All posts tagged antiquing

Antique Fountain Pens: where to buy and how to use them.

Published September 30, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1

Writing is difficult enough as is nowadays. Can you imagine that somewhere during 1955 through the 60s all public school children were taught how to use a fountain pen and ink well? According to one such tutorial website I gleaned some helpful insight into the often ignored bygone use of a fountain pen.

Oh… are those the fancy quill pens with a beautiful, graceful feather, right?


Well, okay, maybe those can be included too…but I was more inclined to add the Calligraphy pen/ fountain pen, and one thing that had always piqued my interest was whenever my great grandmother would write me snail mail letters. She would always write in this extremely fine penmanship that was lost to my generation. How can I describe her penmanship? It was dainty-like. Her cursive always straight even in cards and pages that weren’t notebook paper. Her penmanship was always graceful and it  always garnered my interest. It was always the same ‘sepia-tone’ brown ink, sort of faded that I knew wasn’t possible from a standard ball point pen. And I knew that no writing pen no matter how cheap or crappy could produce such eye-catching legible lines. In fact, it had me so curious and I never did ask in my letters to my great grandmother what type of pen and brand of ink she used. And for the life of me, I don’t know why I never asked. I only recall one time when she wrote to me in pencil and that was something that was very out of character for my great grandmother to do when corresponding in all the years we wrote to each other. I knew then something wasn’t right and my intuition was correct, sadly.

When my great grandmother could no longer write me back, I continued to write to her (wishing, hoping and praying) for a response only to no avail. By this point I had no idea how badly her mental health had declined. I was kept in the dark about a lot of the horrendous details of what went on while she was still alive. She required the assistance of a caregiver who didn’t look after her well at all. Were my letters thrown in the trash unread? I began to think to myself. They were getting delivered to somebody since I never had one returned to me during the entire time, so who knows.

I was intrigued, and me being… well, me wanted to teach myself this lost form of fountain pen penmanship, and as luck would have it, I purchased an old antique Palmer’s fountain pen writing instruction red soft-cover book. The book had been around with black ink stains on the cover, and a partial missing corner from its cover. I was missing two more things: a fountain pen and ink. The ink I use is India ink and a very helpful antique store owner told me to always water down the ink with cold water prior to use or else the nib of the fountain pen will get gummed up and the writing won’t appear as fluent nor clean, and always allow the page to completely dry first before folding it and cramming it into an envelope. I thanked the antique store owner (her name is Carol), but she couldn’t help me track down a bottle of brown ink and didn’t know if any even existed or not. So, the curiosity regarding where my great grandmother’s mysterious ‘sepia-toned’ brown ink came from will forever remain a mystery since my great grandmother is no longer alive to tell me or even show me.

It still didn’t stop me from picking up something a new form of long lost writing. And oh yes, I LOVE to write. I love it so much that I’m known to write incredibly long snail mail letters to family and friends and always have loved doing so. I’ve been told by strangers even that my penmanship is beautiful, graceful and very legible.

“Legible?” I think to myself. “Why wouldn’t my penmanship be otherwise?”

And here again my quest for knowledge was never-ending and I wanted to know why. I don’t ask, silly me. 😛

Instead, the answers I sought was a long time in coming, but eventually I would see why. I see a younger generation’s writing and doesn’t just stun me, it makes me nervous. It makes me crook my eyebrow and scrutinize every word and line. I cool it on my inner need to ‘proofread’ what they wrote. That isn’t part of my job requirements, but making sense of their writing is important, and if I can’t understand it, then miscommunication often occurs. And not to down on anybody that was born during the 1980s and are part of the millennial crowd, but boy howdy, I never knew chicken scratch was a perquisite to learning how to read and write while in elementary school nowadays. Actually, most of it I can’t even say is chicken scratch, it’s likened to pre-school scribbling and its coming from a twenty-something youngster.

So maybe it will sound as though I’m being hard on these millennials, but their writing is atrocious. Any English teacher would cringe if they saw it turned in on a hand-written assignment and their butts would be served to them on a silverplate platter because of it.

In my line of work I have to jot down any information that would be pertinent if ever a situation arises while I’m on the clock. There are days when nothing happens, and then there’s the hectic days where anything can happen and it needs to be logged.

And then there’s the pre-school scribbles that often appears and misspelled words. I try to decipher it the best I can, but the writing is often very illegible. Now I see why I’m told my penmanship is legible and this is thanks in part to my older brother who taught me cursive writing when I was young as four or five years old. Yes, that young believe it or not because he didn’t want me to go through life not knowing how to read or write since public schools would barely cover the bare bone basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic (a bygone name for mathematics). My older brother was already in school at the time and was a few grades a head of me.

In retrospect, I sincerely believe we came from the last generation that was taught cursive writing when it was still being taught in public schools during the 1980s. I later read that anybody that attended public school post 1955-60s lost out on learning how to use a fountain pen and ink well though. And it brings me back to the antique writing instruments of yesteryear. They can range in price from a dollar on up to a few hundred. And it depends on the make of fountain pen and when it was produced.

When I attended college in 2013 (per my course requirement), I had to log into a message board to converse with the instructor and fellow students, and while on there, somebody chimed in how excited they were to receive a fancy pen with a very fluent, sensitive response. Well, they weren’t talking about a pen you write with. They referred to a stylus pen for their Kindle or some other technological touch-screen device.

I barely batted an eyelash when I figured out it was a pen for a touch screen device.

I don’t get all s**** and giggles over technology. In fact, I don’t find myself running out to buy the newest updated computer setup. I don’t have any new generation Kindles on my wish list and all of my stylus touch-screen pens came straight from the Dollar Tree where everything’s a dollar. However, I do collect antique fountain pens and antique ink wells. Some are very basic heavy glass, I’d say likely used in the rural public schools way, way back when. And other ink wells I have are slightly more fancy with a pen holder and two ink wells with silver caps. And another one I turned up recently has a brass design around it. I don’t know the specific dates when these ink wells were produced, but the fancier ones I’d guess were produced in the 1800s or very early 1900s. The basic no bells or whistles ink wells could likely date anywhere in that same time frame. The antique fountain pens I have scattered in an old wooden cigar box are plastic with brass nibs, which tells me they were produced post- 1930’s probably in the 60s or 70s maybe. I have about four or five fountain pens that go way back to the early 1900s and these I didn’t acquire all at once. I would occasionally run across them in the antique stores from time to time, and if they appealed to me, I’d buy them. At least fountain pens are a light-weight antique item to collect unlike my Bavaria porcelain dishes and silverplate.

And so I’ve returned to practicing my fountain pen writing. This is something I enjoy doing in my spare time when I can make the time that is. I do it mostly for fun nowadays and I’ve read that it isn’t so much what you write but how you hold the pen which is balanced on your knuckles and not clutched between the thumb and index finger. It was awkward for me to try at first, but once I quickly got accustomed to it, my writing was less complicated and flowed onto the page a lot easier. And this is all for my blog about antique fountain pens and ink wells. If interested I’m sure places like eBay, Etsy, and Ruby Lane might have fountain pens and ink wells for sale. Thanks as always for reading, liking, blogging, commenting and sharing. I truly appreciate it.  🙂


Is it a Kestner, Handwerck, or a reproduction?

Published June 14, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1
German bisque head doll 23 inches 6-13-2016

Is she the real deal or a knock-off Kestner or a Simon and Handwerck German bisque head doll? Either way she’s gorgeous!

She looks like a Kestner and/ or Simon & Handwerck German bisque head doll. She’s 23 inches tall and her body is composition (pressed saw dust and painted) which for its age appears to be in excellent condition. Okay, she’s my birthday present to myself. However, I have no provenance about this beautiful doll. I have no idea if she’s an antique or a remake of those lovely antique German bisque head dolls.

I surfed onto the doll reference website and still couldn’t find any answers to my questions. All I found was the number “13” stamped into the back of her head. Her wig screams and feels synthetic. Her glass eyes are stationary. Her mouth is open revealing an impressive set of upper baby teeth. Still though, it’s perplexing. I skimmed the doll collector’s database for more information about said doll. I know there’s a TON of reproduction German bisque head dolls on the market. I turned one up from 1987 and never bought it because it was too small (5″ high) and made in Taiwan, not Germany. And there’s a lot of fakes, too.

But the bisque head appears to be new? It just has me so curious. It’s a shade or two off in color from the body. Oh, and she’s not even high strung. She’s extremely loose strung including her head that has the impressive, and creepy ability, to do a complete 360 whenever she is picked up. Therefore, she must be handled with extreme TLC.

I noticed her in the antique store today parked beside a 1930’s big antique composition doll to her left. I naturally assumed the doll beside her looked kind of like child star Shirley Temple. And the Shirley Temple doll’s eyes not only opened and closed, but appeared to be made of plastic or something similar that would date that doll to about the 1930s or thereabouts. And then there was another even bigger bisque head Kestner—err, an outright copyright infringement counterpart sitting beside her blonde head counterpart on the right.

This enormous, almost bulbous head of the other doll just seemed “off” to me. It wasn’t nearly proportionate to the doll’s body and the clothes and its velvet hat weren’t antique. They were well designed clothes, none the less. And the biggest of the two Kestner-look alike dolls had a tag still attached. It was specially designed for somebody and the doll collector paid $225 when new. The doll had a name but I didn’t commit it to memory. And the bigger doll’s mouth was closed (no teeth) just painted on lips. And her body was a copy of a copy and all bisque. She was extremely heavy and I didn’t bother to lift her up to inspect her. The attached tag satisfied my burning curiosity about her.

And the dealer smacked $25 on her. The bigger doll had brown hair, brown eyes, although her hair felt more “mohair” or real than the other bisque head doll I was admiring. For years I’ve always wanted a German bisque head doll and would be happy with an original body and new doll head, or a complete original antique doll be if that’s the case too.


$35? I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I scrutinized the price tag very carefully. For that price I thought the dealer must have lost their marbles (I didn’t see any around) if said doll was an antique and completely original, or if it had obviously been poorly re-strung at some point in this doll’s past and it wasn’t a very good job at that that would account for the cheap price. I had to clear another all bisque German Piano baby-looking doll out of the way. Price tag on that doll stated: German bisque $25. But what I didn’t like about it was that it was missing it’s top and hair (so you could see down inside the doll’s head). There was a small piece of dark red felt glued to the open mouth of the doll. The stationary eyes had some sealant or goop poured around them to hold them in place and the doll head mold appeared too new, or so I thought. It could be an authentic antique German bisque doll, but finding an inset top to fit inside the head and then try to attach a doll wig on top of that would be a challenge and something that didn’t appeal to me. That, and it resembled too much of a boy doll, not that there’s anything wrong with that and dressed in a boy’s baby clothes.

There were two doll wigs for sale in the antique store; one dark brown hair, the other black. But it just didn’t ‘fit’ with the blue eyes on that doll, at least the mental image didn’t make me have any second thoughts. No, I tell myself.

First, for $35 something has to be seriously wrong with the doll other than she’s very loose and somebody didn’t re-string her correctly at all, regardless if she’s an authentic antique or not. Secondly, I’m garnering the money to repair the Victrola model “G” which has three mainsprings and just mailed that off today. And getting those fixed is going to set me back quite a bit if I ran my estimates correctly that is.

Third, my doll crib is crammed… and then I ran out of excuses not to buy this Kestner looking blonde-haired doll. She was everything I’ve been looking for in a bisque head doll. And she must be handled with extreme care because her joints and head just flop around. Oh, and she’s heavy which is another thing I didn’t anticipate when I first scooped her up and her composition legs and feet clacked the bench. Yikes! I hold her close to me for a while, then examine her facial features for any signs of hair line cracks. None to be found. I sigh. She can’t be a real antique doll, can she? For $35 (actually the store owner took a discount on her since I’ve done so much business with them on a regular basis and she was now $31). Am I sold, yet?

Let me think on it. And there’s a saying, “Don’t think on it too long.” It was a steal. One of those deals of a lifetime kind of thing. I practically tore myself away and placed the blonde haired doll back on the bench. I stood, my toes and heels not used to the open-toe sandals. I wanted to look beautiful today and wore a sundress. I didn’t feel like wearing Daisy Duke shorts or a thin shirt, either.

Being in those doll’s presence was like re-living a second childhood, if that make any sense? I know it must sound crazy, but place yourself when younger and let’s say you were an avid reader of Doll World magazine (now defunct). As a little girl none of the new dolls on the market could even compare to the likes of an original 1950s Chatty Cathy, Suzy Smart or even Thumbellina. I dreamed of someday finding those dolls and many antique dolls that would make me happy. My mom would tell me stories about all the dolls she had when growing up and it would always antagonize me although mom’s intentions were never about that.

Then, at ten years old, I hit pay dirt in 1987  completely by accident one evening and found my first original 1950’s Mattel Chatty Cathy (I believe it was a Chatty Baby) in a junk store my mom and I found ourselves in. My mom worried quite a bit because she could see the look on my face and how much I wanted that battered old doll so badly. I wanted that Chatty Cathy high on top of the shelf that I couldn’t reach.

My mom worried because money was extremely tight even though the economy hadn’t even began to tank yet thanks to the “Second Great Depression” as I dubbed it back in 2008. But if I would have been more keen of my history, I’d know that there has been a few financial crashes throughout history during the 1860s and again in the 1890s I think that had a ripple effect through the generations and finally leading to the major stock market collapse in October 1929. And that has nothing to do with me and my first Chatty Cathy doll, but money was tight.

Did my mom get the Chatty Cathy doll for me? Yes, and we were very pressed for time. Like always I still have this bad habit of piddling which means I take my time when I browse. I don’t like to hurry and hate being rushed. I’m one of those types that likes to stop and smell the roses and I make sure to go early so I have extra time to browse. As a young girl, I was very selective of the other dolls that were within my reach in that junk store and none of them had that certain ‘pull’. Mom scooped the Chatty Cathy off the shelf and pulled its string… nothing!

But there was a glimmer of hope in my eye and I was about to delve into ‘how does it work’ with my brother’s help of course and we had partial success getting my first Chatty Cathy to spit out a garbled message, but that was all.

The sale’s lady (and I still remember her to this day) was a very cut throat type and stern. My mom haggled over the price of the doll. Chatty Cathy did not talk. My mom wasn’t going to pay $10 for a non-working doll. The lady behind the counter shot me daggers. My puppy dog look implored, and it did little to tug on the heartstrings of this sale’s woman if she took any pity on me at all. And again the lady wouldn’t back down. I don’t know how my mom managed to talk her down and five dollars was the ‘sold’ price. My mom fretted because she wasn’t sure if she’d brought enough money with her. The lady wasn’t about to take checks. And as luck would have it, my mom came through. We got the doll and left.

My first Chatty Cathy never survived into adulthood sad to say. She had completely disintegrated although my efforts to restore and preserve her as much as possible I would hope weren’t all in vain. As a ten year old I didn’t know plastic becomes brittle with age and does break. The doll’s fingers broke off, the eyes fell out of their sockets, Chatty’s teeth went next and her entire body just fell apart like a worn out clunker. I tried with what little knowledge I did possess in regards to ‘do it yourself’ improvised doll restoration and would try to find answers to my questions in the issues of Doll World magazine to no avail.

Years pass by and I’m drawn to another doll that gives me that same ‘pull’ sensation I had when younger and seen my first vintage Chatty Cathy high on a shelf. I try telling myself no can do, or rather forget about it attitude. She’s not coming home with me. I look around some more. I review another homemade cloth doll with horribly bad yarn hair, faded painted-on face, homemade dress, all cloth body. No, that didn’t satisfy me. I wanted that blonde-haired rosy cheek Kestner bisque head look-alike doll. The second largest doll out of the entire lot of three sitting on a child-sized bench.

Why did this particular doll call to me? And I tried to forget about her, pulled myself away and forced myself to look at other things. I didn’t fancy any 78s, surprisingly enough. I bypassed the Edison black wax cylinder records without a second look since I had already jotted down all the songs and artists from them the year before. And I wouldn’t accept an Edison Diamond Disc record if it smacked me upside the noggin’ with an insanely cheap $1 price tag. Well, I take that back. I probably would have bought an Edison diamond disc if it was a song and/or artist that I like. And the doll, too. 🙂

Arrg! No, I repeatedly tell myself. Remember, I still have to wait to hear back on the exact cost will come to for the mainspring repairs on the Victrola. Plus I left the house not knowing when my birthday cards were going to arrive. I was originally intending to browse the antique store and go home. Nope. Kestner bisque head doll is still on my mind.

I try reasoning with myself; “She’s must be a reproduction!”, “You’ll be sorry if you have to make the one-hundred yard dash across the crosswalk in these open toe sandals and accidentally drop your irreplaceable one-of-a-kind birthday present to yourself!”

And, “The doll crib is over-populated as it is. You don’t seriously need another doll no matter how antique she might appear.”

“What if the darn thing is haunted?”

“What if its one of those ‘cursed’ antiques, then what little Miss Money Bags?”

Why else would the price be so reasonable? And why, why, why ask myself twenty questions? Why not treat myself for once since I don’t consume sugar and having an ice cream cake would reek havoc on my system anyway.

I try hard to leave the antique store, but wind up looking over the selection of antique baby clothes instead. Some of these garments are lawn cotton, others hand made, and some in the mix look antique but have tags sewn in to the garments. Nope. My keen eye knows any baby clothes with early tags sewn into the neckline were likely produced sometime during the 1940s or thereabouts. I was hoping to find some antique Christening gowns from the Victorian and/ or Edwardian periods. Not having much luck other than turning up odds and ends in way of baby clothes, I returned to the booth (or room rather) where the display of dolls were. I noticed something amiss. I never leave a vendor’s booth without putting stuff up as I found it. How could I have been so careless? So absent-minded.The German piano baby doll was lying on its side on the floor, the hand made sleeping cat beside it.

I start to berate myself, mentally that is, then quit. I’m not going to say that I’m stupid for simply forgetting about putting stuff away as it was. What has my mind so pre-consumed that I just faze out everything momentarily and walked off? I gingerly crouch down and my feet are shoved forward in my white heel open-toed sandals. I’m thanking myself I cut out all the sugar. I don’t feel sluggish anymore and amazingly the tendon in my knee no longer gives me any trouble. But my feet are straining as I pick up the home made sleeping cat and German bisque doll and place them back on the little bench. I so want to reach out and scoop up that 23” Kestner look-alike doll. I want to inquire about it and finally do. The store owners are always helpful and really couldn’t tell me whether or not it was antique or a reproduction. It appeared like an antique doll.

Willing to give it a try I happily said, “I’ll take it,” in the meantime browsed some more and finally settled on a grab bag of mismatched antique lawn cotton stained baby dresses and undershirts with no means of fastening them. No cute glass buttons, no itty bitty safety pins either. The two under shirts lack button holes. No sewn on snaps either. Well, since the doll’s body is all composition, pressed saw dust and painted, not all bisque (whew!) I wouldn’t have to worry about rust eating away at cloth, except for the under shirt itself. My mind’s made up. I will add some tiny glass antique buttons and button holes on the under shirts when I get home and after they’re laundered and dry.

I finally pay for my doll and she’s gingerly wrapped head to toe in butcher’s block paper and carefully placed in a sturdy box. I also got a free trash bag too. I always re-use whatever materials come home with me whenever I can. I returned home and first carted in my distilled water and my iced tea, then returned for my possible ‘antique doll’.

While on the way home I decided to part with one doll in my collection. It will be a tin head or metal head “Minerva” doll made sometime in the 1900s.

Someday I want to place all of my beautiful dolls in a sturdy cabinet with see through doors. They don’t have to be inset glass doors, just something that keeps out dust, spiders, and my cat and I may build such a cabinet so I can measure the shelves for the doll’s height.  I have been known to find my cat contently napping on top of my Frankenstein repaired Horseman doll in the crib on more than two occasions thus far and she feels snug like a bug in a rug surrounded by the other dolls as well.

german bisque doll in dress and shoes

If anybody has any information about my new, (hopefully antique) bisque head doll, please feel free to comment. Also, thanks as always for liking, sharing, re-blogging, tweeting, commenting, etc. I truly appreciate it! 🙂





Antiquing during a stroll

Published March 24, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1
mirror found 3-23-16

Mirror in “as found” condition. Before gluing the joints.

There’s a lot of stuff I’ve come across quite often on my walks. I have found money anywhere between $4, $10, and $20. I have even found a full book of postage stamps another time. And I’m always grateful to find anything while on my strolls. So, it pays to look on the ground. Take the time to scour parking lots, alleys, sidewalks, curbs when you take a walk because you never know what you might find.

It was a strong windy day. Hold on to your hat. Well, my beloved straw cowgirl hat was battered in no time. And the gusts would blow sand and dirt. Good thing I wore my shades. But the sand and dirt stung my legs something fierce.


How could there be any remote chance of snow later on? I thought as I merrily enjoyed the day getting my natural dose of Vitamin D from the sunlight. I didn’t think very favorable of the cyclone-like day we were having. But I didn’t despair and kept trudging right along getting blown off course (literally) and into a grassy stretch of an empty lot. I was originally going to take the over pass sidewalk just to avoid waiting on non-stop trains that love to just slow down and stop at every intersection. Then the trains will back up, creating a long line of cars backed up for miles. There should be a law against the trains doing that. It’s not only a frustration for motorists, but also to people on foot that have to wait for an incredibly long time.


I believe I wasn’t even half way when the gusts decided it for me: my stroll was going to be short-lived. Sure, I’d get to where I intended to go, maybe just not right when I wanted to. Trying to walk into the wind was challenging, and painful when the sand hit my body. Then I look toward the train tracks. They were clear, and instead of me hoofing it clear out of my way, I headed several blocks (hoping there wouldn’t be another train to block the intersections). And as luck would have it, I made it across safely and there were no signs of any trains. Strange, because I kept hearing the blaring noise of the train track signals every few minutes it seemed like today.


But my eyes spied a green bean seed packet. Could it be? Aw, drats! Empty. Well, if you’re a serious green thumb, a newbie to gardening/ herb container grower or live on a farm, then the urge to inspect any discarded garden seed packet for potential overlooked beans or seeds is always worth a look. Never know where you might find free food. I say that because green beans are easy to grow. I don’t recall the particular brand of the green bean packet other than it caught my attention on my walk.


So I mosey on, keeping a firm hand on my hat or what’s left of it. Ahead of my sights are more shuttered businesses that ceased. It’s not surprising considering the area of town isn’t part of a tourist trap. In fact, it could so use some revitalization if city planners and tax payer money would go to good use to re-hab some of the most forlorn eyesore properties, but I can safely bet, nothing will ever happen. The buildings will continue to decay. The ‘for rent’ and ‘for sale’ signs will remain indefinitely. And it looks straight out of an episode of The Walking Dead. But it’s an area of town that’s for lack of a better word, ‘antique’. I mean the buildings have their roots some dating back to the early 1930s, and maybe a little before the Depression era. But that’s not particularly what drew me to stroll down this area of town. I see a junk yard of cars enclosed by a long span of chain link. Between the links are white broken plastic (think in terms of mini-blinds), and behind that is a mini-salvage yard for vehicles. It really doesn’t impress me, but junk yards, in general, are nearly all gone nowadays. I cross the street and see a business that doesn’t have any customers. It’s a very old antique-looking brick building.


Very old by out-ward appearances. Interior-wise, looks like a 1970s slapped together in one day look and vibe about it. I feel as though I’ve transcended into the past. I suppose it was the overcast day and everything was hazy even the sun. And right in front of me was an antique mirror with an attached Art Deco light fixture. The mirror is leaning against the old building. I catch a glimpse of myself in the mercury coated beveled glass staring back at me.


Lord knows I’ve been praying to happen across by chance an antique mirror. The light fixture and antique incandescent light bulb were a plus. Instead of giving it much thought, I carry on my way and then… back-track. I do a double take. The mirror is in tact, but the frame has seen better days. In fact, I surmise it was originally yanked out of a bathroom due to its added on light fixture and partial two screws holding two broken pieces of plastic in the lower corner. Could have been a tooth brush holder, maybe a soap dispenser.


I try to talk myself out of even inquiring about said mirror. But something about the mirror appearing discarded and forgotten latched onto me. Maybe it was that white chipped paint, weather-beaten wood underneath. Good grief, I think to myself, I’ll never get it home on foot, and definitely not in this cyclone of a day. But wait—the light shade is milk glass. The shade itself practically screams “I am Art Deco!” and so loudly that it would make the nearby resident want to chuck rocks at it. Maybe that’s how the shade got broke in the first place.

broken fixture shade before cleaning

On the ground I discover three fragments of milk glass in the parking lot. I study myself in the large mirror. The mirror I would have to guess was manufactured even before the late Twenties when Art Deco became in vogue. Oh, and the light fixture retains an antique incandescent light bulb.


Perhaps an original Thomas Edison light bulb? In 2016? I crook the brim of my hat to get a better look. Yeah, right. It would have to be a Chinese knock off “Edison” bulb found at Lowe’s. But no. It pre-dates the Chinese knock-offs and its about as authentic as the day it was produced eons ago.


The filament and connecting wires are very different than any past or current incandescent light bulb I’ve seen. I know Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and this light bulb looked like a familiar design of his. I also own Edison phonographs, and researched him extensively for my phonograph restoration and that has nothing to do whether the light bulb still works or not.


before cleaning of the wall mount light fixture

There’s dirt and grime and I wouldn’t trust testing out that light socket plug. In the old days bare wires were covered with a piece of inset cardboard between the prongs of the plug to prevent two bare wires from crossing. Yikes!

Despite the broken milk glass lamp shade, the porcelain wall mount bolted to the mirror is in excellent shape for its age. It screams 1920’s. I know this because all throughout my years growing up I lived in many Victorian homes split into apartments where the electricity (and the light fixtures) were never updated, replaced, or even new, and most were straight from the Twenties in those homes. They were very antique, all white porcelain, and something clicked in my brain trudging up a memory from long ago.


Studying that very light fixture mounted on the antique mirror took me back to a happier and much less different time in my [then] extremely young childhood. It reminded me of a special place in time, one that can never be replaced. It was a feeling I received that I hadn’t felt in many, many long years. Why this antique mirror struck me with that overwhelming emotion of familiarity I have no idea.


“Antiquing” has always ran in both sides of my family. It goes way, way back and I’m no different. But I still try to convince myself “This mirror will likely shatter if I inquire about it,” and “It’s not out here for looks.”


I must have passed by the building three times debating whether or not I should inquire about the antique mirror. And by the time I made it to the end of the third block, something was practically nagging at me not to pass it up. It might be a good deal and it was something I had in mind rather than buying a new mirror that would be straight from China and an overpriced piece of junk.


I had that old Victor 78 song stuck in my head, “Don’t Wait Too Long”. I forget who the artist is that sings this particular fox trot. All I know is that my late great grandma and I have similar tastes in music. Don’t Wait Too Long was one such song in our record collections. We must have been on the same wave length, or perhaps it was a nudge from her in spirit when I began my fascinating antique phonograph hobby when I was 26 years old and wound up with that new old stock song on a Victor 78.


After much thinking about the mirror and seeing my stroll was going to be cut short due to the gusts, I turned on one heel and started back for the abandoned-looking business. The lights were on inside but the door was locked. I was smack dab in a crime-ridden area of town, on foot, fighting against the massive strong gusts that pummeled me with dirt, grime and sand.


I didn’t see the Keystone cops running after the likes of Charlie Chaplin or that of the great stone face, Buster Keaton, so I figured crime had taken the day off. For some weird reason I could envision meeting up with the like of Charlie Chaplin on this particular day in this area of town (don’t ask me why). I suppose it was the almost sepia overcast sky that made me think of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton (two out of three of my favorite silent film comics along with Harold Lloyd in no particular order).


I was almost worried about knocking on this business’s door since you never know who might answer. I could see into the business through a large window. But for what business this was, I have no idea. And I have no idea how an antique mirror wound up leaning against their establishment.  I hesitated at the door thinking of a million excuses not to inquire. Maybe the business was remodeling. Maybe they weren’t intending to toss out this beautiful antique mirror. Maybe it was placed outside just for looks. (I was thinking in terms of tacky lawn decorations). But no, I didn’t get that impression. I swore I distinctly heard my late great grandmother (who lived in a museum, *ahem*, a house), encouraging me “…never know until you try.” It sounded so clear as a bell that I turned and looked to my right, then my left. And if it had been her instead of me coming across this mirror, she would have had no problem knocking, and in her own sweet outgoing way, could charm the pants off the person who answered with just her smile.


So, I knocked and didn’t have to wait long. A young man answered. I kept my inquiry brief and pointed to the side of the building where the mirror was. He told me the mirror was free and I could have it. I thanked him, and went to the side of the building and tried to lift the mirror. The frame was rickety and I noticed a silver fish (a small insect) running for its dear life to hide under one wooden shim nailed to the frame. I replaced the mirror just as it was, resting against the brick building. This calls for the vehicle. I was hoping between the time I left and returned, the mirror wouldn’t be the unfortunate victim of the cyclone gust’s fury. And I worried to that someone else might happen upon this mirror and snatch it out from under me. Surprisingly, it was still there when I returned and in one piece. I loaded it myself, then returned to pick up every piece of broken milk glass and plucked one wood shim that had detached from the mirror and headed to town.


I was still debating just returning home and tilling more garden space by hand, but on this particular day, I’m sure the wind would have planted my seeds in various places in my backyard instead. I still need to make more seed tape (this is so the crops will grow in evenly spaced rows and made using toilet paper and a mix of flour/water paste to glue the tiny seeds in place. Allow it to dry over night and you’ll be ready to plant them the following day or whenever the danger of frost has passed). But instead of going home and playing farmer Brown, I decided to see what the thrift store had to offer. Not much so I then stopped by the store on my way home and bought a pineapple. They’re on sale, can’t beat that. 🙂


I didn’t take the mirror inside. I left it in the vehicle and worked on removing the light fixture in there. I will assume that the gaudy layer of white paint contains lead (as most paints pre-1970’s contained lead) and it was flaking so bad I didn’t want it everywhere in my house. I managed to get the light fixture removed safely including the light bulb, then disassembled it and washed the shade, porcelain wall mount and plan to get the rust off the screws. I assumed after much “Righty tighty, lefty Lucy” elbow grease using nothing more than a pair of Ford Model T pillars and a Chinese brand pair of needle nose pillars and hands like a brain surgeon, the bolt and three little rusty screws released their firm death grip on the porcelain wall mount and milk glass shade.


cleaned mirror glass 3-24-16

I scraped away some of the flaking old paint. Underneath the white paint was somewhat of a salmon-pink hue in areas. The paint still flakes off very easily when touched and the mirror requires a lot of TLC when handled which I do with work gloves on. The wood shims holding the glass are the consistency of match sticks and very brittle. It’s still in rough condition.

And I did it all without breaking anything or causing myself seven years of bad luck. I was suspecting at any given moment the mirror would break, but it didn’t although the wood frame was coming undone at all four corners. I’m still not even sure how I managed this feat. I’ve worked on antique phonographs, but never an antique mirror until now. I’ll worry about repairing the glass shade another time. I was more fixated on finding a solution to glue the frame back together with the glass still inset. The logical approach would be to gently remove all the wood shims holding the glass and remove the mirror, but working in cramped confines of the van would make this step impossible.


And when in doubt, think like MacGuyver and that’s what I did. I returned inside with each light fixture piece, disassembled the scary outdated chord and light socket, set those aside, and placed the shade and porcelain wall mount inside a dish pan of sudsy/ Clorox bleach warm water. Not too hot, and definitely not too cold. Porcelain should never be subjected to extremely hot water or else it will break and crack. I resumed my task and let that soak in the meantime and brought out the Gorilla glue, some elastic snagged from my sewing box and a stick I found in the yard.

In order to get the joints aligned to the best of what I had at my disposal, I devised a very weird  clamp/ jig method using the elastic and stick and twisted it around the stick and mirror frame until I could see the gaps in the joints of the wood getting smaller. I knew that too much tension could spell disaster. I wound it with enough tension and called it good enough. I placed the stick under a tool kit and jumper cables to hold it taut so the glue could dry in the joints overnight. I then used a bungee chord to create tension to the other end of the mirror and hope and pray that it holds, which it did. I closed the door and put the tools back in the house. It was a cloudy evening. I overheard my neighbor exclaim they wouldn’t be surprised if we got a tornado and earthquake in the same night. The neighbor was talking to somebody else, not me. I gazed at the sky. The temperature was steadily dropping. It wasn’t extremely hot out today, but it was just right for shorts and short-sleeved shirt weather. And by evening it was very cold.

I washed up and ate a late supper of leftover Smoked Herring/ Flax seed meal and Chia seed patties combined with boiled Cactus leaves (a very good source of vitamins), some Cauliflower, and Broccoli mashed potatoes. I also had an apple and some brown bagged micro-waved plain popcorn.


Tomorrow I shall see what became of my improvised restoration efforts. Before I even begin to think about taking this antique mirror into my house it will require a new coat of either paint on the wood frame or I may strip it down and go over it with a clear coat varnish and call it good and let the weather beaten look shine through.


I detest the ‘shabby chic’ job that ruins antique furniture, dressers, and mirrors even though this mirror wasn’t given that look. The paint suffered from a severe case of weather-element damage and who knows what wall it had been bolted to for so many years.


And yes, I inspected mirror prior for any sign of black mold and/ or rotting damage to the wood frame. I didn’t see anything wrong and used my scrub brush to dust off the cobwebs and leaves before loading it up, so that tells me this mirror’s been sitting outside for a week or more. And perhaps this antique mirror was rescued in the nick of time since tonight it’s raining. Thanks for liking, re-blogging, commenting, tweeting and sharing. I always appreciate it. 🙂