O.C. White Lamp Restoration

•08/24/2013 • Leave a Comment

imageWe recently picked up this antique piece hoping to restore it to a working industrial modern table lamp. The O.C. White company is still in business, founded over 100 years ago by a dentist who used his tool making skills to construct his own work lights. The highly adjustable designs made their way into the growing industrialized world where they became electric workhorses, lighting machinists’ workstations in factories everywhere.

Despite their widespread use in factories, these sought after fixtures are not exactly common today. Availability continues to be hit or miss and sales online drive high prices. In addition, since most examples came out of manufacturing environments, they are not well suited for home use without some creative modifications. They typically have simple mounting hardware intended to be bolted directly to walls or work benches. Nevertheless, the ingenious cast iron swing arm and adjustable knuckle joint continue to inspire decorators with unique industrial modern design elements.

In order to convert this one into a usable item for the living room, we first had to address peeling enamel and rust. We wanted the look of oil-rubbed steel. After cleaning a century of oil, dust and rust, we finished the parts with paste wax. We replaced the socket with cast brass and applied a dark iron patina with a torch. Before wiring, we constructed a base out of a cast iron chemistry stand and steel tubing. This was the perfect complement to an already wonderful industrial design.




DIY iPhone Case

•09/25/2012 • Leave a Comment

So, you have the new iPhone 5, and like me, you were horrified to find out that the Apple Store doesn’t have any cases. Zip. Nothing. Nada. So, you wandered out to a kiosk in the mall and found someone selling cases you don’t really like. What do you do? Simple, you order your favorite case online. But what do you do with your precious iPhone in the mean time? You could just use that plastic protective coating that shipped with the phone, but that won’t protect the edges.

The Inspiration
It’s only going to be a few days before my new case arrives, and I am more worried about the back than the glass face. I have never been fond of screen protectors, but a scratch on the gorgeous, soft aluminum back from keys or carelessly setting it on a table would drive me nuts. Also, the beautiful chamfered edges are going to get dinged easily if I am not careful. I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a protector until my real case arrives. Being a stained glass artist, my first thought was to use copper foil. If you are familiar with Tiffany-style stained glass construction, you know that individual pieces of glass are rimmed with copper foil before assembly. I thought I could apply the same principle with my iPhone to protect the edges for a few days. The problem with copper foil is that the adhesive is gummy and strong, not to mention the metal could negatively affect the iPhone’s antennae.

Then, I recalled childhood art class. We had a project that involved covering an empty soup can with little torn bits of masking tape. Once covered, we would use shoe polish over the tape to make the project resemble leather. I realized that I could use masking tape in similar fashion instead of copper foil, lining my iPhone with faux leather. I would skip the shoe polish. Using painter’s tape would be even better since the adhesive will be easier to remove when my actual case arrives.

The Build
It started as a half-joke, but it worked so well, I decided others might benefit. So, I created a simple template to be used as an overlay to make the four pieces. It’s actually pretty easy because there are only a few cuts. The project should take about ten minutes, although I can do it now in about three. You will need:

Print out the PDF template first. You must ensure that it prints at 100% WITHOUT scaling. You can test your output by measuring each rectangular section of the template. They should be 2 inches wide.

Next, using your 2 inch masking tape, lay a piece down onto the clean cutting board, sticky side down. The board must be clean so as not to pickup any debris. You could use narrower tape, but you would need to do each side of the template in turn.

Now, line up the first rectangular section for the edge strips over the tape you have on the cutting board. You want to make sure the right and left edges are aligned with the sides of the masking tape underneath. Now, tape the template down over the strip you put down first. This will allow you to make your cuts without the template moving around.

Make your horizontal cuts first including each of the slits. The slits will help the tape around the corners of the iPhone.

Once all of your cuts are made (you can ignore the long outside edges since they already line up with the tape’s edges) it’s time to apply the three edge pieces. Peel your cut strips carefully off the cutting board using your knife if necessary to help lift the edges. Masking tape can stretch a little, so take care not to ruin the edges or corners.

Starting with Part B (the smallest strip), carefully apply the end without the slits onto the top of your iPhone next to the power/sleep button. Look down the face of the phone and see that the glass edge of the tape strip extends higher than the glass by about 1/16 inch. Run your finger over the flat edge of iPhone from the button across the top and around the top-left corner to the mute switch. The tape should sit about 1/16 inch from the button and from the switch, with the slits pointing toward the back.

Now, fold the front edge over the 45-degree chamfered edge of aluminum both front and back. Lay down the overlap onto the edge of the glass in front and over the aluminum in back. When you reach the slits, lay the long edge over first, then each slit in turn, each covering the corner of the previous. Carefully burnish everything straight and flat.

If you have done this correctly, you now have tape over the top-left corner just barely covering the glass, and extending about 1/8 inch over the back face.

Repeat the process above using Part A, starting at the “-” volume button and continuing around the bottom left corner. Make sure the slits are at the bottom back of the iPhone.

Finally, move on to Part C, the longest strip. This piece is the hardest because it has slits on both ends. Make sure they point to the back of the iPhone. Don’t worry about the slits at first. Focus on getting the strip aligned properly with the power button and 1/16 inch above the face. Keeping it straight, lay down the tape until it rounds the bottom right corner. Fold over the side first, then worry about the slits, doing one after the other as before.

The second section of the template is simply a notched rectangle. Use the cutting board technique as above to line up the template to make your cross cuts and notched corner.

When you apply the back pieces, it should overlap the edge strips all the way around, and over the bottom edge 1/16 inch. If you misaligned your edge pieces above, the 2 inch back strip may not be wide enough to cover all of the aluminum. Burnish the back piece flat and carefully flatten all of the edges. Pay special attention to the bottom edge where it overlaps the chamfer and extends toward the lightning connector.

Now that it’s done, it sorta looks and feels like leather. Right? Ok, it feels like tape, or as a friend said, it’s “Urban Redneck”. Still, I think it will work in a pinch. Keep in mind that this “case” isn’t designed to protect your iPhone from impacts. It’s merely a scratch-prevention technique that is only temporary. Sure, it may peel up, but hopefully by then you will have a real case to protect your investment.

Perching Parrot Repair

•08/14/2011 • Comments Off on Perching Parrot Repair

A friend of the family presented a parrot with a broken wing. This was an interesting project because the resulting piece is more sculptural than a typical window or sun catcher. The parrot has at its base a steel nut to which a threaded rod is attached. The nut and the rod were supposed to be soldered into the structure of the piece but over time, this joint became unsound or perhaps it was never strong enough to begin with.

The weakness became a problem because the rod is used to perch the figure inside a bamboo hoop which is suspended from monofilament. At some point, either from wind or a fall, the rod snapped apart breaking some glass in the process. We found a suitable replacement using Kokomo glass with green and red that worked nicely into the design.

The outer border was also done in “H” channel lead. In this case, “U” channel would have been more appropriate because it would give the figure a smooth edge. We decided to simply rebuild the entire piece from scratch using new lead throughout and taking advantage of the opportunity to make the edge much nicer using lead with a “U” cross-section. We also added rigid, hidden reinforcements using thin but strong copper designed to run inside the channel next to the glass edge to provide internal strength. Finally, replaced the monofilament with brass chain. This sentimental piece should now last years to come.

Victorian Sidelight Repair

•08/03/2011 • Comments Off on Victorian Sidelight Repair

A previous client returned with another repair. This time, a clear sidelight had a couple broken pieces. The window itself is modern construction done in a victorian style using round gems and a few bevels. The glass that was originally used was slightly seeded, meaning it contained an occasional line, ripple or air bubble. Matching glass is available, produced using traditional blowing techniques.

We removed the broken pieces and cleaned up the edges to prepare for replacement pieces. This being a Tiffany style window utilizing copper foil instead of led came, the process of restoring a few broken pieces is easier.

Birds and Floral Shade Repair

•04/05/2011 • Comments Off on Birds and Floral Shade Repair

In April of 2011, a customer brought in a beautiful shade that was in desperate need of repair. The shade was likely an import, but the pattern was intricate and the glass was very nice. However, the construction—at least from a structural perspective—was lacking the proper reinforcements necessary to hold its own weight. As we have seen in previous examples, the heat cap on imports can be a weak point. Unfortunately, the integrity of the entire shade begins with the strength of the connections at the cap. Without solid connections, the solder won’t stand a chance over time. Even worse, a shade this size with inadequate reinforcement wire will pull itself apart.

In this example, the solder was attached only at the edges of the brass heat cap. Because the shade had no wire to reinforce its structure, once these tiny contact points cracked around the cap it allowed the rest of the shade to move and deform. Copper foil had pulled completely away from the glass in many places. Miraculously, not a single piece cracked, but the huge gaps left the shade slightly misshapen and in no condition to place upon a lamp base without catastrophic results.

We immediately removed the cap which was practically dangling by just a few pieces of foil and solder. Next, we carefully removed any loose pieces of glass and cleaned the adjacent pieces of any hanging bits of foil and solder. Complete disassembly was cost prohibitive, but we could get away with restoring the pieces we removed. They would have to be re-foiled and soldered back into place. But, before we could reassemble them, we needed to coax the shade back into its original shape. To do so, we placed it upon a fiberglass mold. With gentle pressure, we were able to bend and somewhat reverse what time and gravity had done. New solder and reinforcements would hold the shape and maintain its structure.

With the loose pieces re-foiled and using the fiberglass mold for support, we re-positioned each piece of glass and reconstructed the top of the shade. It was finally time to address the heat cap. We polished the cap down to bare brass to get good adhesion with the solder and ran a thick bead around the inside. Yet, even this would not be enough to prevent the problem from recurring. We attached 14-gauge copper wire to the heat cap extending down into the shade itself to help support the shade’s weight. Bending the wire strengthens it as well as allows it to be positioned around the pieces so as not to cast a shadow from the inside.

With the assembly complete, the shade was cleaned and new patina was applied to darken the fresh solder to match the rest. Overall, it was a good project and another shade was saved. See the process below and click for larger images:

Sun Catcher Geometrics

•12/14/2010 • Comments Off on Sun Catcher Geometrics

Commissioned as a series of holiday gifts, these sun catchers feature wonderful variations that can be found in just a single, simple piece of opalescent art glass. Designed as basic geometrics, the assortment of circles, squares and triangles emphasize the color rather than depicting a specific scene. However, given the number of round examples, some of them feature glass selected to resemble planets, and a few even feature smaller satellite “moons” attached. The project was done as an entire series of more than 35 items, but they were separated as each became gifts for lucky individuals.