Royal Selangor. I’ve heard the name, seen the pewter, admired the craftsmanship from glass window of its retail outlets namely in Suria KLCC and Central Market, wanted to visit the place but never made an effort to do so, until last Saturday. The main reason was because I didn’t know that I can just walk in and visit.
The visit begins when I take the escalator up to the first floor from the main lobby to reach the museum area.
Back in 1882, in a port town of Shantou, China, a young boy named Yong Koon, age 11, learned how to make pewter. Three years later, at the age of 14, he braved himself to sail to Malaya and join his brothers, who both had already established themselves as tinsmiths in a town of tin mining known as Kuala Lumpur. The Yong brothers had a shop called Ngeok Foh (Jade Peace), hand-crafted pewter objects mainly for ceremonial use.
In 1930, Yong Koon, his wife and sons moved to their own shophouse at Jalan Pudu and named the shop Malayan Pewter Works. The next decade saw how family disputes had Yong Koon’s sons shuffled allegiance and formed 3 other companies namely Tiger Pewter, Selangor Pewter and Lion Pewter. It was that Selangor Pewter that was run by Peng Kai, Yong Koon’s 3rd son that had survived to this date.
Selangor Pewter was renamed Royal Selangor in 1979 when The Sultan of Selangor conferred them the warrant as Royal Pewterer.
Left: Yong Koon in front of Jade Peace situated at Cross Street (now Jalan Silang), KL. Right: Yong Koon in his old age.
Other than history, the museum features old tin currency, pewter artefacts and Yong Koon’s original pewtersmithing tools and personal effects. The museum also houses the Melon Pot, one of Yong Koon’s original pewter pieces that found its way back to the founder’s family members in an unusual way.
The legendary Melon Pot that bears Jade Peace touchmark. It was found by Ah Ham, a villager in Kajang during WW2. The pot made it’s way to Selangor Pewter in the 70s for polishing and it was quickly recognised as it has Jade Peace touchmark. Selangor Pewter tried to acquire the pot but Ah Ham could not depart from the pot that he thought had saved his life during the war. But years later, before he died, he sold the pot to Selangor Pewter.
One of Yong Koon’s early works—a teapot that features a mythical dog that is believed to bestow good fortune and success.
Left: Evolution of touchmarks. Right: The legendary first touchmark.
There is also few interesting sections such as The Science of Pewter, Giant Weighing Scale, Chamber of Chimes, where I think that will attract kids. Other than that there’s Wall of Finishes (each wall displays different pewter textures and patterns), Hall of Frames (more than 200 photo frames on display) and Twin Towers Replica (constructed completely out of 7,062 tankards, standing at 9.1 meters).
Pewter is made of tin, antimony and copper. You and your kids can learn this and many more at the The Science of Pewter section.
Hall of Frames!
Then I visited the factory. The factory tour shows visitors the elaborate processes of pewter-making; detailed hand-crafting that goes into each piece include casting, filing, polishing, soldering and hammering. This factory has 250 skilled craftspeople who create beautiful pewter pieces that are sold in over 20 countries. As Royal Selangor maintains its tradition of craftsmanship, every piece made is still hand finished to an astonishing degree.
A skilled worker removing rough edges using steel a blade.
Here how it’s done: the first step is casting, a process where tin, antimony and copper are melted at 250 degrees Celsius to make molten pewter. Skilled artisans pour the molten pewter into moulds. After it solidifies, the mould is dismantled and the casting is removed. To remove the oxidation and rough edges, a steel blade is used to skim over a rotating piece of pewter to give the surface a satin-like finish. Designs in different shapes and sizes and with motifs are polished in a different manner. Rough edges are removed using small hacksaw blades and filing tools. Fine sandpaper is also used to remove the yellow patina. The hammering process is a traditional method of pewter decoration made by a steel hammer. A steady hand, precision and consistent strength is needed to create a neat and even line of dimpled patterns.
And the highlights of the visit are The School of Hard Knocks and The Foundry. I had fun at these two sections.
My pewter dish.
At The School of Hard Knocks, I experienced the rigours of traditional pewter-crafting! I was guided through the process of creating a pewter dish using traditional tools such as the hammer, mallet and wooden mould. At the end of the session, I get to keep my bowl. In addition, I was given a certificate of completion, and that makes me a certified bowl artisan!
Details of workshop:
Cost: RM 60 per person
Time: 30 minutes
Group size: 50 (maximum), 4 (minimum)
My E pewter pendant, made by my own hands.
At The Foundry, I get to unleash my artistic talent! I was guided through the process of casting, polishing and decorating a pewter accessory by an experienced instructor. At the end of the session, I get to take home my own pewter accessory.
Details are as follows:
Cost: RM 150 per person
Time: 60 minutes
Group size: 12 (maximum), 4 (minimum)
I had a great time at The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre and will certainly visit again with my family. I showed photos of the visit to my son and he is all envy and wants me to take him there next weekend.
If you like to experience the tour and making your own craft at The Foundry, I have a great promotion offer for you, in collaboration with Royal Selangor: you can purchase two passes at RM150 (you save RM150!).
Here how it works:
- Purchase workshop passes at the information counter, Royal Selangor Visitor Center (Setapak branch only) or purchase via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mention the promotion code: FOUNDRY EMILA
- Book the date slot (anytime from 18 August to 19 October 2014)
Enjoy the promotion and enjoy your visit soon!
Address: Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, 4, Jalan Usahawan 6, Setapak Jaya, 53300 Kuala Lumpur. GPS Coordinate: 3.196, 101.724 Contact: +603 4145 6122 | +603 4022 3000 | email@example.com