Sheets of tin were created by skilled craftsmen who would dip thin iron or steel in hot molten tin, creating a tin coating on the metal. This would preserve against rust and the material would remain lightweight and durable. Many household objects could be
created such as mugs, dinnerware, coffee pots, creamers,
cookware, baking pans, lanterns, and chandeliers.
Tinsmithing was a popular trade as it did not require a forge or as many tools as blacksmithing. Any form can be created using careful planning, hammers, tin snips, punches, nippers, shears, a soldering iron and a light weight anvil. By the early 19th century the first hand powered machine for cutting tin forms was invented. Before these machines were developed each piece of tinware was meticulously formed by hand.
The trade was often passed onto an apprentice with most apprenticeships lasting 4-6 years. Tinware was so popular in the second half of the 19th century that some made their living as tinkers by traveling from town to town mending broken items. Tinware became an important product of the Shaker
workshops in New Hampshire, where many
original Shaker designs were developed.
Photos from top: Roger Gibbs (seated) and Clinton Pitts during an apprenticeship, photo by Lynn Martin Graton; lantern by Clinton Pitts, photo by Gary Samson; serving set by Roger Gibbs, photo by Gary Samson