Old English

Holiday Greeting to All,

Going through a book…" Metal Worker’s Handy-Book of Recipts and
Processes" William T. Brannt, 1919. A gem that someone mutilated by
removing a bunch of pages starting wih Gold Bronze, Japanese Bronze
and Malleable Bronze (pg 95) and ending with New Alloys: Alloy for the
Manufacture of Jewelry (pg 118).

Question, this book is full of “old terms” I can’t even find on the
Internet. Words like bole, spit-stick (some kind of tracer scratch
awl, I think).

Does anyone have a source to find definitions for

some of these terms?
Chapter V. Annealing, Hardening, Tempering
Chapter VI. Bronzing and Coloring
Chapter X. Decorating, Enamelling, Engraving, Etching

Super book.

Bill in Vista

A spitstick is used for stone setting and engraving - they can be
purchased from Sutton Tools (www.suttontools.co.uk) under Gravers -
and are pointed. This is the same word as is used for the pointed
metal rod on which meat was spitted for cooking on a spit in front of
a fire.

Without the context, all I can tell you about ‘bole’ is that it is
another word for tree trunk.

Pat Waddington

Definitions of “Spit-Stick”? how about a simple Graver. My ‘long
time ago’ teacher used this word on many an occasion…Gerry!

The term “bole” I do not know - it’s such a generic word, in a way,
there’s no clue in it. A “boule” is the long crystal formed in the
vernuil (sp) process of making synthetic sapphire. A spit-sticker is
related to a bull-sticker —hahah. They are slang for shapes of
gravers - the spit-sticker is a point graver, and the bull-sticker is
an oval graver…

Dear all on Orchid

A “Bull Stick” is a graver used by setters prior to the invention of
a bur or flex-shaft machine. The description as an oval graver is very
much correct. My teacher gave me his, that HIS teacher gave him. The
method of use is that after using a pump-drill to make a hole in the
gold or silver. The setter THEN had to cut open each hole to have the
diamond sit in to the metal. As in those earlier days no diamonds
were spherical, or machine girdled. The “Rose-cut” or "Mein-cut"
stones were of irregular shapes. Hence each diamond were of different
shapes, and some of them even had corners on them…Ouch!.

SO the setter had to cut each and every hole to suit the intended
diamond. ALL BY THIS ONE SIMPLE GRAVER. Tedium and very exacting
work…now this alone was diamond setting. We are now talking about
80+ some years ago. Can you folks imagine how long it took to set a
few diamonds in an Eternity ring…hours+? Each of these gravers
were contoured just for the setters hand size, why? He had to have
the constant ‘feel’ for the cutting, and holding of his “Bull-Stick”.

Illumination? how did they see these stones if they never had
flouresent lighting? Here is my answer for all on the topic of old
English methods. Imagine having a miners lamp, sitting in front of
your bench…okay so far? Now how did ‘they’ direct the light from
the flame direct to the bench pin? Anyone know the answer?. Well here
it is. At the back of the light was a some thin highly polished
reflective material that aimed the glowing and flickering light
directly to your items to be set, and into your work area. They had
kerosene or a petroleum based, highly flammable material to cast an
eerie glow to the setters face…forget about the fumes…and we
think that we have problems settings stones…hope you enjoyed this
little trip into our recent past?

…Gerry Lewy!

Question, this book is full of "old terms" I can't even find on the
Internet. Words like bole, spit-stick (some kind of tracer scratch
awl, I think). 

Try and find a copy of Herbert Maryon’s Metalwork & Enamelling
(ISBN 0-486-22702-2). He was one of the last writers to preserve and
define some of these old craftsman’s terms. A spit-stick is a
specific profile of graver. Bole is an old term for the usually
reddish material used to underlay gold and silver leaf.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR afn03234@afn.org

Try the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s Amaaazing. Great fun for
Scrabble. Send me a list of words and I’ll see what I can find in
mine. Some might be a bit too industry specific but that would
surpise me.


Definitions of "Spit-Stick"? how about a simple Graver. My 'long
time ago' teacher used this word on many an occasion... 

This is a typical British trade slang expression and refers to the
fact that it was normal to lubricate the graver with saliva in use.
Anything which was comparatively long and straight was referred to as
a ‘stick’ and, in this case it is the graver. You may also find
reference to a ‘drilling stick’ - not the drill but, when a spear
pointed drill or two-legged parser (see my website at
http://www.watchman.dsl.pipex.com/two-legged%20parser/parser.html )
was used, it was driven by a bow made usually out of an old umbrella
handle with a twisted leather cord. This was the ‘drilling stick’

Best Wishes

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

From an old English Goldsmith,

Gerald explained it right, but he missed out a vital part of the
lighting set up, which was a large glass bulb filled with a slightly
blue dyed water. When I started out in this trade back in 1961, I was
in a workshop that had been in equipped and run by craftsmen that
were sons of craftsmen who had worked for the Crown jewellers, some
of our tools were from the old Garrard workshops of the early 19th
century and in the store room was about a dozen of these glass
spheres, they were placed between the light source and the setter,
and I believe they concentrated the blueish light on to the work
surface. If anyone is interested in seeing how our benches looked
back in the 1960s take a look at page 14 on the bench exchange and
see me when I was much younger. Seasons greetings, good health and
peace to you all in orchidland.

James Miller

My thanks to all you philologists world wide.

In trying to find where the word ‘bole’ was used before taking it out
of context I ran across this Holiday Cheers cement: Armenian or
Jewrlery Cement.

Dissolve 5 or 6 pieces of gum mastic (a mixture of sulphate of lead,
linseed oil and pyrolusite stored in a stone vessle with wet bladder)
the size of a large pea in as much spirits of wine as will suffice to
render it liquid: in a separate vessel disolve some isinglass (thin
sheets of mica) (previously softened in water though none of the
water must be used) in rum or other spirit, as will makea 2 oz. phial
of very strong glue, adding two small pieces of gum-ammoniac, which
must be rubbed or ground until disolved, then mix the whole at a
sufficient heat.

Keep it in a phial closely stoppered, and when it is to be used set
it in boiling water.This cement is effective in uniting almost all
substances, even glass to polished steel.

All spirits not used in the manufacture of this cement must be
consumed by the cement maker in order for the cement to be effective,
therefor it is advisable to start this operation with at least two
bottle of wine spirits, one red and one chilled white, and one full
bottle of rum. Mixers and ice are discretionary.

My spell checker stopped working, so I apologize in advance. My
dictionary is still working though.

Bill in Vista

I have always known this graver as a spit stick but it is also known
as an onglette graver. I mainly use it for pulling up grains and
cutting between them. The bull stick which is an oval graver I use
occasionally to open out holes. It is ground and sharpened at an
acute angle to from a kind of C shape on the side. This then allows
you to use the side for cutting. I find this useful when setting old
cut diamonds or stones. They are not very often particularly round.
Incidentally I also use a round edge graver sharpened in the same
way. This gives me a smaller version of the ball stick which is good
for smaller stones and is great for cutting bearings. You can get a
very snug fit. I don’t often use them, but it was the way I was
taught and I still resort back to them for these odd shaped stones.


Gerald explained it right, but he missed out a vital part of the
lighting set up, which was a large glass bulb filled with a
slightly blue dyed water. 

I remember them, I believe they had copper sulphate solution in


English methods. Imagine having a miners lamp, sitting in front of
your bench...okay so far? Now how did 'they' direct the light from
the flame direct to the bench pin? 

I haven’t seen that method referred to but it was common in the days
before gas or electric lighting to use a candle and to magnify the
effect of the flame by placing a glass sphere full of water between
the candle and the work. This was a common method in many trades,
particularly watchmaking, lacemaking, jewellery making and steel
engraving. I have tried it using a round-bottomed laboratory flask
which was similar to what they used. The candle is in a tallish
candle stick and the flask is inverted into something like a candle
stick but with a bigger and deeper hole down the centre. By adjusting
the position and height of the candle and flask it is possible to get
quite a good and usable light.

Best Wishes and happy holidays from


in warm, damp Sheffield - not at all seasonal - don’t you just love
global warming??

Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

in a separate vessel disolve some isinglass (thin sheets of mica)
(previously softened in water though none of the water must be
used) in rum or other spirit, 

What a hoot - you’ve cheered the spirits of this ‘old english’-man
with this excallent example of mis-translation. Isinglass is a
product made from the swim bladders of fish and is also sometimes
called agar-agar. It is used principally in the refining of wine to
reduce cloudiness. Mica is an inert and heat resistant mineral. It is
listed in at least one dictionary as being called isinglass when used
as a heat resitant mat for soldering etc. but I can’t identify the
source of this use - if indeed it was a real use of the word and not
just another mis-transltion; anyway, I’d like to see you dissolve
mica in rum - I guess you’d soon drink the rum in frustration. My
favourite mis-translation occurred in a couple of Victorian ‘How to
do Everything’ books where it was stated that you can cut glass with
scissors provided you do it under water! What was interesting was
tracing the large number of subsequent publications which perpetuated
this fallacy and where, supposedly eminent writers had just
plagiarised the earlier work without checking or even properly
considering the facts they were offering as their own authoritative
work! The moral is, of course, don’t believe everything you read -
even on such a marvellous forum as this ;o)

Best Wishes and happy holidays to everyone…


Ian W. Wright
Sheffield UK

Hello Gerry, In 1950 I was eight and finally allowed to spend
afternoons in my dad"s shop. I swept, cleaned out filings, played
with tools and listened to all the jewelers swapping lies about the
great pieces they had built. It was a magic time. A diamond setter
from Paris, France worked there. He was sixty years older than I and
very dignified. He made all of his own gravers from broken fencing
tips his brother (a fencing master) sent him from France. He also
made spade drills to cut the seats for diamonds, using a bow drill.
The best thing was his lighting: a candle was placed behind a large
fish bowl that was filled daily with water. The bowl was used to
amplify and focus the light on his bench pin. One of my best times
was, upon advise from smiling platinumsmiths, I placed a goldfish in
the bowl.When a huge shadow sped across the piece he was setting, I
developed a great respect for setters. It turns out that they can
both run very fast and spank very hard. Have fun.

Tom Arnold

Most of these words are still in current use. A good dictionary
should bring up basic definitions. I can tell you that Chapter V.
must deal with metal working and or tool making.

My favourite mis-translation occurred in a couple of Victorian 'How
to do Everything' books where it was stated that you can cut glass
with scissors provided you do it under water! 

Whoo, Ian, this jogged my memory! As a pretty young child, I must
have had one of these books, because I remember (now that you
mention it) reading-- and trying-- this very thing! Needless to say,
it didn’r work. The good news was, I couldn’t imagine, even as a
kid, that it would work, so even though I was disappointed not to be
able to cut glass with scissors, my conception of how things worked
was vindicated.


Some old potbellied stoves have a window in them so you can see the
fire…this window was made from a sheet of mica, and it was called

I had never heard of agar-agar being called isinglass…I guess the
difference is where in the world you live. I wondered when I read
"dissolve some isinglass" cuz my mind went straight to mica…


I blush.
Marrian-Webster Dictionary, 1997,
ISBN 0-87779-911-3, page 401.
isin-glass\ 1: a gelatin obtained from various fish
2: mica esp. in thin sheets

The drinks are on me.
Bill in Vista

More messing about with obscure words.

Good ol’ English. Has 4 times the number of words of the next
nearest language. No wonder we don’t know all of them. But when you
are looking for the right word, a great resource.

Pardon me if someone has already answered this query - I’ve been
meaning to send in this info about one of the words someone was
asking about, the word “bole.”

Among other things - Bole is a fine red clay used in gold leaf
gilding (although there are other colours as well -ochre being one)
It is put on over the gesso (which is the hard substrate or ground).
The bole is porous and hygroscopic and enables the gold leaf to
adhere to the gelatin sizing or rabbit skin glue… The bole is soft
enough so that the gold leaf can then be burnished over it without
cracking. Also lends a little colour to the gold where it shows
through. This courtesy of my estimable wife, Olwyn, who
did a spell of gilding a few years back. I recall the best bole was
thought to come from Armenia.

Years ago I trained my old golden labrador retriever to “Go get the
bole” but all he did was drag around his food dish, looking hungry
and pathetic. I’m not sure if this was because he was a great
punster, or because he never did learn to spell right. Anyway, he
was not much use around the shop.

Marty in Victoria - Where, judging from the stuff for sale at the
lumberyards you’d never know we are surrounded by millions of trees.

Well, Happy New Year anyway.