Sunday, May 31, 2020
Remember that century-old steamer trunk I found in the basement? Well, I want to display it but when I found the trunk it was in very poor condition. So I decided to restore it -- a process I've never tried before. To accomplish this I researched a lot about restoring wood and metal. But before delving into that subject, let me report that I discovered the trunk's original owner -- and he has a fabulous name.
On top of the trunk are initials: "B.A.B." I learned they refer to Bernard Aloysius Beirne, an Irish immigrant. Aloysius! Government statistics say the name Aloysius is very rare, with babies getting it less than 0.001%. That's one in 100,000. Or about the chance of you being named in my Will.
Bernard Aloysius Beirne was born in 1886 and lived most of his life in New Jersey. He died in 1960. Bernard was Maura's grandfather. He owned the trunk in his youth, using it around 1905-1910. Remember, these trunks were popular from 1880-1920.
Back to the restoration. Restoration involves materials, techniques and physical labor. I researched how to remove rust and mildew, how to stain and finish wood, etc. Apart from picking the right materials, the process requires a lot of elbow-grease. I enjoyed doing it because you can visually see results of your effort. Here's what I did:
- Clean dirt and dust
- Pull off frayed canvas and wood
- Scrape off inner lining (decayed paper)
Metal parts (clasps & hardware):
- Hammer in loose nails
- Replace some missing nails
- Re-attach lid hinge
- Lubricate closing latches with WD-40
- Lubricate metal wheels on bottom with WD-40
- Scrub with wire brush
- Brush on vinegar and salt mixture; leave overnight; wash off
- Sandpaper metal to remove final bits of rust
- Sandpaper wood to smooth surface and remove aged surface
- Stain wood with wood stain
- Apply wood lacquer to protect the wood and give it a glossy finish
- Apply second coat of lacquer
Here is the final result and the trunk's new resident who lives rent-free. The process took a full week because of its multiple steps.
What do you think? Have you ever restored anything?
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
One of the greatest movies of all times, "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946), is about the struggle three soldiers have when then return home from war. It won 7 Oscars including Best Picture. If you haven't seen it, check it out. You'll be entertained and moved.
My favorite line is when an angelic young woman falls in love with one of the soldiers and believes she'd make a better wife than the one he has: "I've made up my mind....I'm going to break that marriage up!"
Sunday, May 24, 2020
Friday, May 22, 2020
Like many, I'm handling the pandemic by tackling old projects that have been on the back-burner for years. Like cleaning the basement. A chore I planned to do a decade ago but always found excuses to avoid. Sometimes, however, these projects turn out to be fun and not drudgery. While sorting through old things we can discover treasures. I did this morning.
Buried under piles of crap, there was an old steamer trunk. I wasn't sure where it came from or what, if anything, was in it. So I pulled it out and opened it up. Wow!
The trunk was full of vintage stuffed animals and toys from a half-century ago. They belong to Maura, my first girlfriend, who loved them when she was little. Pictures are below. I alerted Maura to the find and offered to send them to her. She replied I can continue to store them, which I will, only now I'll store them out in the open instead of hidden away. Since Maura is 63, these delightful items are at least a half-century old.
One that really appeals to me is a doll make of cloth attached to a round wooden box. Inside the doll is a wooden dowel which lets you raise the doll up and down -- including into the round box where it completely disappears as the cloth scrunches together. What a fun toy!
Also of note is the trunk itself. I asked Maura where it came from and she said it was her grandmother's. Which dates it accurately: steamer trunks were built and used from 1880 to 1920. Maura's mother was old when she got her (40-ish) so Maura's grandmother lived during that period. That makes the trunk over a century old.
The trunk, despite its age, is beautiful. It's made of pine wood with metal clasps and hardware. The wood was originally covered with canvas, some of which is still there as parts have fallen off. Most of the leather straps have disintegrated.
Steamer trunks were not just intended for travel, they were used as containers for objects after arrival. Given their decorative beauty, that makes sense. One reason I pulled this trunk out of storage was to consider displaying it prominently in my future playhouse. Now I certainly will.
What's in your basement?!
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
With pandemic restrictions, we're bored and need diversion. So I came up with an idea. It's actually an old idea which I transported into this new decade -- and it works.
Back in the Sixties and Seventies, there was a popular restaurant chain named Lum's. Their famous dish was hot dogs made in beer. They steamed frankfurters in the stuff. The beer's flavor infuses the franks. Memory of eating at Lum's with my parents put an idea in my head.
This week I made hot dogs and used beer instead of water. (I boiled 'em.) The process was easy and inexpensive. I recently bought a six-pack of German lager at LIDL at a very low price so using beer didn't cost much. And it enhances the flavor of the dogs and plumps them up. Of course you can dress your hot dog any way you like, such as adding mustard, onions, cheese and avocado.
What new ideas have you come up with during the pandemic?
Sunday, May 17, 2020
I just read a great story (here).
John Olson is a lobsterman in Maine. He's 97 years old. He's been catching lobsters since 1938. John still goes out on his boat every day; his only help is his son Sam who's 72. In terms of physical strength, John chops 100 cords of wood every Winter.
During WWII John's war-boat was blown up. He survived. In peacetime, John was close friends with famous painter Andrew Wyeth who's now buried in John's family cemetery. Wyeth's most famous painting -- which you've seen -- depicts John's aunt Christina in the field at John's house. The painting is called "Christina's World."
What a life!