Archive for the ‘household’ Category

Mend it with Mendets

Sunday, July 12th, 2020

Now more than ever it seems we are spending much of our time at home. Many, like myself, finally have time to go through our things, weed out unwanted items, and repair broken objects we’ve been meaning to fix but never got around to. I imagine (and hope!) this will lead to a new generation of inventive repairs popping up all around the globe. Stay tuned to see what interesting repairs I come up with in the coming months.

I have dozens of whimsical homemade repairs in my collection and have seen countless others showing thrift, artistry, and ingenuity. Although most were achieved by using whatever was available at hand, manufactured products started to creep up during the 1940s Make-Do and Mend era.

A popular early 1940s product, Mendets, provided a do-it-yourself solution to repairing holes in enameled cookware, metal pots, and even rubber hot water bottles. The white enameled cup, repaired with a small bolt and nut and not with an official Mendets plug, still seems to have done the trick.

Photo courtesy of eBay

Gugelhupf cake mold with wire net, c.1830

Sunday, April 14th, 2019

I have seen hundreds of tinker-repaired metal replacement handles, spouts, and lids on antique ceramic teapots, jugs, cups, and sugar bowls throughout North America and the UK. What is harder find are cracked items with woven wire repairs, which I have come across in Italy, France, Germany and Eastern Europe. The most famous region for wire repairs is Slovakia, where tinkers still repair broken vessels and embellish new ceramics in the same manner as it was originally done, hundreds of years ago.

This heavy hafner earthenware gugelhupf cake mold was made in Germany during the Biedermeier period (1815-1848.) It measures 10.5 inches in diameter and is 4.25 inches high. The woven wire encases the mold like a net, keeping the broken pieces in place. Although this type of repair is certainly not invisible, I feel the additional layer of what appears to be a fish net adds much to the visual appeal of the piece.

Wire repair in Slovakia dates back hundreds of years…

…and is still being done there today.

American brass bell, c.1900

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

This whimsical yet simple double repair gives a new meaning to Yankee ingenuity. What do you do when both the handle and the clapper of a small brass bell from the early 1900s are no longer functional? First you grab a wooden handle from an old rubber stamp and reattach it to the crown of the bell. Then you find a brass Civil War Navy uniform button and fasten it to the inside of the bell, which is just what an enterprising person did to their broken bell in New England sometime in the early part of the 20th century. So thanks to them, I am now able to ring in the new year with my make-do bell. Happy 2013!

Bowie knife with wood handle, c.1890

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Hunting knife with a “Bowie” blade, named after Colonial James “Jim” Bowie in the early 1800’s. Measures 11-1/4″ long from end of handle to the tip of the blade.

Marked “ALFRED WILLIAMS, SHEFFIELD ENGLAND” on the middle of the steel blade.

Both the iron guard and turned oak wood handle are replacements and are held together with the aid of a nut and bolt.

The original handle would have been made of bone, as seen on this Bowie knife made by Alfred Williams.

Photo courtesy of Northwest Pony Express

Glass perfume bottle, c.1895

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

This strange pressed glass square-shaped bottle with molded Greek key band design was found in Virginia and sports a rustic “make-do” base. It has a mismatched, ill-fitting glass stopper of a different color, replacing a more fanciful stopper, no doubt. I imagine it would have looked a bit out of place on a lady’s vanity or dresser among her other delicate bottles and toiletries

Bottle stands 4″ high and has a square over-scaled unfinished wood base, replacing the original glass base that broke off years ago

This canning jar has the same Greek key design and is marked on the bottom: “HC” over a triangle, “Safety Valve Patd May 21, 1895”

Photo courtesy of Ed & Lucy Faulkner

Large brass skimmer, c.1840

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Heavy brass skimmer made by an English metalsmith in the mid-1800’s. After many years use of skimming the contents of an iron pot in an open hearth, the skimmer finally snapped off at the end of its long handle

A thick iron patch was attached to the front, using hand forged iron rivets

Skimmer measures 25-1/2″ long and has a diameter of 9-1/4″

A combination of iron and copper rivets were used to attach the “Y” shaped reinforcement patch to the back

German doll head pen wiper, c.1900

Monday, May 17th, 2010

What do you do when a bisque doll’s body breaks? Naturally you turn the unbroken doll head in to a pen wiper! At least that is exactly what someone did in the early 1900’s to recycle a broken toy.

Unmarked German bisque doll head with a human hair wig, stationary glass eyes, painted lashes, eyebrows & mouth

Home made pen wipers were common household items and were used to remove excess ink from dip pens. Once the ink was on the page, a paper blotter was used to soak in the excess ink so it would not smear. This pen wiper measures 3-1/2″ tall

Below is an illustration from a Victorian craft book, showing how to make a decorative pen wiper, with the following description: “Girls are always trying to find something which they can make to delight their papas, and a gay little pen-wiper with fresh uninked leaves rarely comes amiss to a man who likes an orderly writing-table”

Photo courtesy of KnitHeaven

Mexican corn grinding vessel, c.1900

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Last week I was in Oaxaca, Mexico and saw this large wooden primitive object in an antiques shop located in the center of town. I believe it to be a type of mortar used for grinding corn. It measures about  30″ high with a 14″ diameter and appears to be over 100 years old.

A crack in the wood has enlarged after a metal patch was originally applied. An earlier post, “Primitive wooden shovel, c.1870” shows a similar metal patch on an American piece I own.

This example, also cracked but not patched, is shown with a large pestle

Photo courtesy of Auctions & Services Unlimited

Primitive wooden shovel, c.1870

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

This wins the prize for being the largest antique with an inventive repair in my collection. I found this grain shovel, hand carved from one piece of wood, at an antique shop only a few miles from my weekend house in upstate NY. It measures 36″ long by 13″ wide and I believe the wood to be pine.

It was not unusual for large utilitarian pieces carved from a single piece of wood to crack. The farmer who repaired this piece was quite thorough, using a large piece of metal and dozens of small nails to repair the split blade.

Wooden “one piece” shovels of this design were first made by the Shakers in the early to mid 1800’s.

A pair of iron straps were nailed to the back of the blade to help secure the break.

Wooden mortar & pestle, c.1875

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Large American primitive lathe-turned treenware mortar (with original red painted surface) & pestle, together measure 13″ high.

It was not unusual for wooden utilitarian items such as bowls and mortars to crack, due to a change in climate. Two steel bands were added to help stabilize the large break.

The underside of the mortar shows concentric lathe rings, reminding me of a 45 rpm vinyl record.