Is it old or Vintage?

Old or Vintage?


Just when is something vintage looking and when is it old?   I have been thinking of building a new mail box for the past several weeks. I wanted to have something that was interesting to look at and functional as well. 

A couple design guidelines were set before the planning began. The design was to be stylized to match the craftsman period from the 1920s, and therefore should be made of copper or brass.  The box should be held together with brass rivets to give it that handmade look.

It should be interesting and unique, whatever that means…

Living on the coast of North Carolina I have fallen in love with the look of the live oak trees which grow on the sand dunes.  And they are correct for the Craftsman style tree design.  I wanted to cut out the tree design on the front of the box so my wife and I could see if there was any mail without opening the top.

I had some small sheets of brass given to me by a friend which would work perfectly.  And they were free!

After designing the tree and the general shape of the box, cutting it out with the hand held plasma cutter was a simple task.  I had used it enough to be proficient and quick.  But the assembling was to prove something of a different mater.

I had drilled holes and planned to connect the pieces with copper rivets.  This was period correct but a little difficult to execute while keeping the box square and plum.  But in the end the whole project went together well and it was time to apply the chemicals to give it that vintage look.

I treated the copper and brass to discolor the surface. Then carefully and patiently cleaned it off in places to simulate years of hand rubbing and wear.  And finally, I proudly brought it home like a hunter with his kill. 

The two women in my world, my wife and 22 year old daughter were both there and looked at the piece I had just made.  Both responded with the comment that it needed to be cleaned and polished to make it not look so used.  But that was the whole idea.  I was making a box to look like it has been used for 100 years and then brought to our home for another 100. 

There are times when I have to let things sit and percolate for a while and that is what I did with that little brass box.

Knowing that I had lost the battle and something needed to be done to correct the “used” look, I returned it to my studio.  After a session in the sandblaster and a little elbow grease  it was shinny and new looking and returning to the home for examination. 

Shinny brass does not have a vintage look in most situations and this was no exception.  So when I received almost no notice or comments from the women of the house I knew there had to be a middle ground, and I needed to find it before this little box drove me crazy.

If new is not vintage, and used is not vintage there must be some “sorta” used condition which is half way between.  And that is where I was heading.  Not as much chemical treatment, a little more hand rubbing, and the just right blend started to come through.  After a little more work and a couple a coats of lacquer for protection, the new mail box was set for installation.

I think it looks great and the tree cutout works beautifully to help to see if there is mail in the box.  The women have given it the nod of approval and visitors have started to comment on it as they arrive.  I just hope the old will stay young, and the new will not age too quickly.

At least that is what I think I want…


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