Putting the Lac in Lacquer

Take a look at this awesome bunch of stuff I got at a recent estate sale in Portsmouth, NH. An older couple was downsizing. I didn’t get there until the second day, which was ok with me since the best deals are on the last day. I got some curtain ties that I found out were repros so I can’t put them in my shop. I can definitely use them around my house, though, so no big loss there. Also found a cool old tin from the 1940s and a pretty tin bowl designed by Daher.

Another Estate Sale Haul

But can you see those yellow and green dishes in the picture? Those are lacquer ware by a company called Davar. This made me start thinking about lacquer ware in particular. So I had to research where this process came from. Come on along and let’s find out.

Davar Lacquer Ware Mid-Century Modern Plates (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

The Cultural China website states that lacquer ware items have been unearthed from Neolithic remains (475-221 B. C.). That’s quite awhile ago. Encyclopedia Britannica says that the word lacquer comes from the word lac which is a sticky resinous substance.

Chinese Lacquer Ware Lidded Bowl with Koi Design (photo courtesy of Lizzy Loves Vintage)

The lacquer from China, Japan and Korea is made from the sap of the Rhus vernicifera also known as the Japanese Lacquer Tree. But the lacquer of Myanmar is made from the scale insect Laccifer lacca. Other lacquers are apparently made from other gums and resins (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Japanese Lacquer Ware Bowl (photo courtesy of It Is What It Was)

In East Asia, the Japanese Lacquer Tree is tapped at about 10 years old and the sap is collected and purified. They collect the sap from June to September. When exposed to air, the sap turns yellow-brown and then black. It is heated to evaporate extra moisture and put in air-tight containers (Encyclopedia Britannica).

Set of Davar Lacquer Ware Bowls (photo courtesy of Junctique)

Encyclopedia Britannica goes on to tell us that lacquer achieves its maximum hardness when moisture is present. So after an item has been lacquered, it is put in a box with moisture to cure. Lacquer is usually applied to wood, but porcelain, brass and other metal alloys have been used.

Russian Lacquer Ware Spoons (courtesy of Pink Jewel)

The process takes awhile as each thin coat of lacquer has to dry and is sanded or smoothed before the next coat is added. It can take upwards of 18 days before the item is even ready to decorate.

Retro Kitsch Japanese Lacquer Ware Stacking Snack Bowls (photo courtesy of Deb’s Vintage Emporium)

The Japanese added gold or silver flakes to their lacquer (a process called maki-e) which, when polished down, showed through.Various shells for mother-of-pearl were used, also. The lacquer, when it solidifies, waterproofs the item and can protect it from mildew. Kyoto Guide says it also provides protection from acidic substances. There are many different techniques for application and decoration.

Fleck Lacquer Ware Rice Dish (photo courtesy of Highland Heart)

It seems as though one of the few enemies to lacquer is prolonged exposure to direct sunlight. It will cause the lacquer to break down over time. So don’t leave your nice lacquered pieces in the window! The other enemy is soaking it for long periods of time. Don’t soak, wash with a damp cloth.

Mini Portable Screen Korean Lacquer Ware (photo courtesy of Mother of Pearl Shop)

Also, don’t put it in the dishwasher. I don’t have a dishwasher, but even if I did, there are some things that a dishwasher destroys due to the excessive heat. Old Pyrex is something you don’t want to put in the dishwasher either.

Inlaid Lacquer Ware Photo Album (photo courtesy of 2 Rabbits)

Lacquer Ware is actually a very important industry in Japan. The process is time consuming, as well as technically difficult. To be a lacquer master is a high achievement.

Vintage Chinese Lacquer Ware Vases (photo courtesy of Elcid Gallery)

I hope you have enjoyed learning a little about lacquer ware and have had a chance to check out some of the items in this post. I love hearing from my readers, so leave me a comment if you get a chance!

I am partying this week at Adirondack Girl @ Heart!

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Melamine by Any Other Name

It’s that time of year again! Yay! All the snow is gone, the weather is warming up in waves and the leaves on the trees are all green again. I can open the back slider and let the late spring air in. And wafting in on that breeze, making my mouth water, is the smell of someone grilling a steak or hamburger. There’s nothing like that smell drifting over the neighborhood that says summer is almost here!

Yellow Melmac by Aztec (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

Speaking of grilling, it makes me think of that great picnic product, Melmac. That is the brand name of a type of Melamine plastic that came out in the 1930s. I think we think that plastic is a fairly recent invention but it has been around for quite awhile.

Russell Wright Turquoise Gravy Boat or Creamer (photo courtesy of Red River Antiques)

Melamine was an early plastic that was actually used in WWII. According to Collectors Weekly, Watertown Ware was one of the first Melamine Dinnerware collections.

Watertown Ware Cups (photo courtesy of JewelRosesNRust)

Watertown Manufacturing Co. made melamine ware for the Navy. They liked it because it was “lightweight, inexpensive, and virtually unbreakable.” (Collectors Weekly). It was actually invented in the 1830s by a German scientist (Time).

Boonton Melamine Dishes (photo courtesy of Gumdrop Vintage)

When the war was over, Watertown began designing for the consumer market. They created Lifetime Ware. Airlines were also in the market for melamine ware for the same reasons the U.S. Military liked it.

Kasen Melamine Set (photo courtesy of HeadSwankstress)

Collectors Weekly goes on to say that melmac was the most popular brand of melamine. American Cyanamid sold the molding powders to third parties and they actually manufactured the product.

Branchell Melmac (photo courtesy of Lisa’s Retro Style)

Russell Wright designed the first really popular dinner set in 1944. Some of the brand names of melamine or melmac are Aztec, Kasen, Boonton Ware, Branchell, Windsor and many others.

Windsor Melmac Dish with Floral Motif (photo courtesy of East Idaho Company)

Like with all plastics, it can be shaped into just about anything. Complete dinner sets, serving dishes and anything else you can think of that would complete a set can be made. It lasts a long time because it doesn’t break easily and it is lightweight. It can also be made in just about any color.

Mid Century Modern Covered Nesting Containers (photo courtesy of Julie’s Foolery)

This was just a quick look at melamine and melmac in general. There’s a lot more information for the serious collector out there. The sources I’ve quoted, as well as collector sites are all out there to help you make the most of your collection. Visit Vintage Eve’s for more melmac ware.

I’ll be partying this week at Adirondack Girl @ Heart.

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Measuring Up!

Take a look at all the wonderful vintage stuff I got at another recent estate sale! There was this unassuming little house on a side street with barely enough room to get down between all the parked cars on either side. I walked up to the house and the people running the estate sale were really nice and said some of my favorite words … half price! So I was already happy but then I went into the tiny house and there were so many wonderful treasures!

The Haul!

One of the things that you see in the picture, in the lower right, is an old measuring tape by Stanley. This is one out of the 1930s. It has great Art Deco designs and a name to match “Defiance”… how perfect. I don’t know why but I am drawn to measuring tapes. Not only are they functional but I love the mechanics of them. So of course, I had to find out what I could about them. Come on down this road with me.

Defiance by Stanley Measuring Tape (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

According to National Day Calendar, tape measures can be traced back to early Roman times when a marked leather strap was used to measure things. Prior to that, a bulky chain or rope suspended between two objects was used.

Cloth Measuring Tape with Leather Case (photo courtesy of Suki and Polly)
Antique Measuring Tool (photo courtesy of Vintage Full House)

From there, there isn’t much of a change. One man, James Chesterman who worked for a Sheffield steel factory in England used the flat wire he had created for crinoline skirts and turned it into a tape measure (Collectors Weekly). He started to sell his tape measure to engineers and surveyors, as Collectors Weekly tells us.

Chesterman Riband Rule (photo courtesy of Found By Her)

Collectors Weekly lists the first person to patent what we think of as a spring tape measure as Alvin J. Fellows of New Haven, Connecticut. Very enterprising of Mr. Fellows.

Izidoro Tape Measure circa 1970s (photo courtesy of Meanglean Alchemist)

But actually Mr. Fellows didn’t really invent the device, he was improving on a design. Connecticut History website says he figured out a new way to attach the spring clip so the tape would stay out until you released it. Either way, it definitely made my life easier!

Shaughnessy Knitting Co. Tape Measure (photo courtesy of Happy Fortune Vintage)

It was expensive, though. So people still kept buying those folding wooden rulers as they were more affordable.

Vintage West German Silver Measuring Tape (photo courtesy of Violet’s Vintage 825)

In 1871 another company, Justus Roe & Sons out of Long Island began making inexpensive steel tape measures. Collectors Weekly says that these tape measures had studs along lengths of wire and were patented as “Roe’s Electric Reel” although they weren’t electric. In 1895 Roe began putting out etched steel-ribbon tape measures. By the 1960s Justus Roe was making tape measures for lots of companies, Stanley being one of them.

Singer Sewing Centennial Measuring Tape c. 1940s (photo courtesy of KayandElle)

What makes spring loaded tape measures so great is you can put it in your pocket or purse and have a device that can measure up to 6′ or more! It can bend, too which is helpful. Some are made from cloth or fiberglass which is good for measuring while sewing so you don’t transfer any grease or dirt to the cloth.

Vintage Justus Roe & Sons Steel Measuring Tape (photo courtesy of Vintage Hillbillies)

Depending on the “type” of measuring tape you are using, you may have specialty marks on the ruler. According to Collectors Weekly, “black truss” marks are on rulers used for roofing. Others have marks every 16 inches which is a standard in the building industry for space between studs in a house.

Bakelite Lady’s Man Art Deco Measuring Tape (photo courtesy of Red River Antiques)

Two newspaper publishers in Coshocon, Ohio came up with the idea of using their printing presses to print advertisements on anything they could get their hands on, including measuring tapes (Collectors Weekly).

John Rabone & Sons 100 ft Steel Measure (photo courtesy Cape Vintage)

Measuring tape covers have been made out of lots of things like celluloid and Bakelite (highly collectible) and Catalin which are both plastics that came out in the 1920s. These were usually tapes used for sewing. Others had precious metals  or mother of pearl. They come in many shapes and sizes, too!

1950s Lev-Rule Tape Measure and Level (photo courtesy of Spotted Dog1)

I hope you have learned as much as me today about measuring tapes and I hope you like them as much as I do. For more vintage treasures, visit the Vintage Eve’s shop and look around. The items from the estate sale will be hitting the shelves over the next week!

I’ll be partying at Adirondack Girl @ Heart this week!

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Gimme That Java

Another little find from that Estate sale I attended last week was this little number.

Mirro Percolator circa 1960s (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

Percolators. Those great little inventions that paved the way for my lovely automatic drip machine that turns on by itself, and more importantly, shuts off by itself! Can’t tell you how many times my stomach has flipped on my way to work wondering if I’d turned off my coffeepot. Now I don’t have to worry. But where did the percolator come from? Who designed this little marvel. Follow me down this rabbit hole and let’s find out.

Berggren Scandinavian Percolator (photo courtesy of No Time Like Yesterday)

Good Housekeeping says that the first coffee bean was found in Ethiopia when a goat herder saw his herd moving with a lot of extra energy. They had been munching on coffee beans! After they figured out what the herd had been eating, they gathered up the beans and took them home. The women would then roast the green beans until they heard them crack. Let’s jump ahead a little.

Vintage Coffee Maker (photo courtesy of RueDesOiseaux)

Did you know that the original way of making a pot of coffee was to throw the grounds into water and then boil it? Yummy! Nothing like chewing your cup o’ joe in the morning. There had to be a better way. I love retro but let’s face it, I really enjoy the modern amenities.

GHC Enamelware Finesse Drip Coffeemaker (photo courtesy of Retro Thrift 305)

Fast forward to the French Press in the 1800s. The grounds were still in the water but the press came down and trapped the grounds at the bottom. This works well but leaves some grit and particles in the coffee.

Bodum French Press (photo courtesy of LEMmONyADEstAND)

Apparently someone else did not like picking grounds out of his teeth after his morning java. According to Serious Eats, the first percolator was patented by “Illinois’ native son and farmer Hanson Goodrich, who took out a patent for the pot in 1889. In his patent application, he describes a contraption that will create “a liquid which will be free of all grounds and impurities.””

Pyrex Percolator (photo courtesy of Orchard8Retro)

The percolator works on a vacuum principle. The grounds are put into the basket at the top of a long tube. The tube is submerged in the water. As the water heats up, a vacuum is created and that causes the water to get sucked up into the tube which then “perks” or bubbles up and out over the grounds.

Manning Bowman Electric Percolator (photo courtesy of Antiqueologae)

While the grounds stay in the basket, the water flows through the holes and back down into the pot. This was a definite improvement over the “throw in the grounds and boil” method; but because the water, which now was coffee, continued to circulate through and over the grounds, until the heat source was turned off, the coffee could become very bitter. A barista’s nightmare!

Pyrexware Percolator circa 1970s (photo courtesy of ExquisitExchange)

Hidden Treasure

I was over the moon this weekend … this was the first time ever that I was able to get to an estate sale right around the corner from me before everything got completely picked over. As a newbie, I was slightly unprepared.

People all around me had bags at the ready (ok, note to self, bring a bag next time). They were packed in a tight bunch on the porch and when the door opened, I was not ready for the rush and press of people all trying to get in at the same time. But I squeezed through the front door which then opened up into lovely old house. I had a few minutes to admire the architecture before I got down to business.

Pantry with built-in ice box to the left

This old house had lots of rooms and LOTS of doors leading the wanderer from room to room. But you know me, I spent most of my time in the kitchen and dining room finding tons of treasures.

As I squeezed my way into the pantry you see above, I had to first admire the built in ice box. Yes, the house was that old. There were many built-ins, as there are in those old houses, but this was one I hadn’t seen before. As I was checking it out, I saw a lovely tin sitting on top of it, way, way, way back and on top of something else. It was this one below. I wish I had taken a picture of where I found it. If you look at the picture above, it was on top of that ice box at the very back.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Advertising Tin with Easter Bunny circa 1950s (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

Being resourceful, I found a chair, because there was no way  5’4″ me was going to reach the item that had caught my attention. I also managed to find a long rubber spatula with which to drag the Rubbermaid container that was under this lovely old tin. You have to be focused and completely unselfconscious to do this while people watch you. But I wanted that tin! The colors are what caught my attention. I could tell it had some age because the graphics screamed 1950s. Below are some more examples of how pretty these tins are.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Dainty Dinah tin (photo courtesy of Sonshine Attic)

I got it down, and along with a bunch of other neat stuff, stuffed it in my car (I paid first, of course) and when I got home hopped on the internet to find out where it came from. On the edge it is marked “Made in England by George W. Horner & Co. Ltd.Chester-Le-Street, County of Durham.” This is what I found out about the Horner Company.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Cinderella Tin (photo courtesy of Jackpot Jen Vintage)

My research led me to the Newsquest website that detailed the rise and fall of the George W. Horner Co. First you have to know that Chester-le-Street is a town in England, not a street. Before George took over the building on Front Street in Chester-le-Street, it had been among other things a general provisions shop and a fruit and vegetable shop. This was during the late 1800’s. Then during the early 1900’s, a man named J. Samuel made jams in heavy stoneware crocks out of the building until 1910 when George William Horner took over the building and began making confectioneries under the brand name “Mermaid.”

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Biscuit Tin Co. Ltd. (photo courtesy of Old Green Canoe)

It wasn’t until 1914 that he began to market the “Dainty Dinah” line of toffee candy. They were sold in tins depicting a dark haired girl in a bonnet as their spokes model. The Newsquest website says that although no one can say for sure who the model was, they attribute her to a girl named Alice Scott, who lied about her age to become Mr. Horner’s chauffeur at the age of 16.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Dainty Dinah Toffees Tin circa 1930s (photo courtesy of Tinternet)

The Dainty Dinah line turned out to be very successful. There are a number of tin variations on her. During the 1920s they expanded quite a bit, opening shops in London and Edinburgh, Scotland. At one point the company was said to have 770 women and 107 men working for them.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Biscuit Tin (photo courtesy of Museography)

It was during that time a chimney was added to the facility. It was 106 feet high and bore the name of their famous “Dainty Dinah Toffee” and the name “Horner.” On top of the chimney sat the bust of Dainty Dinah herself (Newsquest website). When that chimney came down in the 60’s they preserved the bust.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Butterscotch Tin (photo courtesy of UK Vintage Deco)

The company continued to thrive during the 1920’s, 30’s and early 40’s adding other confections to their lines. It was in 1947, when Mr. Horner passed away, that their troubles began.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Queen Elizabeth II Tin (photo courtesy of Peggy’s Trove)

The company was taken over by George’s son, Kenneth, but he wasn’t the problem. During the 1950s the market started to become glutted with chocolate factories and Kenneth turned to exporting. Unfortunately, this did not save the company and they closed in 1960.

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Niagra Falls Tin (photo courtesy of 19Piglet64)

They did leave behind a legacy, though. These highly collectible tins are still around and can be found in great shape even 100 years after their creation. I hope I look this good at 100!

George W. Horner & Co. Ltd. Circular Tin (photo courtesy of Tinternet)

Well, that is a brief history of George W. Horner and his confectionery treasures. I hope you learned something new today, I know I did!

Oh, on a side note, I went back to that estate sale, since it was so close, an hour before they closed and got some more awesome deals!

My estate sale treasures!


Can’t believe I missed these the first time! Have a great week everyone … I’ll be busy all week putting my awesome finds up in the Vintage Eve’s Shop.

Adirondack Girl @ Heart is where the party is this week!

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