Finials by Paul G. Wiley
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ABOUT PAUL WILEY

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My dad, Al Wiley, got a job in Philadelphia as an apprentice metal spinner in 1927 when he was 18 years old. At the time, there were thousands of metal spinners in the USA, concentrated in nearly every industrialized city. After two years, he became the top spinner in the company, producing the highest quality work at a pace that left other spinners wondering how he did it. His reputation turned heads around town, and at the tender age of 25 he was offered the job as shop foreman for the largest shop in Philadelphia. He was that good!

I learned the art of metal spinning from Pop (as he was affectionately called by our family), who started his own metal spinning business in 1946. His company specialized in ecclesiastical metal work, which throughout the centuries has been the highest calling for artists and artisans all over the world. He was a marvelous artisan and was considered a master metal spinner by everyone that knew him.

I started hanging around his shop mostly on Saturdays when I was around 12, learning the hard way (making a lot of mistakes). Pop had some of the coolest jobs you could ever imagine; during the 50ís/60ís space race, he made rocket and satellite parts for the growing number of local electronics companies (Westinghouse, GE, and Honeywell, to name a few) supplying the US Government with the technology they needed to get into space and beyond. Needless to say, I had some pretty amazing school science projects, made from stuff that was lying around the workshop.

One of my favorite jobs that Pop had was making the brass goblets (pictured above) for world-famous Knoll International right here in Pennsylvania. This is a goblet designed by the famous Bauhaus designer, Florence Knoll. By the time I was in my late teens, I could make the entire stem section, machining the stem and base from brass bar stock, silver soldering, then feathering the two pieces to look like one piece, and finally silver soldering the base to the cup. Pop finally taught me how to spin the brass goblet bowl before he retired, so that when I took over the business in 1975, I could do the entire job myself. I made about two hundred goblets over the course of the next few years, before Knoll unfortunately retired the goblet from their product line the early 1980ís.

For the past 40 years I have been a supplier of spun metal components for artists, blacksmiths, and artisans, high-end lighting companies, auto restoration shops, and scientific companies, and I am a maker of finials and other architectural embellishments.
© Paul G. Wiley
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