Field Trip to the School of Hard Knocks at Royal Selangor

The school of hard knocks at Royal Selangor Visitor Centre at Straits Quay in Penang

As homeschoolers we have the flexibility to go on field trips whenever we want.  For this particular field trip we paired up with the exciting family at Our Travel Lifestyle.  This time we decided to learn about the history of pewter in Malaysia at the School of Hard Knocks at the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre in the middle of Straits Quay.

A tour guide shares with us the history of the Royal Selangor company and pewter in Malaysia

A tour guide shares with us the history of the Royal Selangor company and pewter in Malaysia

We called ahead (+60-4-891 2018 or 60-4-891 2019) to make an appointment.  We made the appointment the day before.   So both families set out to Straits Quay.

Tour of the museum

We started off with a tour of their museum.  Lots of early artifacts including the first pewter teapots and other implements are on display.  There are photographs of the founder, and the successive generations that have lead the company.

You can also see the progression of the teapot design as it morphs through the ages. When the western soldiers came, the first pewter beer steins were made and sold. The worldwide demand for pewter and tin spiked with the advent of packaged food.

Chamber of Chimes


I personally believe that the sign of a good field trip is the ability to engage many of the children’s senses.  The pewter artifacts are shiny and artfully lit.  The sense of sight is engaged.  Then we reached the chamber of chimes and the sense of hearing got engaged.

Hanging from the ceiling are chimes made from different materials, bamboo, wood, steel and pewter.  The children were given turns to ring the chimes and listen to how the different materials sound.

The children were also invited to examine and touch the wall behind the chimes.  Each of the pewter squares behind the chimes are stamped with a different pattern.  They call this the Wall of Finishes.  Great for tactile learners.

Oddly enough, the chamber of chimes was not the loudest part of the School of Hard Knocks …


Casting Pewter

Kids watching hot molten pewter being poured into a moldBut first we got a demonstration of how pewter can be cast into molds.  The tour guide did this behind a protective lexan shield and warned the children multiple times that this is dangerous and for them to keep back.

I was shocked at how quickly it cooled and set.  I think she popped the keychain out of the mold in less than 2 minutes.

She also showed how tinsmiths add patterns to the cast items with a hammer.  She demonstrated this on some precast napkin rings.

It’s Hammer Time

Making a Pewter bowl at the School of Hard Knocks The School of Hard Knocks tour comes with a hands on opportunity for the kids to make a pewter bowl.  For some reason the tour guide kept calling it an ice cream bowl, so guess what we had to go buy later that afternoon…

We start out by stamping our names into the pewter disc.  There is a set of metal letters that we use to spell our names, letter by letter.  Then we tap each letter into the disk.

The two year old covering her ears because she couldn't handle the level of noise when the hammering started.

The two year old couldn’t handle the level of noise when the hammering started.

Then the banging starts.  Wooden mallets are used to bend the disk into the curved frame so that it bends into the shape of the mold.  Bang, bang, bang… it got loud with just five children making bowls.  I couldn’t imagine what it would be like with more.

Each bang, is supposed to be more of a tap.  It is like you’re easing the pewter into the shape you want it to take, not forcing it.

The older kids finished their own bowls.  The younger ones got help from the adults. I made the two year old’s.


At the end of the tour, the kids got to take home their apron, bowl, and a certificate that says they graduated from the School of Hard Knocks.

The price is RM 60 per student, and you need a minimum group of four for them to run the tour.

The Royal Selangor Visitor Centre has three locations in the area, Penang, KL and Singapore.  The larger center in KL has a Foundry workshop where participants can cast their own keychain.  But that tour is only for people over 18.

I’m going to leave you now with a video of the banging.  See you next time.

Bang bang bang