Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Drummonds dry frit bath enamelling

Eastern Europe - UK BATHROOM manufacturer, antique bathroom dealer and restorers, Drummonds of Surrey, has set up a bath re-enamelling facility which will restore the vitreous enamel on old baths in the traditional way, first developed by the Victorians, but using modern technology.

The method is a technical tour de force which has taken Drummonds ten years to develop to a highly reliable and consistent process which finally came on stream in 2006. It uses sophisticated equipment and relies on the manual skill of a number of Drummonds uniquely trained workforce.

First the old vitreous enamel is carefully cleaned off by hours of shotblasting, after which the bath is kept meticulously clean and moved to the enamelling shop. Here the tiniest speck of dust can ruin the process so cleaniness is vital. The bath is evenly heated to a tangerine red in a purpose made oven. When the correct temperature has been reached it is removed from the oven with the aid of a long-reach hand-operated mobile crane fitted with a cradle, and placed on to a steel shoe in the heat-proof enamelling booth. The shoe tilts, twists and turns, controlled by a foot pedal operated by the enameller at the back (in the video).

The two enamellers have air-operated sieves containing the frit powder which is evenly released as they move the sieves above the bath, depositing a fine layer which melts into a viscous liquid glass. The bath gradually cools and has to be put back into the oven for a reheat. This is done several times until a thick even coat of tough enamel is deposited on the bath. Around 20kg of frit is used giving a coat in the region of 1.2mm thick on the finished bath.

The process was made to look effortless by the men carrying it out, which is testament to their skill. One of Drummond's competitors told SalvoNEWS that their enamel is 'really quite superb, especially on the roll'.

1. Drummonds gives their bath enamel a 25 year guarantee. They recommend the use of standard liquid cream bath cleaner rather than Ajax-type scouring powder. (Chlorinating scouring powders are in any case no longer considered acceptable to the environment or human health.)
2. The life of an enamelled cast iron bath should be in excess of 100 years if treated carefully, well-maintained and cleaned regularly.
3. Drummonds charges £600 to re-enamel a six foot bath.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Decon 07 in May

Madison, Wisconsin USA - The Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA) Conference on Deconstruction, Building Materials Reuse, and C&D Recycling will be held 14-16 May 2007 at Madison, Wisconsin USA.

Decon 07, run by BMRA and the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, is a national conference on deconstruction, building materials reuse, and construction and demolition debris recycling. It will be held at the historic Memorial Union on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Decon 07 has been expanded to 3 days, so there will plenty of informative talks and lots of time for discussion. Tours and full day post conference workshops on deconstruction and C&D recycling are being planned in cooperation with WasteCap Wisconsin. Incorporation of reused and recycled materials into new and renovation construction will also be discussed. The past several years have shown tremendous growth and interest in deconstruction and the reuse and recycling of building materials. The BMRA is dedicated to transforming the way we build, renovate, and demolish structures for a resource-conserving future. Please plan to join us in Madison for this educational and fun experience!

Planning Committee: USDA Forest Products Laboratory; Portland METRO; Pennsylvania State University ; University of Wisconsin, Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratories, The ReUse People, Pennsylvania State University , greenWells, WasteCap Wisconsin.

Decon 07

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Two million board feet reclaimed white pine

Dismantling under way [Photo Woodchuck]

Superior, Wisconsin USA - WISCONSIN Woodchuck, formed two year's ago, is dismantling what was the world's largest grain silo in 1887, to reclaim and estimated two million board feet of antique white pine, fir and spruce.

The building was covered with corrugated sheet metal, protecting both the wood and its grain contents. The inside of the main building was an architectural wonder. The top floors housed ten enormous antique cast-iron pulley wheels, each weighing 4400 pounds. It also contained three huge grain distributors, each of which fed grain into an octopus that directed the grain into separate bins. Oak-pegged mortise-and-tenon joints exist throughout the building. [Woodchuck's web site.]

"Taking down a 120-year-old wooden structure that's 150 feet high and has a footprint of 20,000 square feet is a formidable feat of engineering," says Hozza, a native Minnesotan who once served as president of the St. Paul City Council. "We hired the CR Meyer company, which brought in the biggest crane anyone up here had ever seen." The perimeter of the building is constructed of 2x8 and 2x10 planks pancaked on top of each other to form 10-inch-thick walls. Inside is a honeycomb of bin walls made of 2x6's and 2x8's - all reinforced with gargantuan beams. Many of the beams are 10 x 14's that range up to 36 feet in length. [Judy Peres, Architectural Salvage News Nov06]

Wisconsin Woodchuck Llc
Architectural Salvage News

Gaze modern design

Diss, Norfolk UK - Among the 600 lots of modern design at Gaze 10 Feb modern design sale this pair of Bernard Rooke table lamp bases with 1970's shades made £286 (est £45). Top lots were two still life paintings by Tony O'Malley of the St Ives school.

Archive catalogue

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pine Supplies near Bolton

Thornton Kay writes about husband and wife reclaimed wood specialist Pine Supplies in Lancashire UK

Above: Fiona and Nick Gordon in the main machine shop of Pine Supplies in one of their farm outhouses on just outside Bolton. A husband and wife business working from home with no employees can result in a sometimes tempestuous very rewarding relationship. They look good on it anyway.

Bolton, Lancashire UK - "TWENTY-THREE year's ago I went to a salvage yard for a piece of old oak for a mantelpiece and thought, this guy is making a living by not being helpful and polite - I can do that. At the same time I was using a hand-saw to rip beams down and someone said get a table saw. I went to look at one which turned out to be a Wadkin 36ins circular dated - 1 June 1951 - my birthday. It was a beautifully well-made machine," Nick Gordon said in his stream of consciousness manner of speaking. It seemed like destiny, so he bought it on the spot.

Nick left school to start a career in the family scrap metal business in Westhoughton, but eventually decided to give flagging a go. This ended with him sending reclaimed flagstones to Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and the Imperial War Museum. Fiona Gordon also lived locally. Their paths probably crossed at a very young age - neither seemed too sure - and they got married. The flagstone business had to stop when they lost their premises.

So they moved on to reclaimed timber, based at their farmhouse nestling in the countryside above Bolton. Nick put an ad in the Farmer's Guardian. The orders started coming in, mainly for pine flooring and cutting lists. His first big order came after the 1987 storms from a boat repairer. Nick already had good contacts with the demolition trade from his scrap and flagstone days so supply was not a big issue.

Nick Gordon's skill for mechanics soon came in handy and he started acquiring, commissioning and adapting machinery suited to the task of ripping beams, mainly pitch pine, into boards and sections. Fiona was, and still is, his labourer as well as his taskmaster, dealing with the phone and orders. One can be justly envious of their blissful life in a rural idyll with an old farmhouse land and outbuildings, poultry and dog running around - their kids have grown up and left now - and no employees to worry about.

The tools the Gordons have bought and developed include a bolt-puller, power-adze, bandsaw converted to run hydraulically using a six litre lorry engine, a Farm 2000 wood waste boiler in which they burn sawdust collected by their home-made extraction system, and a circular saw with Nick's unique home-made blade capable of chomping its way through a thousand six-inch steel nails. They use a Protovale Imp to search for nails, bolts and screws which Nick says will find things as small as a carpet staple. They also steam clean the beams to get rid of grit and reduce wear on the saws and planer.

The wood they buy is pitch pine or yellow pine, taken out of buildings locally and further afield, much of which is first growth forest timber of North America and the Baltic logged in Victorian times. As if to prove its pedigree, among the embedded objects found by the Gordon's, usually wire fencing and the occasional lead bullet, was an iron tomahawk-head which they found buried deep in a pine beam from the old Warburton's Victorian bakery building. Iron tomahawk heads were first taken to North America by the French in the late eighteenth century to trade with the indigenous population, and would have been the prized possession of an Indian brave who would rarely threw a tomahawk in anger unless in serious trouble and then would normally unerringly hit the target. What a story it could tell!

When converting the beams Nick will start with boards then, if the beam is good, take out the biggest sections, and then go back to floorboards again. For clean wood he uses a 1946 Robinson band resaw, which he describes as a lovely machine, the most powerful saw of its size in England, which will cut a 12in square beam at 3 1/2 feet per second. He converted it to run hydraulically on an old Ford Cargo six litre engine (petrol I guess). He also has a Wadkins 36in circular saw and blades, including one he has made especially for ripping through six inch nails, the result of a job he got from Michael Aspel who wanted extra naily wood for one of the floors in his house. Conspicuous salvage that. The Wadkin's saw blades date from early plate saws that are set traditionally, through to later complex inserted tooth tungsten-tipped saws. He changes them according to the number of residual nails and the amount of resin in the wood. There is a also a Dominion four-cutter for planer thicknessing.

Sawdust is collected in a home-made cyclone extractor and is then burnt, along with scrap off-cuts, in their Farm 2000 wood waste burner, which heats their house and hot water. Chickens forage for woodlice. Nothing goes to waste.

After converting the wood, it is stacked in a kiln made from the body of a 20ft lorry refrigeration container, containing a dehumidifier and a 3kw fan heater. "It is so well insulated that the fan heater is hardly needed," Nick said. The finished wood is kept in a barn, every piece of dimension timber marked with its length width and breadth. "Fiona deals with cutting list orders. She seems to be able to complete a £10,000 order without making a dent on our stock. I go in and have a look at the pile and it doesn't look any different," said Nick. "That said we are always after yellow pine and pitch pine. The trouble these days is that too many demolition contractors are shredding reclaimable timber on site or smashing it in the process of demolition. Buildings are not being sympathetically destroyed like they were a few years back."

He describes pitch pine as Pinus palustris - longleaf pine but accepts that other heavy pines could also lay claim to being pitch. (See Salvo Guide 2000 p209-212 for Salvo's story of pitch pine which names a dozen species that have been called pitch over the years.) He has a love hate relationship with pitch. It is a strongly figured dense durable wood which is sought-after by customers but it is a pig to work. "It is the worst stuff to cut," he sighs. On the subject of pine species, I mentioned that the only UK native pine, Pinus sylvestris Scots Pine, can grow dense enough to be considered a pitch pine. Nick said that at a castle in Elgin they had to supply floorboards to match the locally-grown originals which must have been cut from Scots pine. "They looked exactly like pitch pine, so I guess slow-growing Scots pine could be dense and pitchy enough to be classified as pitch pine," he said.

Contact Fiona and Nick Gordon, Pine Supplies, Smithills, Bolton, Lancashire UK. Tel 01204 841416. Fax 01204 845814. Mobile 07860 166808. PINE SUPPLIES web site

Above: Pine Supplies favour their old Protovale Imp metal detector for finding metal in reclaimed beams. "It was originally developed for finding wall-ties and studwork, but will find anything down to a carpet staple or drawing pin in an old beam," said Nick Gordon. His most unusual find was a chunk of metal well-embedded in a beam of American pitch pine that turned out to be a tomahawk head. Oxford-based Protovale has been taken over by the US Elcometer group whch has an office in Manchester. The Elcometer P600 is the equivalent model which has a 4ins 6ins and 8ins induction coil. The photo shows Pine Supplies four inch coil which Nick Gordon says is the best size for the job. Tel Elcometer on 0161 371 6000. Web Elcometer

Above: After denailing the beams are steam cleaned to get rid of as much grit as possible, and then sawn into sections using the 1946 T Robinson & Son band resaw, made in Rochdale, which Nick Gordon runs hydraulically using an adapted Ford Cargo six litre petrol engine as the power source. "We've had it for fifteen years and it really is a lovely machine," he said. "It's the most powerful machine of its size - and will cut a twelve-inch beam at three and a half feet a second. Although most of the work is flooring, we cut the largest section out of the beam first, and then drop into flooring thickness. This way we keep up our stocks of cutting list sections." The Robinson saw came with several old bandsaw blades which need sharpening after up to eight hours use, depending on the species of wood being cut (pitch pine is hardest on the blade) and whether any nails are hit. A Dominion four cutter is used as a planer thicknesser.

T Robinson & Sons was one of Britain's oldest family firms, starting in 1813 and being incorporated in 1835. The firm made flour milling and woodworking machinery. By 1864 'it was estimated that 6,000 people found sitting and standing room in one half of Messrs Robinson's machine shop' during a hustings speech by Richard Cobden MP. In 1881 the firm employed 1200 men, opened the first works canteen in the north of England, and had offices in London, Paris, Sydney and later in Odessa, Russia. During the two wars Robinson made munitions and tanks, returning to flour and woodworking machinery afterwards. Its machines were designed and built, with the correct lubrication, to last for 80 years and many of them continued for longer. By the 1960's the era of cheaper less durable machinery resulted in T Robinson & Sons becoming uncompetitive, and the firm finally threw in the towel some time in the mid-1980's. T Robinson history

Left: Saw dust is extracted by a home-made system and, along with any scrap wood, is then put into the Farm 2000 wood waste burner which runs their heating system. Carbonised wood is used for charcoal on the barbie, so nothing goes to waste.

Above: Pine Supplies kiln dries all its wood using an old refrigerated 20ft container with a dehumidifier and intermittent use of a 3kw fan heater.

Above: For heavier work and truing up, Nick Gordon uses a Wadkin 24inch circular saw, with one of four types of blades. The earliest blade is a traditional plate blade around 35 years old, with teeth that are set or swaged alternately either way, giving a wide kerf typically of a quarter to three eighths of an inch when the wood is sawn. These blades were often hammered into a slight dish shape to produce tension on the inner edge which would straighten as the blade got hot. The next chronologically is the tungsten carbide tipped blade, without a set, which is handy for ripping through harder woods and the occasional soft iron nail and any damage is usually confined to the loss of a tip which can be replaced. Next up is the carbide-tipped positive hook positive gullet circular inserted tooth saw blade, which is a very tough blade designed for general slashing and plywoods. Each tooth is replaceable without needing to remove the blade from the machine. It is a good blade for cutting resinous woods and pitch pine. The final blade is Nick's own invention and was inspired by a job he did for Michael Aspel of Antiques Road Show fame who asked for a reclaimed wood floor with a lot of old nail holes. Nick gave him a typical sample, but he said it did not have enough holes. Eventually he chose the most naily wood in the yard, full of steel six-inch nails, and then Nick needed to work out how to slab it up without ruining all his blades and spending a fortune on the saw doctor. The design he came up with was a blade with alternating tungsten tips, with a higher V shaped tip on one tooth and a slightly lower flat tip on the next tooth. The idea was that the V tip would notch the nail and the flat tip would punch through it, so Nick and Alec Garry, his saw doctor, cut and ground the new blade - and it worked. It did Michael Aspel's floor and will, according to Mr Gordon, cut through a thousand six inch steel nails without a problem.

Above: Another Nick Gordon special - a home-made power adze using a 16inch bar Stihl electric chainsaw with the chain replaced with a bike chain and sprocket, all attached to a heavy steel stirrup and an axle-mounted electric planer head. It is slung from the roof with some baler twine to give more control and takes seconds to create an adzed chamfer.

Above: Fiona Gordon demonstrating another home-made tool - this one designed to extricate those 12inch bolts. The heavy metal puller consists of inch square section steel frame, and an inverted hydraulic lorry jack attached to a five inch engineer's vice.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Cracking architectural sale at Gaze's

Diss, Norfolk UK - "IT was a cracking sale," Carl Willows said, after the architectural salvage auction at T W Gaze on 27 January 2007. "There were new trade and private bidders, and new American interest. Plenty of people and buying across the board."

A gritstone plinth with tapered panels to each side incorporating a swag on its 20" square base - overall 41" high. Sold for £1,320 (est £350) to southern English trade.

Victorian rubbed and moulded brick three-centred arch with stepped 'Art School' gable. Sold £580 (est £600) to Canadian trade.

Above: Suite of forty foot plus of wall top railing with two pairs of gates, 105ins and 122ins wide opening. Sold £650 (est £400)

Top lot was a 19thC carved stone grotesque which was pushed beyond its £250 estimate by bidding fron three countries which sold for £2,860 to a first-time Welsh private against London underbidding.

At T W Gaze this Saturday 10th Feb is another James Bassam Modern Design sale, and the next bygones sale on Sat 24th Feb will feature a rare cream and brown stoneware milk churn, estimated at £400.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Wiltshire yards asked to look out for stolen Cotswold stone roof tile

Melksham, Wiltshire UK - Following a recent increase in the theft of antique stone roof tiles and traditional stoneware, Wiltshire Police are asking for assistance from the public, and also offering advice on how to improve the security of such items. Tiles have been stolen from the roofs of remote farms and outbuildings, and heavy stone troughs and staddle stones, once a common sight in villages across rural Wiltshire, have also been taken.

There are a number of methods that can be used to property mark stoneware, to improve their security and to increase the chances of successful recovery in the event of a theft: External masonry paint can be applied to the surface of the stone
It is possible to create a free online portfolio of your valuables, which includes storing images, vital statistics, and product details of the stoneware. Police forces can then use the online facility as a method to recover stolen property. For further information visit the 'My Things' website. A further method, which has been used extensively in the Cotswolds and North Wiltshire, is 'SmartWater'. It is a “Secure by Design” approved product and therefore approved by the Association of Chief Police Officers. The solution can be used to mark roof tiles, flagstones, staddle stones and traditional stone troughs with the invisible, DNA-like, ‘forensic fingerprint’.
This fingerprint is unique to a single address, the details of which are kept on a secure database that can be accessed by police in the event of recovered stolen property being identified as marked with 'smartwater'. An annual licence can be gained through 'SmartWater', who supply the solution, applicator and warning stickers. For further information visit the 'SmartWater' website.

Mark Abbott, Neighbourhood Watch and Crime Reduction Officer, said, "I have used this property marking system to protect stone roof tiles. I simply dabbed SmartWater into the difficult to reach areas of the stone tiles. SmartWater only require a tiny speck to identify the property if it has been stolen. The owners details will be stored on a secure database to ensure positive identification. I also recommend the FREE online portfolio, on which you can store images, vital stats, and product details of your valuable stoneware. It is a useful tool for police forces across the country, who can then use the online facility to help to trace the owners of any recovered stolen property."

Wiltshire Police believe the majority of stone items stolen from the area remain locally, possibly to be used again in building projects. Consequently, builders and reclamation yards are being asked to thoroughly check the source of any stone items they may buy, or that are in their possession. The public are asked to contact Wiltshire police if they see anyone acting suspiciously, and to provide details of the vehicle and any possible descriptions of the individuals, on 0845 408 7000, or alternatively Crimestoppers, where information can be left anonymously, on 0800 555111.

Wiltshire Police Press Release

Steinitz books sea fair

Grand Luxe moors at wealth hotspots to make it easy for up-market clients to pop in from home

USA - SEAFAIR is a very up-market antique fair on a ship that roams the US coastline parking up where the nobs hang out. It was the brainchild of David and Lee Ann Lester, former owners of IFAE, who have staged fairs in New York, Chicago, Palm Beach (where he is exhibiting this week), Miami Beach, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Hong Kong. SeaFair takes place aboard a purpose built exhibiton ship named Grand Luxe, 231ft long, 46ft beam, with a crew of 7 seamen, plus some serious security staff. It is due to commence operations later this year starting at the Hamptons.

Of interest to the architectural trade is the appearance of Steinitz amongst the list of SeaFair exhibitors. Bernard Steinitz is the grand old chineur de Paris, whose stands of gilded panelled rooms and decorative exotica were pitched last year at Grosvenor House, Maastricht, New York and Palm Beach. It will be interesting to see if others follow where Steinitz leads.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Shill bidder is a top ten ebayer, now suspended

Cambridgeshire UK - EFTIS Paraskevaides, a Greek Cypriot living in Godmanchester, was exposed by the Sunday Times in a shill bidding story involving £1.4m a year sales of antiquities on eBay. Shill bidding is when sellers bid up their own items, in this case using different eBay identities, or when sellers step in to win an auction of their own goods if they feel the price is not high enough. Mr. Paraskevaides has denied shill bidding but has been suspended by eBay.

Mr Paraskevaides, a former gynaecologist who was suspended from Hinchingbrooke Hospital, was one of ebay's top ten sellers - one of only ten 'titanium power sellers' - generating an estimated £180,000 a year in commission fees for eBay. He was invited to sit on the ebay table at the ill-fated BACA awards ceremony in London. We are proud and honoured to have been invited to sit at the eBay table at the British Antiques and Collectables Awards, at the Dorchester Hotel in London. The awards, saw a major eBay involvment. was stated on one of Mr Paraskevaides ebay pages here.

Ebay claims that all is now well and they have systems in place to prevent shill bidding. But the Sunday Times set up an auction and shill bid with a different identity using the same computer.

Revealed: how eBay sellers fix auctions [The Sunday Times]

Scotland Yard antiques squad looking for sponsors

London UK - THE London police art and antique squad is looking for sponsors to make up a £170,000 shortfall in its £350,000 annual funding. The squad's budget was halved due to an overall £7.9m cut in the £350m annual budget of the Metropolitan Police. The Met said that art and antiques was seen as an area where they could get in private money. They work closely with auctioneers, insurers and museums. Last year the squad appealed for help from dealers to provide unpaid part time community police officers to go round antique fairs looking for stolen goods.

Sotheby's wacks up 20 per cent premium threshold

SOTHEBY'S have increased the threshold below which 20 per cent buyer's premium is charged to £250,000, up from £100,000. This further shifts premiums from the seller to the buyer, in line with Sotheby's strategy.

It seems that auction houses are boxing themselves into a corner. They act for the seller, but charge the buyer. Auctioneers are legally protected as sellers of last resort, but now act like they are retailers, so the full gamut of consumer protection legislation should be applied to them, which would increase their costs and premiums even more.

The shift from charging the seller towards charging the buyer is due to auctioneers competing for the better quality lots. They offer sellers increasingly favourable terms, including waiving commission fees altogether. At the top end they now even guarantee the price a lot will make and will buy it themselves if the lot fails to reach that guaranteed amount. When there are big disposals by serious collectors Sotheby's and Christie's compete in offering higher and higher guarantees. This strategy has a trickle down effect which ends with both buyers and sellers at the bottom end of the auction spectrum paying more.