Metal Engraving/ Naqqashi Chittai of Delhi


Delhi is an old centre for metal work. Generations of metal workers practice their skill here. This craft has been handed down in families and survives mainly in the narrow lanes of the old city of Delhi especially in Galli Dhobiyan Bazaar and Dilli Gate.

Though brass, copper and silver sheets are all used in crafting the articles it is mainly brass that continues to be used. Sketches of the objects are first made on paper and then transferred on to the metal sheets. All the products are almost entirely handmade, the metal being beaten into shape with a hammer. The turning process is done on a hand-lathe and the soldering requires a metal alloy, which is prepared by the artisans. The base and the body of the vessel are made separately and then soldered together. The soldered joints are beaten with a hammer and the surface is scraped. The object is frequently heated in the furnace to keep the metal soft; it is also repeatedly beaten with a mogri, wooden hammer, in order to remove all the dents and smoothen the surface. Before engraving a mixture of lac, gum made from rice, powdered brick and mustard oil is made and heated until a gelatinous solution is obtained. This thick paste is poured onto the metal object and allowed to solidify for 5 to 6 hours. The thick solidified solution creates a barrier that ensures that the utensil does not get punctured by the chisels and hammers during the engraving process. After engraving the object is heated and the lac dissolved and removed. Some experts also additionally perforate the metal so that pattern for the tracery emerges.

 The various tools used are also made by the metal workers themselves  and include different varieties of Hathodi/hammers, Kalaam/chisels and Kattia/scissors. Only the final polishing or buffing is done by machine.

 

The product range includes utensils of utility and ritual use and art ware; particularly table tops, metal lamps, wall plaques and plates, planters, and hanging lamps.



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