The Commission House Copper Shop. Sophia and Frederick Streets, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401. Lamps, $34 to $41; weather vanes, from $200. 703/371-5577.
Fredericksburg Pewter.309 Princess Elizabeth St., Fredericksburg. 703/371-0585.
Less than a quarter of a tank of gas away from Washington, tucked away in a tiny basement warren in Fredericksburg, Va., is the Commission House Copper Shop, a father-and-son enterprise that's growth, in spite of its location (the doorpost warns you to duck before entering), from a hobby into a flourishing trade in unusual copper objects, among them weather vanes, a patent-pending spaghetti measurer and, their best seller, a versatile hurricane lamp that's fashioned from a band of copper and a glass shade. It can be hung on a wall or set on a table. When they're not working to meet the daily quota of five lamps, Allen H. Green II and Allen H. Green III concentrate on commissioned pieces, mostly weather vanes in a variety of forms and figures, including an Indian head and "the only praying mantis weather vane in the world," says Allen GREEN II. Their style and methods are the product of practice and experience. They boast no booklearning or formal instruction. In the same way, out of necessity and improvisation, the Greens have perfected the tools of their trade: from a hodge-podge of common household tools, they've rigged implements that transform their raw materials -- copper water pieces, sheets and electrical wire -- into showpieces. The Copper Shop welcomes visitors willing to bend, and mail orders.
Just a stone's throw from the Copper Shop retired Army Col. Pelham L. Felder, III, now the town's pewtersmith, practices his vanishing craft. He prides himself on his old-world methods of spinning, casting and hammering, and his "primitive" tools, but admits he's given in to the luxury of ellectricity for operating his lathe. He, too, is self-taught, and extends his inventiveness to creating most of his pewter designs, including plates, trays, cups, bowls, spoons, candleholders and desk accessories. Felder's work on special commission has included chalices and patens used by priests and ministers. The pewter pieces he turns out, sometimes with the help of two female apprentices, are highly polished and look deceivingly like silver. In Felder's opinion "pewter should be bright," and before he's finished, he makes sure each piece receives four polishings to enhance its shine. The pewter shop welcomes visitors and mail orders.