Rare find – 19th century cutlery original 'electroplate' printing blocks from a now defunct Sheffield Cutlery Maker S & J Kitchin.
Artist Russell Frost, based in London, has made a limited edition letter press print from an extraordinary find of a collection of very rare original 'electroplate' blocks from a now defunct Sheffield Cutlery Maker S & J Kitchin. They operated from the Soho Works and ceased production around 1957.
Russell has sent a collection of these blocks and the prints to Cupola Gallery. The blocks are not for sale but are available to be viewed alongside the print, which is for sale in a very limited edition of 20.
The knife blocks used to make the print date from 1880-1910 and the detail of the engravings is superb. They are very special and the skill of the engravers is second to none.
The artist has shown his print in London but felt strongly that he really wanted to see the print exhibited and sold in Sheffield, being the birthplace and home of the blocks and the internationally famous 'steel city'. In addition he and we, would very much like to find out a bit more about the history of these blocks and if possible trace anyone connected with someone who made them.
The completely wooden blocks are the masters as the engraver made them in end-grain boxwood . From these, a wax cast was made; the insides of which was then brushed with graphite powder, giving it an electric charge to which a copper solution was attracted (copper-faced print blocks were harder wearing). This 'pie-tin' of copper was then back filled with molten lead and your 'electroplate' was then ready for commercial printing.
The artist is very curious about a snake design that appears to have been obscured from many of the copper faced blocks, which may suggest passing of designs to other manufacturers to be made under licence or possibly a business takeover. If anyone has any information or can shed any light about this, we would be very interested.
Russell Frost was born in Canada, grew up in New Zealand and currently lives and works in London.