Graham Tweed is a British entrepreneur who has run manufacturing businesses in metal works for over 35 years. From housewares to hinges, his love of sculpting metal took on new heights when he discovered the art of metal spinning. With a rich family history in India producing tea, and a devotion to British manufacturing, Graham dreamt of owning a business which combined his heritage, traditions and passions. He sought the finest, most experienced craftsmen with techniques and knowledge passed down through generations. Together they rekindled the Edwardian kettle spinning methods and the Richmond Kettle Company was born.
The art of metal spinning has been passed down through generations and it truly is a dying art. The artisan techniques have gone unchanged for over 100 years. After the establishment of the innovative Edwardian kettle design, barely anything had changed except the hands of the craftsmen.
Our kettles have had the privilege of regal ownership, including members of the British Monarchy. I have personally hand delivered one of our kettles to the Sultan of Dubai. Our kettles are rich in heritage and have travelled all over the world, but the story of how each one is made is the story I am most proud of.
It takes five hours to make just one kettle
We are based in the rural Norfolk countryside, England. The manufacture of our kettles is very labour intensive and it takes over five hours to finish just one. The majority of the processes take place in our ‘Spinning Barn’. Nestled in the heart of our estate we have a quaint flint barn which used to house horses. Long since this has been converted into the workshop for our metalwork.
The key ingredient is copper
Copper is the key ingredient to our kettles. It’s soft and highly conductive properties make it perfect for spinning and perfect for use as a stove top kettle because it heats up very quickly. Historically, our organic copper was mined in the United Kingdom, from Cornwall, Cheshire and Scotland. Copper had been mined in the UK since the roman times and had vast uses from cookware to coins, but in more recent decades unfortunately supply has not met demand. Our copper is UK sourced but imported from Germany.
From copper sheets, our craftsmen cut, stamp, form, punch and press the parts. These parts are then placed on hotplates and the hand-tinning process can commence. A flux is added to the surface before liquid tin is brushed on. During this process, the tin binds with the surface of the copper creating an integral surface for the inside of the kettle. The tinning process is fundamental for two key reasons: firstly, untreated copper will oxidise quickly in contact with water; secondly (and worse of all), the taste of your perfectly brewed cup of tea may be jeopardised!
The incredible process of spinning
Once the pieces of our copper jigsaw puzzle have been tinned, the craftsmen can begin the spinning process. Spinning is the process of manipulating metal using a lathe and different levered tools. Unlike wood turning, no material is removed in the spinning of metal. As the copper discs spin, they can be manipulated into shape by using the lever tools against a chuck. It is common for spinning in today’s age to be completed by CNC machinery but the organic properties of copper (being soft and having weak spots) can make it difficult to complete using CNC machines. The best results for spinning copper come from the hand spinning process where the craftsman can feel the inconsistencies and work his techniques personally to each individual piece.
Following the spinning of the parts, there are a series of pressing, crimping, cutting and soldering processes to take place before our kettles begin to resemble kettles. We use pure grade silver solder for our kettles to ensure they stand the test of time. The kettle parts must be heated in excess of 400°C allow the molten silver to create a seal. Throughout these stages, the kettles undergo three sets of integrity trials in the various parts before being hand polished using a polishing wheel.
Assembling the kettles
Most of the kettle parts are now ready for assembly. For our chrome models, we have to send the parts out to be chrome plated first (that is a whole other story for another day), but then assembly can begin. During the assembly process, a further two integrity trials are completed as well as two more cleaning and polishing processes. All of these processes are completed by hand. In total there are over 80 processes involved to make the kettles from over 20 different parts.
Don’t forget the whistle – each kettle has its own
One thing I haven’t yet disclosed is our unique whistle. Each kettle has its own signature melodic whistle which occurs in the reed chamber of the lid. There is a ball in the spout which has a resting perch. When the kettle is on the stove stop boiling away, the ball is in the resting position and creates a seal with the steam. In turn, the steam is redirected upwards trying to find an opening and it makes its way through the lid. This is a unique piece of engineering as many whistling kettles have a mechanism based in the spout. Each kettle has its own unique whistle that will forever conjure that heart-warming feeling of tea time.
So each of our kettles undertake a humble adventure from copper sheets to beautifully hand crafted works of art. Perfectly functional and destined for decades placed on your worktops, each have their own individual character and encapsulate the true British Edwardian design and craftsmanship.
To buy one of these wonderful kettles, follow this link.
With thanks to Sam Turver, and, of course, Graham Tweed.