Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Phaeton Restoration Progress

So ended up making a bit of a late night cruse last evening to pick up a set of harness racks. Very nice J.L. Mott, NY stamped bridle and harness rack sets. Two of each. These items are great finds when they come along. Quite unusual and interesting carriage related Americana.

The work on the Show Phaeton is coming along well. The wheels are primed and sanded and ready for paint.

This is the last wheel of the bunch. Brandon is wrapping up the final sanding on this wheel and that one will be ready to go in the booth.

Bob is working on the seat. It has been sanded and prepared for primer. The existing upholstery is going to stay in place so we have removed the edge webbing and masking of the rest.

The chassis went into paint yesterday. We used our old reliable deep maroon base with clear and it looks fantastic. The wheels will be going into the booth today so we should have a rolling chassis before long.

There are a lot of little nooks and crannies to work on when it comes to painting a chassis. It’s the details that matter when it comes to work like this. It’s impossible to cut any corners and come up with good results.

The body has been painted as well. Such a great little carriage. I’m really looking forward to seeing it back together next week. Stay tuned.

It’s a nice cool day here in the Midwest. I think we are supposed to struggle to break 70 today. My kind of weather!

Have a great day.


Monday, June 29, 2009

Columbus Carriage Classic 2009 - A Big Success

I’m still alive. I think I’m fully caught up and rested from the Columbus Carriage Classic 2009. Sorry I fell off the face of blogworld but just too much going on to keep up with it all. The Columbus show was outstanding this year. To my knowledge there were 79 competitors. All things considered, especially the economy, that was a great turnout. The spectator crowds were also very respectable. Probably the best I’ve seen in all the years. Hat’s off to the show committee for a great event.

A friend of mine was at the show shooting a few photos. He has been tossing some my way over the last few days and I really like what I see. Rod Melotte has a unique style of photography which is very vivid and almost historic in nature. How he does this I’m not sure. I am certain he would divulge every secret in detail if you ask him. I think he has a really good camera. Everyone knows that a really good camera is the secret to good photography. Click on any photo to enlarge.

The Columbus Carriage Classic takes place on the lawn at the Columbus Firemen’s Park. The backdrop for the weekend is the historic Firemen's Park Pavilion. This structure was built in the early 1900’s by our local volunteer fire department. The building is now a Columbus landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. The first photo appears to have been shot off the veranda of the pavilion. This shot directly above shows the ring and the pavilion during competition.

Here competitor Bob Long of Watertown Wisconsin circles the ring. Bob, a long time friend and client is driving a Meadowbrook Show Cart built by Colonial Carriage Works. When Bob is not driving carriages he is raising alpacas. You can learn more about his Alpaca farm at www.longviewgrange.com . Seated at Bob's left is Phillip Oden. Phil is a breeder and trainer of Fjord horses. When Phil is not working horses he is working with wood. Phil and his wife Else are highly skilled in the art of traditional Norwegian wood carving. You can see more about their work at www.norskwoodworks.com .

Of the photos I have seen from Rod I think this one is my favorite so far. It shows Howard Kietzke driving his pair to a newly restored Roof Seat Break by Henry Hooker. Howard has also been a long time friend, customer and fellow carriage nut. Howard purchased this vehicle from us I suppose almost 10 years ago now. Howard personally restored this beautiful carriage and the Columbus show was the maiden voyage. I really like the angle of the shot, the background, all very well done. Howard won Best of Show at the 2009 Columbus Carriage Classic with this turnout.

Thanks to Rod for the photos. To learn more about the photography of Rod Melotte visit www.melottephotoimagery.com or visit his blog at www.publicenemiescolumbus.blogspot.com.

Have a great day.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sporting Phaeton Work Progressing

This is the big set-up week for the Columbus Carriage Classic. The tents arrive tomorrow morning with stalls coming in later in the afternoon. We will begin work on setting up the show ring tomorrow morning as well. In a few days the Columbus Fireman’s Park will begin filling up with competitors. The pressure is on…

The guys are working away on the Sporting Phaeton project. We are kind of hoping to move that project through the shop in fairly short order so we can keep progress moving on some other projects as well. We begin this job with removal of the body. It’s a light body with four bolts keeping it in place so not too tough.

The chassis will need to be completely sanded prior to our primer coats. Being that this carriage has never been repainted the original paint will work as a nice base to build from. Be it a little on the thin side the original paint was level and well done so I think we can accomplish quite a bit with one coat of primer.

The striping is thin so we can lightly sand it rather than remove it completely. Often paint stripes can be laid on thick enough that they will shadow through if they are not removed. I don’t think that will be the case here. Our primer coat and final sanding will make them go away.

Brandon works on the first of the wheels. There is a fair amount of peeling and loose paint around the hubs so getting those loose areas removed is where we start. Then like the chassis the wheels need to be sanded prior to the primer coat.

The shafts have had the trim removed and have been sanded. They are ready for primer. I would expect us to get the shafts and the four wheels in primer this week. The chassis and the body will probably not hit that stage until next. We will keep you posted.

Have a great day.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Sporting Phaeton Phacelift

What a nice weekend it was in Wisconsin. Warm temperatures, sunny skies for the most part, just a great summer weekend. I am ready for more of those. Especially next weekend for the Columbus Carriage Classic. We hope you are planning to attend.

Over the weekend one of our local area drivers decided it was time to retire their Phaeton. They have successfully shown their Friesians in this pretty carriage for years but it is beginning to show it’s age. They traded this carriage in on a new Lessing Show Phaeton and are looking forward to that debut this coming weekend in Columbus.

The Sporting Phaeton is really quite nicely built and well designed. It is a modern vehicle and I would guess it to be 10 -15 years old. It has held up well over the years but the paint is getting pretty shabby for the show ring.

The upholstery was done in a wool broadcloth and has held up very well. We are intending to leave the upholstery as is and replace the floor mat.

The wheels are about the worst. After years on the show circuit they are scratched, chipped and peeling in many areas. The shafts are looking pretty tough too. So new paint and trim is in order for those.

The chassis is in about the same shape. Nicks, dings and chips in a number of spots. The dash and rear deck lid have remained in very nice condition over the years so we will be able to reinstall those parts without restoration.

So watch us renew this vehicle and bring it back to life. I’m thinking it should happen over the next 2 -3 weeks and we will post progress as we go. This carriage has nice attractive lines and I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks in new paint.

Have a great day.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Columbus Carriage Classic

Well it’s only a week away! The Columbus Carriage Classic is scheduled for Father’s Day Weekend, June 19-21. The CCC is an ADS sanctioned Pleasure Driving Competition. The show takes place on the beautiful grounds of Fireman’s Park in Columbus Wisconsin.

Friday begins with the Town and Country competition which is not only a spectator favorite but a popular class with drivers as well.

The balance of the weekend is filled with ring and obstacle classes covering the entire grounds of the park.

The Columbus Carriage Classic is in it’s 11th year and has a long standing reputation as a great fun in a beautiful setting. We hope you will consider joining us this year for our annual event.

For more information contact the Columbus Main Street at (920) 623-5325 or visit www.columbuscarriageclassic.com.

Now off to work so we have something new to talk about tomorrow. Thanks to Vicki for her entertaining blog this week. I look forward to guest bloggers from time to time covering a variety of topics of interest to drivers.


Thursday, June 11, 2009


Summer Special on the popular Sprint Sport. Outstanding Value for the beginner or the daily driver. Regular $1,795 now $1,495!

The Sprint Sport is a well designed, comfortable, attractive and user friendly vehicle. The steel frame, shafts, and wheels are powder coated gloss black for a very durable and long lasting finish. The floors are of solid oak with a clear gloss finish. The Sprint Sport is lightweight but durable enough for cross country driving or daily training.

The suspension is an adjustable spring assisted shock for a smooth ride. The height is adjustable by a simple adjustment of the shock position. The balance is quickly adjusted by moving the axle for and aft with the simple relocation of two bolts. The seat frame on the base cart is bolted in a fixed position but an optional lever control seat adjuster allows the seat to move forward and back for driver comfort.

The wheels run on sealed roller bearings. The tires float nicely in all terrain on an 1 ½” solid rubber tire. The smooth vinyl seat is comfortable and attractive. Optional seats include button tufted cushions for a dressy look or a wedge for the serious competitor.

The Sprint Sport is available with a variety of options.

Wood wheels in lieu of steel wheels: No charge
Lever control seat adjuster: $200
Oak spares compartment: $250
Nerf bar dash: $175
18 inch wedge seat: $300
Marathon shafts in lieu of standard shafts: $85
Raised foot rest: $150
Button tufted seat cushions: $250
Walnut stain color: $65 with steel wheels
Walnut stain color: $135 with wood wheels

Quality and details matter to us at Frey Carriage Company. The Sprint Sport is as well build and beautifully finished as anything else that rolls out of our facility. Our 15 plus years of carriage building and restoration has given us the experience you can trust and the service you deserve. The Sprint Sport is hand built in the USA. Frey Carriage Company is 100% committed to keeping American workers employed producing high quality products. Nationwide delivery available.

Have a great day.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To restore or not to restore, that is the question…

by Vicki Nelson Bodoh

At a recent carriage symposium that I attended, the speakers' major difference was in how each viewed whether to conserve, preserve, restore or reproduce. Those who look at original condition carriages in a sad state may choose a method of changing that state. The conserve/preserve camp says, "Save it just the way it is as only by saving vehicles in their original conditions can we have evidence as to how vehicles were constructed, painted and trimmed." Restorers instead say, "Document the original and then rebuild, repaint, repair so the carriage looks like it just came off the 'showroom floor' a century ago."

To me, it boils down to a few major items:
1. Does the vehicle have major historical significance? Is it very unusual, owned by an important person in history or a one of a kind vehicle? If so, preserve and protect it. Above and below are shots of our original condition Albany by Northwestern Mfg. Co., Ft. Atkinson

2. Will the vehicle be part of a static collection? If it will not be horsed but will remain in a museum, preserve or conserve and house it properly.

3. Has it already been restored one or more times? Research similar vehicles and restore it in a way that reflects what it once would have been. Above is my antique trap by French & Co., Boston, purchased restored and again restored by Colonial Carriage

4. Is it is a lovely original antique that should be conserved but you really want to drive it? Then find a craftsman who can reproduce a similar carriage for your use and save the original to be used for historical information.

And that is where the difficulty lies. Finding a craftsman to duplicate beautiful antique carriages so those in original condition can be saved rather than restored is difficult. The cost of that skill is expensive.

I drive, on very special occasions, my original condition vehicles (ones that are lovely but not museum quality). I often drive my restored antique carriages (ones that were no longer original when I purchased them). I frequently drive and show my reproductions of traditional carriages. I will soon drive the reproduction of the skeleton gig!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Don’t Blog and Drive

Well I’m back. I have learned that driving 16 hours a day and coming up with a daily blog doesn’t work. I really have no blog inventory at this time so I kind of fell off of the blogisphere. I had a four day Midwest run to make last week and managed to make it back home safe and sound with a load of carriages to boot. More about that later in the week.

You may wonder (or probably not) what we do when we are not fixing up ratty old carriages. Well we fix up ratty old buildings. This was one of our projects from a few years back. The former St. Vincent de Paul in downtown Columbus.

The building fell victim to a 1970’s “turn the American historic downtown into a mall” building improvement project. As you can see it has the lovely aluminum and steel awning and façade trim to make it sporty.

The best part about working on old buildings is removing the “improvements” to see what you really have. The greatest damage came to this storefront when the original cornice was removed from above the storefront windows in order to install the modern steel façade. So one of our bigger projects on the lower level was re-creating the cornice and brackets above the windows on the first floor. We chose to duplicate the detail on the second floor and it turned out nice.

The front windows were probably replaced in the 50’s and we decided they looked ok so we retained that portion of the façade. The upper glass panes had been removed when the upper portion was covered with steel. Fortunately the frames remained so we were able to install new glass in the exisiting frames. We recreated original style recessed panels below the windows.

After the removal of the plasti-wood paneling from the walls, 2x4 suspended ceiling, and orange shag carpet from the wood floor we felt pretty good about the interior. The original wood wainscot ceiling remained in good condition. The plaster on the walls needed some work but all in all pretty nice. And the southern yellow pine flooring was intact and in good repair. With new mechanicals and a pretty fair amount of elbow grease the building made a beautiful showroom for us for a number of years. We have since relocated to our larger facility around the corner and the building is currently leased to an antique dealer.

The upstairs was originally a K of P meeting hall. If you are not aware of the K of P (and some of you are) they have an interesting history of which will need to be covered in some other blog. Anyway with the addition of a few walls, a new kitchen and bath it turned into a killer loft apartment.

The second floor living spaces are the best part of historic downtown buildings. This one was really fun. It has 14’ high wood wainscot ceilings, original wood trim, wood floors and windows that must be 10’ tall. It is a great place and is never a challenge finding someone to call it home.

Sorry no carriage blog today but we have some interesting projects in the shop this week so stay tuned.

Have a great Monday.


Monday, June 1, 2009

The Glam Life of a Carriage Guy - Part 2

So Saturday continues. There was so much work I couldn’t write it all up in one day. By this time I’m beginning to feel the pain. The back is aching and the knees are getting a bit on the sore side.

So here I sit with a four passenger surrey body that needs to go up on a frame. Normally this is a 3 or 4 person undertaking but it’s Saturday and I’m by myself. The body weighs probably 250 to 300 pounds and it needs to go up about 4’ to clear the chassis.

My trusty Bobcat has never failed me yet. So we put the forks on the front grab on and away we go. Unfortunately I can’t take pictures and run the Bobcat at the same time. Well actually I could have if I would have had the camera along inside but the sun kept sinking lower and time was running out.

Once in place it took me a while to fasten the body to the chassis. There were some parts missing so we needed to do a little work to make everything fit properly. The thing was filthy from spending 30 years in a semi open shed so cleaned off all the big crap by hand, blew off the upholstery and hosed off the frame and some portions of the body.

Here we are one very attractive extension top surrey. The Carriage was built by J.L. Clark of Oshkosh Wisconsin. Clark was a large manufacturer of vehicles and we run across this name from time to time.

The vehicle is very solid and tight. An outstanding restoration prospect. It has it’s original pole and shafts along with. You rarely see these restored because the market has been flooded with new reproductions that pale in comparison. This was also a relatively common vehicle in it’s day so people sort of glance right on by an auto top. I love it. If we still have it in a few months we just might pull it in the shop.

Here is one of the runabouts. It is also a Clark of Oshkosh. Talk about brand loyalty. There are some design elements that lead me to believe this was built post 1900. It’s built a little heavier than most, the suspension is pretty advanced, something about the shape of the dash makes me feel it’s a later piece.

But the real kicker is the lamps. 100% original, authentic electric carriage lamps. I’m not sure of the voltage but I’m guessing an early 6 volt system. All the original wiring is in place and this was not a later ad on. Look closely at the bulb. It is a screw in type but if you look closely you can see a little point on the top like that little swirl on top of a dairy queen ice cream cone. How cool is that!

The original J.L. Clark tag still in place.

And here is the cutter. A nice Portland door cutter in pretty solid condition. The tag on the back reads “Lindsey Brothers, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Built by N. C. Co. I would guess that would stand for Northwestern Carriage Company out of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin but that just a guess on my part. I have had a few vehicles over the years with the Lindsey tag but to my knowledge they were more of a dealer than a manufacturer.

So the sun is setting on the long day and here is what’s left sitting in the yard. I have four wheels left that do not fit the chassis that remains. I have a running gear with four matching wheels on it but one of them doesn’t fit properly. A bunch of poles and shafts and a way cool wagon seat. So a couple disappointments but that is the risk I take when I buy a pile of carriages. All in all it was a great day but at this point I am wiped out.

Have a great Monday.