These two stockpots are cousins, not siblings.
|Type||Two tin-lined stockpots in hammered finish with brass handles fastened with three copper rivets; fitted brass lid handles fastened with one copper rivet on each side|
|French description||Deux marmites traiteures étamées et martelées avec poignées en laiton munies de trois rivets en cuivre; couvercles emboîtés avec poignées en laiton munies d’un rivet en cuivre sur chaque support|
|Dimensions||26cm diameter by 26cm tall
(10.2 inches by 10.2 inches)
|32cm diameter by 32cm tall
(12.6 inches by 12.6 inches)
|Thickness||1.5mm at rim||2.5mm at rim|
|Weight||4630g (10.2 lbs) without lid
5562g (12.3 lbs) with lid
|9940g (21.9 lbs) without lid
11156g (25 lbs) with lid
|Stampings||MADE IN FRANCE||[Bonjour logo] MADE IN FRANCE|
|Maker and age estimate||Mauviel; 1960s to 1980s||Mauviel; 1980s to 2007|
These stockpots are both the work of Mauviel and therefore were built at the same factory in Villedieu-les-Poêles in Normandy. The craftsmanship involved is identical: copper sheets were cut to measure, soldered together, and hammered; brass handles were affixed with copper rivets. This same technique (plus or minus some sheet-cutting, soldering, and riveting machines) is unchanged for most of the 20th century. And yet, when I look closer, I see some differences that tell me that these pots were built during different decades.
When I’m trying to figure out when a big piece was made, the first thing I look for are the seams. Many small pots and pans can be shaped by machines that bend the metal into shape, but larger pieces like daubières, stockpots, and large-scale rondeaux are pieced together from sheets of copper and then the seams are sealed. In the modern era, those seams are soldered, but up until the turn of the 20th century the seams were cramped (or dovetailed) and then brazed with brass, leaving tell-tale lines of yellow metal.
Both of these pots have welded seams. They’re subtle, as the welding fuses the copper very neatly, but you can find them if you look an inch or two above the base of the pan. Here’s a closeup of the soldered seam on the 32cm.
Differences begin to emerge on examination of the handles and rivets. The handle baseplates are shaped slightly differently — look on the lower edge of the baseplate. The exterior rivets look identical but the interior rivet heads are different: the 26cm rivets are featureless, while the 32cm rivets have numbers on them. Someday I will figure out what the numbers mean, but a common-sense conclusion is that the numbers refer to specific dimensions of the rivet and would help with sorting in the shop.
The handle and rivet details above are not super helpful for dating the pots specifically, at least based on my current knowledge. Rather, they indicate different production runs of cast handles and batches of rivets. I don’t know how far apart the runs were, of course, but my current guess is that these pots could be 20 years apart in age or so.
The lid handles are also slightly different, but I’m not attaching great significance to this. Lids are often sold separately, lost, or replaced, so in most cases a lid is not a reliable indicator of age. (The exception is a lid that is stamped with a maker’s mark, owner’s mark, or size mark identical to that on the pan body.) These are standard Mauviel lids of different modern eras — the 26cm brackets have a smoother look than those for the 32cm lid.
The pots carry different stamps. The 26cm carries a generic “MADE IN FRANCE” stamp, which dates it to the 1960s and later. The 32cm was made by Mauviel for sale at the Bonjour kitchen store.
But it is the hammering that has me intrigued. Look at the pattern on the 26cm next to the 32cm.
When I look closely at each pattern, I see a difference in the alignment of the hammer strikes. It’s subtle, but to me it indicates a difference in technique between the two pots. They were both machine-hammered, but you can see how different craftsmen positioned the marks.
Take a look at these detail photos below. I traced the vertical alignment of hammer marks; the 26cm hammer marks overlap vertically, but the pattern drifts to the side, and by contrast, the 32cm hammering is more like a honeycomb, and there is less sideways drift.
This difference comes down to the craftsman’s decisions to reposition the pot under successive strikes from the hammering piston. But there’s another possibility: hand-hammering. Would large vessels like these two stockpots have been too deep to fit around the hammering machine? Could the differences in hammering patterns reflect actual hand-hammering?
Mauviel’s factory video from 2017 shows both hand-hammering and machine-hammering — zoom to about 1 minute 55 seconds into this video. The sequence is only a few seconds long, so keep your eyes peeled, but it shows a craftsman hand-hammering a daubière, and then in the next shot, a craftsman using a hammering machine on a skillet.
This hammering stuff is a bit inside baseball, I know, but these physical artifacts reveal something of the craftsmanship of copper, and I’m frustrated by how little information there is about this stuff. And again, this is just a theory of mine — I have no facts (yet) to back up this idea that the slightly irregular hammering could be the sign of slightly irregular hand-work. If you know better, please comment! I’d love to learn.