It is perhaps in the spirit of our anxious, rickety age that antique tool, machinery, and toy restoration videos are becoming increasingly popular. There is something oddly comforting and therapeutic about seeing the old, the forgotten, the previously reliable (now seized with rust and neglect) being lovingly restored to life.
These videos are simple, quiet (usually with no spoken narrative), and most of the restoration process is carefully shown, from disassembly to cleaning, sanding, repainting to re-assembly and testing. This is a world in which time, Evapo-Rust, a wire wheel, and some rattle-cans of enamel paint can repair the past to near show room luster.
I can't get enough. And for makers, there are lots of great repair and restoration tips embedded in these videos. Here are a few of my favorite channels.
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This video was far more interesting than I thought it was going to be. It's not only the story of the restoration of a cool barn find, a circa 1890 candy-making machine, but it details how Greg Cohen of Lofty Pursuits in Tallahassee, Florida used it to make strawberry "drops" (hard candies). Cohen is a real candy-making nerd and he shares how he spent 70 to 80 hours restoring this antique machine for the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Museum in Skagway, Alaska:
To this day there aren’t many good roads into it, if any. Imagine how hard it would have been to get this device up there to be used for candy? And how much money there must have been in the 1890s... to warrant someone bringing it up so that miners could have a little bit of happiness in their pocket, some nice candies to eat, I guess, when they mine? It was a good bit of luxury that they could take with them, that they didn’t have to worry about spoiling. Because they lived a really rough life as they mined up there.
And while it probably was worth bringing to Skagway for business reasons, it probably wasn’t worth bringing it back, so it got stashed in a barn and it’s been sitting there for the last hundred and something years, slowly rusting away forgotten.
And now I’ve been given an opportunity to give it a little bit of new life making candy again.
(The Kid Should See This, The Awesomer) Read the rest
Preservationists restoring an 18th century statue of Jesus that was hanging in Burgos, Spain's church of St. Águeda found a two handwritten letters tucked into the figure's buttocks. Dated 1777, the notes were written by chaplin Joaquín Mínguez from the Burgo de Osma cathedral. The letters will be archived by the office of the Archibishop of Burgos while copies were put back into the statue's bottom. From National Geographic:
In his letters, Mínguez paints a picture of the region's day-to-day economic and cultural activity. The chaplain first notes that the statue was created by a man named Manuel Bal, who created other wooden statues for churches in the region. He then describes the successful harvests of various grains like wheat, rye, oats, and barley and stores of wine.
Mínguez also names diseases like malaria and typhoid fever plaguing the village during this time period, but adds that cards and balls were used for entertainment.
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I've had these beautiful antique glasses for well over a decade. Retrospecs & Co., the folks who sold them to me, have also taken fantastic care of getting me lenses, and an upgrade, over the many years. Read the rest
Antiques Roadshow appraised this "bizarre and wonderful" ceramic jug from the late-19th/early-20th century at $50,000. Turns out, they were mistaken. A woman named Betsy Soule crafted the mug in high school in the 1970s. Soule's friend recognized the piece on TV and alerted her.
"As far as its age is concerned, I was fooled, as were some of my colleagues," said Antiques Roadshow's Stephen L. Fletcher in an update. "The techniques of making pottery, in many ways, haven’t changed for centuries…Still, not bad for a high schooler in Oregon.”
The current owner paid $300 for the object at an estate sale.
“I hated it when it was $30,000 to $50,000, because who wants $30,000 to $50,000 lying around their house?" he told the Bend Bulletin. "Now, it’s on my table, and I love it.”
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Anita Pointer, vocalist for famed 1980s R&B group The Pointer Sisters, is also a major collector of black memorabilia, from racist caricature cookie jars and mechanical banks to slave shackles and disturbing children’s books like Ten Little Niggers and Little Black Sambo. Read the rest
Frank Kidd, 83, is the proprietor of Kidd's Toy Museum, a private collection of 20,000 antique toys, from cars and trucks to figurines to, Kidd's favorite genre, mechanical banks like the one above. Some of the toys reveal a lot about the era they're from. Read the rest
Sotheby's currently has auctions for several beautiful pocket globes from the 1790s and early 1800s. If you have a few grand lying around, one of these 2.5-inch to 3.5-inch beauties could be yours. Read the rest
Available from curiosity collector and reseller Invisible Brooklyn, this hotter than hell antique tin of chili powder. It's full too. Read the rest
Invisible Brooklyn, sellers of fine curiosities and devilish artifacts, just posted two terrific tomes from the early 1900s to Instagram. I think both would best be enjoyed accompanied by a puff on the antique skull pipe, while wearing a smoking jacket. Red, of course. Read the rest
Auction appraiser Guy Schwinge was visiting a Dorset, England home when he noticed an unusual planter in the garden. It turned out to be a Roman sarcophagus from the 2nd century. According to the Antiques Trade Gazette, research revealed that the family had purchased it a century ago from auction house Hy. Duke & Son. Now, Duke & Son have just sold it again, for £80,000. Read the rest
Steven Martin (not the comedian) is the author of Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction. Interestingly, Martin started as a collector of antique opium accoutrements. Then he really immersed himself in his hobby and ended up an addict, refilling his pipe thirty times a day. Above is his smoking gear, photographed in 2007. Now clean, Martin visited the offices of Collectors Weekly:
At first, of course, there were these opium dens in Laos that I could get to quite easily. Vientiane was an overnight train ride from Bangkok, where I was living. I would take tools up to the opium dens and see if the old smokers there knew what they were. Often they did, although they hadn’t seen some of the pieces in years and years. They would show me how a piece was used. For example, a lot of different tools are used as rolling surfaces, as they call them. When you’re preparing opium for a pipe, you form it into a little pellet of opium on the end of the what’s called an opium needle, which is just a skewer, basically, because you can’t work the stuff with your fingers; it’s too hot. There are lots of different tools for rolling the opium pill, as they call it, into the correct shape before inserting it onto the pipe bowl.
That’s why I started hanging out in these opium dens, to learn what I had. Then I started experimenting with the drug.
"How Collecting Opium Antiques Turned Me Into an Opium Addict" (Collectors Weekly)
Opium Fiend: A 21st Century Slave to a 19th Century Addiction (Amazon) Read the rest