Friday 16 May 2014

Depression Era Cotton Reel Leg Table

I finally went to my first Antique Auction this week. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time but just never seemed to get around to it. So I jumped at the chance when the opportunity arose.

I was interested in a couple of items but only ended up bidding on one of them. There was only one other bidder for the item I wanted (not very serious) so in the end I was able to come home with my first auction win. My prize was a nice piece of Australiana, a small Depression Era table, probably made in the 1920-30s. It has legs made from cotton reels and top and stretchers decorated with pokerwork. Apart from being a little shaky, it's in very good overall condition. Not bad for being about 80 to 90 years old.

Depression era cotton reel and pokerwork table.  The table stands 65cm high with a 18.5cm diameter top.

A bit of an unusual combination, the pokerwork with the black and gold. To me, the black and gold colour scheme gives it a somewhat Egyptian look. Maybe the colour scheme was influenced by the popularity of everything Egyptian that swept the world after Howard Carter's discovery of  King Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922.

The legs are each made up of 21 cotton reels threaded on steel rods. Each cotton reel has been painted black and gold and each leg is composed of different size and shaped cotton reels placed in the same order making each leg symmetrical.

The top (and bottom most) cotton reels each have a convex shaped centre.
The stretchers have been joined with lapped joints fixed with screws from below.

Nice floral pokerwork top.

More pokerwork on the stretchers, daffodils this time.

I may not have found a whatnot made of cotton reels but I think that this table is just as good. Again, this little table clearly shows what can be made from whatever materials are at hand. Another fine example of Australian ingenuity from the Depression Era.

And I wonder, if now that I own three items from the Depression Era, it means that I have now started another new collection. What will be next?

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Depression Era Ingenuity - Recycling At Its Best (Part 2)

As promised, here is my Depression Era Tool Box that I was lucky enough to find at an Aladdins Fair last year. It has been made out of old kerosene crates and has been fitted out inside with cigarette and chemist tins for the storage of all sorts of bits of hardware.  Just the sort of storage system that every workshop should have. I believe it was discovered under a Queenslander (typical Queensland house) in the inner suburbs of Brisbane.

The tool box is rather crudely made but quite robust. It measures approximately 55cm wide x 36cm deep and 28cm high. Unfortunately, it has some small damage to the drop down front.

The seller presumed that Virtue is the name of the owner. He must have obviously lived in Brisbane. One can only presume that Mr Virtue must have taken this tool box on site with him to warrant the need to write Brisbane on it. Maybe he had his own Handy Man business? We will probably never know.  Both the top and the bottom are marked with FIRE TEST 150ยบ indicating the burning quality of the kerosene that would have originally been in these crates.
One end of the toolbox is made from a Shell kerosene crate. Barely visible now.

But the other end is the crowning glory of the toolbox. A very nice WHITE ROSE OIL kerosene crate end has been used here. What a great picture of a rose and what great colours too.

Each end has a nice crudely hand made metal handle. This also indicates that the toolbox was meant to be moved around with it's owner

A simple hasp and staple latch has been added to the drop down front.

The front drops down to reveal two crudely made slide out shelves. There is also a space below them for some tools.

Another view of the box with the sliding shelves partly out.

Top shelf revealing some of the many containers fixed to it to store all manner of hardware.

Top shelf completely removed from the toolbox.
Tins opened to reveal their contents.
Lots of nice screws. Solid brass ones aren't cheap to buy these days.

More screws and some small round wooden boxes that may have originally been pill boxes.

Below are some photos of individual tins. They are not in the best condition (although some not to bad) but are a good representation of what would have been available in the 1920s and 30s. The first group are all tobacco tins.

Yankee Doodle FLAKE CUT tobacco tin

There is also a surprisingly large variety of pastille, jube and butterscotch tins. These appeal to me more as I collect chemist items. Below are a few photos of these individual tins.


Henderson's Sweets WEE MACGREEGORS BUTTER SCOTCH tin (This is one of my favourites)

MacRobertson's SUPERIOR Butter Scotch tin

Henderson's VOICE JUBES tin


There is also one R. BELL & Co VESTA box fixed to the top sliding shelf.


On the second sliding shelf were a few odd containers. These were just loose and weren't fixed to the shelf.
 Small Wulfing's Formamint FOR Sore Throat tin
Nice clean Vaseline CAMPHOR ICE tin
And a BAUER & BLACK ADHESIVE TAPE spool that was now being used to house a string line.

What to some may only be a dirty old box of bits and pieces, is to me a thing of beauty! I can only imagine the many things that this tool box (and its owner) must have been involved in building or repairing early last century. The stories it could tell if it could only speak!

Friday 18 April 2014

Depression Era Ingenuity - Recycling At Its Best (Part 1)

We are often led to believe that recycling is a new idea. Nothing could be further from the truth. People have been recycling things, especially containers, for hundreds of years. In fact, ever since the Industrial Revolution, many commercially produced containers or packaging haven't been disposed of but rather reused for other purposes. What was originally done out of necessity, would now be referred to as 'recycling' or 'repurposing'. No other period in history illustrates this more clearly than the Depression Era years (or The Great Depression of the 1930s).

During The Great Depression, jobs were very scarce leading to high unemployment and very little money to spend on the basics, let alone any luxuries. The average person had to make do the best he could with what was at hand. Thankfully, we Australians were a resourceful lot and many ingenious things were crafted out of otherwise disposable items. They ranged from the simple reuse of a disposable container for storing buttons, screws or old photos to complete pieces of furniture such as a chest of drawers made from kerosene tins or a whatnot made from cotton reels.

In the past year, I have been fortunate enough to come across two items from this period. Both are types of tool boxes and both have made good use of old kerosene containers.

The first was found at the Dayboro Day Antiques and Collectables Fair in May last year and was briefly featured in my story about the fair.

It is made from some old Laurel Kerosene tins and was sold to me as a sewing box (as it was full of sewing items). It has since been suggested to me that it may possibly have been made in the government railway workshops as a travel case for train drivers and engineers. They could have used it on long train journeys to store food and other basic necessities. This suggestion of its original purpose sounds more plausible than a sewing box as it definitely has a more masculine rather than feminine look about it. Also the high quality workmanship that has gone into it would suggest it having been made by an experienced tradesman in a well equipped workshop rather than just in someones backyard shed.

The travel case (come sewing box). This box has been made out of used LAUREL KEROSENE tins. A handle has been added to the top as well as heavy duty banding to give added strength.
Two tins were needed to make this case as is clearly shown by the lettering not matching on the ends. This also allowed the maker to discard the part of the tin that would have had the pouring hole in it.
The catch is a work of art in itself.  Just squeeze the 2 sides together to disengage them from their keepers and lift up. Provision is also made for a padlock for extra security. Very ingenious.
Inside the box. No wonder it was sold as a sewing box. It was full of cotton reels and other bits of sewing paraphernalia.  Fortunately there are quite a few wooden reels amongst this lot.
Close up of the cotton reel stash.
Under the lid is this simple little catch.
Which opens to reveal two more compartments.
What could they have been intended for? I think the whole box would make a "cool" esky. You could put the ice bricks in these compartments, keep the food in the main section and put some cutlery and other small items in the side tray. Just a thought. Probably wouldn't have worked very well back in the 30s when it was made as the ice would have melted and made a mess of all the food.

Don't know if you found this little box to be as fascinating as I did, but I just couldn't help marvel at how clever people could be, especially when they had to make do with only what was around them.

In Part 2, I will be sharing another box (tool box this time) that once again shows man's resourcefulness in difficult times. These items certainly are great examples of "recycling at its best".

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Ward & Payne Sheep Shears

I managed to pick up a really nice pair of sheep shears a couple of weeks ago at our monthly bottle club meeting. Derek, a friend of mine from the club, brought them along to sell at the club's swap and sell table. A few other members picked them up to check them out before I could, but they finally came home with me.

These shears had everything going for them. They were in great condition and in their original leather sheath. But the best thing was the great graphics of a shepherd with his sheep (or maybe his dog) and shepherd's crook impressed onto the blade. I had never seen another pair of shears marked like these ones were.

The shears were made by Ward & Payne Ltd, Sheffield, England. Not sure how old they are but the company was producing similar items in the 1890s through to at least the first quarter of the 20th century. A short history of the company can be found here.

These shears definitely won't end up hanging on the outside of my shed along with my other rusty junk. They will instead, take pride of place amongst my vintage tool collection.

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