Thursday, May 30, 2013

Strychnine & Firearms Curiosa

I was told this morning that someone donated a doctor's bag from the early 1800s, including tools and a bottle of strychnine. I have not seen this bag yet (and I kind of doubt the "early 1800s" assessment), but it will be sent my way at some point. It's like waiting for Christmas! Grr!

I picked up a book called Firearms Curiosa, about really unusual antique firearms. The designs are sometimes steampunk and oftimes bizarre. A pistol-calendar? A glove-mounted pistol? A miniature cannon-sundial that can be set to go off at a certain hour, alarm-clock style? This is accomplished by placing a magnifying glass where the sun will shine through and ignite the powder. This was just flipping through, mind you. I look forward to reading the book. :)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Shakespeare, skinnydipping, and silver spoons

I have some large medical bills to pay and car trouble on the horizon, so if you would pop over to my Ebay store and see if anything appeals to you, it would help me out a lot. There's original paintings, a variety of books and odds and ends. The lamp I covered in my last post isn't up yet. I'm not sure how to ship something that size.

Friday at work I was trying to assess an unusual spoon. The back of the spoon said in tiny letters Blackstone, and in larger caps THE WARWICK, which could mean a number of things. On the handle of the spoon, among the decoration, is a tiny portrait, only 1/4" wide by 3/8" high. Tarnish and time hasn't been kind to it, but it looks a lot like Shakespeare.
Probably not much over 100 years old, but is it silver or just plated? That's the question.

I ran across a set of really old spoons once. Pewter, poor quality casting, stamped with a rose & crown. Turned out to be 400-500 years old. People have no idea what they give away, sometimes.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where the bodies were buried

When I visited Ireland, the people who live there were totally blasé about the ruins of this building or that church out in a field, 3/4 fallen down. It's just part of the landscape to them. The stone often IS carted away and used for other buildings, to save the effort of quarrying more stone. There was an article recently about builders taking down a Mesoamerican pyramid for the stone. To some people it's an irreplaceable monument, to others, cheap building supplies.

Today at work: Blue Willow and Wedgwood dinner plates, vintage booklets on how to paint fine china, a sake/tea pot with 4 cups, as well as a bunch of the usual this-and-that.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I wax poetic over a lamp (unrelated to comic)

I've talked about the two kinds of thing I find irresistible: the "project" and the "work of art." This lamp is both. It is solid wood, exquisitely carved, antique with 4 lion-paw feet. Not some modern reproduction from India. It came to me in pieces, the wiring was dry-rotted, and it was covered decades of dust and grime, but the artistry was unmistakable. How could I resist?

Really, I couldn't, especially after adding "mystery" to the mix. It wasn't signed by the artist, whoever he was. It held two bulbs once, and the shade was probably wide but shallow. Perhaps stained glass. I'm guessing, of course, since the shade didn't come with. I elected to fit it up with a flicker bulb in a green glass lantern top, like an old gas lamp. It makes me think of London streetlights, and of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, for obvious reasons.

Lion paw feet are characteristic of Chippendale style (latter 18th century; that's 1700s btw) but of course there were no electric light bulbs til the 1880s, and mass production was after 1900. American wood furniture tends to be simple, almost plain; this is anything but. I finally turned up a sort-of similar paw-foot table by Louis F. Nonnast, a German immigrant woodworker whose work dates to the '20s & 30's. The feathers wrapped round the post could be considered Art Nouveau (unless they're palm fronds, in which case, I give up. Is there a story to it, I wonder.) I can only guess that it was custom-made in the 20's or 30's to match an older style of furnishing. I think it may have come from an estate in the Dayton area, and some of Dayton's historic houses ARE incredible, and it could be German or German-immigrant work... but this is all speculation. I don't really know.

And I guess it doesn't really matter now because I will be putting it up for sale within the week. It's cleaned, it's oiled, it's rewired. I saved the (possibly) original wiring and lamp parts. I didn't get around to repairing the chips as I would have liked, but I have some looming medical bills and my car's engine is making noises like a lawn mower. Se la vie, I guess. Selling some books and china too. I'm thinking about taking some sewing commissions, but we'll see.
I'll link to the listings when they're up, in case you're interested.

Today's find at work was a Butterick Delineator fashion magazine- from 1896. That was really awesome to look through. Only wish there was some fashion plates of men. I'll have to tell you about my comic attempts to alter historic costume patterns to fit my very tall husband, but some other time.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Waaaait for it....

That is one expensive horse.
Actually, if you compare anything of Stephen's and Allan's, Stephen's is better. He rides a grey, his suit is more expensive, and if they ever compare pocket watches....

That's what comes of being an heir, I guess. It's amazing they're "friends."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Allen gets pranked in 3...2....

First page of my favorite chapter to date.
The saddle blanket is period correct. The ladybird beetle means it's June.

I dropped a new name recently. But how do you say it?

Soreny  So-reh-NEE. Rhymes with Do-Re-Mi.

Siloen Sill-oh-EHN. Or should I put it this way: Silo rhymes with pillow, emphasis on the last syllable.


Thursday, May 16, 2013


I have got to do something about his skin tone. That must be the most annoying color in the world, but I can't seem to do better. Paler and he looks like he's glowing, grey it down and he looks deathly ill.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

It's those 2 clowns again

There is, strangely, a cold spot in my "office," the recently constructed 4-walls-without-a-ceiling. I have walked in the door a few times now and hit a cold spot right about knee level. There is no AC to the building right now, the temperature is over 80'F, and it's muggy. Very strange indeed.

Maybe it's haunted. :)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Horrible Histories and phonetic spelling

Translate "By God I will solve it" as "You've injured my dignity and I will find a legitimate reason to punish you for it."

Be happy that I am using modern spelling and fairly modernized language. They didn't have standardized spelling in the 18th century; it was "spell it as you say it," which must have led to some interesting regional variations. I ran across a reference to salad spelled "sallet." Or would mysterious myspellings add to your enjoyment?

Well, why don't I let Horrible Histories tell you more about it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mass x Acceleration

It's a swan, not a goose. And isn't he just being indignant about it all?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Witch bottles and ancient tomes

I had the unenviable task of explaining what a 'witch bottle' is yesterday. No delicate way to put this- it's a bottle filled with urine and nails and other nastiness that is buried on your property to ward off curses. The tradition goes back several centuries in Europe. Folklore is fun stuff, hey?

How about the Voynich manuscript, the 14th century book in a code that cannot be deciphered. I never heard of  it til today, when I found this documentary on Youtube. I guess I haven't seen everything yet after all.

The oldest book that passed through my hands was from 1803. The owner penned the date inside, but over two centuries the acidic ink had eaten a delicate lacy hole in the page, still readable, where it had been.

Thursday, May 2, 2013


So, I work with an astonishing variety of objects, some old, some valuable...and it can be hard to put a price on something when I covet it and want to take it home with me. Fortunately, I've seen so much of this-and-that over the years that it takes something very special to tempt me. This special comes in two flavors: a. outstanding craftsmanship and b. "projects."

There is so much mass-produced junk in the world that whenever I run across something that is exquisitely made I have to feast my eyes on it for a while. For several months I've eyed a Limoges plate hand-painted with chrysanthemums and chased in gold.... and an antique chocolate-pot in flowery teal & gold. Today the bait was a pair of vintage hand-stitched leather boots that would look right at home at any SCA event or rendezvous. I know leatherwork enough to say the crafter was very skilled. If they were women's shoes I would have bought them....

The other thing I am a sucker for is a "project," something made of 1/4 inspiration and 3/4 good intentions. Until I get two wooden lamps restored I tell myself I have no call to take on more projects. So the 1940s dressmakers dummy with clawfoot base was pretty easy to pass up. It would look great as shabby chic décor- or, as it's about my size, it could be dismantled and used as a basis for plate armor- but personally I think someone ought to buy it and steampunk the hell out of it. Yet I'm struggling to juggle too many projects as it is.

I'll end this post with a short song from Utena with the apt title Temptation.