Summit Sips Turns 101

•11/01/2010 • Leave a Comment

Some of you may not realize that I maintain another website called Summit Sips. It’s a cocktail blog running on WordPress with a custom theme similar to the technology behind the Studio Hanson website. Recently, Summit Sips published its 101st article. Breaking 100 posts may not seem like much to a micro-blogger or someone who is posting one-line updates multiple times per day, but the posts on summitsips.com are more substantial. Most of them break five hundred words and many are over a thousand. Each article typically contains several photographs as well.

I don’t normally do any cross-promotion of these sites, but I consider the Summit Sips project a successful example of what can be done with this framework. Given enough enthusiasm about the subject matter, it’s possible to build a respectable following while providing useful reference material to the online community. As the site’s sole administrator and content contributor, I have enjoyed building and maintaining the technology as well as writing all of the articles.

If you are interested in mixology or just want to see an example of a clean layout to present informative content, I encourage you to check out Summit Sips. Sites like this with changing content are more likely to appear in web search results, and using WordPress to manage the content gives you access to thousands of plugins and enhancements that can make a site even better. With very little in startup expenses, Studio Hanson can build a similar site for you or your company. It doesn’t have to be a blog—but there are proven benefits to maintaining a company news feed to keep your content fresh.

Stairwell Fixture Built and Installed

•05/30/2010 • Leave a Comment

The cluster chandelier lights the way with alabaster globes

This past winter I had the opportunity to tour the Purcell-Cutts house, a Prairie School home in Minneapolis that is now preserved and maintained by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Inspired by one of the original light fixtures in the house’s stairwell, I decided to build a replica using raw brass parts and vintage wiring.

If you have ever toured the historic property, you probably remember the fixture. It’s a unique chandelier composed of five 8-inch alabaster glass globes, each suspended like a pendant from it’s own cord. The cords themselves vary in length and emanate from a single fixture on the ceiling. The globes are arranged in a cascade that resembles a small cluster of grapes.

Gorgeous torch-applied brown verdigris patina on socket/fitters and fixture canopy

Tracking down the alabaster globes was my first challenge, and I was lucky to find a Chinese manufacturer exporting exactly what I wanted. Once I knew the dimensions of the required fitter for the globes, I started designing the fixtures themselves. I used all brass hardware to build each component. Five heavy-duty cast brass sockets attached to fitter caps would hold the glass globes, and a brass canopy would conceal the cluster body that I designed to safely hold the pendant cords and hide the numerous electrical connections.

The wire itself is a kind of bungalow cord made of modern, insulated electrical wire braided inside a vintage cotton sheath. The green and yellow threads of cotton resemble cords found on early electric irons and this was the perfect style for my fixture.

Installed fixture from below

Each component started as raw yellow brass. In order to achieve the proper vintage look, they required a chemical patina. Besides the design process, patination was the most labor-intensive aspect of the project—but the time invested really paid off. I achieved a gorgeous brown and verdigris coloration visible in the images here. After chemically darkening the brass, the torch-applied “hot” patina give each part the look of age.

French Door Windows Repaired

•05/12/2010 • Leave a Comment

After an unfortunate mishap, I got a call to repair the rectangular window pane in a French door. Each section of the door contains a glass panel assembly with several rows and columns. Likely original to the late 1800s house, the panels in this bedroom door matched others leading to the porch.

Constructed of zinc came and 4×6 inch clear glass sections, I had the opportunity to repair two of these windows, as there was another section in the porch door that had a cracked piece. Repairing a zinc window requires that the broken piece be “liberated” from the rest of the panel so that new glass can slide into its place. That means the zinc has to be cut or desoldered. In this case, I chose to use a thin cutting wheel on the dremel.

Removing the taped, broken piece

Once removed, the broken piece (held together with tape) can be used as a pattern to cut the replacement. Because these windows were antiques, I used restoration glass. This glass is intentionally inconsistent with varying thickness and occasional seeds. It’s a modern product that is mouth-blown and flattened, designed specifically for restoration to match existing old glass.

With the glass replaced, the cut joints must be soldered together and any areas that were disassembled must be reputtied. After completing the repairs, I applied a patina to the metal which disguises shiny new solder and returns the window to an aged look.

Panel repaired and ready for reinstallation

Patina: Tiffany Student Lamp Base Replica

•12/05/2009 • Leave a Comment

Restoration complete, this double student lamp base features a gorgeous brown and verdigris patina typical of authentic Tiffany metalware.

About a year ago, I stumbled upon two lamp bases in a local antique store. According to the store owner, these were replicas made to look like actual Tiffany lamps. Antiques in their own right, such bases are rare today, even though they are not actual Tiffany. Close examination of the detail and a comparison with books and auction catalogs revealed that these are excellent copies of a particular style that was created at Tiffany Studios in New York, making them worthy of the attention it would take to restore them. The biggest problem was that they were shiny, yellow brass which would never do.

After some early experimentation with patination formulae, I wired up and sold one of the bases on eBay at a decent price. I found out later that it went to a Tiffany collector who had some very expensive shades he wanted to display. He told me that authentic Tiffany bases like this are rare, so many collectors also seek replicas.

With some regret, I realized I should have kept the first base, and I decided I would work harder on the second to make a closer match to an original Tiffany. After about a year of research and experimentation, I finally developed a process I could use to obtain the proper greens and browns and complete the look so common among metalware that came out of Tiffany Studios 100 years ago.

Creating a patina like this is a time-consuming process involving chemicals and a blow torch. As anyone who creates sculptures in bronze will tell you, getting good results from a chemical patina is an art in and of itself. Although other colorization techniques exist, by repeatedly heating the metal parts and applying certain chemicals to the hot surface, it’s possible to develop the apple-like variations of rusty red/brown and verdigris effects over copper alloys. I used bell sockets from a company that specializes in Tiffany restoration as a color reference. It’s hard to believe that these parts were shiny yellow brass beforehand.

Using a hot application process rather than a cold spray technique stimulates a chemical bond with the metal and creates a durable patina that stays put, even after a wax polish. Buffed to a satin sheen, the surface is complete and the fixture can be wired and lit. I use cotton-covered twisted cord and an antique bakelite plug to complete the look. Now, all that remains is selecting glass shades or creating them from stained glass!

Beveled Upper Sash Restoration

•11/15/2009 • Leave a Comment

Weakened and sagging, the bevels are about to fall out of this window in a house in St. Paul, MN.

Studio Hanson is restoring a beveled window for a house in St. Paul. The upper sash and centerpiece of a three part installation of bevels had nearly fallen completely out of its frame. The rounded rectangular section, bordered by 8 long bevels, had sagged in so that the bottom lead line was actually leaning onto the sash thumb latch. Nearly all of the border lead had cracked, but miraculously, none of the glass had broken or fallen.

The thick glass bevels contributed to the window’s survival. In order to repair the sagging section, the window had to be removed, and doing so would be a treacherous maneuver. Due to the fragile state of the window with bevels completely pulled free from their lead channels, there was no way the window would be moved, let alone removed, without collapse. With only a few snips of lead, I opted to carefully lift the center rectangular assembly free from the border glass followed by carefully lifting out each of the border bevels.

Left with only the wooden frame, we were able to work this free without the risk of damage to the glass.

Now, fully repaired, all lead junctions have been re-soldered and the panel has been reframed with zinc. New lead, putty and rebar will sustain this window for another century!

After Thanksgiving, we intend to make minor repairs to matching sidelight windows where the rebar has failed.

Restoration complete and ready for installation.

Won Ribbon at MN State Fair

•08/29/2009 • Leave a Comment

I recently entered the Tiffany Snowball (or Hydrangea as it is often called) into the Minnesota State Fair. I received a ribbon for my efforts. It felt good to see there was interest in this kind of work. Here’s a nice image of onlookers, captivated my my lamp: