Art Nouveau style cabinet – part 4

This is Part 4 of my restoration of an Art Nouveau cabinet which I had bought and whose base was riddled with woodworm.

As you will see from Part 3, I ditched the idea of using 18mm MDF and reverted to the original construction of a sandwich of plywood and mitred softwood.

Caution: This is a pretty long post with lots of pictures!

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Parker 51 and 61

I was at the Monthly Maltings Market at Farnham a few weeks ago, and was tempted by some fountain pens that a seller had. He is there every month, and I had previously looked at his pens but not bought any. I had been somewhat tempted by a Parker 61 Flighter as I had liked the inlaid arrow on the nib section, but the nib itself was in very poor condition so I passed.

However, this time I got into conversation with him, and we talked at length about pens in general, and a few specifics.

I had brought my Sheaffer Targa set to show him (show not sell), and he liked it. He had a boxed Targa two pen set in stainless steel which was £65. Interestingly, he said steel pens are less popular these days. He also had a Sheaffer Cartridge (looks similar to the 440 but has an arrow head cutout rather than diamond) but I figured that was too close to what I had already, plus I’m not so keen on that nib shape.

He had a collection of Parker 51 pens there, and I asked for one that would write, so he suggested a Teal one that had a converter, rather than the Vacumatic to the left of it since that one needed restoration.

I also mentioned that would like a Parker 61 but didn’t fancy his Flighter set due to the nib damage, and he showed me another 61 which he had, which was an early 61 capillary.

I enquired as to the price of the 51 and 61, and he wanted £35 and £45 respectively. I asked for a package price and he suggested £70, I countered with £65, and he accepted. It was rather more than I had intended to spend on pens, but I was taken by the moment.

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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Pens


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More fountain pens

I visited my parents recently, and had a bit of a pen-fest.

First off, my dad gave me his old Sheaffer pen. Some might see this as worn out and beaten up, but to me it is gorgeous wear and patination, and I love it. There is a matching rollerball, which he also gave to me.

I’ve always loved the design of the inlaid nib Sheaffer pens, so this was really big deal for me to own one.

He thinks he first started using it in the late 1950’s, but I think he is mistaken. Looking online, this is without a doubt a “Targa by Sheaffer” which was first introduced in 1976. After some research on I have narrowed it down to the Matte Black GT 1st Edition Classic (model number 1003) which was produced from 1980-1988. I believe it to be a 1st Edition as the cap end is the same colour as the cap and body, whereas the 2nd Edition has a gold cap end.

But regardless of its age and provenance, it is a lovely pen and I love it to bits. The wear and patina make it very special, and the brass showing through lends it a slightly Steampunk vibe.

Having inked it up, it writes absolutely beautifully. It’s a cartridge pen with converter, so I filled it with Parker Quink Permanent Black bottled ink.

He also gave me another Sheaffer, but doesn’t know where it came from or whose it was. Having done my research online, I have narrowed it down to being a Sheaffer Connaisseur Black 2nd Edition (model number 810), being the 2nd Edition because it has Sheaffer stamped on the cap band rather than the clip. This pen was produced from 1989 to 1996, and has an 18k gold oblique nib. It writes well, although runs a little wet.

Next is a nondescript green Parker 45 which was my grandmother’s, and whose only notable feature is the fact that the system has been worn into an odd shape presumably from years of writing. My mum said I could have it.

What I couldn’t have was my grandmother’s other pen which is a Parker 51 in deep blue, missing its clip and cap end, and whose nib is bent right over to the left like a banana through years of use. It writes really beautifully, and my mum writes with it regularly which is why I can’t have it. 🙂

Another pen they gave (back to) me was an old Osmiroid which I had as a kid and which I had forgotten that I had even owned. It’s pretty unremarkable.

There was also a very cheap Parker which had corporate branding on it which was obviously a freebie, and a couple of nondescript unnamed fountain pens that were similarly freebies, and I left those.

Finally, my dad also let me have a look at (and take a picture of) his Mont Blanc pen set. What immediately struck me about it is how heavily its design has influenced the Jinhao X450, and to some extent the X750.

Naturally I can’t have his Mont Blanc just yet as he still uses it. But I am sure that one day it will be added to my collection (although obviously I hope that day is a long way off).

So there we go – a nice little collection.

I think I might have to buy a pen case at this rate. 🙂

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Posted by on April 14, 2017 in Pens


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Art Nouveau style cabinet – part 3

This is Part 3 of my restoration of an Art Nouveau cabinet which I had bought and whose base was riddled with woodworm.

As you will see from Part 2, it was my intention to use 18mm MDF to construct the new base. I decided that it would be best to use dowel joints to join the base to the bottom rail. I thought it best to practise on some offcuts of MDF first.

Dowel jig

Dowel jig

My first attempt was to measure carefully and then drill by eye. This was a bit of a disaster. Despite several attempts, I just couldn’t get the holes to be perpendicular, which meant wonky joints. I decided that I needed a jig.

I bought a cheap jig for under £7 from Amazon and tried again. Also, I used an offcut of MDF for one side, and some harder wood for the other side as I felt this would be more representative. I think perhaps that I didn’t drill the holes deep enough, and one dowel was a little snug, so I hit the two halves with a rubber mallet to seat them, the MDF just disintegrated.

Split wood


This setback made me question my decision to use MDF. In fact, the more I read about it, the more I am thinking that it is the wrong material to be using. I’ve therefore decided to abandon the use of MDF (I am sure I will reuse it some other way at some other time, perhaps as an extra shelf in an IKEA cabinet) and instead go with the same construction as the original base. Having measured that with a Digital Vernier Caliper, it is nominally 4mm for the upper plywood layer, 14mm mitred softwood for the middle layer, and contrary to what I previously thought, nominally 4mm plywood on the bottom. Although it looks like it may have had a veneer on the underside. Having researched plywood online, it looks like 3.6mm plywood is a much more common thickness so it could be that with some minor expansion. Or maybe it really is 4mm ply. I don’t know. However, the thickness of the bottom rail is 23mm, which suggests 4mm ply.

Using a sandwiched construction means I can dispense with dowel joints and glue & screw the base to the bottom rail instead. A friend has suggested that I don’t actually need to screw it (or use dowel joints were I to stick with the MDF idea) as wood glue would be sufficient given the base will be screwed to the cabinet sides. But I think I will glue & screw as it gives me more confidence of a solid construction.

Also, using the same sandwich construction that the cabinet originally had is a more sympathetic restoration.

With that decided, I moved on to cleaning up the feet.


Repaired leg

I pulled old nails out with a Carpenter’s Pincer which I have owned for decades. Unfortunately in doing so I managed to break the tip of one of the leg brackets but managed to glue this back again with wood glue. Unfortunately I forgot to take a “before” pic. I’m quite pleased with the repair, even though you can see the joins, because it broke off two pieces and I managed to reassemble it like a little jigsaw.

I also used an orbital sander to sand off the old glue from the tops of the legs, and in one case the glued-on residue of the woodworm-eaten soft wood.

The next job is going to be assembling the new base, for which I will need to make a shopping trip, and also to buy some Woodworm Killer and treat all the existing woodwork; especially the mouldings which I will be reusing as they have woodworm holes in them and I’m not sure if there are any dormant larvae in there.


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Sheaffer 440 fountain pen

Following on from my previous post about fountain pens, I was at an Antiques and Collectors fair at Ripley in Surrey last month, and one of the sellers had some fountain pens.

He had several Jinhaos and also some Chinese knock-off versions of the Parker 51, which he invited me to try and they were impressively smooth I have to say. I subsequently found that was the Hero 616 which I ordered for £1.03 on Amazon Marketplace when I got home.

We had a chat and I told him about a Jinhao X750 I had on order (more on that in another post), and we chatted for a while about pens and how these cheap Chinese imports are such good value for money. It was a nice little chat.

I then noticed he had a Sheaffer, and asked if it was a Chinese copy too but he said it was genuine. He didn’t know the provenance or age, as it had come as a job lot from a house clearance. He was asking £15 for it so I decided to take a punt. I didn’t even haggle him on price as I thought £15 was fair.

The barrel is very lightly scuffed in one place, but the cap isn’t dented and it seems in very good condition.

Having done a little research and read this primer on nibs it would appear this is a left foot oblique nib, which is apparently very rare for this pen. The 30° slant suggests it might have been intended for a left-hander.

I then did a lot more research in order to try to determine what it was. The inlaid nib means it is in the Imperial or quasi-Imperial range. The “short diamond” inlay nib with rounded tip to the long edge of the cutout was going to be key to identifying it. That ruled out the PFM (Pen For Men) 1959-c1968 and the Imperial 1961-c1998, as they both have the “long diamond” nib, and it’s not a Lifetime as it doesn’t have “Lifetime” on the clip. It’s also not a Triumph as that had a V / Arrowhead cutout to the inlay nib, rather than a diamond one.

This site seemed to imply the Sheaffer Imperial Cartridge c1970-1975 but the description was rather vague and light on information.

This site makes me think it’s the Model 440 (a “quasi-Imperial”) but other sites confusingly show the 440 as having the Arrowhead cutout. But certainly from the pics in that link it is an exact match. And the more I googled the Sheaffer 440, the more convinced I was that this is what I have.

For example, this link shows a pen just like mine, and even the 130mm length quoted matches my pen. Likewise this link

So, on balance of probabilities, it’s almost certainly 440, which is a pen dating from the 1970’s. So far I have not been able to find the exact production dates.

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Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Pens


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Fountain pens

I’ve been getting back into fountain pens in a big way lately.

Well, that’s not entirely true – I have never really stopped using them. When working on client sites, I tend to keep a hand written day log and enjoy using a Parker 45 fountain pen to write it. It gives me a small amount of pleasure to do so.

I have two examples of the Parker 45 Flighter – one from the late 1980’s which was a present from my parents, and has a matching retractable ballpoint. The other is an almost identical Parker 45 Flighter which bought in the mid-2000’s a little before Parker ceased production of the 45 in 2008. I bought it because I had mislaid the original Parker 45, although fortunately I have now found it again.

The 1980’s pair are unfortunately engraved with a name I no longer use, which is a shame.

Parker 45 Flighter

Parker 45 Flighter

There are some interesting differences between the two, which you can see on the Parker 45 Flighter Timeline on Pen Collect. The earlier pens have a dimpled cap end, whilst the later pen has a small dome.

Parker 45 cap ends

Parker 45 cap ends

Recently I have been inspired by a thread on an internet forum to look into additional pens. There are some really good quality pens coming over from China now from Jinhao and Hero, which can be bought for as little as £2 or less, including postage, if you are prepared to buy from China on eBay and wait 2-3 weeks for them to arrive. I am also seeing vintage pens for sale in the various Antiques and Collectors fairs that I go to (which I am still going to as much as ever, but don’t really blog about it so much as it is probably getting a little boring for people).

Before that, though, I went looking for another pen which I had, which I had used at school in the mid 1970’s because back in those day you were expected to use a fountain pen. I never really liked this one as it was scratchy, and haven’t written with it in decades. It turns out it is a Parker 25. A little research on Pen Collect and More Engineering suggests it is a Mark III, since it has no nib breather hole, has a dimpled end, and is stamped “Made in England” on the cap. That implies it dates from 1979 onwards, but this confuses me as I’m almost certain I was using it at school in 1977. I changed schools in 1978 and I am sure I was using that pen at the school before rather than after.

Parker 25

Parker 25

Looking at the nib with a loupe, it looks like it is damaged, with a downward bend and too much of a gap between the tines (the two halves of the nib). However, amazingly, when inked it writes just fine. However, I don’t have a lot of love for this pen and I doubt I will be using it regularly. It has no resale value as, sadly, it is also engraved with my name.

Those were all of the fountain pens in my possession at the time. In subsequent posts I will mention acquisitions I have made since.




Posted by on March 31, 2017 in Pens


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Art Nouveau style cabinet – part 2

In a previous post, I mentioned an Art Nouveau cabinet which I had bought and whose base was riddled with woodworm.

At the time I thought it was beyond economic repair. However, I decided that I had little to lose by stripping it down to get a better idea of the extent of the damage.

Prising off the plywood base, I found some mitred soft wood that was heavily damaged by woodworm (but no evidence of live larvae), with thicker laminate ply above. So the base was a sandwich of thicker ply upper, mitred soft wood, and a thin ply underside. I removed all of that, carefully peeling away the silk backing that was glued to the top of the base.

Once that was away, I could see that the hardwood of the cabinet itself was free of woodworm, as were the legs.

With hindsight, I think I could have left the thicker ply upper base and replaced the mitred soft wood and lower base panel, but it’s way too late for that now.

The edging strip to the front was sound, and very secure, so I decided to try to save that if I could. The side ones are a bit beat up, with heavy woodworm damage to one of them, but I think it is better to keep these rather than trying to fit a new strip, which would have to be mitred and stained to match. I might be able to sculpt the missing bit with wood filler. Fortunately it is on the back edge so will be less visible.

Unfortunately I damaged the back whilst removing the base, so cut that back flush. I don’t think it is going to matter too much as you won’t be able to see it when it’s against the wall. If it is an issue, then I can always make a repair strip.

Next job was to cut off the captive screws that had held the base and cabinet sides together, remove any old nails, and generally tidy it up.

For the new base, I decided to go with 18mm MDF which I used a Rosewood wood stain on. Dark Walnut would have been better, but I had the Rosewood anyway and decided to save money by using what I had. It’s not like anyone is going to see it anyway, as the only part of the base that will be visible is the underside which will be in shadow.

Don’t worry about the overspill of wood stain on the edges of the wood on this photo – I sanded that back and then applied another layer.

That’s as far as I have got so far. I intend to use dowel joints to attach the front edge bar to the MDF, and will glue & screw the legs to the MDF base. Once that is dry, I then plan to glue, screw, and dowel the base to the cabinet itself. I’ll also need to use some contact adhesive to re-attach the silk lining to the base.

Bear in mind that I have never done anything like this before, so I might be going about it all the wrong way and a solid base might be the wrong approach. We shall see!



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Art Nouveau Bed

Oh my goodness, I think I have just found the most beautiful bed ever created!

I was looking for something on google and stumbled upon this amazing bed by William Doub Custom Furniture in New Hampshire in the USA.

This is just so “me” it is untrue. The design is fantastic, and the attention to detail in the execution is breathtaking. It is truly a work of art.


1-scroll_butterfly 2_ri_bed_thru_ft_scroll bed-_jack_n_pulpit bed-_lady_slipper_2 final_hdbd_scroll_mrtrbd ri_bed_right_foot-2202 the_very_best_frog_foot tillman_butterfy



No copyright infringement is intended by this post, and full credit is given to William Doub.
I am self-hosting the pics out of courtesy so as not to leach their bandwidth.

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Posted by on March 3, 2017 in Arts and Crafts, Home furnishing


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Art Nouveau style cabinet

Today I went to the huge twice-monthly Antiques and Collectables fair at Kempton Park Racecourse at Sunbury-on-Thames.

Unfortunately, despite walking around for over 4 hours and walking 5+ miles (according to my FitBit Alta), I didn’t find anything I wanted to buy apart from a tall galvanised bucket to use as an umbrella stand which was a reasonable £10.

However, once back in the car I asked google to find me nearby antiques shops, and it came up trumps with the Ashford Antiques Centre at Ashford in Middlesex, which was kind of on the way home and which I duly drove to.

Within moments of walking into this Aladdin’s Cave I saw a wooden display cabinet in an Art Nouveau style which I fell in love with, and even better it was a very reasonably priced £30.


I was pretty sure that it would fit in the car, but the owners suggested I measure the cabinet and then measure the load bay of my car, which I did. Fortunately, the measurements checked out (just!) and I was confident that it would fit and agreed to buy it.


However, it was only when it was in the car that I could see the underside, and it is riddled with woodworm. And upon tapping the bottom, a load of frass (sawdust-like substance) fell out.


I’m unsure whether this is old woodworm or active woodworm, which makes me rather nervous about taking this item of furniture into the house. I think what I am going to have to do is prise off the bottom layer of plywood to assess the extent of the woodworm, treat it, and then make a new plywood base for it.

Also, the lock is missing its key and will need to be replaced.

Suddenly my £30 bargain has become a project.


Well, it looks like I’ve bought a pup. I got it out of the car and it’s so rotten that it’s falling apart and one of the legs is almost falling off. *sighs*

Click here for a 6 second video of me wiggling the leg.


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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Diary, DIY and Home Improvement, Home furnishing


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Picture frame rejuvenation

Recently I bought a picture frame containing three advertising postcards for OXO, Bovril, and Bisto, mainly because my best friend and I have a running gag about Bisto but also because I like retro advertisement art.

The frame was in pretty poor condition. The backing of the frame was cardboard and was rippled and warped, causing the postcards to bow, the sealing tape was coming away, and it was all pretty grubby. But it was also only £10. I figured that worst case scenario was that I would have to re-frame it.


Upon disassembly, I found the photo mount was actually in fairly good condition and unmarked, and likewise the postcards themselves were in pretty good condition too. This was excellent news.


First job was to address the back. I had the backing board from an old clip frame whose glass had broken, so using the existing cardboard back as a template I marked out a new back, choosing to live with the clip holes as otherwise it would have been more sawing and less backing board left over for future use. I then cut it with a fine tenon saw and sanded smooth with a sanding block.


Next was to thoroughly clean the glass with glass cleaner, which brought it up a treat. The glass isn’t perfect, and has some scuffs on it, but is good enough.
I also decided to attach the postcards more firmly to the mount using brown picture tape. Although this wasn’t strictly necessary as the rigid back board should squish them flat, there is no harm in over-engineering.


Next, reassembly. I don’t have a tab gun, so instead I used panel pins. The first one I tried just hammering in, but it immediately became clear that this was putting too much stress on the frame so instead I used a jewellers hand drill to make pilot holes, which then required only minimal hammering on the pins.


Then I finished it off with brown picture tape. I applied two overlapping layers in order to hide the slots from the clip frame back.

I also moved the hanging eyes up from their midpoint position to a little higher up, and replaced the original string with wire. Since I didn’t have any picture hanging wire to hand, I used some green garden wire instead which should be entirely adequate.


And, at last, it was done. It looks so much better than when I started, even if it isn’t immediately clear from the pictures.




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