Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rust Hunting in Georgia - June 21, 2011

I was kept too busy last week to do much hunting for tools at tag sales - actually I only stopped at one and ended up leaving empty-handed - when the weekend came along and I was too swamped and/or tired to do much searching. Then I got "the call" - one of my oldest friends in Atlanta lives several blocks from me and is also named John - when I think about it I've known him for over 15 years, having originally met him online as we both collect Japanese toys - it was only later that I discovered that we both had an interest in Mid-Century Modern furniture and design. A few years ago he was looking for a new place to live and somehow ended up in my neighborhood, which is a haven for Mid-Century Modernists due to the architecture. Most recently he's also been setting up a small workshop so he's also developed the tool bug. In any case, late last week John called - he was in front of some items in one of our favorite junk shops and wanted to know if I might be interested in some of them. Wow - it's great having friends. When he said "Glue Pot" my ears perked up - then came the price, $5.75 - I immediately said "Buy it!" I picked it up at his house a couple of days ago...

Remarkably, the pot appears unused and is missing only the optional lid. Now I can trash the old mini-crock pot I'm currently using.

It also came with what looks to be an unused pound of hide glue.

Cheered by this fantastic find - I stopped by a small sale earlier this week and found just a couple of items.

I got the trio of basically unused cans of solvents for a total of $2. Paid $1 for the Stanley Sureform and $5 for the unused 30' x 50' tarp - now I have no idea what I need that tarp for, but considering what you'd normally pay for one that large I thought $5 a worthwhile investment. At least now if one of the huge trees all over my yard falls on the house I might be able to temporarily cover the damage...

So the next day I thought I might swing by the same junk shop where John found the glue pot, to see if there was anything else interesting. I picked up the following for a total of a little over $10:

(That's the same glue pot, just grouped with the other items). When I spoke to John about the glue pot I said something about hide glue being used by traditional veneer users - so I wasn't surprised by the veneer saw - I was surprised by the $1.50 price though - this one is lightly marked "Made in West Germany" with no manufacturer's mark.

There was also this small wood burner with additional tips and a rheostat for $3.50 - hey I know it's not a Detail Master but its not $100 or more either.

I also picked up this router letter/number template set. I don't think it's great but the $4 price sticker sucked me in.

And finally there were these 3M paper holders - I think they probably originally held sandpaper - very heavy duty and they have a cool feature that allows them to hang from peg-board.

Not really much there that would qualify for "rust hunting" - more like bargain shop tool hunting, but since I didn't expect anything last week I'm glad to get what I did. The lesson learned here is to have friend's that look out for your interests - thanks to my old buddy John!

-- John

Friday, June 17, 2011

George Nelson Bench Project - an Introduction.

So recently I scored a few classic pieces of Mid-Century Modern furniture - all in rather decrepit condition but salvageable. I thought I would start new posts describing the process of restoration. Yeah I know, another project (one of many) started but when will it be completed? In this case, all I've done is brush off the dust and spiderwebs, removed some staples and brought into the shop (my shop is really, really crowded right now - more on that in another post).

So this first pieces is the rather iconic George Nelson Slatted Bench, originally designed for Herman Miller in 1946 - I believe this was the first of George's furniture designs carried by Herman Miller (George became the Director of Design for Herman Miller around 1945 when HM moved into modernism and produced the very successful Herman Miller Catalog that we all so love today). I was told that my example was a 50's era bench - I'm not quite sure what distinguishes that era from others, but I'll do my best to describe what I've got.

Height: 14"
Depth: 18.5"
Length: 48"
Materials: Birch slats on ebonized legs
Joinery: Saddle lap-joints and plugs (hiding?) for the bench top. Miters with dowels in the leg frames.
Fasteners: Large Phillips head attaching the legs to slats from beneath

My particular bench has a few notables - the legs have been painted (rather sloppily) with black paint, and there are stress cracks in the center of one side (someone or something rather heavy was placed on the platform).

Sloppy black paint is evident here. Note the plugs at the joining pieces on the end.

The slats have either been sloppily stained, or inadvertently stained by spilt liquids. Note the plugs at the lap-joints.

Screw head detail

Stress Crack Details
So what to do? Before I address any of the problems in the materials themselves, I did a small test to see if the finish was salvageable (what's the point of fixing the problems then finding the finish so bad all the materials would be sanded away into oblivion?). So I took out some 220 and hit the top slats in one corner lightly, to see who deep the patination and staining went into the wood. Luckily, birch is very forgiving...

The photo above was of just a few swipes with sand paper. There is some discoloration from the staples, reacting to the tannins in the wood (first slat at the bottom), but I think some oxalic acid will remove it if judiciously applied. The bigger question is what to do about those pieces with the stress cracks? There are two problem pieces - the cross brace is cracked on the end and the outer-most slat has two cracks. Right now I'm thinking of removing the outer-most slat and replacing it with a new piece of birch. The cross brace would be epoxied and clamped to produce a closed, solid end. This all depends on what and how this thing is held together. It's possible that those plugs you see in the lap-joints are just the end of dowels that have been trimmed flush - that would be the best scenario as I may be able to heat the joint to loosen the glue (I'm thinking the furniture makers were still using hide glue instead of the modern glues) and knock the pieces apart.

I would like to get the finish back as close to the original as possible, so I'll strip off everything, ebonize the legs and apply a wash coat or two of shellac to tone everything back to a slightly-yellow "patina", then shoot the whole thing in varnish. That's the plan, anyway, which is always subject to change as the project comes to completion. Stay tuned - more coming both on this and the other furniture pieces....

-- John

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rust Hunting in Georgia - June 9, 2011

Another horribly busy weekend, however I did manage to hit two sales.

The first netted some good woodworking and DIY books along with a Zyliss vise and hewing hatchet, also three Buck Brothers turning tools that are super heavy. First time I've ever seen that particular blacksmithing book in hardcover (fairly common in paperback).

I missed out on the box with accessories for $10 on the vise - saw the guy walking out with it and somehow didn't see it (must have been sitting somewhere else in the garage). I did score the main components for $15 even though the table-clamps are upside down...

This Falls City hewing hatchet (it's a single plane on the left side - I tried to get an image but it was too blurred) comes in handy when smoothing split logs - now if I can only find a broadaxe...)

These Buck Brothers turning tools are the larges/heaviest I've ever seen - happy to get the skew, scraper and gouge...

The last sale I went to netted me the brass fishing scale, the Stanley Handyman chisel, two brace bits  (see photo at the top) and the blacksmith's tongs. I also scored a decent concrete hoe for $2 and a fiberglass handled Ames shovel for $3 (why is it that you always need shovels? They seem to walk away...).

-- John

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rust Hunting in Georgia - June 3, 2011

Hit a couple of sales over the weekend - picked up a lot of small items very cheap at one, then a few items at an estate sale on my street.

Nothing really special here - the pick-axe is a bit unusual. It's marked "Collins" and appears to be for mining? At least it doesn't have the wide spade bit on the back like most you see, rather a thinner point on one end. The haft is hickory I believe. That was found with the two saws. The rest I got at one sale.

The smaller, dovetail saw is unmarked and missing a screw so I'm not sure about the maker - I think it'll clean up but I mostly got it for the nice grip - it's covered in orange and green paint so I suspect it came from a school.

The handsaw has very little blade left and is a bit bent to boot. I got it for the nicely carved apple grip - it's also the first "The Simonds Saw" I've found in the wild (pretty much invariably they're either Disston or Warranted Superior).

Of the small items, there was this rubber 60's era Craftsman mallet (the head is still soft enough to stand an impact, no cracking at all) and this container of bear spray, which beats the heck out of that cheap pepper spray for home defence.

The trowel was a rather nicely handled one, the Stanley Handyman "Yankee Screwdriver" a bit different from my others in that it has a Phillips bit, while the mini driver is just marked "Made in USA" but appears to be Starrett by the knurl and red box.

I also got this trio of scrapers (one marked Sargent and another Red Devil - both hardly used) plus this nice Stanley Sureform.

The last few items include a trio of files (one with a great handle), a metal straight edge and a very nice condition Stanley "Handyman" metal level. (those things to the left are wire ties, used to attached cables to buildings and poles - they come in handy).

Nothing really special in the lot but still worth saving from the dump. It's funny, I've "lost" my crappy pick axe - one of those plastic-handled jobs you get at Home Depot so I just started looking around for a replacement, and now I've found two in two weeks. When it rains, it pours I guess.

-- John