Friday, November 25, 2011

Always give credit where credit is due!

I admit, the previous blog post was inspired by something else online. I give credit  when credit is due. As you may realize, I tend to be in my own little world over here on the Canadian prairies, and generally stick to  relating my own stories, advice, opinions, etc.

A recent video posted by a vet of the "Storage Auction" business prompted/inspired me to do this particular posting.It just got me thinking, and realized that I had not done a posting on the topic myself, as to how it relates to the antiques biz.

Glendon Cameron (whose aptly named website is garnering a substantial amount of traffic) posted this video. It is one of many he has done that I recommend watching, some of which I have found to be good for a grin or 3, and I am sure you will find others contain both entertainment and invaluable info, advice, insight, etc that I have not covered here. Also good to look through another "junk biz" vet's eyes and learn from their mistakes and experiences. He is from the Atlanta, Georgia, USA area, which tints his experiences with a major-USA-urban tone.

If you are a newbie to picking, you should start soaking up as much info from "junk biz" vets who are graciously offering up free info, advice, etc..and do not concentrate on just veteran antiques pickers, but pay attention to all sorts of "junk biz" people. Your education can be gleaned from all sorts of sources you would not expect. Heck, do a search on you tube for "old junk" or "picking antiques" and see what pops up.  But, like your picking runs, be selective and use your gut instinct as to your choice of videos...there  some absolute garbage you will need to sift through.

Just beware there are many folks out there, especially online, claiming to be long time pickers, storage auction buyers, dealers, etc, etc....and who in reality are far from being veterans. 2 years doing some garage sales on the weekends does not make you a vet in this business. Some of these self-proclaimed "vets" of the biz  are not even really involved in, nor have they ever been involved in the "junk biz".  Tech geeks trying to capitalize on the web's money making opportunities via advertising and such, do create these sorts of sites to try and suck you into their pages are abound. Many are set up solely to tempt you to click on advertising links, glean your email address to sell to spammers, etc,   Many of these are even set up utilizing directly plagiarized, or even verbatim copies of someone else's writings and info. A few are even so bad they make no sense what-so-ever when you read them, perhaps have been created by someone who is not fluent in the very language the page is created in. Others are thinly veiled/modified/reworded info lifted from true "junk biz" veterans' blogs, sites, books, shows, etc. Copyright infringement galore happens online, so make sure the info you are getting is from the real source! 

 I can tell you ONE thing that will tip you off right away as to their legitimacy.

A "poser" will usually infer/tell you that the business is EASY.

Any vet worth his/her salt will tell you that it is NOT EASY.

If you want easy money, go buy a lottery ticket....and pray. That is your best option.

This is real life. There is no such thing as "easy money".

You will have to expend SOMETHING to get that money. That "something" could be your own money,  or maybe some physical effort, mental effort, an idea, muscle, sweat, blood, etc.

Now, picking antiques (etc) is certainly not the same as buying storage units, but my advice is to widen your horizons.  As you well know by my posting, I am as likely to pick up a pile of dirty, scrap copper pipe as I am a nice vintage porcelain Coca-Cola sign.

They are equal in one way, as far as I am concerned.

Both equal CASH to me.

And, quite frankly, the copper is actually far easier to sell...and likely will cost me nothing (as far as cash) to obtain, or very little, in comparison to the Coca-Cola sign. Heck, I might even get paid to take the "old junk"  away.

That line of thinking will be expanded on, detailed, described, elaborated on (etc) in a chapter of one of the books I am (attempting) on writing.

Yep, that is correct, am still in the process of writing a book. Can't give away all my trade secrets in this blog!

Don't Get Too Involved

We humans are generally a pretty darn curious bunch.

If you are a really curious type, that can work in your favor.

Having that urge to know what is behind a door, around a corner, underneath a pile of junk, etc, can lead you to treasure.

It can also mess with your head....

One of the things I discovered early in my pickin' career was that there is a fine line between "research"and "obsession".

When you are dealing with situations like sorting/digging through estates of deceased persons, it is sometimes tempting to take some time to read personal letters, diaries, etc.

Frankly, sometimes that is actually something I'd recommend doing.  This is how fantastic "true story" movies get made, books are written, mysteries are solved (and created), etc.

But, there is a fine line between "research"/"due diligence" and "obsession".

Someones innermost fears, confessions, desires, etc, are quite likely things that person did not intend to ever reveal to another soul. the opposite may well be true in the minority of cases.

Perhaps the individual wanted the world to know certain things, but could only reveal them after their passing.  Many times this is owing to living a lifetime with some piece of knowledge they could not speak of when they were alive.  Those pieces of information, say, something like having been witness to/participants in some horrific war crime, murder, theft, etc may have created a burden that built up emotional scarring in their shadowy corridors of their mind.

Usually, however, the letters, diaries, documents, etc of most people are pretty "blase." Videotapes, home movies, audio recordings etc are similar, but require some sort of additional effort beyond manipulating paper.

The day to day lives of those who lived through other eras can be interesting, and reading their writings really can open a window in the fabric of time allowing you to see what it was like living in World War 2 England,  the "dirty thirties", a life of hard rock miner, a musician, etc...a peak into the past. Sometimes the past is not that far past....could be a  last week, allowing you to walk a block in the deceased person's shoes.

Thing is,  you can VERY easily get WAY too involved in a person's life.  Reading bare, raw emotions written as words on a page by another can put you right into that person's head, and your mind becomes intimately involved.  You may even learn things you really did not want to know.

It can be like watching a movie that suddenly has a scene that is imprinted on your mind, and there is no way to erase it. A particular clip in John Water's cult classic "Pink Flamingos" left one of those images branded in the folds of my memory....And no, it isn't the one where Divine eats dog crap, either. I am not really a John Water's was one of those "arty" movies you get dragged to see by friends, some with good intentions, trying to expand your intellectual horizons. Or, they may  just want to enjoy the thrill of shocking the shit out of pun intended!

If you do find assorted documents that have some historical value, or maybe the blockbuster "true story" movie or book/biography that is potentially the find of the decade...well, ok, fine, read away. Figure out what you need to keep using the info on the pages, and go from there. It is surprising the "regular everyday items that can suddenly be very important in the telling of a story, confirmation of an event, etc.

Who know that that old $15 fountain pen, which you packed up yesterday.... the one you found in the junk drawer in the kitchen? A little reading reveals that it was used for the signing of a historic document.

AND one of the signer's included was John F Kennedy, AND the pen was given to him by Marilyn Monroe.

AND you have documentation in your hot little hands that tells of how it was accidently left behind in a cab, which was being driven by the deceased when he was working as a taxi driver.

AND he picked up a man who turned out to be a disguised JFK.  The candid photo with the letter, JFK autograph on the period dollar bill really adds credibility. Only further reading tells you of the fingerprint work on the pen stashed in a baggie had been done some years later by a policeman buddy, and the 3 different prints have been proven to be those of Marilyn Monroe, JFK and the deceased!

AND more reading reveals that those very documents are hidden in a secret compartment.... of the very desk you are sitting at!

$$$$$ KA-CHING! $$$$$

Yes, doing a bit of that sort of visual/mental digging, reading, and research can pay off. Maybe it won't be a score like the fantasy situation above, but it the writings could result in a lead to other treasure. Perhaps you find out that the deceased went to a baseball game with an uncle as a child, and describes how Joe Demagio autographed the 4th page of the child's scribbler.
Oddly enough, the description of the type of scribbler matches the stack of tattered old notebooks you just put in the recycling pile.  Some of that sort of "life" writings can be as good as a pirate's treasure map!

BUT, if you find the writings consist of the usual day to day existance of an average person, with the usual ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs, you might want to just dispose of the items, maybe saving the stamped envelopes for collector purposes, the "certificate of achievement" due to it'd related collectible in whatever field, (etc) and get rid of the rest.

Getting all wrapped up in other people's lives whom you do not know may give you insight into them, their actions, their possessions, and their former earthly surroundings, but it can also make a mess of your own psyche.  Re-living tragedies (which is what people tend to write about far more often than triumphs) which occurred in someone elses life, consumed via intimate ways such as reading diaries, trigger serious symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc in some people. 

A thick skin for such things is something you will need to develop if you get really hands on, and digging through physical remnants of someones lifetime.  It can also be disturbing, and you do sometimes need to take a step back and say "whoa." Sometimes you need to take a break, or a long walk to clear your head.

I can assure you that the VAST majority of you out there really do not want to read a  highly descriptive, multi-page manifesto of someone's sexual fantasies involving the local Lion's Club president and the local zoo's resident sea lion....

It can also be a heck of a time waster. Say you are going through an estate that you HAVE to have cleared out of a house within a week. You find a shoebox of love letters, evidence of a torrid extramarital affair the deceased had...and your reading of the 400 plus pages of back-and-forth lust and drama takes over your entire day.

* POOF *

You realize that your take-out pizza is now cold, your beer or soda (or both) are warm, the sun has set...8  hours have disappeared. To top off the loss of work time,  you absorbed/experienced someone else's stress, heartbreak, anxiety, desire, confusion, etc...piling it up in your mind....and none of it even belongs to you.

Hopefully you can let it go...but odds are that many items you handle in the estate will trigger something you read to flash into your mind.

AND now you have one less day to do what YOU need to do.   Break away from it....because a plumber and his male accountant lover's escapades is really not what you need to focus on. AND when you find the wife's box of love letters to her BDSM lesbian dominatrix with the school lunch counter job, toss them out in the shred/recycle pile, too. 

Make good use of your time. Bad use of your time involves reading a woman's diary about the daily beatings she received at the hands of her drug addicted husband, who had been sexually abused by the Parish priest....yes, she really thought she could "fix" him....yes it is tragic, but just toss that diary aside.

Those parties involved have been dead and gone for 60 years. That time you spend reading really could  be spent finding some really cool, really valuable stuff.   If the writings have some relevance to some criminal case, reveals potential living victims,  etc, well, then you have a moral call to make, as you may have important evidence that may need to come to light.

There are lots of great stories out there, and those out of the ordinary that need to be told should be told.

The majority of stories out there should be just laid to permanent rest with the deceased.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Picker Hokey-Pokey

I’m not much of a dancer. My wife refuses to dance with me to anything faster than “waltz” speed.  I also dislike waltzing…not a big fan of that sort of “classic” dancing overall. I do like dancing to rock ‘n’ roll, the whole air guitar thing, rockin’ it out to 1980s hair metal, old school punk, that sort of thing. However, as I mentioned, there is a reason my wife does not want me to dance. It just looks weird, I guess…not that everyone else on the floor are potential “dance with the stars” pros, either.

In Manitoba, we have events we call ”Socials.”  The prairie social seems to be a very much mid-Canada event, and most people who grew up elsewhere tend to look puzzled when asked if they want to buy a ticket to a social.   I’m a picker, so I am very used to confused looks, which comes with insisting and trying to convince people that the “trash” in their shed is worth me taking a look at.

Socials are usually organized by a small group of people in order to raise funds for various things. Tickets are sold to the event, which normally consist of a dance and a bar (you buy tickets, and tickets are exchanged for your choice of alcohol.) Sometimes goods, gift certificates, and other prizes are donated by businesses & individuals, which are dispose of via a silent auction, random draw, etc. More money is raised via ticket sales (to attendees) for those prizes, also.

More often than not, much later in the evening, in the area of 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM,  usually some sort of food is served. Mmmmm....FOOOD......gooood....

Most of the socials I attended years ago served things in the range of cold cuts, cheese, salami, buttered bread, that sort of thing. However, the edibles served these days can vary from place to place and the choices of the organizers, whose food tendency could be based on their culture, background, ethnic roots, personal choices, known preferences of the bulk of the attendees, theme of the social, donations (think beef in ranch/farming areas, fish where fishing is the main industry, assorted meat & cheese selections at a butcher's daughter's wedding social, venison (deer meat) where hunting is an avid past time, etc, etc.)

 Wedding Socials are common here, as one of the ways to raise some money for the bride and groom. Good causes are regularly boosted in their fundraising efforts by the utilization of socials. Families who lose one or both parent(s), those whose homes succumb to flames, people in need of surgery or other medical care (those that our systems will not or can not cover)  etc, etc…basically anything you can think of that there is a need for money to be raised, a Social likely has been held in an attempt to raise money.
Really should not have gone off on that tangent….now I am hungry, and craving a rum & Coke…or even a bottle of beer…and it is only 9:50 AM.

OK, so what does the Hokey-Pokey have to do with picking?

Maybe these pics of yours truly working will give you a clue:

What am I doing? Pulling something towards me for a better look, as well as distributing my weight over a larger area. The floor just beyond my feet looks solid to the untrained eye....but it is completely rotten, and is barely holding the weight of the few things on top of it. 

Some of these make it obvious that I am referring to the motions, positions, movements, gestures, etc that are part of the way I search for "treasure".  Yes, some are quite bizarre looking, geeky, weird, the 7th from the bottom...what is with my gloved pinky finger up in the air, eh?!

Believe it or not, all these photos represent the picker hokey-pokey.....the movements, stance, balancing, etc required to pick WELL.

Take #1, as an example. This was an old blacksmith's shop, and the roof had collapsed. Sure, I am just poking my head through the window hole, no big deal, right?

If you have been following my blog, you know what is next: YES, it IS a big deal....or at least potentially could be.  Old windows that no one has touched for eons, or even those recently broken/damaged, all could well be lethal, or in the least cut your picking short while you run to the hospital for stitches.

AH, so you think you are really tough, and if you were to get cut, you would keep right on pickin'?
Figure you can use your the blood trail to find your way back through the maze of rooms in that basement?

Well, that is NOT the point. Blood stains are not something you want to have on that "barn fresh" 1920s Wrigley's gun paper poster, or all over that fantastic, minty Victorian crazy quilt you are pulling out of that old trunk in that attic.

Plus, it is hard to pick things up with blood running over your fingers, see things when it is dripping into your eyes...and it is darn distracting when it runs down your neck or when it is squishing around your toes in your boots.

Peering through any window does not mean I have just stuck my head through it without first looking closely at the situation. It means I likely have looked critically at it and observe things like chunks of broken glass, loose frame parts, glass (whole and pieces) sitting in panes above with little but gravity as their only fastener, window frames that are the only real structure holding up the top portion of a wall, etc, etc.

I also personally do not want to re-enact the scene in the Patrick Swayze flick GHOST.....ok, enough of the snickering!! I saw it when it came out, while I was out on a date, ok?!

You know the scene......

Yeah, YOU! The macho guy in the back!  YES, YOU! Don't bother even trying to act incredulous!  I know darn well you slipped your girlfriend's copy into the machine and watched it when she was away!

Yes, the scene where the villain bites it, via the window attempting to do a guillotine imitation.

Not my desire in life to be impaled on anything, thank-you.

General contortionist-esque moves are something I tend to do while I am checking out places, though as I get older, I try to examine the situation/location for less back twisting ways to access some spots. I have crawled into tight spots where I had to crawl backwards in order to get back out, duck walked through cellars with narrowing tunnels, contort into forgotten/hidden attic spaces from the more modern additions' attics, done the limbo through cellar openings whose trap doors would only open just enough to slide between it and the floor's edge....and I could go on and on and on....

The pictures really do represent what I will call the "Picker Dance.".  If you are a GREAT (and smart...and SAFE) picker, you will use your whole body when picking, brain (knowledge), eyes, ears, sense of touch, etc.  And, for things like your sense of touch, I mean pretty much all over your body, not just your hands...every step in an attic or even on what seems like solid ground should be something you are aware of.  You need to not just see, but also hear and feel the tell tale give/creaks/cracks of rotten/split/rodent-gnawed floor boards floating on nothing but 15 feet of thin air below which lies  scrap metal with spear and pike like protrusions laying about the barn floor.

Same goes for what you'd normally think was a simple, almost casual stroll through any unknown/unfamiliar/obscured patch of ground.

 That grass you just stepped on that gave a little is growing over the top of a well with nothing but a cork-like plank preventing you from plunging 20 feet  down a well. Or, that slight "give" you felt as your foot hit the ground is an old enameled steel sign flexing slightly as they do, where it has been hidden by mat of grass that has reclaimed the surface real estate.

Fences of all kinds are their own little experience. If you are male, and have ever straddled/stepped over a barb wire fence, you also may have experienced the inadvertent use of other parts of your anatomy to recognize some potential harm.

Lots of hazards out there, always need to keep your wits about you. Will leave you with some pics of  the insides and some outsides of various places I have picked.

******* NOTE OF CAUTION! *******  I am a "professional" with many years experience under my belt, and many of these places I would not have attempted entering, salvaging/picking when I first started in the business. DO NOT be fool hardy and attempt to pick  places similar to these without knowing the full extent of the obvious and, most importantly, the hidden and potentially life threatening dangers involved.

Where am I?  
In the back storage space of a walk in attic.
 What am I doing?
Pulling something towards me for a better look with a piece of wood.
I am also shifting and distributing my weight over a larger area. 
The floor just beyond my feet looks solid to the untrained eye....but it is completely rotten, and is barely holding the weight of the few things on top of it.
You see sunlight on the back right because the roof is rotted away entirely in that spot. 
 The weight of 2 chimneys diagonally across from one another, both of which were starting to crumble, did not make this area more stable, either. 
I happened to have been in this attic 15 years prior, and it was rock solid then. Mother Nature does not waste any time in her reclamation process!

View of a barn from half way between it and a road. Looked pretty intact from the road, through the trees obscuring some of the view. But, I could see it was not as it initially appeared.

DEFINITELY not as intact as it appeared from the road.  The  half-wall you see we could make sway with not much effort...when a slight breeze came up, it started to sway in a quite graceful, but menacing motion. When the breeze turned to a mild wind, we called it quits for the afternoon. Winds got much stronger in the evening, and we expected the wall to be in pieces on the ground when we came back the next day. Surprisingly it wasn't.
Main floor of same barn. No movement inside, everything still seemed "solid"...crooked, but solid.
 However, I knew to retain a heightened sense of awareness when I ventured into this area.
Closer look at the main beam reveals how poor the structure/stability of this barn actually is.
Any creaking and cracking sounds we made note of constantly!
View of roof collapsed into/onto the loft floor. Can you say "lumber landslide?"

Another barn's loft. Yes, looks solid, but between super dry and thin planks, rotten spots, and holes made in the floor by previous owners, I walked only on the spots where each beam was. Looks can be very deceiving....and definitely were in this loft

Ah-Ha! Attic entrance into a building built beside this barn!

View of my intended path for a leisurely stroll through an old, abandoned, clean looking farmyard

Ah, what is that in the grass?! Could it be TREASURE? Good thing I was looking where I was walking, I might have missed it!

Not treasure! Could have been tragedy, tho!

Another well on the same property. Within a 50' x 50' area we encountered 3 wells that were "obvious" like the two pictured. These were more "modern". I am positive there are others there, as this farm site dated to easily 1890, but have a distinct lack of interest in dying at the bottom of a well, so I had no interest in walking on top of/over/very close to the other less obvious impressions I noticed in the ground where I suspected others were.



Ok, here is the test....all you have to do is choose which photo(s) is/are of REAL oak. Now, I have made this EASY. The photos are close-ups, and that should be the way you look at things before you believe what you are being told.....CLOSE-UP.







So, are you done yet?

Here are the answerS! 

All except #1 & #2 are real oak...and 3 to 7 are all actually FUMED OAK, also. The real deal.

#2 is FAKE oak....a ink printed grain stamped on to another wood(s). Many times these "fake oak" pieces are actually made of several types of wood, whatever was cheapest/available. Actually, most furniture has at least a couple different woods involved in the construction, but these "fake oak" items sometimes will have a few difference pieces of wood as part of one stripping the "fake oak" stamped-on grain may result in a piece of furniture that will look goofy as heck if you go to stain & varnish it. Sometimes they will turn out ok looking. In these cases, the piece was likely varnished before the fake grain was applied. However, some manunfacturers did not varnish the piece prior to stamping on the grain, so upon stripping the piece you will end up with a ghostly, grey/black inked image of the printed grain, soaked deep into the wood. Get the paint out, because that is now the only way you can make the thing salable.

I see so,me of you are still looking back at some of the pictures, muttering in indignation.
So, if you haven;t figured out the odd color/style of #6 & #7, I will clarify something about those two. Including these two was a bit of a trick on my part. Some eagle eyed pros might have noticed why I included them, but I will still explain for those who are looking stupified.

 They are close-ups of a "grain painted" cupboard I have. The bottom half of the cupboard started out life as a fumed oak piece (a buffet more than likely.) However, a previous owner repurposed it earlier in its life, building a cabinet to sit on top, likely in the 1920s or 30s, to create a kitchen cabinet.  They then grain painted the whole thing to match.

 "Grain painting" is a technique of applying paints/varnish to create a faux woodgrain. It is indeed fumed oak underneath the painted finish, and you can tell that by the one photo where there is wear from handling over 80 years.  This piece is worth more as a complete cabinet, than trying to rescue the buffet portion. It is very country, folky and primitive.

It is one of the few types of "frankenstein" pieces that is actually worth more than the original item. No, no, Igor isn't anywhere around....By "frankenstein" I mean that it is made of more than one piece of furniture, and is not anywhere  near original. It has been heavily modified or "has been screwed with" (a phrase which I personally prefer!)

Now, if you picked #1 as real oak....


Wrong! It is a 1980s era piece of junk, that uses printed paper applied over sawdust where did I put that dunce cap.....

#2 is the FAKE oak. I have heard it called "stamped oak", "painted oak", "printed oak", "grained oak", among others...all basically legitimate terms, but can be deceiving/confusing to the unaware....sort of like Ricardo's Chrysler Cordoba's Soft Corinthian Leather.

Oh, wait, you didn't know?

*sigh*....Ok, for those of you who still are confused....Mr Montalban's car's quality leather is actually VINYL.

And if you don't know who Ricardo Montalban is...well, you are just too young.....hey, wait, what was that????

Hmmm, weird, I must be hearing things....Have banged my head on too many beams in attics....

Now, while the under 25 crowd is confused, and hitting Google and Wikipedia, we'll continue...

Number 5 is sort of a trick one, also.

It is fumed oak VENEER. Real, fumed, oak...but only a thin layer of it.  In this case it is actually been applied to oak boards, but sometimes is applied to other woods.

You should also take a close look at #7. You see, the fuming process only darkens the exposed grain. Goo deep enough (like the wear on this piece), and you have got regular old oak. SO, if you plan on refinishing a a fumed oak piece, do it with CAN sand/scrap away the value! True fumed oak items tend to be worth more than the identical item made of un-fumed oak, so take it easy with that belt sander!!!

So, hope this lesson wasn't too dry for you, but, face it, if you didn't pick out the true oak pieces, you needed to read this!

And, if you picked all the right photos, well, you've won a trip to an beautiful island......

"Da Plane, Boss, Da Plane!"

Friday, November 4, 2011

IT LIVES! ---- 1977 GMC Vandura Motorhome/picker-mobile project

We interrupt this series of blog postings to bring you an important bulletin....


The GMC Vandura motor home RUNS LIKE A TOP!  Spent a few hours at it's rest site of the last 10 or so years, and, considering it hadn't been started for 7 years, it ended up starting fairly easily.

Took an hour of figuring out a few things, adapting the top post battery I had to the side post cables it had, and after 3/4 of a can of starting fluid, and a couple gallons of gas in each gas tank (one apparently has a solenoid issue, thus no gas gets to the engine from it...but the previous owner could not remember which tank had the issue...)

She runs quite well! With only a little over 63,000 miles on it, it should be good for many, many more.  Has pretty much like new tires all around, which is fantastic, because the tires are 17 inch, and I understand they are super pricey to buy new.

Needs a fair bit of interior work, but that I can tackle easily. Vehicle mechanical repair's are not really my thing. That said, I can do a minimum with the knowledge I have (limited!). However, given enough time, research, etc, I can tackle anything.  The snag is TIME.... that is always in short supply. (Hmmmm...... could it be because I have so many projects on the go?!?)

Again, this is a threadbare-worn-out-shoestring-budget project, and it is going to be assembled using mainly salvaged materials, and stuff I already have around. Those items essentially consists of stuff leftover from other projects that I never finished, dismantled, or only had a "dream" of but bought some cool crap for it anyway.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am hoping to raise some cash to put into it by selling off bits of the interior that I do not plan to use.  The 12v/110v/propane fridge apparently works, as does the furnace & stove, so they should garner a total of $400 - $600 if I can get them sold. Fridge and furnace seem to have some interest, though when I first advertised them, I had no idea if they worked. Now I know they worked when the unit was parked, so I just have to clean them up, get photos of them onto a local website, and market them better.

 Oh, damn, I need TIME to do that, don't I?

There are also quite a few other assorted bits, including a funky 1970s plastic 12V light  fixture, tiny yellow bathtub/shower, double stainless steel sink, cupboard doors/cabinets, yellow curtains, curtain track, drawer guides, sewage tank, water tank, etc, etc.  If you are looking for ANYTHING for a 1970s vintage motorhome, no matter how small of a part, let me know!

I am also thinking of customizing a few things on the van portion, like making a custom grill, mirrors, etc...sort of rat rodding it. SO, some of those 1977 GMC van parts might be up for grabs, too!  Let me know what you want/need, and the kind of $ you need to pay for the part(s).... if it is worth my while, and I have an alternate idea for replacing/customizing that spot/part/component, I might just sell you that part you need!

Will keep you posted on my progress! More photos to come at a later date (forgot my camera today...!)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Small Print Of The Contract

So, why do I think you are not ready to sign my simple contract?

Well, as you can imagine, I go into/have been into TONS of antique shops of "knowledgeable" dealers and have attended/attend multitudes of auctions. Many (heck, MOST) of them were/are held by long time auctioneers, and some of them are 2nd and 3rd generation auctioneers.

 Sadly, way too many of them (including the 2nd and 3rd generation auctioneers) all too often have items mislabeled, misidentified, etc, and usually those terms and descriptions are what I have always felt are pretty basic terms and definitions.

Think of the things you learned in grade school, the first things you tend to remember learning. Might not be something you think of as a “building block,” but you do learn the definition of “CAT”, and those very important things like crayons, paper, paste, nor boogers are things that are acceptable culinary choices…at least not for public consumption, anyway.
 In my opinion, many commonly misused terms are “basics” that any intelligent person who has been in the “old junk business,” even for as little as a year, should get down pat quickly, even after handling only one or 2 pieces related to those terms.

The misuse of one term in particular has become a real pet peeve of mine. Plus, it drives me crazy that people can not figure out for themselves that they are misusing the term.

What is the term?

Fumed Oak.

Now, I admit, I misused it myself for the first number of months I was seriously buying items for resale. I tossed it around a bit, as it just seemed like a cool term! Sounded like I knew what I was talking about.

Little did I know, I was clueless!

However, the thing is, I learned right after I handled my first piece of  "fumed oak" that what I had was not fumed oak, and that what I had was essentially an early 1900s, Wal-Mart-esque piece of furniture. It was a compressed-crap-board entertainment center of the period, so to speak. Well, it was actually a 3 drawer dresser, but you get my point.

 Along with that knowledge I learned what fumed oak really was, and what it looked like.  For the life of me, I wish I could remember who set me right, or how I figured it out, but I can't. Must have bumped my head on too many low hanging pipes and attic rafters over the last 20+ years. 

They say memory is the first thing to go, but that is a good thing...then you can't remember what else has gone.

So, here are 3 important things about anything made of fumed oak:

#1  It is always made of OAK.  

Surprise, surprise, fumed oak is made of, omigawd, wait for it….OAK! Sufferin’ suckotash! Who woulda thunk it?!??

#2  Just because it is old, and it is made of oak, does NOT mean it is "fumed oak."

Less obvious, but stands to reason, no?

#3  Just because it looks like a dark, oak grain does not mean it is "fumed oak."

Ok, now, if you stumbled on number 3 and/or are a little confused, you need to read that closer.

Lemme help you...…I’ll set it up differently this time.

Fumed oak is always oak. Just because the piece has a black, oak-like grain does not mean it IS oak.

Still confused?

Ok, here is the scoop....and this scoop is sugar free.... and booger free, too!

Did you know that back in the early 1900s they made cheap, crappy furniture, too?

And they put a fake, wood grain on things that made them appear to be something they were not?

Kind of like that "oak" laminate flooring made of compressed moon dust or whatever that crap is (could be just that, actually….who knows the source...maybe horses, bulls, whatever). Yes, that “board” with a photograph (of real wood) that is glued on.  

Or think of that inch thick compressed sawdust board that was so popular in the 1960s, 1970s, 80s...oh heck, they still sell TONS of the stuff.  (You can usually date it by how easily it falls apart. If it was made last year, dropping it causes it to crumble into at least 20 pieces. If it only breaks in half, you likely have a 1970s piece! ) 

Yep, they did similar things over a hundred years ago.  

When money is involved, copies are always something that sell well to the masses who have no idea what "quality" looks like.  That is why people will buy some compressed-chemical-and-camel-crap piece of junk for $1500 in a furniture store and then poo-poo the quality, cabinet maker designed and hand built antique furniture in your shop.

Anyway, fumed oak has a dark grain.  We established that. And it really IS oak.

you see, to get a dark grain on oak you need either one of 2 things.

#1) Time. And lots of it. 

#2) Ammonia.

The grain of many woods will darken with time, and exposure to the air.

But, to replicate this darkening of the grain, you can also expose the wood to high levels of ammonia.

This is no longer something that is done:

(a) Safely on a large scale 
(b) Economically on a large scale.

Furniture makers and woodworkers who do single/small numbers of pieces, reproductions, repairs to antique furniture (etc) still will do this sort of thing on a very small scale, but it has essentially been long abandoned by furniture makers for over 80 (or more) years.

 However, during the late 1800s/early 1900s, true craftsmen like Gustav Stickley, and other furniture makers who made quality oak furniture (though of many of lesser quality than Stickley's work) did use this process to emphasize the quality of their pieces, an nod to the true antique oak furniture that was visibly dark, made that way by the passage of time, with its exposure to the air for 200 years or more. 

Stickley likely was the main influence of others when it came to the use of this chemical darkening of oak’s grain, but I will not get into history…this is just a touch on the background of the origin of the term.  Do some research if you want to know more of the history.

Google (or other search engines) will/can help you…but, be sure to read my next blog post before digging too deep, and absorbing too much of what is out there.


You might just be “learning” from someone’s writings who misuses the term FUMED OAK.

SO, Did you catch that veiled picker tip?

Here it is, spelled out:

Know what you are researching in the first place, so you can discard/ignore the misinformation you come across, instead of unknowingly spreading more misinformation.

Oh, and beware! In the next blog post you will have to take a TEST! Get out that bottle of hard stuff again!

A CONTRACT - The Terms

I have something that I guarantee will help you in your picking career!

There is a contract you will need to sign, however.

The general terms of the contract you will be signing is pretty basic…quite simple, actually.  Yep, very, very simple.

 I know, I know, you never knew that “contract” and “simple” are words that could be used without “not” or “never” stuck right out in front of the word “simple”.

Let’s just blame lawyers for that one.

Being a picker, I can not afford a lawyer, so I decided it was best to use the KISS principle to create this particular contract.

I have kept it to just one line.

Here it is:


Ready to sign?

Are you SURE?

Well, frankly, due to the odds I have calculated over the years, I'm not so sure you are ready to sign. Forgive me if I am wrong in your individual case, but 99.9% of the population is not perfect. If someone can correct me (and back it up with fact, references, etc!) I will be the first to admit I am wrong. Usually when people obviously “know” what something is, and it is obvious they really want to show me their vast knowledge and intelligence, I just listen. 

Yes, those folks who say “Do you know what this is?” and it is SOOOOO obvious they are itching to tell you, and they look like they are ready to burst with their superior knowledge.

It is enjoyable to hear people ramble on about how “it is very rare, and this such and such is a such and such, and was used for this scientific, important, wonderful purpose!”

 I have long decided to just take silent pleasure in my accumulated knowledge, and I just nod and smile. I also try not to wince, nor close my eyes in disgust, when they put the item in their mouth and blow on it so you can get a visual as to how it was used.

Yes, I no longer bother to inform them that in actuality they are wrong. In some cases they are/it is oh so, so wrong…

Especially when they are holding what I will call one of “the business ends” that are found in an enema kit

And DOUBLY-especially when the tone of the item isn’t exactly what I’d personally call “patina”…

But, then again, they are the “expert” after all…And, they are probably better off not knowing what the chunk of brown plastic they had their lips wrapped around was likely last up…and that the plastic thing is actually black, not the dark brown it is at the moment. 

I’ll let you chug back a few shots of whatever hard liquor is handy so you can get that image out of your mind, and I will go work on the next installment in this blog series!