available, that I'm confident in proceeding slowly. If this works, I'll never pass up an engraved mug again!

Edited by Sjöröveren, 23 April 2009 - 02:14 PM.


#13 Cannibal Chrispy

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 12:51 AM

A half round file would alleviate the problem of "edge marks".
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#14 Stynky Tudor

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 05:03 AM

You can always send it to me - I've got some friends that could remove the problem area. . . LOL

#15 LadyBarbossa

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 03:12 PM

:lol:
Oh, yeah, right, Stynky... we KNOW how ye and yo'r fellow's ''ll get rid of the problem areas. :lol:

Never tried to get rid of the engraving, some I like. It's the stupid non-period like markings on some period like items that drives me nuts.

BTW, how do you get rid of the "blackened" parts inside of a pewter tankard? I've used coke, baking soda but not tomato juice yet. Not sure if it's tarnish or something else. Does this mean it has lead in it and is unsafe?


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#16 Patrick Hand

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 05:05 PM

I've used coke, baking soda but not tomato juice yet.

I don't know if that would work..... the crusty stuff inside my tankard is from beer, Tomato Juice and Vodka, or Coke an Rum..... Not nesicarily mixed all together or at the same time....

Oh yeah... an' some Key West sand that just won't dump out....

I could try to chip it all out, but it keeps others from tryin' ter swipe it....... :lol:

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#17 Sjöröveren

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Posted 24 April 2009 - 05:20 PM

BTW, how do you get rid of the "blackened" parts inside of a pewter tankard? I've used coke, baking soda but not tomato juice yet. Not sure if it's tarnish or something else. Does this mean it has lead in it and is unsafe?


from Wikipedia:

Pewter is a malleable metal alloy, traditionally between 85 and 99 percent tin, with the remainder commonly consisting of copper, antimony and lead. Copper and antimony act as hardeners while lead is common in the lower grades of pewter, which have a bluish tint.
Modern pewters must contain at least 90% tin to be considered a pewter. They also no longer contain appreciable amounts of lead, which has been replaced by copper, antimony and bismuth.[3] Older pewters with higher lead content are heavier, tarnish faster, and oxidation gives them a darker silver-grey color. When modern pewter does become tarnished, it is more easily cleaned than "classic" pewter



Lead usually oxidizes white. The black may be oxidized bismuth. Also from Wikipedia:

As with lead, overexposure to bismuth can result in the formation of a black deposit on the gingiva, known as a bismuth line

BTW, gingiva = your gums

Antimony can be toxic in small amounts.

Antimony and many of its compounds are toxic. Clinically, antimony poisoning is very similar to arsenic poisoning. In small doses, antimony causes headache, dizziness, and depression. Larger doses cause violent and frequent vomiting, and will lead to death in a few days.


For that matter, copper is toxic in fairly small amounts, yet it's used in all kinds of food containers. I do know that you should never cook in a copper panned if it hasn't been properly tinned. It would taste terrible, and isn't at all good for you. So I would stay away from modern pewter for regular use. I'm not a chemist, nor physician, nor anyone else that could give a definitive answer. Once in awhile probably won't kill you. But cast aluminum is probably safer. Antique pewter - no way! If it isn't filled with lead, it's probably filled with antimony, arsenic or who knows what. I would also avoid acidic liquids like fruit or tomato juice. Metals and acids don't go well together.
There, that oughta keep you up all night, throwing away all your pewter. Sorry, ye had to ask.

Edited by Sjöröveren, 24 April 2009 - 05:24 PM.


#18 Commodore Swab

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 02:57 PM

If you are still wondering how to remove engraving here is your answer:

Take your dremel, a belt sander belt (finer grit if new), the tool for your dremel that allows you to put on a cut off disc or sanding disc, a large dremel buffing pad (the solid one not the sewn one), and a pair of scissors. Ok do you have everything?

Take the small screw out of your dremel tool and push it thru the sanding belt from the grit side. Take your buffing pad and push the screw thru that as well. Now use your scissors and cut the belt so that its a circle using the buffing pad as a guide. Now take this combination and screw it into the tool on the dremel. It most likely will be a tight fit depending on thread length and the thickness of your buffing pad. The buffing pad provides strength to the sanding disc but retains flexibility. Using a sanding belt (1 belt makes tons of discs) provides much better cutting on metal whether its aluminum to stainless. I usually use the lowest speed I can, as you work you will get the hang of it real quick. When you get all the marks out there will be some fine lines left by the course sanding disc, then can be taken out by doing the same thing with 320 sandpaper. Once you go over it with 320 you might see some swirl marks, a buffer can take these out leaving a mirror shine.
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#19 Patrick Hand

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Posted 27 April 2009 - 08:29 PM

For that matter, copper is toxic in fairly small amounts, yet it's used in all kinds of food containers. I do know that you should never cook in a copper panned if it hasn't been properly tinned. It would taste terrible, and isn't at all good for you. So I would stay away from modern pewter for regular use. I'm not a chemist, nor physician, nor anyone else that could give a definitive answer. Once in awhile probably won't kill you. But cast aluminum is probably safer. Antique pewter - no way! If it isn't filled with lead, it's probably filled with antimony, arsenic or who knows what. I would also avoid acidic liquids like fruit or tomato juice. Metals and acids don't go well together.
There, that oughta keep you up all night, throwing away all your pewter. Sorry, ye had to ask.

I couldn't figure out the best parts, an war ter snip... so I just quoted alla it....

Ter my way of figgurin'.... Alla th' Rum I be drinkin' outta me tankard is enough of a health hazard.... so I ain't goinna worry too much 'bout the slight amounts on heavy metals wot may leach inter me drink....

Of course... other Pyrates may worry 'bout this kinda thing..... :blink:

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#20 Quartermaster James

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Posted 28 April 2009 - 09:20 AM

I'm not sure from where all this fear of copper comes. I use a copper mug regularly for wine and other beverages to no ill effect. Ayurveda praises the health benefits of copper drinking vessels. Now I wouldn't recommend certain cooking in untinned copper, but the same holds true for cast iron; and neither is for reasons of any toxicity.

Pewter is mainly tin. At least 92% tin for modern standards. Yes, old pewter has lead. If you have pewter old enough to have lead in it, you should keep that on the shelf with the other antiques and use something else for your beverages.

Aside from pewter there are the modern "pewter-ish" alloys such as Armetale by Wilton and similar products from other manufacturers. Being proprietary alloys, these are truly "mystery metals."