Questions Frequently Asked of and about Billy and Charlie's
Inquiring minds want to know...
- So this stuff is pewter. That has lead in it, right?
- Where do you get your pewter?
- How strong are these pins? And how am I supposed to get
them into my shirt anyhow?
- Where do you get off selling something you admit is going to break at such a
- How do you make the molds?
- Do you do special orders for badges?
- If I buy all the stuff to make a belt, how do I put it
- Do you make belts for people who don't want to put
them together themselves?
- Do *you* think those strange brooches in the Carnival section are funny?
So this stuff is pewter. That has lead in it,
We're pouring a modern, lead-free pewter. It's a mix we get from a jewelry
supplier, and it's made up mostly of tin, with a little copper and a little
antimony mixed in. As we learn more about this craft, we have started
experimenting with other tin alloys, trying to get materials that behave in
particular (and more desireable) ways. For example, we cast ampullae in pure tin because our standard alloy
won't make a hollow container when we try to slush cast it. We also use pure tin
or tin antimony mixes in a number of other pieces. In most cases it appears that
we are pushed to this experimentation because we are not using lead, which
has many very desireable working qualities for this type of casting.
Where do you get your pewter?
We buy it in five pound chunks from Rio
Grande, a reputable dealer in jewelry supplies.
How strong are these pins? And how am I supposed to
get them into my shirt anyhow?
We find the pins are the artifact of the authentic technology which people have
the most trouble dealign with. They are not as strong as the steel pins you
find on the back of modern brooches. Our testing (performed in the most obvious
way possible) indicates that you can bend most of these pins back and forth
pretty far about 30 or 40 times before they break. Once that happens, your brooch
looks a lot like the ones the mudlarks pull up with their metal detectors -
they no longer have the pins that used to keep them in somebody's hat. If you
are wearing your medieval jewelry in clothing that is infrequently washed, like
a hat or a coat, you will probably never have to fasten and unfasten it often
enough to make any difference.
The other problem with the pins is that they are too thick to put into tightly
woven textiles without marking the fabric or tearing a thread or two. They can
be inserted without damage into looser weaves, knits, and fabrics made up of
heavier threads. Wool and linen which is not too tightly woven is ideal (no
surprise). You will probably want to open a hole with an awl if you are going to
wear one of the brooches in a leather garment. For use in everyday life, you will
have the best luck wearing the brooches in coats or other heavy garments - and
they work perfectly in sweaters!
Here's a final tip from one of our satisfied customers: fasten a pair of safety
pins from the inside through your tightly-woven cotton garment at the place where
you'd like to wear the pewter brooch. Slip the pin through the little bits of
safety pins that are exposed, rather than through the fabric itself.
Where do you get off selling at such a high price
something you admit is going to break?
If durability were a defining characteristic of the medieval souvenirs and junk
jewelry we're copying, we'd feel bad about selling brooches that won't stand up
to repeated rough handling. We think we're selling reasonable authenticity,
though, and what you actually get for your money are nearly irreproachable
reproductions of medieval artifacts. They've got authentic designs, copied from
real medieval pieces (in most cases); they're poured into stone molds which we
made (and which could break, just like the real ones did, necessitating
replacement); they're poured by hand; most of them come out of the mold one at a
time and we clean them one by one to ensure that they are in good condition. We
figure if you have the good taste to want authentic reproductions of medieval
junk jewelry, you'll be able to deal with them having the irritating as well as
the delightful qualities of their exemplars.
How do you make the molds?
They are carved into carefully fitted pieces of stone. A brooch with a pin must
come out of a mold made of three pieces of stone, one for the "face", the part
with the design of the brooch, and two more for the back: one for each side of
the pin. Some molds take more than three pieces; many molds that have a cavity
in the finished piece, for example, must also include a "core" to make that
cavity. We often use wooden cores. Some of our molds are soapstone (steatite);
recently we have been using a serpentine. (The medieval molds which have been
found are made of a number of stones, including soapstone and lithographic
limestone.) Both these stones are relatively soft and we are able to carve them
with hand tools.
Yes. Making the mold is an extremely time-consuming part of producing jewlery
by this authentic method. For this reason, there is a base fee for custom work
- usually $250. This fee includes the production of the mold, and some castings
from it. We will quote exact numbers for particular orders; for a relatively
simple, three-part mold, your $250 would get you 50 copies of the piece. We
will retain the mold and cast for you in the future at a reduced price, or send
you the mold to keep, whichever you prefer. If you happen to want a copy of
an authentic item and you aren't in a hurry, please contact us to suggest we
make it. If we are amused by the project we might do it on our own and you would
get to buy just one!
Check out the page of custom work we have done in
If I buy all the stuff to make a belt, how do I put
Full instructions are available.
Do you make belts for people who don't want to
put them together themselves?
Yes. We charge $30 - $40 above the price of the pewter components to make a belt
up. Small adjustments from this charge are made for belts of very small, or very
great, length or belts with very few, or a great many, studs.
Do *you* think those weird brooches in the Carnival section are are funny?
Some of them we do, and some of them we don't.