Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Been awhile, hasn't it?

Been awhile since I have blogged..almost 2 months, so I guess it is about time I posted something. Been a stressful number of weeks, with some family health issues, vehicle mechanical problems, and trying to sell, sell, sell on eBay and elsewhere to catch up on bills. Add to that a week of cleaning out an old building, then getting ill right after, and a variety of other garden variety stresses that life tosses into your path. Lots of stuff going on, some of which are still "in progress", so I can't really blog about those things.

The building I cleaned out was a 125 year old, 2 story, brick structure which, up until the summer of 2010, contained a printing company/newspaper publisher. The paper had been printed there for pretty much the entire 125 years. The company also published materials for a WW2 pilot training center adjacent to the community. You can imagine the things the place potentially held. Sadly, the new owners of our local paper, a large company out of Vancouver, moved the operation, with the set-up, design, etc now essentially computerized, with the actual printing outsourced. They tucked the formerly large operation in smaller, rented space, and put the old building up for sale. So, when the move of the operation was made, back in the summer, the employees hauled 18 truckloads to the landfill! Despite previously expressing interest (multiple times) in assisting and/or buying any vintage items and recycling any unwanted items, I wasn't called. A friend had also expressed this same sort of interest and offer of assistance, and he also was not called.

I shudder to think what was in those loads! You see, what should have been in the building was just no longer there when I walked through it...especially the basement, which I had been dreaming about for years.

What I did find was evidence that items of historical interest and intrinsic value had been there not so long ago. Large items had been left, with a smattering of what I call "residue"....just enough evidence of what had been there to make you grit your teeth and cringe when you imagination conjours up the images.

At least I was called to do the final clean-out. Unfortunately, the real estate transaction, only gave us a grand total of 7 days to have the entire place cleared out...including 3 printing presses, weighing a total of at least 4 tons. The deal was negotiated by the parent company, who, of course, had no consideration for the stress they would cause the manager when she was told she essentially had to clear our 125 years of accumulation in 7 days...and they wanted 3 price quotes before doing so. I suspect she politely told them the equivalent of "go to hell" as far as getting quotes went!

One of the printing press was in the basement...all 1200 lbs of it. It was an antique Chandler & Price letterpress, circa 1905. Yes, I did manage to rescue it! It is a story all on its own, and is actually still playing out at this time. I will tell you the whole story of the trials and tribulations at a later date, once the story has an "end." A 1960s era Heidelberg printing press, still functioning, though in need of some reconditioning, with a $4000 - $8000 value, did end up in the local scrap dealer's possession, however. I managed to quickly salvage some pieces from it, but the 7 day time limit was just not enough time to market the it, sell it, and give enough time for a serious buyer to come and remove it properly.

I also did get 4 oak "stacking bookcase" units, which each consisted of four, 2" high drawers. They needed some re-gluing, some refinishing, and other bits of TLC, but were a bonus, and did net $300 from a furniture dealer. A "printer's cabinet" or letterpress storage cabinet also came with the deal, though was missing 2 or 3 drawers. It was still a quick flip to a fellow picker for $200. There were some other small bonuses, but such a small smattering it all is just enough to make you wonder what stuff was destroyed only months before.

That is also a bit of a tip....this whole posting, actually, is a tip. Doing clean-outs of buildings, properties, etc, is a method you can use to get vintage items for free, or even be paid to haul them away. However, you can't be afraid of working hard, and dealing with other issues that doing a "clean-up" entails, including dealing with hazardous materials properly, protecting yourself from illness due to exposure to a host of things, from black mold to industrial chemical contamination. If you do pick or clean out a building formerly owed by an old printing company, make sure you wear a decent respirator.

Why? Well, that dust is not regular ol' basement is heavy with lead. Yep, potential for lead poisoning. If you buy old typesetter's cabinets (those cabinets with narrow drawers, that usually divided into small compartments for storing Linotype) make sure they are clean, or you handle them with rubber gloves as you are cleaning them. The dust in them is most certainly lead dust left from the Linotype, for which the cabinets were made to hold. I have bought and sold hundreds of the drawers on their own. The later ones (1950s/60s) came in steel cabinets, which tend to have little value to most buyers, though with a resurgence in interest in letterpress printing, there is a growing market for them. All of those that I have sold to the public, I cleaned prior to their sale. Took them to my favourite cleaning facility...a carwash! Cleaning them that way takes some care, by the way. The bottoms of the old ones are usually a thin plywood/veneer type board, like some 1900 - 1930's crate sides. If you focus the spray on them too long, the board becomes saturated or partially saturated with water. Then they will start to warp, bubble and the layers of veneer-thin board separate...and you end up with a drawer that is pretty much firewood. You will have some extra fun if they are the type that have a paper lining on the bottom...which is sandwiched between the plywood and the dividers. You will be picking bits of dirty, wet bits of paper out of your hair & those stuck to your vehicle for days. No one said dealing in this stuff was a clean job!

Here's a few teasers of some of the "treasures" we pulled out of the place...nothing that I thought was stupendous, but then again, I'm getting jaded in my old age!  But, I guess there was roughly another $1000 or so made on the job by selling these and other things out of the place, so it wasn't a bad deal, really. My back was not happy when we were done, however.

Hopefully this will hold ya for a day or two, so I will leave it at that. Well, considering how long it has been, I will pop on another quick posting, about one of my past picking experiences, soon after this posting.

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