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Posts tagged ‘Fine woodcrafting’

A True Antique Story: Pub Back Bars and Front Bars

Greek immigrant and saloon owner, Mr. Bates, owned the largest, l-shaped parcel of land that surrounded our wooded property. On the land set a gold mine of Sothby’s-quality antiques.


Some pieces set inside and under the vacant, dilapidated cabin in the dense woods adjoining ours. Some were hidden inside the tunnel of an underground bomb cavern.


Most of the antiques were crammed into the two huge boxcars. Both set in an untilled field, camouflaged by a dense overgrowth. Located less than one thousand feet from our fence line.


The cabin site housed dozens of wooden cigar boxes. They were filled with old currency from the U. S., Greece, British Isles, etc. Some boxes were stuffed with matured U. S. Savings Bonds – over one hundred of them.


Ceramic, porcelain and earthenware dishes, pots, pitchers, vases, and trays set on the floors in both rooms. Also, many old pieces of flatware: sterling silver, silver-plated, gold-plated.


Old saloon and bar furnishings filled the boxcars. That included three complete bar sets; fixtures, mirrors, picture frames, wall mural panels, etc. Also china, crystal, glassware, and cooking accessories.


One boxcar contained eight or nine rolled up imported oriental rugs. And, over six wooden crates of fine tapestry.


The other one housed two complete front and back bar systems. Both were constructed of rich, solid mahogany, and similar in design. Each back bar measured at least 21 feet in length, and 17 feet in height.


The Back Bars featured inset twin beveled mirrors, fluted columns, intricate relief carvings, and built-in drawers. Also, small cupboards and three glass cases. Both were appointed with brass trim, hardware and railings. One unit included built-in steps to reach those higher areas.


The Front Bars of both sets featured a brass beer drain board and a polished counter top. And, each included brass boot rests/bars.


Over the years, the heavy key locks on each boxcar were broken or cut off repeatedly by thieves, or “snoops.” Little was ever taken. Perhaps because most of the pieces were so cumbersome. And unusable somewhere other than inside a bar or pub. Or, a huge residence, or museum.


At some point, the attorney for the elderly property owner engaged our closest neighbor and us to keep a close eye on the property. And, its contents. We were “enlisted” to watch out for all trespassers. (A little more about that follows.)


The hardest part of that job was spotting the intruders that snuck onto the wooded section. First, they had to slip or sneak through our woods. And, the entire wooded area was unusually dense, even in the winter. Also, hunters wandered – trespassed – onto the back of our property, then onto the neighbors.


Another problem: Some of the intruders were the grown nephews and families of old Mr. Bates. And, reliable sources had informed us that the three nephews eagerly awaited their inheritances.


But, a funny thing happened as their greed grew. The owner set up an interesting system of trusts for his entire, massive estate.


The nephews would receive access to the estate only after the youngest child of any nephew reached eighteen. And, at the time of the owner’s death, the youngest child in the group was under age one.


By the time Mr. Bates said his earthly goodbyes, his attorney faced a much easier job of settling the estate.


The elderly owner had already sold off most of his real estate in town, including the saloon. Nearly all of the antiques had been lifted from the boxcars. The cabin and underground cavern had been looted, and fallen apart from gross neglect. (Too, the most forceful nephew had died of a heart attack.)


Even at the end, our family possessed special access to the Bates tales. From school days, my father knew the attorney. And, my mother and the attorney’s wife belonged to the same philanthropic sorority, Tri Kappa.


Still, I was not prepared for the trivia that hit my e-mail Inbox last week. One of the “authorized looters” of those boxcars was a young Greek bar owner in South Florida. The furnishings that he had lifted were shipped to Florida, and set into his family’s pub in the early 1990s.


Today, that pub is owned and operated by his two Baby Boomer sons, and their adult children.


Thanks, Mr. Bates. What a fantastic idea for the plot of a mystery novel!



Own your day, and value its contents.  rdh



Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”


Copyright 2016. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

Fine Finishing: Custom Walking Sticks


My grandfather woodcrafted fine walking sticks after he retired. He cut most from Cherrywood; some from Walnut (Black and European); a few from Ebony; also Brazilian Mahogany, Teak, and Rosewood.


Each featured distinctive characteristics:


. custom-cut, solid shaft in length and diameter;

. custom-designed, molded and etched brass head, and tip;

. custom-designed, turned and etched brass shaft rings;

. custom-etched owner’s monogram, in brass head.


The wood for each piece was hand-selected for its unique and suitable qualities: hardness, color, grain, texture, etc.


He ordered the wood for each piece individually, and directly from the mill. Two mills were located in the United States. The others were located in France, Italy, South America, India, and Australia.


Upon arrival, Grandfather Boyd cut the wood piece to customer specifications (length and diameter), allowing extra millimeters for working it. Next, the piece was formed. Then shaped and planed, and rounded. It was sanded many times. Each time to flawless smoothness.


When the finishing phases were reached, the walking stick was rag-stained twice, and rubbed twice. Grandfather applied many coats of final finish. He allowed as many as 20 days of drying time between each coat. A lacquer finish was the favorite. Known for its distinction and elegance, and its astounding durability.


Grandfather advertised his custom walking sticks in only two magazines: The New Yorker and Esquire. For a short period, he advertised also in The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, and The Christian Science Monitor.


Here’s how the purchasing process worked…


A person saw Grandfather’s walking stick ad. He or she phoned him at the listed “812” area code phone number. Grandfather described the walking sticks. He asked a few questions about the person’s background and interests. He asked how and where the walking stick would be used. He asked about the person’s wood preference. He offered an estimate of the handcrafted accessory.


Each interested person was sent two distinctive business cards and a matching note card. Both were printed on pale blue linen, and featured an India-ink sketch of a walking stick. Enclosed was a Polaroid photo of a finished walking stick, a simple order form, and the terms of sale.


On the order form, the client selected his or her choice of wood. The person provided his or her measurements: overall height, overall weight, whether left-or-right-handed; waist-to-floor height; hands-open palm width; also length from wrist-to-finger tips; etc. The client listed any physical handicaps that he or she might have had – relative to the need for and use of a walking stick.


By phone, Grandfather confirmed the client’s wood preference. They agreed upon the finish delivery date. They agreed upon the total cost, including shipping. They agreed upon the actual packaging and shipping preference.


Every client left the brass head and tip design to my grandfather. Most also left the stain and finish to my grandfather’s discretion.


Between 1972 and 1987, he handcrafted over 70 distinctive walking sticks. Starting in late 1975, he offered clients a beautiful accessory: a custom-made satin-lined, plush velvet carry bag. Also, it featured a custom monogram on the outside, and a distinctive, hand-sewn identity label inside.


His clientele were stars of film, television, and the stage; comedians; best-selling authors; artists, musicians, opera stars; entrepreneurs and executives; leaders in medicine, science, government.


Grandfather moved to Florida in 1988. He also moved some prized woodworking tools and equipment. Also, his walking stick materials, forms and molds.


He planned to handcraft more walking sticks. It didn’t work out. The workshop on his lovely second wife’s lakefront property lacked climate-control. And, it lacked the ample workspace.


In August of 2015, a letter addressed to Grandfather Boyd was forwarded to my mother. The writer stated that, in 2014, he had purchased “two exquisite walking sticks.” Still in their monogrammed velvet cases. They’d been sold at an estate auction in Southern California.


The writer explained that, inside each case, the original owner had kept one of my grandfather’s blue linen business cards. That’s how the new owner knew the name of the woodcrafter. And, then “Goggled” to reach him.


Isn’t ISP and social media wonderful? Almost as grand as Grandfather Boyd’s distinctive walking sticks.


Have you walked lately in another person’s shoes? How did they fit?


Thank you, everyone, for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2015. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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