Sunday, May 21, 2006

Trash to treasure #1

Elsie cringed when I brought home another piece of urban jetsam a few months back and I couldn't say I was surprised. Although it had nice form, the lamp was covered in thick bumpy dreck that kept the lamp's charms very hidden.

I was in the basement this weekend, just minding my own business, when this sideshow Elephant Lamp jumped out at me again.

We have a lot of love to go around at the Deluxe house. But we do have a few projects going and I shouldn't have started another. But I had an intuition - What if that alligatoring was shellac?

Shellac has been on my mind. I'm talking shellac to anybody who'll listen. Shellac is running for mayor of Deluxetown and shellac wants you to look into your heart and see if you are the kind of person you want to be and shellac laughs at all your old jokes. Elsie has been threatening to call me shellacboy and I cannot deny the name. Yes, you will be reading more about shellac in future posts.

I knew that If the alligatoring was shellac, I could simply wipe away that evil finish. I could wipe out evil, with an alcohol-soaked rag.

I did it and you can too.

Show and tell time!

Consider the original state of the lamp.

Note the pronounced bumps and darkness that envelops it.I understand why someone pitched it. It is a mess.

Here I have gently wiped the entire face a few times and then a small area with denatured alcohol for two or three minutes. Interesting!

Here's a look at a nearly finished face of the lamp base. After rubbing off the finish, I lightly sanded with 320 grit paper.

I really like it now. I'm glad it isn't in the landfill.

I wondered as I worked about the maker, some talented amateur I imagine. I wonder about the finishing disaster - did it happen slowly or soon after the piece was done?

The figuring of the veneer is quite charming and the workmanship is tasteful. What happened to the finish? When it all went wrong, was the lamp disowned and stuck in a corner out of shame?

It might not have happened this way, but I feel like I have unbroken a heart. And that is what I needed to feel today.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Our Time-Saving Appliances

Elsie and I both served honorably in the hellish kitchens of the late 20th c. and although we received minimal financial compensation, we maintain an interest in the tools and techniques of food preparation.

The way we make food for ourselves is influenced by our experience and we think it is good fun to make large quantities of food at high speeds with the benefit of hazardous machinery. We even enjoy the clean-up, mostly.

Our ideals guide us away from specialized devices, but ideals are terribly inconvenient in practice. I have made coffee in a saucepan and toast over an open flame, but I have grown to accept that I am a mere mortal, especially at 6 AM.

We do not have a vast assortment of curiosities, but we do have a few favorites. Below are ones that are mostly used on a daily basis.

The Tappan Deluxe

Oh baby, what a beauty. Where to start with this one? I often blow the tour right here. The Tappan has many quirks and qualities that appeal to me and I lose the sensitivity to my audience that is required of a gracious host.

The Tappan Deluxe came with the house and is the centerpiece of the vintage kitchen that caused Elsie and I to swoon our way into home ownership.

Without this stove, this blog might never have existed.

The Dualit

A legend in our time.

Back in the day we dreamed about the future. Our vision of the future included a Dualit toaster, a living fossil of machine age design that offers visual interest in many designer kitchens.

We suspected that we would be well on our way to retirement before we had the scratch for such a fancy wattage hog.

One day at Salvation Army, Elsie looked up and saw me coming closer and in my arms cradling a cherished new addition to our family. In matters of observation, chance indeed favors the prepared mind.

The Vesuviana

Back in service after a long time on the bench, the Vesuviana is an elegant piece of equipment, simple and functional.

Until this year, our Vesuviana never had the correct portafilter gasket. The inevitable results of incorrect gasketing of steam and finely ground coffee are remarkably untidy.

Finding correct gaskets ain't easy. I went to Coffee and Tea Ltd. and was treated very well.

The A-9

Ours came from a roadside benefit sale for a Boy Scout troop. I think I paid 4 dollars and replaced the brushes and that was about all it needed from me. It has a very sound design that produces superior results. The coffee is ground to a selected fineness without overheating.

I understand that reproduction models are available at a hefty price

The Breadboxes.

We veer dangerously close to collecting breadboxes. Cheaply made with chromed steel and naive optimism.

The [Now for sale! Contact us!] RYP Healthmaster juicer.

This resembles a dangerous device of late Victorian medical quackery but is actually a dangerous device of mid-century health-food quackery. On a rainy Fall morning I visited a tag sale the next block over. I gave the proprietor all the money in my pocket, 7 dollars, and took my prize home.

The Pantry

Is a pantry an architectural feature or a food-preparation tool? I prefer to remain agnostic on the question. A large and convenient pantry is another winning feature of our old kitchen, but it doesn't photograph well. It deserves a wood-block print or hand-painted lithograph. The spirit of the previous owner visits me here from time to time and I feel honored.

The kitchen - all this stuff - is a project in harmonizing values with the practical, I suppose. All I can say based on what we have done so far is that there is more to come and we will enjoy it.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The knitting I'm doing

Elsie knits, Joe doesn't. The first project is a simple cotton sweater in stockinette and garter stitch, and a stitch I call broken rib, but is probably not really called that. It is basically a way for me to make a border stitch that lies flat that can be knitted in the round with a minimum of purling. Row 1 is knit, row 2 is k1p1, row 3 is knit, etc. I hate purling. Here's the sweater, my own design based on Elizabeth Zimmerman's percentage system.

This is my second attempt with this absolutely beautiful mercerized Egyptian cotton yarn Elsie's mom got at a yard sale. It's a vintage yarn, I believe, and incredibly smooth and strong. I even like the label.

I usually don't like knitting with cotton at all, because there's no give, but I enjoy this. The first sweater had a split hem like this one, but the split was in the front and back rather than at the sides, and I did this weird thing with a dropped stitch at the outside of the sleeves that seemed like a good idea at the time, but just didn't work. It was all just a little too fashion forward somehow, and a little too small to boot, so I frogged it and designed this one with more ease and a more predictable boat neck, drop shoulder, split hem design. It's not particularly creative, perhaps, but it is simple and it suits me. Here's where the sleeve will meet the shoulder.

For finishing, I have this idea that I got from a costume I saw in a TV movie version of Merlin, but I'm not sure I'm going through with it. Rather than sew the fronts and backs together (leaving room for my head, we presume) I'm thinking of leaving them open, and attaching them with a button and loop closure, at only one point on either side of my neck. We'll see how it looks as I get closer to the end.


I had a knitter's epiphany recently when I read on someone's blog that she kept ten knitting projects going at once. TEN. She actually kept a list in a column on the left hand side of her blog, and made sure she never went over a maximum of ten projects. Going at once. This, combined with a conversation I had with my mom's friend Tyson, who described her method of having two projects going at once (one with a chart for a quiet room at home, and one in plain knitting for meetings) convinced me to consider that it might be possible for me to work on more than one thing at a time. So I've also been working on a lace scarf with beads for my charming future sister-in-law.

I think it looks like seaweed. In a good way.

And it's almost done.

Next there's a vest I want to make from this book, and I'm going to learn tubular cast on for socks if it kills me.