Smalls – They Have Them in Adamstown.

On the off chance you aren’t tired of Adamstown yet, this might do it. I was going to post something else for a few days but I am stuck in a hotel with connectivity that makes AT&T DSL look good. No, AT&T DSL IS bad. Nothing wrong with this set, I just thought you might like go somewhere else for a few days.

With these encouraging words, I offer you a set of pictures of smalls from that place. First is this small painted wall box:

Nicely decorated. Wouldn't this look nice in your house?

Nicely decorated. Wouldn’t this look nice in your house?

This poor cabinet has had a hard life:

IMG_6553

and is still slightly toasty on the back:

Looks more than a bit rough.

Looks more than a bit rough.

Notice the back is unpainted. They really didn’t care about furniture backs much. More on that later.

This is billed as a Lancaster, PA folk art child’s jelly cupboard.

Like furniture only smaller.

Like furniture only smaller.

I have no reason to doubt them.

This is another unusual wall box. There’s not much of a slant to the lid. It’s nearly horizontal.

Darn close to a cube.

Darn close to a cube.

And in some odd cost savings measure, they only used one hinge.

Who needs two?

Who needs two?

And lest you think there is only small casework, there is also small seating.

They don't look comfortable.  Maybe that's the point.

They don’t look comfortable. Maybe that’s the point.

If you want to look at the rest of the smalls, go to my Flickr set HERE.

A Refresher Course on Painted Chests from Adamstown

Wrapping up my Adamstown travelogue, I offer a refresher course on painted chests. There are several styles of painted chests that can be divided into four major groups. First is painting for the sake of painting, much like you paint a house:

It's just paint.

It’s just paint.

Next there is the decoratively painted chests. Often religious, cultural or ethnic themes are portrayed. Some are celebratory, weddings, births. Some are just decorative:

IMG_6535

Could be cultural or ethnic.

Could be cultural or ethnic.

They ya got yer faux wood grained, often done to make the chest seem to be made from a better wood. Possibly to make it look veneered.

Kinda looks like wood. Better than I could do.

Kinda looks like wood. Better than I could do.

Then we move into the abstracts, starting with imaginative wood graining and quickly moving on to things I don’t understand and might never. Wood graining on mushrooms.

Close to natural wood.

Close to natural wood.

Swirling grain.

Swirling grain.

Wood grain from a tree we haven't met yet.

Wood grain from a tree we haven’t met yet.

And then there is this one I like but don’t get:

What is it, really?

What is it, really?

I had this earlier blog on painted furniture, “As Close to Easter Eggs as I’m Going to Get.”

And my legendary Flickr set of Chests.

If there are any discrepancies between this and previous blogs, rest assured that this blog is correct. It just goes to show how much I have learned and how much smarted I am now.

Or not.

Cutting Edge Medical Technology – circa 1900

Really, I’m not try to drag out my Adamstown visit. There are just that many unique things that deserve attention that I am avoiding a large inclusive photo dump. And I always wanted to do a blog with “circa” in the title. I like that word.

There were two unique items that I feel deserve their own blog. The first is the:

McConnell Dental Chair Demorest, GA  -  USA

McConnell Dental Chair
Demorest, GA – USA

This is a portable, folding chair used by the traveling dentist. It was designed to fold and be carried in the back of the buggy.

Front view.

Front view.

Rear view.

Rear view.

Not only did the chair fold but the seat height was adjustable.

Seat height adjustment.

Seat height adjustment.

I am sure this chair was a marvel for the time, but consider how stable it was when it was occupied by a 300 lb. man during an extraction without anesthetics. I feel sure there were 300 lb. men in 1900. And they might have had bad teeth.

The other device is:

Dr. C. H. Williams' Lantern for Testing Color-Sense.

Dr. C. H. Williams’ Lantern for Testing Color-Sense.

This is described as “A Dr. C. H. Williams railroad lantern for testing color sense or blindness in railroad workers. Made by Peter Gray & Sons, Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1895.”

It consisted of a metal box with a wheel with 18 colored discs, three light bulbs and a rheostat.

The Lantern.

The Lantern.

There are several links for this lantern including this one from the University of Toronto Scientific Instruments Collection.

The Official Proceedings, Volume 17, of the Western Railway Club has a description here.

Next, Painted Chests.

Adamstown, PA – A Woodworker’s Paradise?

I could be that Adamstown was always loaded with tools, tool chests and workbenches and I didn’t notice. Now, with photographic evidence, I notice.

Lots of workbenches. Like this handsome devil:

What a nice bench.

What a nice bench.

There was text on the vise collars. I took a picture:

The

The mysterious text on the vise collar.

It says “C Christiansen, Chicago”. Turns out the Christiansen workbenches are fairly well known. While not common, not all that rare. A Google search shows many pages and references out there. Three of the more interesting ones are:

Ben Martin’s Christiansen Workbench Pictures

A Toolemera Blog: Another Christiansen Workbench

and from Sawmill Creek: My New (very old) Christiansen Co. Workbench

And then there is this poor, derelict, buried beast:

There's a bench there, really.

There’s a bench there, really.

that once had a sliding deadman:

There is a recess above for the deadman.

There is a recess above for the deadman.

And what seems to be a Nicholson style workbench:

Nicholson? Close enough.

Nicholson? Close enough.

Here is what seems to be a contemporary tool chest:

Doesn't look old.

Doesn’t look old.

with too many sliding tills.

Tills can't really slide unless you take out half of them.

Tills can’t really slide unless you take out half of them.

All this and more. Planes, saws, more beaches, more chests, a small lathe and more. To see this collection, click HERE.

A Puzzlement and Two Variations

Over the Labor Day weekend I got to spend a day in Adamstown, PA looking at more than just tools. They have furniture there, too. Lots of furniture. Primitives to pretty good. I haven’t found any five-figure antiques there. Some solid four figure antiques but I haven’t found the high-end stuff. Yet.

I have to settle for unique and interesting things. Both are subjective terms but it’s my blog and I get to choose. First piece is a bit of a puzzlement. A puzzle table of the jigsaw variety.

A bit of a puzzle.

A bit of a puzzle.

A puzzle top with hatch.

A puzzle top with hatch.

The hatch is opened by scratching it from the top with your fingernails trying to get purchase or pushing up from below. Right at the edge is a gap.

Hatch opens revealing storage.

Hatch opens revealing storage.

And it’s patented.

Patented 1871.

Patented 1871.

The top is fixed but the storage compartment is a carousel that rotates through eight storage compartments.

View of the storage carousel.

View of the storage carousel.

I did extensive research (a full three minutes on Google) and could only find one other example of this sewing/work table.

Another example.  Click to see the web site for this table.

Another example. Click to see the web site for this table.

Only missing the acorn drop finials. The web site claims the top rotates. In my example, the top is fixed and the storage carousel rotates. The puzzle is not veneer. The top is made from four identically cut pieces.

The last two pieces are variations of things I’ve written about before. Many months age, I showed an armoire that was divided in half, left to right. There are many armoires that break down and ship flat. This is only the second one I’ve seen that splits in half vertically.

Looks like a typical armoire.

Looks like a typical armoire.

Until you open the doors and look inside.

It is split from canopy to base.

It is split from canopy to base.

And finally, another “secret till”. Like the last two, this is another storage compartment below the till.

The chest. The mule chest has two drawers. I have been told this is a Pennsylvania form.  And I believe everything I am told.

The chest. The mule chest has two drawers. I have been told this is a Pennsylvania form. And I believe everything I am told.

The till. On the left. With more storage below.

The till. On the left. With more storage below.

The difference is that this till has a hinged door that opens to horizontal. It has a pintle hinge, round pieces that extend from the door into the chest carcass. The door extends beyond the hinge slightly. The back of this overhang is undercut slight to hold the door open horizontally.

Lower door opens to horizontal.

Lower door opens to horizontal.

I’ll bet there are more variations yet to find.

A Real Frankenplane

As an accidental/incidental/occidental tool collector, I am always amused to read or hear a serious tool collector trash talking a Frankenplane. Their definition of a Frankenplane is a Type 5 plane with a Type 6 knob, shorter one without the bead. Or a type 16 lever cap on a Type 14 plane. Let me show you a real Frankenplane.

Behold the Frankenplane:

It's alive!

It’s alive!

Another view.

Another view.

Viewing the beast head-on.

Viewing the beast head-on.

I’m not sure what it was or how it became what it is, but it does exist and we must accept that.

We traveled to Baltimore to visit friends for Labor Day. On Sunday, my wife visited one of her best friends in Philadelphia. To give them some time to catch up and bond, I volunteered to go explore my old stomping grounds in and around Adamstown, PA. For those not in the know, this is an area self-billed as Antiques Capital, USA. There you will find about 5 miles of antiques dealers and flea markets (the good kind). Mid level and primitives, not much in the real high end and fancy. Still, a reasonable mix. Always interesting.

I found this plane at a shop that is usually loaded with primitives. And the Frankenplane is interesting in the clinical sense of the word. It is still there for only $30. If anyone really wants it, I will send you the location if you can provide a reasonable explanation for wanting it.

Did I buy anything for myself? Against my better judgement, I picked up the carcass of an early Stanley 45 combination plane. I believe it is a Type 3 or 4, 1888 to 1892. I paid $20. It’s my plane, I think I’ll keep. Until I get a better offer.

It may be old, but it's still pretty.

It may be old, but it’s still pretty.

Something Interesting Wherever You Look (Corrected Link)

The preview pictures of the auction did not look promising but I went anyway. It’s what I do. And I’m seeking treatment.

I looked around and saw that what seemed mundane at first was actually fairly interesting when you looked at the details. I’ve recently seen two benches with unique systems of folding. At least I hadn’t seen them before. Both are actually the same principle, legs that folds to the center locked in place by cross brace supports that also fold up. Only the details vary.

The first one has tubular cast legs:

Long view of the be bench.

Long view of the be bench.

The hook on the cross brace locks the legs in place.

Hook locks the legs.

Hook locks the legs.

To fold the bench, unhook the cross brace, fold the leg up under the cross brace and latch the hook onto the provided post. The cross brace holds the folded leg in place.

I couldn't actually fold the leg. Use your imagination. Click for an alternate view of the latched cross brace.

I couldn’t actually fold the leg. Use your imagination. Click for an alternate view of the latched cross brace.

The other bench uses similar mechanism but in wood.

Another folding wooden bench.

Another folding wooden bench.

Cross brace locks the leg down. To fold, lift the cross brace and the leg is able to fold toward the center.

Leg folds to the center. I'm not sure what locks the legs up. Click for an alternate view.

Leg folds to the center. I’m not sure what locks the legs up. Click for an alternate view.

I was intrigued by this antique exam table:

They don't make them like this anymore. Health codes.

They don’t make them like this anymore. Health codes.

especially when I saw the leg.

High style for an exam table. Look around on your next doctor visit.

High style for an exam table. Look around on your next doctor visit.

Then there is the matching waste receptacle:

A waste receptacle. Too nice to be a trash can.

A waste receptacle. Too nice to be a trash can.

This book shelf on secretary is not as old as some furniture:

Not the oldest piece in the auction.

Not the oldest piece in the auction.

but is has a rather interesting apparatus for supporting the slant front in the open position:

No lopers below. Just brass from above.

No lopers below. Just brass from above.

And this chest with a wooden pintle hinge:

IMG_6410

There is a pintle screwed to the back of the chest that passes through a hole in the end of the batten attached to the lid.

Side view

Side view

Top view.

Top view.

I wrote about this pintle hinge in the older blog: March, Orange County.

Click HERE to see the rest of the pictures from this auction.

Irony of Ironies and a “Secret” Compartment

But first the back stories. My last auction and antiques blog is actually from February 20th of this year. It has been sitting out there on flickr until either I needed it or I came up with a narrative. I finally came up with a narrative and blogged it.

Story 2: On Monday I got a call from a friend asking I wanted to go about an hour north to visit some interesting furniture in a shop that is open by appointment only. It sounded to me like a plan. Well, he mumbles, I am part deaf and we were talking on cellphones. Hilarity ensued. I went up there. He wasn’t there. The shop wasn’t open. On my second call to him we connected. He was thinking Tuesday of next week. I went up a week early. Things happen.

Suddenly I had a few hours to kill before my scheduled quarterly haircut. I looked around and found a few small antiques shops. At the first shop I walked into, I saw something familiar. Remember this one from the last blog:

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

This is what I saw:

Old friend, new home. Click to see a novel back.

Old friend, new home. Click to see a novel back.

It’s just odd that a piece I had ignored for six months shows up again so quickly after I remembered it.

This dresser was there too:

Another migratory piece of furniture. Click for the dovetailed drawer.

Another migratory piece of furniture. Click for the dovetailed drawer.

Then there was a blog recently about a till in a chest, A Drawer Might Have Been Easier.

In the lower level of the same mall, I found a contemporary example of a “secret” compartment. I offer this as only an example.

A chest.

A chest.

A chest with a till on the left.

A chest with a till on the left.

A chest with till on the left opened.

A chest with till on the left opened.

A chest with till on the left opened with front removed revealing "secret" compartment.

A chest with till on the left opened with front removed revealing “secret” compartment.

Maybe concealed is a better word. The till front rides in the dadoes and just lifts out. One unique thing is that the till lid is inset (lies within the till) as opposed to the typical overlay door (sits atop the till). It does use the usual pintle hinge.

To round out this blog and make sure you get your money’s worth, I’m throwing in two more wall boxes. Both from the same local shop that had the last set. This one is billed as a candle box:

A candle box. Click to see the back and some very small snipe hinges.

A candle box. Click to see the back and some very small snipe hinges.


Then there is this one with a mirror:

Wall box with mirror.

Wall box with mirror.

And finally another poll. I found this in a drawer in another antiques shop:

A Bruce Willis 45 RPM single. How many lost cultural references are there in that phrase?

A Bruce Willis 45 RPM single. How many lost cultural references are there in that phrase?

I Like Wall Boxes

I like wall boxes. It could be because they are things I can afford. Or things that I can make quickly. Or I just might like wall boxes. A few months back I walked through the local antiques mall and noticed the dealers there also had a fondness for wall boxes.

There was this rather large one:

This box is a bit more complex than most. Click to see details and a different views of the knobs.

This box is a bit more complex than most. Click to see details and a different views of the knobs.

All these boxes have rather interesting knob. Like this smaller one:

Smaller, simpler wall box. Feet indicate it might not technically be a wall box. Click to see the square knob.

Smaller, simpler wall box. Feet indicate it might not technically be a wall box. Click to see a square knob.

Here is a smaller box with interesting details:

Box has interesting, carved ornamentation. Click to see the faceted knob.

Box has interesting, carved ornamentation. Click to see the faceted knob.

All these are possible future projects. Eventually.

This piece made me think it might be contemporary:

Something from Bassett?

Something from Bassett?

until I looked at a drawer:

A Knapp joint. Covered in a previous blog..

A Knapp joint. Covered in a previous blog..

This means is was most likely made between 1890 and 1900. Not contemporary but not ancient.

Who made it is not a mystery:

It's a Paine. From Boston.

It’s a Paine. From Boston.

And a  gout rocker.

And a gout rocker.

Click HERE to see the entire set on flickr. Lots of interesting stuff in this one.

Lawn Mower Blades: HSS, O1, A2, or PM-V11 (No Furniture Content)

Before my required weekly appointment with the lawn, I had to do some deferred mower maintenance. It is a self-propelled mower that had lost the self part. It was even hard to push. The teeth on the inner rim of the wheels and been mostly ground off. The bigger problem was the the the remaining tooth stubs would bind up against the drive gear and not propel, self or otherwise. The replacements of the wheels and the dust shields was uneventful. This surprised me.

While the mower was on the bench, I decided to check on the blade. I am ashamed to admit when I removed the blade, I had to stop and try to figure out which edge was supposed to be sharp. I don’t think I had been cutting the grass as much as annoying it.

What the blade is supposed to look like.

What the blade is supposed to look like.

As I was sharpening the blade, I started wondering if I would need to sharpened less often (more than two years) if the blades were made out of better steel. High speed steel (HSS) is a good material for general cutting tools but won’t hold an edge as long as other choices. A2 (air-quenched) is a very hard steel that holds an edge longer but is harder to sharpen. O1 (Oil-quenched) is easier to sharpen but doesn’t hold an edge as well. The chromium content of O1 is less than that of A2 steel and will also rust more readily. And finally Lee Valley’s PM-V11, the relatively new powdered metal alloy. Between A2 and O1 in hardness. The claim is that the powered metal is finer grained and more durable and impact resistant. Might be useful in a mower blade. In that Lee Valley already has a gardening line of products, I should be able to talk them into making the blade.

Now some of you engineer types might have issues with my proposed blade improvements. I will attempt to address them all below.

1. Expense – Rough calculations make me think that a high-speed steel blade would be around $300, A2 or O1 around $400 and a PM-V11 close to $500. If I only have to sharpen it every three years it might be worth it. One way to cut costs is to use the old method of laminating an expensive metal edge onto a cheaper blade body. Planes and chisels used to be made this way and I believe that some Japanese tools still are.

2. Brittleness – Harder steels tend to be brittle. One might think that an A2 mower blade hitting a rock at full speed might cause a catastrophic blade failure. I think after five years I have hit all the rocks that there are to hit. One solution might be to again laminate a hard edge on a softer blade. For additional safety, I might want to have a steel mower deck and not an aluminum or plastic one.

Based on the above discussion which steel would you recommend? (My first poll. How exciting!)

For my second poll, how do you sharpen your your mower blade?

It is easier to see where you mowed with a sharp blade. On the other hand, it is much easier to see shat you missed with a sharp blade. Now there is that whole oil change issue. I read somewhere that you should change your oil every 3000 miles. I’ve had the mower six years and even counting the year I had to mow the lawn of the house we owned and lived in and the house we owned and didn’t live in, I don’t think I have 3000 miles on it. If you believe the Car Talk guys, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers (Tom and Ray Magliozzi), I should be able to get 5000 to 7500 miles between changes. It will be interesting to see if the engine fails before scheduled service.

Air filter wasn’t that bad. When I blew and banged it a bit, I could see the paper pleats.

Next, back to furniture.

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