Beaten copper ware is made prolifically in Uttarakhand, especially Almora district from where Suresh Lal Tamta-who works with the material-hails. Suresh Lal Tamta learnt the ancestral craft from his father, working with him since he was 10-12 years old. Each family has its own workshop. The Tamta people, he says, traditionally work with copper. Almora has a lot of copper-workers.
The basic raw materials used are sheets of copper, or patches made from melted scrap. The sheets are of varying thickness, with thickness being measured in gauges; the higher the number of the gauge, the thicker the sheet (and, correspondingly, the lower the number of the gauge, the thinner the sheet).
The process is basically that of beaten metal-work, in which the metal is beaten into the required shape. A wooden hammer is used while shaping the metal; a much heavier iron hammer for processes that involve sizing, like increasing the size of a strip.
According to Suresh Lal, a lot of the items - especially the smaller ones - are worked from a single piece of the metal. Jointing, however, makes the work simpler. The sheer time and craftsmanship required in making a single-piece item makes the end product very expensive; that kind of craftsmanship cannot be often afforded.
The joint is made with a combination of brass and zinc, which is melted in an earth-kiln fire and is then mixed with suhaga - a white, grainy powder that is bought in the market, and is commonly used by goldsmiths. The joint, says Suresh Lal, can be taken apart by craftsperson's only by heating the metal at the join...
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