Craftsman Vintage Slim Tape

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2300 BLtape 1OCK OF NAUDAIN STREET, PHILADELPHIA:  In the wee hours of May 1st, 2014, a complaint of carbon monoxide went out to the Philadelphia Fire Department.  Within an hour, the block was evacuated.  Then came the explosion and 3-alarm fire.

No one died, but homes were completely destroyed.  Several people lost EVERYTHING except the clothes on their backs.  Pajamas & slippers, actually.  Within my news-vacuum, two weeks passed before I got the news:  Friends of long acquaintance had lost their home.  Photos, clothes, dishes, Christmas ornaments.  Mementos, furniture, computers, tools.

Wait, did I hear the word “Tools”?  Yep, it appears that, after an initial well-received gift of an old black-and-white photo, a jazz CD, a favorite cookbook, and a couple of crystal tumblers, there were still items of great import we could give to our friends.klein canvas bag

For this couple starting over, I chose the canvas version of a tool pouch previewed earlier on American Toolbox, along with a mint-condition vintage Sears Craftsman Slim Tape – 8′. Perfect for checking the size of an armchair or bookcase, and slim enough to disappear in a pocket. 

Quality tools: the gift that keeps on giving.

Diamond Strike Anywhere Matches

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diamond matches

WAY BACK WHEN THE WORLD WAS a simpler place, my plumbing practice concentrated on specialized services to restaurants.  Fortuitous events led a customer to give me a commercial Garland oven with 4-top range.  From this point on, I was hooked on commercial equipment for the superior construction and control one had over their work.

The Garland is gone, was traded to The Master Of Disaster for wages owed.  I did, however, acquire a countertop 2-burner APW WYOTT a few years later, sporting a healthy 30,000 BTUs per burner.  ***your typical residential cooktop might product 12,500 BTUs on a good day***

The quest for matches in a smoke-free household often impeded timely lighting of the range, usually when marinated chicken was past due in a cast iron skillet.  I finally tracked down the wooden matches DSCF0011ubiquitous throughout childhood, when gas ranges did not have standing pilots.  Surprise, surprise, surprise!  Still Made In The USA Since 1881 they are!

Naturally, we’re talking about Diamond matches. I chose Strike Anywhere Extra Long to fire up the  APW Wyott GPH-2H.  This exclusively outdoor minimal-cleanup gas cook top can now safely be lit without sacrificing the hair on one’s fingers!  While current production Wyott countertop ranges, like the GHP-2i,  feature electronic ignition, Diamond matches will find a use in any household. They store for decades.

 APW Wyott GHP-2i dual open burner countertop range features heavy-duty cast iron grates that quickly conduct heat and distribute it evenly to your pans or pots.


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.