Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Vintage End Tables by Mersman

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I found this set of end tables recently at a thrift store. They were the perfect project to get back into the swing of things after my return from vacation.


The tables are solid wood and were manufactured by Mersman (#8713). Mersman cranked out quite a few of these tables and they are showing up frequently in thrift stores. Which surprises me because the quality is top notch. Perhaps it's the wood finish that is dating the pieces? Still, the lines are classic and really are elegant.

This pair was in fairly good condition. There were metal covers on the bottom of the legs (I'm not sure what they are called, but I call them furniture socks), but three of them were missing from the set. I considered trying to find replacements, but decided it would look just fine without them. I cleaned both tables and then lightly sanded the surface. There were a few nicks and scratches which I choose to leave as-is. I think that adds to the charm of vintage furniture.

Only 5 of the 8 furniture socks were with the set.
I simply removed them and painted the wood underneath.


I painted the tables in Old Ochre (Annie Sloan Chalk Paint). I just love the color. To me it is quiet elegance. According to Annie Sloan's website, "Old Ochre is the faded darkened cream colour seen on old French painted furniture, woodwork and door exteriors."  It almost looks like an off-white in the photos, so I took a photo of it against a white jewelry box for comparison.

Comparison of white against Old Ochre.
I actually bought the paint prior to leaving on vacation with the intention of using it on a vintage secretary desk. But I wasn't quite sure if it was the color I wanted, so I decided to test it out on a some other projects first. I'm very pleased with the color and think it will work well on the secretary.

I applied light distressing to accentuate the details and edges. The drawer pulls were also painted in Old Ochre along with a light java glaze to give them just a hint of contrast.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Jet Lag and New Projects


I was fortunate to have the opportunity to spend 10 days in London and Brussels. There was so much to see and do although there wasn't enough time to do everything.

The main reason for the trip was to visit the re-enactment for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. No, I'm not the military history buff, but my husband is, so off we went. I've posted a few photos, but don't worry I won't bore you with hundreds of vacation photos!

I was glad of the break, but was planning to jump back into furniture refinishing as soon as I got back. Then jet lag hit. Big time. So I took it easy this past week, but am ready to get back into the swing of things.

Preparing new pulls then will list it for sale.
I have two pieces that were "sale pending", but due to unforeseen circumstances the buyer wasn't able to complete the purchase. One is a chest of drawers and the other is a lovely vintage vanity. So my first order of business is to get these two pieces back on the market. However, just before I left on my trip, as I opened one of the drawers of the chest one of vintage drawer pulls snapped in two. It must have had a weak spot in it and it's time had come. So when I returned home I ordered new pulls and will work on those and get the chest ready for sale again.
Oops! New pulls just arrived.

I will re-list the vanity for sale soon.
I have a couple of big projects waiting for my attention, but those were just too big (aka heavy) for me to work on this week. I went shopping this morning and found a few items that I thought we be perfect. One is a set of Mersman end tables. Mersman manufactured quite a few of the end tables and I find them frequently, although not always in a set. This set was in fairly good condition, and I think they will look fabulous once they are painted.

I also found a charming vintage coffee table. I think it's circa 1940's. It has a Hepplewhite style drawer pull and sits on the cutest set of casters. The table isn't the same design or era of the end tables, but I think I will paint it in the same color scheme and see how that turns out.

I tried to stay on top of correspondence while I was out of the country, but my internet connections weren't always the best. I did spend time this week getting caught up though. If you sent a message or left a comment that I didn't reply to -- then please accept my apologies for the oversight.

Hopefully I'll have some finished projects to post soon. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Antique Jenny Lind Spool Bed

I didn't think twice about buying this Jenny Lind bed when I spotted it in a thrift store. I love, love, love the classic design. Also, it's fun to run your fingers up, down, and across the spools -- sort of musical, which is great for nights you have trouble falling asleep. Unless you share your room with someone else, in which case it's not so great for your roommate.


The finish on the head- and footboard was a little tired and worn. On the plus side the bed did include the original slats making for a complete set. One spool on the headboard looked as if a piece had broken off at one point in time, but the previous owner affixed it back into place and the repair was very secure. The rails are solid and extremely sturdy although they had quite a bit more wear and tear to the surface. There were casters at one time but those were gone. The wood was chipped at the end of one of the legs, so I filled that in with wood filler and sanded it smooth.
Visible repair by previous owner. 
It is visually obvious but sturdy nonetheless.
I repaired the chipped area with wood filler.

My guess is that the bed was made circa 1880's to early 1900's. The only visible nails are on the underside of the rails and the nail heads themselves were quite irregular which is a clue to its time period. There wasn't a manufacturer's name on the bed; however, the iron hardware was stamped "M. Greenwood".

The M. Greenwood & Company was founded by Miles Greenwood in Cincinnati. The company was founded in 1832 was in business into at least the 1880's. Mr. Greenwood died in 1885. His heirs may have continued the business after his death, so the bed may have been built after his death.

I planned to paint the bed white, and I knew there would be a high likelihood of tannin bleeding through. So I applied a couple of coats of shellac prior to painting. After applying the first coat of paint I did notice a few areas with bleed through, so I applied a couple more coats of shellac on those areas and that did the trick.

I ended up applying 2 to 3 coats of paint on this project. Admittedly it was labor intensive to paint all the spools on the head- and footboard. For instance, I first needed to turn the headboard upside down, paint one side, then the other. Next I turned it right side up and painted both sides. I repeated the same process for the footboard. Then repeated again for the 2nd coat. The 3rd coat was applied only to areas as needed.


Once the painting was completed I sanded the entire bed for a smooth finish. I lightly distressed some parts of the spools, but was cautious not to over-do it so it would have a naturally worn finish. I applied heavier distressing to the rails as those appeared to naturally get more wear and tear through the years. Finally I hand waxed and buffed the bed for a durable finish. It would have been much faster to use a paint sprayer, but I think the hand painted look gives it more character.

Once I finally finished the bed it dawned on me that I hadn't actually assembled the bed before. Yikes! What if after all that work it horribly wobbly after it was assembled? Luckily it was quite sturdy once assembled, whew! Surprisingly sturdy especially considering the age; it doesn't budge one bit. I think that is a testament to the quality craftsmanship of yesteryear.

Jenny Lind Spool Bed.
Minimal light distressing on the spools.

Exterior of headboard.
I used flowers for the photo props. 
Why? Because I like flowers!
Lovely :-)

Inside of headboard.
The center spool is the one with the repair.

Exterior of footboard.


Heavier distressing on the rails.

Exterior photo where the rail meets the footboard.

Interior shot of where the rail meets the footboard.

Note the heavier distressing on the rails.

Bed rail.

A full set of slats!

The slats go in any order except for the one nearest the headboard.

There was a slight notch in this board so it would fit neatly under the hardware.
It took me forever to figure that out, so I went ahead and marked it with pencil.*

Ready for a new home!
The size of the bed by modern standards is full-size, but in the past it would have been called a "3/4" size.

Approximate overall dimensions: 77 3/4" long x 53 1/2" wide; headboard 46 1/2" high, footboard 41" high. Approximate interior dimensions are 74" long x 50 1/2" wide.

*Truth be told my husband figured that out. But it sounded better in the caption to say I figured it out. My caption, my blog, ha ha.

Friday, June 5, 2015

"New-fangled" Antique Washboard

I recently purchased this antique washboard and have it offered for sale in my booth. I've never owned a washboard before, in fact I don't recall ever seeing anyone use one. I was curious about this one in particular, so I did some research and came to the conclusion that perhaps it's time to bring washboards back into fashion.

This particular washboard was manufactured by the National Washboard Company (circa 1915). It's a nice solid washboard made of wood and I believe the metal is zinc. It's obviously been used, but it's about a hundred years old, so in really good shape all things considered. It would look great displayed in a laundry room, but I think it could be put to functional use again when needed.

The ledge area reads "National Washboard Co., Chicago / Saginaw / Memphis/, SOAPSAVER, Trademark Reg US Pat Off, Made in USA, No. 196, PAT. Sept 7, 1915."

New-Fangled Washboards

 Advertisement (Repository, Canton, OH, 6/20/1906)
While doing research I found an old newspaper advertisement from 1906 for Fels-naptha soap which basically argued that you didn't need to purchase one of the "new-fangled washboards", but instead simply use Fels-naptha and wash by hand. That made me chuckle because I actually use Fels-naptha for laundry. (I also use it as a final step to clean my paint brushes so they don't get a musty smell.) By the way, there is no affiliate or sponsorship for the this product.

Increase Your Bust Size (Seriously!)

Popularity of the washboards decreased with the advent of the modern washing machines, but I was surprised to find articles about washboards being used as late as the 1970's. In one article published in The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH / Washington Post Service / 11-25-1971) it stated that a gentleman wrote to the National Washboard Company explaining that his 46 year old wife used a washboard for a few years and claimed it increased her bust size from a 32B to a 34C "with the same weight and measurements elsewhere". I have no idea if this claim is true or not!

How to Use a Washboard

Don't know how to use a washboard? Google it! Yes there are a number of videos online about how to use a washboard. But basically you place the clothing in a tub of hot water. Either rub the clothing with lye soap or add your favorite brand of detergent to the water. Let soak then rub the clothing article in a kneading motion on the washboard. The kneading process pushes the soapy water through the fabric and forces the dirt out. Next rinse in a clean tub of water. Ring out the excess water and hang to dry.  

Washboards for a Modern Society

I'm not ready to give up my washer and dryer just yet. But with today's focus on environmentally friendly alternatives using a washboard to supplement a family's laundry might be an option. The good-old washboard would also benefit anyone that doesn't have a washer/dryer or easy access to a laundromat. Would you (or do you) use a washboard?

[Research of historical newspapers conducted through Genealogy Bank]