Saturday, September 28, 2013

Finished Antique Chair

The chair has been finished since Monday, but I wasn't able to properly photograph it until this afternoon.

There have been several past posts about the chair, and its progress, which I'll list below in order.

Monday, June 03, 2013 - Random Side Projects

Monday, June 03, 2013 - Tearing Off
Monday, June 10, 2013 - How I Got My New Job
Sunday, June 16, 2013 - A Few Random things
Saturday, July 13, 2013 - House/Project Updates
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 - Antique Chair Update
Thursday, September 12, 2013 - Antique Chair Update (Part 2)
Saturday, September 14, 2013 - Antique Chair Update (Part 3)
Saturday, September 21, 2013 - Random Update

If you're not planning to browse through the old posts showing the progress, I'm only going to include one "before" photo (again) here.

As a quick recap, the chair was a roadside trash find from 2 blocks away. I stripped it down, took the frame apart, reglued it with period correct hide glue, repaired the original shellac finish (to blend together the crackle), polished/buffed with dark wax, and finally I redid all the upholstery, which included:

- Install new webbing
- Attach springs
- 8-way hand tie the springs
- New burlap cover
- Black fabric "straw cover" (to help keep the straw dust contained in the chair seat)
- Re-fluff and pad down the original straw
- Re-install the original "felt padding", which we discovered is actually Kapok*
- New layer of soft cotton padding
- Layer of thin muslin fabric
- Top fabric
- Hot-glued decorative gimp cording
- hand tacked black bottom fabric

* Kapok is a fluffy seed-pod fiber from the kapok tree, which is a gigantic tropical tree. It is silky, cottony, and reminiscent of the fluff commonly found in milkweed pods. This was a common upholstery stuffing material for decades, but isn't used often today.



As you can see, even though the popular vote was for the pink or dark raspberry gimp, I ended up choosing a very dark green (which wasn't shown). I'm very pleased with the finished chair.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Antique Auction Finds

As I just mentioned in my last post, I spent almost all day at an antiques auction. This was one of the few local auctions we've had, and it was held just a few blocks away at the Trinity Church Hall (the nicest Gothic church in town).

The auction was by Theresa E. Taylor, and she's pretty much the only local auctioneer I know of. She does tag sales (a few that I've been to), and auctions, and she's actually very good at it, and isn't too hard to understand (which is good). If you've ever been to an auction, you might have an idea of what I mean by this. Some auctioneers go through items really quickly, and it's sometimes difficult to know what the bidding is at, or who's bidding (or who's turn it is, etc).

The preview started at 8:30am, with the auction starting at 10am. I got there around 9:00 and browsed around. I wasn't sure if we could take any photos, so at first I didn't, but then I noticed a whole bunch of people snapping cell-phone pictures, and I thought "Fuck it".

Unlike a lot of the auctions I've been to, the vast majority of this auction was what I'd consider to be "good stuff". Nice china, porcelain, watches, jewellery, fine furniture, art, primitives, old toys, etc.

Here's a quick sampling of some of the pieces that I found to be quite eye-catching and unusual.

This chair. Man oh man. If I would have had a car to take stuff home easily, or if I had know earlier whether or not someone could give me a ride, this is one of the pieces I would probably have bid on. It needed one of the carved pieces reglued, but it was a gorgeous mahogany chair, with a curly birch veneered back rest. I think it sold for only 40-60$.

They described this one as a "Carved Sisters" chair, and she seemed to think that it could date to the 1700s, but I highly doubt it. It looks purely Victorian to me, and I'd date it to around 1880-90. It's definitely extremely unusual. It needed a complete overhaul though, and as such, it only sold for 60$.

I wasn't a fan of the really pain bump in the centre. It seemed too plain for the detailed carvings on each side.

Two beautiful fan-back chairs similar to the one we redid at the shop a few weeks ago (see here: These, however, had carved French/Italian type front legs. They sold for the insanely cheap price of 20$ and 25$.

Next is one of the most unusual, beautiful, and detailed "square Victorian tables" I've seen. This type of table is fairly common, and they usually feature fancy pressed wood skirts, and spiral carved legs, but this one has very complicated decorations. The bottom has eagle/claw feet, followed by some type of griffon or wolf figures with open mouths pointing upwards. The rest is a mix of fluted/reeded turnings, and barley twists (all involving some hand carving), and a beautiful centre finial. I think it sold for around 120$. If you were to get this new today, you couldn't even have the finial made for this price.

A lot of the auction items went for very cheap prices. A lot of stuff was selling for under 20$. This fine Federal "Games Table", however, was an exception. I had wanted to bid on it, since I knew it was very old (early 1800s), and in very nice shape, but it went way over what I wanted to pay, and sold for 210$.

Another interesting little stool. Barley twist turnings (all hand carved), and a needlepoint top. I think it sold for 40$.

It looked quite solid, and it just needed a few replacement tacks.

I kind of liked this settee. It was mahogany, and the carved pieces on it almost matched the mahogany chair above (first photo). I think it sold for 120$.

Alright, if I had decided to take photos earlier, I would have taken more, but those are the only ones I got. Some stuff sold for pennies on the dollar. Some particularly sad sales were:
- An entire solid oak dining room set (6 chairs, table, sideboard, and buffet) for 100$
- A Victrola (cabinet/record player) with about 30 records sold for 55$
- 3 pocket watches at: 30$ (coin silver case), 40$, and 10$
- A solid oak (early, large) corner cabinet, for 100$
- An early step-back china cupboard, for 100$
- Entire sets of dishes (I think one was a 50 piece set) for 20$
- A brass Anniversary clock for 5$ (I really should have bid on it, but I didn't really want it).

A lot of stuff was going for yard sale prices. I was surprised. I really didn't think I'd walk away with anything, but I bought several pieces. The auction had close to 700 lots, and it finished around 5:30.

Here's what I took home.

The first lot that I snatched up was lot 193, a set of 4 early lithograph engravings/prints in matched frames (in perfect shape). I had thought I was only up to 60$, but I was actually at 65$, and I won them, so that was alright.

"Niagara" Engraving, dated 1873, custom framed in Cornwall in 1981.

"The Whirlpool Rapid" Engraving (no date), custom framed in Cornwall in 1981.

"The banks of the River Niagara" (below the falls) dated 1841, custom framed in Cornwall in 1981.

And "Bay of Quinte" Engraving (no date), custom framed in Cornwall in 1981.

After this, I stayed until after lunch, until around lot 315 or so (when they took a break), and I went home. I wanted to drop off the 4 prints, and get some additional bags in case I bought several paintings. I went back to the auction around 3:00 (having skipped over a lot of the boring items like the costume jewellery), and I arrived around lots 475 (ish).

The next lots I was interested in were some of the paintings. Particularly some of the ones I had written down on my card; lots 529, 530, 532, 533, 537, 540, 541, 545, and 548. These were the "more finely executed ones" from the bunch. I had previously missed another lot of paintings that were sold before 3:00, but I wasn't interested in any of those but at the same time I had no idea what they sold for, to compare.

When we got to the paintings, the auctioneer said "For the paintings, if we can't get 10$, we'll pass to the next one". This got me quite excited. There were still a lot of people, and I didn't know who might want to bid on them.

The first lot 529 got called, and it was a pencil drawing, which threw me right off, since it was supposed to be an oil painting. That one got a pass, and then I somehow also missed 530, which also got passed. I believe 532 got sold to someone else, then I got lot 533 for 10$.

533: Oil on Canvas Board ("Hi-Art Canvas Board" logo visible on the reverse dates to the 1950s or 60s) - Signed I McFarlane. I wasn't too crazy for the frame that it's in, but it actually looks good against my painted walls. Can't complain for 10$.

The paintings were being shown a bit off to my far right (20 feet away), and I couldn't see them that well, so at this point I didn't want to miss another one, and I was only listening to the numbers being called. There were a lot of paintings, and they were going through them quickly, since interest in them was low. I heard them call 537, and I got that one for 10$ as well.

537: Oil on Canvas Board - Signed Hillier (likely also from the 1950s or 60s). Unfortunately, the frame got quite a bit scuffed-up since the paintings were all crammed carelessly in a cardboard box, and people just flipped through them several times before the auction. I can probably touch it up, since the frame on this one is not bad.

540 and 541 I either passed on them, or someone else bought them before I could.

The next one I got is my favourite buy out of the whole lot, and I bid against another buyer to get it. In the end, it was still a very good buy at only 25$.

545: Beautifully framed original oil painting (on hardboard panel), signed A.M.Bray. The colours in the photo don't do it justice. It has more of a deep blue and brown tone to it, and the frame is just gorgeous. The frame looks fairly flat, but is actually quite deep.

And that's it. In the end, with the buyer's premium, and sales tax added, I spent something around 130$, which adds up to about 20$ per piece.

Before leaving, I asked about some of the paintings that had been "passed" and apparently you can just go to the back room and take them for the low bid (in this case, 10$). The one that I really wanted (and missed) was lot 530, and someone must have went and grabbed it before I could, because it was nowhere to be found. It was some sort of oil or pastel, and it had a bit of a "Group of Seven" vibe to it. Oh well. I'll know next time.

I went through the auction listing online, and I think it must have been this piece:

It doesn't look great in the photo, but it looked really good IRL. According to the listing, it was a pastel from 1947.

I also hesitated on this piece, and missed out on it at 10$ or 15$. It's an original oil painting from 1932, and it looks like it had a really nice frame, too.

Random Update

Alright, this one is going to be a bit of a mix. I spent most of the day at an antiques auction, and I bought some art, but I'm making that into a separate post.

I had hoped that my antique chair would be finished by now, but I ran into some trouble with the gimp (the decorative trim). I wasn't really that thrilled with any of the colours we had, so I went to one of the local fabric stores, and I had a look through their gimp. They had a huge variety (probably about 100 different colours and patterns), and at least 3 or 4 that might work nicely in a very dark green. I took 2 samples back to the shop:

Although I got NO COMMENTS from my readers on the last post, I did get some votes on my Facebook, and most people liked the pink gimp (not my first choice). I was leaning more towards the black, but only one other person liked the black, and my boss really didn't like it, so the dark green seemed to be the best option (I loved it, and so did Pierre - my boss), so I was all set to go buy it (the one on the right in the above photo).

When I went back to the fabric store, they apparently LOST not only my first choice (the one on the right), but also the other roll too. They looked everywhere for it, and couldn't' find it.

I was then told that they might be able to re-order some, but then the problem was that ALL of the "forest green" gimp was "colour 21". The super dark green and about 6 or 7 other shades of green all the way up to a bright grass green/emerald were all "colour 21". Basically they couldn't guarantee me the same colour.

I was pretty pissed.

I left without buying anything, and they said they'd call me back the next day to see if they could order it or not. They ended up NOT calling, so Pierre called them (since he knows one of the main girls who works there), and he talked to them to see what was up. Apparently they couldn't order any. *ARGH!*

So I went back, and the only other gimp that was the same colour (or very very close) was a smaller one, or a much larger one with somewhat of a sloppy weave. I ended up buying 2 yards of the narrower one, and we'll see how that looks. I really would have preferred the regular sized one, but since my staples are pretty neat, I can probably get away with it. If all goes well, the chair will be home Monday evening.


In a bit of a "Cornwall Homes" side note, I was absolutely crushed to see the eye-burning paint job on one of my favourite old Victorians. My only thoughts on it when I saw it was "OH MY GOD WHY! WHY???"

It's seriously awful. While I understand that it needed a paint job (pretty badly), I just can't understand why they would want to pick an insanely bright red that matches absolutely nothing. It looks like the house is wearing whore lipstick.

I had featured this house last year in this post:

If there's a silver lining, I believe that they will be re-installing the beautiful original house numbers, since I can spot the holes from the plaque in the photos (before resizing them).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cornwall Homes - The Cornwall Armoury Building

Today's entry doesn't really count as a "Cornwall Home", but it's a rather significant local building that I want to highlight.

The Cornwall Armoury has always been a building in town that can't help but be noticed. It looks like a castle due to it's Tudor Revival style, and castellated peaks. There are also numerous Gothic details, such as the main doors, and carved accents.

You can read more about the building here, as well as see a few extra views (such as the rear):

As a kid, I remember this place mainly as the home of the Sea Cadets and Air Cadets. For several years, my younger brother was in the Sea Cadets and trained here. In all the times I went (with Mom to go pick him up), I never actually went inside, other than by the back, into the large hall (which looked like a giant gymnasium).

Apparently the building has a nice museum collection of military artifacts, medals, and uniforms, as well as a library.

The doors are simply beautiful.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Antique Chair Update (Part 3)

Here are better photos of the nearly completed chair. On Friday I finished installing the bottom fabric (black with tacks).

The last part, which is to attach the gimp (decorative trim that hides the staples) will literally take 10 minutes, but I have to make a decision about the colour. I'm asking you guys to vote on your favourite!

Black, Raspberry
Light Red, Pale Green-Beige
Olive*, Black & Gold (leather)

* The olive is just a fabric we had on hand, but I would need to find a gimp in this colour. If I have time this afternoon I will go to a fabric store and see if they carry olive or dark green gimp.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Antique Chair Update (Part 2)

Alright, here's another quick progress update. This afternoon after work, I spent another hour on the chair (and then I had to leave), and I was able to install the top fabric, trim it, and start attaching my bottom fabric (the dust cover).

Here's a shot of the top fabric before trimming it around the perimeter.

I should be done by tomorrow. I can probably finish the bottom fabric during lunch, and then I just have to attach the gimp (decorative edging) around the raw edge, and it'll be done.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Antique Chair Update

Hey folks! If you've been following along for a while, you may have noticed that I tend to jump around with what projects I'm working on. Just last week I finally decided to go ahead and order my fabric for the old mahogany chair I picked up (photo below). It's a fairly pricey fabric at 60$/yard, but as my boss Pierre said: "Don't cheap out on your fabric."

The fabric is really beautiful, and high quality, and it's even thicker than I had thought (from having seen the sample).

Last night, Pierre picked up the chair, and I worked on it after work today.

For those who need the refresher, this is the chair I had picked up on garbage night a few years ago just down the street. Starting to repair this chair also landed me my current upholstery job. You can read all about that, and see more "before" photos in this post. There are also two previous posts about this chair HERE and HERE.

The steps I did this evening were to do with the actual stuffing of the seat. These included redistributing a whole shopping bag full of the original "straw" stuffing, which I discovered this evening is actually wood shavings/strips (which is another type of stuffing material).

Pre-warning: none of these photos turned out very clearly. I cleaned them up and sharpened them as best as I could.

"Straw" (wood) stuffing:

Next was the original felt/cotton/hair padding (neither of us was 100% sure what this was, but I added it back into the stuffing as an extra layer).

Next (and not pictured, since I forgot) was a good layer of cotton. The stuffing at this point looked like a giant pile, but all of it compresses down quite a bit. The last part of the stuffing is a thin cotton muslin (fabric):

Trimmed and ready for the finish (top) fabric:

Lastly is a photo of the fabric. The photo is blurry, and it sucks, but the fabric is nice, thick, and it has a bit of texture to it (the black is slightly fuzzy, and the florals are tightly knit patterns.

I will probably finish the chair tomorrow after work, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Antique Robbins & Myers Fan

This post will be a bit of a quickie house-related find and restoration. Basically, if you know me well enough, you know I love all types of old stuff (tools, lamps, clocks, furniture, etc) and I've wanted to get an antique desk fan for about 1-2 years. Lately there are stores that sell modern copies (places like Restoration Hardware, or Pottery Barn) but nothing beats the real thing.

As is usually the case, the older fans are the nicer ones. I'd really love an early 1910 era fan with the brass blades and the old telephone style pedestal; like these ones below:


... but what I ended up finding isn't quite as showy (as you'll see below).

There are plenty of available fans on the web that I could have bought (eBay and Etsy are loaded with them and they range in price from 20$ to 600$), but the main problem with them is the WEIGHT. These old fans have heavy cast metal bodies (the ones above are cast iron), and they usually weigh well over 20Lbs. This makes shipping them insanely expensive. In my case, one of the quotes I got was 75$ USD for the shipping. That's a bit much.

On Friday, I decided to visit Johnson's Antiques (since I haven't been in over a year), and I came across this wonderful, but severely neglected fan. I recognized the logo of Robbins & Myers from previous "vintage fan" web searches, and since it was marked down from 95$ to 50$, I decided to go back and pick it up (with Mom) when we were on our way to a family BBQ at my aunt's.

Here's pretty much the only "before" photo I took. I had a few other detail shots, but they all turned out a bit blurry/crappy. Basically, it was absolutely filthy, the cage was covered in rust (and bent), and it really needed some love.

The power cord on it was SO BAD that I couldn't even try it out to see if it worked. In this photo you can also see how dirty the base was.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the really awful rust on the cage came off fairly easily (I won't even lie though: this still took HOURS).

The original info plate (under the motor portion of the fan at the back):

The paint/body cleaned up fairly well with some scrubbing, but I also polished it up a bit with some clear paste wax. I love the really Art Deco feel that's on the ribbing in the main body, and on the switch.

Main logo/plaque (I had to remove it to clean the rusty cage):

Overall the fan came out looking pretty great! The paint looks pretty decent, and it's still the original colour (metallic brown), the cages cleaned up nicely, and I rewired it with a vintage cloth (repro) power cord (which I already had on hand).

I did a bit of research and the fan dates to around the late 1930s, to mid 1940s. It has a metal hook under the base that lets you be able to wall-mount it, which is pretty cool.

This video shows a very similar R & M fan, and how to switch it to a wall-mount. My fan has the exact same setup.

The head tilts quite nicely, and locks in very securely with a huge wing nut (this isn't your typical cheapo plastic set screw).

And does it run? You bet! It pushes a LOT of air, and it's fairly quiet. There is one blade that's a bit off, so the cage rattles, but I can probably make a few more adjustments. I also need to see if I can find someone who can fix a few of the welds on the back portion of the cage, since that isn't helping the rattling.

Overall, well worth my 56$ and I'm sure this fan will last me a lifetime. I'd still want one with brass blades though, so I'll still keep an eye out for one.