As well as selling the rings, necklaces and earrings that he makes, Pai also offers silversmithing classes. I lept at the chance and returned a few hours later with a very rough idea for a pendent, based on a compass - a good bit of travel symbolism. First I did a couple of quick sketches and then we got going...
The work area takes up about a third of the shop, the rest is devoted to display cabinets.
Tools of the trade, and a packet of fags.
The first job was to melt the pure silver grains with a little zinc for strength.
Using a foot-pumped, petrol fuelled blow-torch, it took me about ten minutes to melt the silver.
Here's the alloy ingot, by this time, with all the foot pumping for the blowtorch, I was sweating profusely.
I used this hand cranked gradated roller to squeeze the ingot into a long square section strip. It took about ten passes through the increasingly small gaps to get it to the required thickness. After each roll, it went back under the blowtorch until red hot, then quenched in water - this made it more pliable.
To get the circular base, I wrapped it around a ring-sizing mandrel. All of the tools in the workshop, some of great vintage, were inherited from his mentor.
Next, we used tin snips to cut silver into the shape of the compass needles. Then refined the shape with a bit of careful filing.
I used needle nosed pliers with a circular section to fashion the letters for North, South East and West. Pai did a much better job at this fiddly task than I did.
The loose pieces were then individually welded onto the base.
Next, Pai quickly fashioned a ring and loop for the necklace string.
After it was all attached, we soaked it in acid for ten minutes to get rid of all the oxidised silver. Pai had a smoke, I had a cuppa.
Nearly there - giving a further shine with a needle file.
Finally, a buff with a velvet polisher, an electric tool no less.
To finish it off, Pai deftly tied a couple of knots in a thin black cord and presented me with my necklace. A very large gecko on the roof joists then pooed on my back, which we both took as a good omen. Slightly over two hours from first sketch to finished article. It was really satisfying getting my hands working on a bit of craft, it's been too long. Thanks Pai for a brilliant afternoon.
There's more about the shop here: