Passing the craft on to a new generation

Abu Salah and the legacy of copper polishing in Karbala

KARBALA, January 15 — Fifty-seven year old Abu Salah is a copper polisher who inherited the craft from his father and is passing the trade on to his son and grandson.

Working together, they use acid, lead, and wood shavings to polish vessels and antiques in their workshop located in the heart of eastern Karbala’s Abbasid area.

Salah, the son, said a sense of peace comes over him while he works and breathes new life into rusty antiques, transforming them into masterpieces once again.

Abu Salah shared with 964media:

I inherited copper polishing from my father, who worked at it since the 1960s. I passed it on to my son Salah, and we work together in the workshop, using various copper tools.

We polish copper items such as vases, hookahs, pedestals, daggers, and various cooking utensils, especially those used in processions during the Ashura and Arbaeen seasons. We also polish the domes used in mourning processions, making the pilgrimages revitalizing for our work.

In short, our process involves placing the item intended for rust removal in acid, then washing it with water. After that, we apply wood shavings and polish it with lead, followed by applying polishing material.

Prices vary depending on the amount of rust on the piece, ranging from 5,000 to 150,000 Iraqi dinars. Some tools are coated, and we remove the paint to restore their original color, which requires significant effort.

The tools we use include the geared cutter, circular wire brush, polishing paste, lead, water, and wood shavings.

We have customers from the Hussaini processions because we specialize in polishing large pots, pedestals, and domes used in mourning processions.