5 Year Apprenticeship Program.

In order to get a job in Waterford Crystal one had to perform different steps, which was considered a profiency test. This consisted of cutting an eight point star on a 4inch circular piece of crystal with a sandstone wheel measuring 6inch in diameter. The types of wheels used were generally Sandstone or Carborundum and some measured up to 18 inches in dia.

The test center or training school was operated by two of Waterford’s best craftsmen, leslie Holness and Frank (I think we can save it) Walsh.The new trainee had to perform a series of cuts with different wheels to see if his agility would measure up to the standards of the proud Waterford name. Assuming the test was passed, one could normally start upon completion of a medical exam at the medical center where Nurse Maidey Carroll would check the vital signs and if everything checked out, one could start the following week.

The first year apprentice was generally at the end of a six-man shop, each shop was known as a Bench and was powered by a motor that turned six wheels, hence a six-man shop. First man was known as Master, second was First Helper, Second Helper and then there were three apprentices.

The job of the Master and First Helper was to hand cut the first rough cut of each pattern or design with a Carborundum Wheel and the trick was to have it cut in such a way to make it easy for the apprentice to join all the points in a diamond shaped pattern, with their smooth sandstone wheels. In those days every cutting element was done in two stages, rough and smooth.

EXAMPLE: Sometimes the Master would Rough-Cut sixteen point stars and usually this would be the job for the newly appointed apprentice to smooth out the rough cut and bring the star design to a perfect center. Many units of crystal were usually in the 300 count, meaning 300 pieces of a particular pattern that could be Goblets, Flutes, Sherries and so on.

All Benches were run on a piece-rate system and the way this worked was each Shop had a quota for a two-week work period and anything produced over this quota was considered a bonus, so if anyone did not measure up to the expected standard, the shop would suffer as a whole. Many of the new trainees were not treated in the best manner and Master Cutters who had a lot of authority were frowned upon because of the way they treated the new apprentices.

Crystal, China, Gifts, and Lamps by Waterford

Learning To Profile Wheels

The second and third year apprentices were basically learning all the different patterns, for example, Cross-Hatch Cutting was known as Caro, Rossettes, Different Point Stars, Swerve Cutting, Upright Cutting, Horizontal Cutting and generally smoothing out the rough cuts that the Master and First Helper made. In order to be able to perform this type of cutting the apprentice needed to know how to profile a sandstone wheel. Wheels came in all diameters sizes and turned at various speeds. The bigger the wheel, the slower the speed.

Fourth year apprentice was a step up the ladder with experience and learned how to do Scollops, which means grinding and shaping the tops of large pieces of crystal. One needed a delicate but firm hand to accomplish this technique and all this learning was in preparation for the 5year Apprenticeship Bowl.

Waterford Crystal Apprentice Bowl

The year is 1974 and another Hand-Cutter is ready for the ultimate test in crystal cutting on the famous and now bankrupt Waterford Crystal. With learned skills and cutting techniques from the previous 5 years, the hand cutter is given a Blank Bowl and proceeds to prove his experience and acquired knowledge, to make him worthy as a proud qualified craftsman of the Waterford Crystal name.

The bowl measures 8 inches in diameter/approx 4 inches high and consists of all the intricate cuts known to be that of the beautiful Waterford Crystal. The apprenticeship bowl is first marked with a permanent marker that acts as a guide to where the main pattern of cuts will begin and so the work starts.

As mentioned in a previous article, hand-cutting was done in two stages, rough and smooth, (Carborundum and Sandstone) and so the Carborundum wheel is prepared with layers of tin to produce a good depth into the crystal. The first couple of days is when all the rough cutting is done and is overseen by the training school manager Frank (I think we can save it) Walsh, who is not allowed to touch the bowl but can give advice from his vast array of knowledge and cutting experience. The second part of the week is when all the smooth cutting is done. When all the smooth cutting is completed, the finished Waterford Crystal bowl is then Acid Polished and graded by the Cutting Shop Manager.

The cutter is graded on the intricacies, free flowing movement of hand/depth perception and miter-cutting qualities. If the bowl is passed it will be acid etched with the proud watermark Waterford name and the newly qualified cutter will have his name engraved on it.

Like to own one? These Apprentice Bowls are available on Amazon. I think there may have a few left. Order here

James Connolly is a retired Waterford Crystal Master Appraiser and offers you his unique services in Appraisals, Identification and Authentication. Find out if you have a dud Waterford Crystal piece?

Visit the little web-site at www.waterfordcrystalappraisal.info.

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