Use Your Antiques

Enjoy your antiques by using them as intended

50’s Era China

While out one Sunday looking for yard sale treasures we stopped at an estate sale in the country.  It was late in the afternoon and things had been picked over pretty good, but Sundays are also when people are ready to make deals. 

In this case I was looking at a big box of china when the person running the sale came up and offered a lower price than what was posted on the box.  The price was good but we were not really interested in buying another set of china since we already had two sets at home.  I said thanks but told them we would have to pass.  We looked around a little more and were about to go when we were offered the china set for $60.  We decided to take a closer look at the china.  It had 12 complete seven-piece place settings, four large serving plates, as well as a covered sugar bowl and creamer.  A total of 90 individual pieces for just $60 and the set had a simple pine pattern design which was easy to like.  We were told the set had been a wedding gift in the early 50’s but the marriage ended quickly and the china wound up in the attic for the next 50 or so years.  We paid the $60 loaded it in the car and headed home.

Once at home, I found the maker was Narumi of Japan.  They have been making fine china since 1911 and continue to do so today.  The pattern, Madera Pine, was discontinued but replacements are available from Replacements, Ltd.  The set has a few chips but overall it’s in fantastic condition.  We looked at selling the set for a profit but instead decided to keep and use it for special occasions.

There is absolutely no reason not to use china like this.  While it can be a little delicate for everyday use it’s great for special occasions.  A word of caution though; when it comes to vintage china, I strongly recommend hand washing only.  Our china has hand painted silver trim and the harsh chemicals in dishwasher detergent can damage it.  Also remember to never put any dishes with metallic trim in a microwave, it will damage the dish and possibly the oven too.

50’s-60’s Era Foley Food Mill

It’s a little hard to date my Foley Food Mill.  Production began back in 1926 and I believe it ended sometime in the ‘70’s.  The mills changed little in 50 or so years of production but newer versions have an all metal, stamped steel handle.

This is a very handy piece of kitchen equipment.  The food mill will perfectly puree most foods (when prepared properly beforehand), unlike a blender or food processor which can leave a few chunks here and there.  The mill does this by forcing food through small holes at the bottom of the pot.  It takes a little effort to crank the mill, compared with pushing a button on the blender, but the results are worth it.

My mill gets its biggest workouts during the holidays when I puree ridiculous quantities of fresh pumpkin for pumpkin pie and bread which my wife and I give as gifts.  Canned pumpkin cannot compare to fresh when it comes to pumpkin pie and my friends and family will all swear to it.

Because the mills were made for so many years they are easily found in antique stores, thrift shops and yard sales.  Depending on where it’s found and the condition you can expect to pay between $1 and $10.  You could buy a new food mill but expect to pay at least $20, and it won’t be a genuine Foley or an antique.

If you would like to know more about what you can do with food mill, here’s a link to an old Foley promotional ad I found on the web:  75 Ways to Use the Foley Food Mill.

50’s Era Combination Can & Bottle Opener

This is an A&J Combination Can and Bottle Opener.  I don’t recall if I purchased it or if it was a gift.  I’m usually pretty picky about the cosmetic condition of the antiques I purchase but if I find something in good physical condition for the right price I’ll buy it.

I chose this item today because I used it to open my first bottle of home brewed beer (It came out great!).  The opener actually has three separate tools.  Looking at the photo, the upper portion of the opener is used to open cans, the point in the middle is used to pry up an open can lid, and finally, the bottom portion is the bottle opener.  As you might expect the bottle opener side of this wonderful little tool gets used a lot more than the can opener side.

You will notice the paint on the wooden handle is badly chipped.  There is also some rust on the metal parts.  There are many reasons for this kind of wear but the two most likely causes are washing it in a dishwasher and storing it unprotected in a utensil drawer.  Never put wood handled utensils in the dishwasher, the hot water will cause the wood to swell which cracks the paint and causes it to flake off.  Also, if you care about the condition of your wood handled utensils, don’t store them in a utensil drawer where they get banged around every time you look for the spatula.  Find a safe, easily accessible, place to display them.  Mine hang individually on one wall of our kitchen.

My wife says I’m not supposed to drink and blog, so that’s it for this post.

50’s Era Toaster

After a thorough cleaning and careful tuning my wife and I have been using the wonderful '50's era toaster for the past two-years.

After a thorough cleaning and careful tuning my wife and I have been using the wonderful ’50’s era toaster for the past two-years. 

This is a Sunbeam Model T-20B.  I purchased this little gem at a yard sale a couple years ago for just $5.00.  It was in nice shape but needed a  thorough cleaning the woman I purchased it from said it had been given to them as a wedding gift back in the 50’s but they had replaced it with a new on some time ago.  I took it home with the intention of cleaning it up and reselling it on e-bay.  I had purchased several ’50’s era toasters before and sold them for around $20 each on e-bay.  I soon discovered this toaster was different from the others I had purchased.

The Sunbeam T-20 toasters do not have a lever to lower the bread.  Instead they use heat activated, bi-metallic sensors, and what amounts to a Rube Goldberg system of internal mechanisms to automatically lower the bread into the toaster.  Sunbeam made toasters with this automatic mechanism from the ’50’s all the way into the mid ’70’s.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I took it apart to clean.

 I began my cleaning by removing the housing and Bakelite handles.  The internals had about 50-years worth of built-up crud on them so I decided to completely disassemble everything and use oven cleaner to remove the worst of it.  A digital camera is very handy when it comes to disassembling something this complex.  I photographed the toaster from every angle as I slowly took it apart.  Once apart everything but the electrical components and Bakelite was sprayed down with oven cleaner.

After setting for about hour I rinsed everything off in the sink.  The mechanism was more of a challenge to reassemble than I expected, even with the photos.  Eventually I got it back together.  Unfortunately when I went to test it I discovered it wouldn’t work.  I then realized I had never bothered to test it to begin with.  I spent about an hour on the internet researching how heat activated, bi-metallic sensors worked, then set about cleaning and tuning them.  The points style contacts were pitted from years of use, so I filed them smooth and square, then straitened the flexible piece of metal the outside contact is mounted to (someone had obviously tried to fix this in the past).

With the contacts working correctly I now needed to tune the mechanism itself.  On the bottom of these toasters, under the crumb clean-out tray, is a small screw which is used to adjust the sensitivity of the toaster.  The object is to get the toast to stay down long enough that it is almost black when the darkness knob on the front is turned all the way to right.  Turn the screw a quarter turn at a time, in or out depending on how the toaster is functioning at the time.

Note, the original cord on this toaster was in excellent condition and I decided to continue using it.  I do not leave it plugged in; it is unplugged after every use.  If the cord showed any signs of wear or discoloration I would replace it.

With the internals operating correctly I reassembled the housing.  I use “Mothers” chrome polish to clean the chrome and stainless steel exterior.  I have also found the same polish works very well to clean and polish the Bakelite handles as well.  From start to finish I spent about six-hours cleaning and restoring this toaster.

Now completely assembled it was time to make toast.  The toaster has two slots for bread on top.  The slot closest to the front has the switch in it, so if you are toasting two pieces of bread put the first piece in the rear slot and the second piece in the front slot.  A moment after you place bread in the front slot you will hear a click from inside the toaster and the bread will slowly go down on its own.

How long it stays down depends on how dark you want your bread.  When it’s finished toasting you will once again hear a click and the bread will slowly rise back up.

It’s a wonderful little machine and it is simply too neat to sell.  We got rid of our modern, plastic clad, Kitchen-Aide toaster (the plastic housing had cracked anyway) and have been using the Sunbeam for two-years now without any problems.

After a thorough cleaning and careful tuning my wife and I have been using the wonderful ’50’s era toaster for the past two-years.

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