Monday, November 16, 2009

Grand Finale

As our building painting project comes to a close and our final baby llama of the year is born we are winding down for fall. When you live in the upper Midwest this time of year gets pretty hectic. Racing against the clock because you know the snow and cold is getting closer. We have been so lucky to be having temperatures running about 10 to 15 degrees above normal for the last couple of weeks. We were able to accomplish a lot and our new little llama can get off to a good start.

The Albany Cutter restoration is complete as of Saturday. It turned out spectacular as usual and another successful project will be going to a new home. Our client for this project selected this sleigh out of our barn a little over a year ago.

It was a nice solid sleigh but as you can see it was certainly in need of some attention.

We pulled it out on Saturday for some photos. Unfortunately it was a bit overcast so our photos are not great but maybe we will get another shot at it on a nicer day. Nonetheless as you can see it turned out great.

The artwork is traditional hand painted and in keeping with the style of this sleigh. We ended up going with completely different colors, trim and artwork than the original. This sleigh will be going into the home of our client. They wanted to coordinate with the interior so we worked together to select traditional colors that work with their home.

Here is a shot of our client's Springer Spaniel who's image was painted in a cameo on the dash. A variety of animals, especially dogs were often seen in the decoration on sleighs of this type.

Our team of Dale, Bob, Brandon and Ryanne put their skills to work to complete another successful restoration. Carriage and sleigh restoration involves numerous skills from woodworking, metalworking, painting, art and upholstery. We are very fortunate to have such quality people on our team. Here is a shot of Ryanne just after she completed the upholstery. We have two more Albany Sleigh projects in the works so keep watching for more.

I am back to work in the shop this week. We have a rapidly growing number of restorations and new carriage orders coming down the pike. It’s going to be a busy winter and I think I’m about ready for it's arrival.

Have a great Monday!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dashing Through The Snow

Sleighs. We have sleighs. Big ones, small ones, fat ones, round ones. From original condition to fabulous restorations we have a great selection ready for winter. Many of our clients for cutters and sleighs place them inside of their homes. Seems like just about every year I end up taking one or two out to Colorado (hint, hint, anyone out there?) for a ski condo. Sleighs are works of art. When you consider the artistic workmanship in the design and construction of the body to the elegant paint and striping they are historic sculpture in the truest form.

But first check out this fascinating video. It is a c.1932 Swedish silent documentary featuring a traditional wheelwright building a wheel. Thanks to our friend Micheal McEvoy who happened to stop by the showroom the other day and pass this video along to us. It is about fifteen minutes so grab some popcorn and relax. If you have ever wondered how wooden wheels are constructed here is your chance to see it done the old fashioned way. I’m wondering if this was not the work of a budding child prodigy film maker by the name of Tim Maloy?

This awesome Swell Body Cutter is restored and ready to go. I love the colors on this sleigh. Yellow is not always the first color one may select for a vehicle of this type but I love it. The body has beautiful design, professional restoration, used maybe once or twice but no worse for the wear. It’s a cutie and priced at $7,495. No wait! I’ll let it go for $6,900.

A stunning Park Bobsleigh in nice original condition. This would be a good conservation prospect as the paint appears to be original and very intact. The upholstery could stand to be replaced but do it in a nice subtle wool broadcloth and it will look like it’s been there forever. Check out the stylish ironwork and sculpted lines of the body. It has shafts and is priced at $7,995.

This one just showed up. A solid Portland Cutter with nice upholstery. A little elbow grease and this spring cutter would snap back to life in a weekend. Could use a fresh coat of paint to dress it up a bit. Would make a nice decoration for the holidays or a comfortable ride either way. Does not have a pole or shafts but a great buy at $895.

This is a Kimball Bros. Boston, Portland Cutter. Have you run across those driving experts blogging about how great Kimball Carriages are? This is why. Spectacular lines. Unique design. Beautiful trim. All combined with the highest quality workmanship. This is one killer sleigh. It just rolled out of our restoration shop a couple of months ago and sells complete with shafts for $9,995. Go ahead, click on this one to enlarge the photo.

A classic in the truest form. This elegant Park Bob is completely restored and ready for winter. Built by Edward McGraw, Valley Falls, NY sporting nice early American lines. Painstakingly restored in three colors to highlight the spindle work on the seats. We have a set of large horse size shafts that are restored and go along but this sleigh could be fitted for a pole as well. Was $18,995 but it can be yours for $16,500.

I saved a rarity for last. A Tandem Sleigh by H.H. Babcock, Watertown, NY. It was restored a few years back but still in very tight condition. Nice red paint, wicker dash panels and grey mohair upholstery. The rear seat is reversible and the tailgate drops as a footrest. Sells with shafts for $10,995 but buy it before January and we will take $1,000 off that price.

Cheryl and I have been stuck on a painting project that we have been trying to get at for months now. It’s a great little storefront in downtown Columbus. We figured this was going to be our last shot at good weather before winter so it’s been a go. We spent the last three days up in the lift working the high spots and as of tonight we are just down to the lower areas. It’s turning out great and we will probably be close to complete by tomorrow night.

Woo Hoo! Chocolate Chips! Ok now I’m going to be sick.

Have a great Friday!


Monday, November 9, 2009

Autumn Is Finally Here

What a super weekend in Wisconsin. We are finally seeing the weather that we should have been getting in September and October. I’ll take it now. I spent the weekend with some friends in northern Wisconsin and had a spectacular time. Weather was perfect, food was outstanding and of course the friends are the best.

Ryanne has been busy working on the upholstery of the Albany sleigh. It is progressing nicely and here is how it looked as I left on Friday. It is being done in a traditional wool mohair in a tan color.

In this photo the piping is being installed around the perimeter of the seat back. This is the transition where the larger roll around the top of the seat begins.

The roll is being installed. It tapers as it runs around the perimeter of the body. If you look closely it is narrower at the front edge of the seat and grows wider to the center of the back.

Moving on to the Show Gig we have that set together one more time. The body is ready for second coat primer and the shaft framing is nearing completion. I still have some steps to make and that will be ready for first coat primer. Wheels are all set for paint.

Bob continues work on the Brewster Tub Cart. Here we have a close up shot of the back door. This is the original monogram. This monogram will be recreated after the door has been stripped and refinished.

The body has been completely stripped and sanded. It is now ready for stain and finish. I guess it will be sitting for a week while Bob is out chasing Bambi through the woods.

I am really happy to be seeing some nice weather this week. We have one more outdoor painting project to complete and it appears we will have perfect weather. I’ll post some photos of that project tomorrow.


Friday, November 6, 2009

The Bride of Mad Max

We began in earnest the Brewster Tub Cart restoration this week. This vehicle was the whole reason for the Mad Max story. It was a photo of this carriage that took me to near death at the hands of the crazy dudes in upstate New York. Well alright I’m maybe blowing this all out of proportion just a little bit. They only looked like killers. In reality all in all good guys and I hope they don’t read my blog.

I think the design of the Tub cart is more of a European style than American. It was most often used by a Governess or Nanny to take the kids wherever the kids needed to go. Everyone piled in sitting sideways all within smacking distance of the evil Nanny. They are somewhat heavy because they carry multiple passengers and are rather difficult to balance depending on how many people are in the vehicle.

We are well into the process of taking the carriage apart. Like everything we work on it is reduced to a heap of wood and fasteners. In this pile you can see the seat backs and fenders.

The springs have been split up and Brandon began the process of blasting all the metal parts. Here he is working on spring leaves. Now that we have the new compressor we have air to spare which is a nice change of pace.

The wheels are really solid and tight which is really pretty unusual. The old channel is in excellent condition and I’m really hoping to find some rubber that will fit it nicely. I am also sourcing white rubber for these wheels. The first rubber installed on carriages was white. That was the natural color of rubber and was the most cost effective. Of course it is a pain in the rear to keep clean so it probably wasn’t long before they started manufacturing gray and black rubber as well. We may or may not be successful in that quest but I’m on the hunt.

The body has now been stripped. It cleaned up really nice and it appears that we have a variety of wood species used on this body. It will remain in natural finish so any components that we replace will need to match. The lower part of the body appears to be done in walnut. I’m not sure what the bent side panels are. It’s a really tightly grained wood with very little definition. Most of the framing components appear to be ash and hickory.

All of the spindles around the body are complete and intact. This is showing the body just after stripping. We will hand sand this entire body with 220 before we begin to stain. We are going with a light walnut color with some warm reddish hues. It will look fresh but still vintage.

Parts is parts and here we have a bunch. This is a variety of chassis components as well as spring leaves. All will be blasted clean prior to primer. Once ready for paint these parts will be base coated black and then installed on the body. The final coats of clear will be applied with many of these parts installed which gives us the best results on a natural finish carriage such as this.

While we continue work on this project Ryanne is busy doing upholstery on the Albany Cutter restoration. She has been taking pictures along the way and we will post some of those next week. If you recall the paint colors are green and maroon. It is being done in a tan mohair which really looks awesome.

Hope you all have a great weekend. It’s going to be a dandy here in the Midwest. Warm temperatures and sunny skies. Get out and enjoy it while it lasts.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Digging the Details

The best thing about great carriages are the details. When I say great carriages I’m referring to antique vehicles built by the masters of the carriage era. Flourishes, fasteners, fit, paint, trim and overall design quality. Without question the devil is in the details. Unless you are really a student of this you probably think a carriage, is a carriage, is a carriage. But when you really begin to look at the things that set names like Kimball, Brewster and Cunningham apart from the crowd are the details. There you will see beauty.

Many carriage manufacturers used subcontractors for supplies and parts. Here is a good example of that. The axle on this Kimball Carriage was manufactured by S.A.- F.E. Company of New York. These axles were complex in design and as you can see they were also patented to protect their innovations.

Dale is in the process of painting the chassis for the Brougham by C.P. Kimball. As restorers it is our purpose to reproduce or recreate the intent as well as the finished product of the original manufacturer. Here you can see the front gear of that vehicle. It might be a little hard to appreciate this from the photo but the beauty of the design of this component is special. It is a functional part of a carriage just like the chassis of your automobile. Carriage builders of the day didn’t have the luxury of covering it all up with sheet metal. They needed to make the structure beautiful and fit the entire design concept of the entire vehicle. Not an easy task.

Here is a shot of the rear axle. On the other hand simplicity reins here. The body in the rear of the carriage is much larger and more pronounced so the chassis plays a smaller roll in the design.

This is an example of what I’m talking about with details. The carved wood ends on this fifth wheel support are beautifully artistic. They are sort of Art Deco in nature. The carriage predates the Art Deco movement but I suppose the design is maybe somewhat Prairie Style as well which is a little more timely. Someone that studied art history needs to chime in on that one for me. I’m certain there is a term for this design in this time period of the late 1800’s. It is rather contemporary considering when this carriage was produced. That being said it is not completely unique to this carriage. I have seen this design or designs similar to it on other vehicles of good breeding.

Shifting gear we are continuing work on the Show Gig. Bob block sanded the body today. That is the first primer coat and the sanding process with a block is what levels the body for a smooth finish. You can see lighter spots on the back panel. Those are high spots on the body that sanded through first. When you see that happening you know the block is doing its job.

As you can see here we created a compound curve on the upright seat support. This type of detail adds nice dimension to the carriage body. We are not the first, we are just using the techniques that we have seen by the masters that came before us.

So expecting another really busy day here at the shop. Continuing work on a number of projects as well as trying to wrap up that to-do list before the weather gets bad. Sounds like we are going to have a few nice days so here is that opportunity to finish up the outside jobs.

Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Beautiful Southern Wisconsin Lake

I didn’t even know about Yellowstone Lake. We’ve driven around this area in southwest Wisconsin but never really tracked it down. It was getting kind of late in the day on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers and our Packers were in the midst of their almost brilliant comeback against Brett Favre and the men who shall wear purple. I think the Vikings should have red helmets. Then they could go to tea with the red hat ladies and Brett could get that senior 10% that he so rightly deserves.

I was thinking to myself if we hurry and get to a pub I can still watch the fourth quarter. But we still wanted to check out Yellowstone Lake. It was well worth it. This photo doesn’t begin to capture how beautiful the place is but it was getting dark. The lake is a fairly long body of water and from where we were there did not appear to be any dwellings. A lake in southern Wisconsin without cottages every twenty five feet. If you are ever in the area of Mineral Point it is about 15 miles or so to the southeast and is part of the Wisconsin State Parks system. Definitely worth the trip. We did a quick drive through and now we are excited to go back. Managed to get to the pub in time to see the fourth quarter too.

The Show Gig body made it into primer yesterday. Any small voids were also spot filled and those areas will now level nicely when sanded out. Bob is going to start blocking this with 220 today and preparing it for the next primer coat. I continue to work on the shafts.

Sometimes we use black primer. Sometimes we use gray. Dale has his secret system for primer color based on what color he is painting over it. Don’t ask me what the formula to the system is. I have no clue. I’ve been trying to figure it out now for the last three years and still have no idea. My goal for 2010 is to uncover the secret of which color primer to use under which color paint.

The boys are starting a new project this week. It is the restoration of a Brewster Tub Cart. This vehicle is the sister to Mad Max. You need to go back to May or June to read the Mad Max story. Anyway this was the other vehicle that I went to see in upstate New York. Luckily I lived to tell about it.

This is a really nice Brewster vehicle that will be absolutely stunning when completed. Write it down, mark my words, absolutely stunning. It is an original natural finish carriage in very solid condition. It is missing a few things that we are replacing like the parasol and the lamps and lamp bracket. The brackets are sort of there. My guess is someone wanted the lamps and didn’t know how to get them out of the brackets. Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Let’s saw them off. So somewhere in New York there is a $2,500 pair of original Brewster lamps hanging beside somebody’s front door rusting away.

Our client has a nice pair of smaller Brewster round face lamps that we restored a couple of years ago just for such an occasion. I think they might look really good on this carriage so we will test out that theory as we progress. Hopefully they are brass. I just can’t remember as it‘s been a while. The upholstery is pretty intact and will make for a nice pattern. It is original and done in a tan cotton duck.

Here you can see one of the original Brewster oil caps, both of which are in great shape. You can also see the condition of the original finish in more detail. Bob started taking the carriage apart today and it looks like the finish will come off clean. This will be a very beautiful piece and I am excited to see it completed.

Our air compressor finally retired. At least it knows when it’s worn out and past its prime. I came across a clean used 80 gallon, 5 horse Rol-Air Industrial that I will be picking up later this afternoon. Woo Hoo!

Have a great Tuesday!