Apsco Fishing Reel Pencil Sharpener

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Apsco Fishing Reel Pencil Sharpener A slight handsome lad shuffles to the front of the classroom to a wall-mounted pencil sharpener beside the blackboard.  Pencil inserted, he slowly engages the planetary sharpener, called thus because the mechanism revolves around a stationary pencil.  While he does not yet understand the principle within the mechanism which rotates a set of helical cylindrical cutters set at a diverging angle to each other, he does appreciate this opportunity to covertly observe Lori in the front row.  If only she knew . . .

Another American Pencil Sharpener Company product is embedded in the memory of a 5th grader, along with the smell of chalk dust, cedar shavings, and graphite.  Nothing smells like a pencil, and recalls to me the timeless experience of grade school.  The magic of childhood forever with us.  But what of APSCO, of Chicago, Illinois?  Ahh, stay tuned for Part II of this fascinating story . . .

The Fishing Reel APSCO imaged at the top of this article ended up in the same Dumpster® as the Revere Ware. Yet another planetary sharpener mechanismpiece of Americana inadvertently tossed on the rubbish heap!  Fortunately, the intrepid author was there for rescue, triage, research, and restoration. ***Cue heart-pounding triumphant music***  Uncle Curt, up there with Saint Peter threading another worm, smiles through a wreath of pipe smoke . . .

dixonticonderoga     wikipedia

Pennsylvania Blue Marble

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01neighborhood_rect540Bizarre marine arthropods of the Cambrian Explosion roamed a vast sea which covered what is now Valley Forge National Park.  Relax, we refer to events of 450 million years ago.  Under this sea there formed a weakly metamorphosed calcite marble.  FaDSCF0182st forward, to the early days of The Republic.  This Pennsylvania Blue Marble became an  important regional building stone in the first half of the nineteenth century.

One has but to tour older Philadelphia row home neighborhoods to see its extensive use as steps,  window sills, lentils, and trim.  Alas, structural decomposition, changing design tastes, and improved transportation systems increased  availability of better quality white marbles from New England and Georgia.   What becomes of the Pennsylvania marble as buildings are pulled down?

People like me collected steps and sills in nicer condition for garden use.  Wear patterns tell the story of healthy, prosperous neighborhoods.  Tool marks upon the ends aidScreen Shot 2014-06-01 at 9.58.35 AM one in establishing production date, as methods of stone dressing evolved.  The 350 pound steps were welcomed by friends and neighbors, as well.  A unique pillar for the garden bird bath or flower-pot.  And the sills make great bordering stones!  Pictured is a local effort.  These stones were pulled from houses under demolition within Philadelphia’s Fairmount section.

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Mid-Century Revere Ware 10″ skillet

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Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 8.46.45 AMAHH, THE CRACKLE OF BACON.  Butter, hitting the right temperature to snap and foam!   Then in go the eggs!   The basics of an American Breakfast.

As a three-year old, sitting on the floor for hours in a kitchen identical to Julia Child’s The French Chef set, these were the sounds I heard.  And revisiting her shows years later, I began to appreciate the nuances of temperature, time, and cooking surface.

When my best teflon pan gave up the ghost, I researched All-Clad selections, convinced technology had trumped tradition.  Investigations cast doubt, however, upon my preconceptions!  The buying decision was even more tempered with caution and eventually placed on hiatus.

paul toungeAlong came a fortunate Dumpster® find, as a friend’s childhood abode was being cleared out for the next owner.  I had scored a nice stack of 1950’s-era Revere Ware, as detailed here in a previous blog entry.

The pile was stored in an apple crate.  A piece found use as a water bowl for our cat, some smaller pots went to neighbors, but the skillet?  The skillet I retained, beheld by the rich history of its patina and a promise of potential magic.  I saw value, but was unsure how to harness its powers.

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 8.46.31 AMOnly after repeated frustrations with our remaining daily-use skillet did I retrieve the old 10″ Revere Ware skillet from the crate, wash it thoroughly, and give it a try.  Wow, first use with a grilled cheese, and the butter burned.  O.K., it heats up really fast, but it was even. All of the stove’s potential made it to the cook surface.  Then I tried eggs, and again burned the butter.  Third time’s the charm.  I’ve found a perfect pan.  Nothing sticks to the decade’s old stainless interior, and the copper bottom spreads heat as well as it did in 1955, when purchased.

This pan should be a basic tool of anyone learning to cook, as well as a must-have for the experienced chef. About $5 at a garage sale near you, or $25 through online auctions.

1960’s PYREX Water Pitcher

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VENTURING BY GREEN fields of new rye through southern Delaware, I ponder way-points to make my trip more interesting, the foremost category being American Thrift Stores.  The more affluent the area, the better.  While Lower Delaware does not have the cachet of, say, Palm Beach, there are pockets of glitter amid the dust and monotony of farmland.  One such oasis is Rehoboth Beach.

Passing a strip mall designed for all shoppers, myself due for a break, I wheel into a parking spot, fortuitously coming to a stop in front of a large Thrift Store.  My quests for the right butter dish and perfect water pitcher continue!  More on the butter dish if I ever find it.  But the pitcher?  I want light weight – thin glass – and large enough to get my hand inside to clean in.

Why light weight?  A shoulder injury has made some routine chores more difficult.  A heavy clunky water pitcher extended at arm’s length can sometimes be a painful experience.  Besides, if it is going to sit on the counter, might it not be pleasing to the eye?

The Deal Of The Century was thus found: this Pyrex® pitcher in the Eames tradition.  Thin glass keeps the weight down, while the volume is a decent quart.  Perfect for a round of martinis on the deck!  Or, as is more often the case in my deckless abode, enough water to accompany a meal of spicy chili.  Two dollars it cost me!  An eBay replacement is about $50 delivered, if you can find one!

The Coffee Trader • david liss

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ACID-FREE PAPER IS the good stuff.  The paper stays brighter.  At first, I thought my eyes were exaggerating problems associated with old, musty paperback books.  After reading the manufacturer’s warning, I’ve begun to treat my eyes to better-quality printed goods.

49491A very nice spring day last week found me on an evening walk through a small grove of cedars, up to the front door of my favorite municipal library.  A list was consulted and a selection made.  Approaching checkout, an obligatory scan was made of $2 choices on the surplus books cart

A library-quality David Liss novel produced jaw-dropping surprise.  Hardback, nice paper, the perfect gift to a buddy.  What’s so special about David Liss?  Historical fiction and thrillers wonderfully combined.

I was lent The Whiskey Rebels on CD a couple of years ago, a thriller of historical fiction. After several attempts to get past the first disc, I became hooked with a complex plot closely woven among Alexander Hamilton’s attempts to fund the fledgling Bank Of The United States, a muddy frontier hamlet called Pittsburgh, a discarded spy of General Washington, and the routine of colonial life.  I’ve since enjoyed several more of David’s novels.

The Coffee Trader I’ve read.  This novel takes us to Europe, 1659, and the life of a Portuguese Jew trading in a new product, coffee.  The drink called  The Devil’s Piss, the subversives who consume, and the schemers and rogues who make up the trading mecca of Amsterdam are all rolled up in this excellent thriller.  This copy I’ve just bought will make an excellent gift to a friend who loves history, Judaica, and reading,  And coffee.

Hidden Gems of Old City – Part I

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paul kearsley 2009 by jim sergovicPAUL KEARSLEY, DIRECT descendant of mid-1700s builder & architect Dr. John Kearsley*,  said to me a while back, “Hey, Woodman, what’s with the tile mosaic in the coffee shop bathroom?”  We had just enjoyed a private tour of Christ Church, at one time the most sumptuous church in the colonies, as well as the tallest structure in North America.  And now, down the street, we find ourselves in  Old City Coffee, where he noted the dual tourist-friendly customer washrooms, one of which sported a cut-tile mosaic.  While not exactly in the style of Isaiah Zagar, clearly there was an influence.  

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Zagar made a name for himself throughout the 1960s onward as the premier cracked-tile mosaic artist, covering vast areas with his images. This bathroom mosaic was different. The tile was cut and arranged into a private story, the interpretation being at the sole discretion of the viewer.  The key word here is cut, as in sliced on a wet-saw.  Someone put a lot of work into it.

When walking through the area years later, I noted a tasteful renovation had rendered the  bathroom to an employees-only area.  Thus, this mosaic qualifies for Hidden Treasure status.  The creator is rumored to be a wanna-be-artist plumber.

*** Paul Kearsley’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-granduncle was  Dr. John Kearsley, the architect/builder of Christ Church.  But, disappointingly, the Doctor didn’t get the commission for Independence Hall, narrowly losing out to a design by Edmund Woolley and Andrew Hamilton.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independence_Hall

THOR•LO ~ Padded Socks

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Free” and “Made in U.S.A.” were the buzz words.

NORTH CAROLINA HAS ALWAYS been one of my favorite vacation destinations, particularly the Great Smoky Mountains.  I  love the states’ abundance of flowering trees, especially fruit trees, like peach, pear, apple, & cherry.  The Garden of Eden, indeed, along with its rich history of furniture manufacturers and knitting mills.

But sadly, much of the knitting has been outsourced overseas.  In the early 1980s, Jim Throneburg set out to change that, and invented the Thorlos brand, vowing Thorlos will always be made in Statesville, North Carolina.

I hadn’t remembered hearing the name Thorlos, but when an acquaintance posted Free socks offer* on a sportsmen’s chat forum, I tuned in PDQ.    A little research revealed Thorlos makes purpose-designed socks for outdoors people, tradesmen, medical conditions [diabetes], and leisure.  Their core is developing relationships with people who want/need “engineered padded socks” which reduce blisters, pain, pressures, and moisture.  Their mission is to be the very best padded sock manufacturing company in America. e751955.png.json

The DeFeet Aireator® blog posting remains one of the most popular on AmericanToolbox. DeFeets, however, are different from Thorlos.  DeFeets started out making a light, breathable sock, and Thorlos makes a heavily padded sock.  Both great American companies, but with different focus.

My free pair came today.  I chose the hiking, crew length.  My feet will be loving these socks, from an easy start through springtime meadows to the hottest August hill-climb.  And the bonus,   I’ll be absolutely stylin’ on the trails in these sage-colored socks, with my Danner Boots.  Turns out, I do have Thorlos experience, as the knitting is recognizable.  I inherited several pairs of Thorlos when my brother passed, but never knew the brand.  His collection is pushing 15- to 20- years old, and still serviceable.

Screen Shot 2014-04-27 at 9.29.50 AM *While supplies last. One per billing address. Pay $4.90 shipping and handling. US residents only. Allow up to 4 to 6 weeks for delivery.