Coes Wrenches


Shop Fun with Scott Grandstaff


Repair and Restoration of Tools



 It is done all the time is most every field of collectable.  But it's different in every field.

Good paintings are cleaned and touched up as a matter of course, dishes get their chips filled, glass gets water stains polished out.  Every category seems to have an acceptable limit of restoration and that limit moves further and faster as we go.  You can always find the never-been-touched collectors in any field.  Collectors who want to go on about original mint condition and line up at the gavel to prove it.  At first there are enormous prices paid for mint.  Then the shadow of possible restoration creeps in and there is a big uproar.  Eventually, everybody knows that everything has been restored and the game goes back to rarity and desirability alone.

It's just the common evolution of any collectable.  Nothing new.  Seen it before. Sound unbelievable?  OK, old bottles, a subject I know very well.  Along about 1970 mint bottles were bringing 3 to 10 times the price of their water stained counterparts. You can't wash away water stains and everybody knew it and the greatest majority of old bottles had it.

A fellow leaned to buff the outside of them, removing that part.  It was a crude method and some of the sharpness was lost in the process.  They were ready to ride the guy out of town on a rail, I tell ya.  Tar and feathers.  Funny thing was, people bought the bottles, badly buffed or no because they looked better on the shelf than ugly stains.  Next, a smarter guy figured out how to tumble polish the glass inside and out at the same time.  Better results and no loss of glass, only stain.  Another uproar.  But once again, people wanted the cleaned stuff because it was so much prettier than the not cleaned.

After that, the word got around, school was out, and a bunch of us built tumblers.  You'd find the same collectors who wanted to wail about restored antiques bidding in the front row for them at auction for a short while there.  They all wanted the clean and shiny, they just didn't want to know it had been restored.  By 1990 it had all calmed down. 

Nowadays, any good bottle found, whether in a wall or an old dump or down at the bottom of a privvy hole goes in for a thorough professional cleaning before even being considered going into a big league auction.  I have personally cleaned about 1/4 of all the top quality, gold rush era, San Francisco soda pop bottles known over the years.  And they look gorgeous.  The value scale has stabilized at color, rarity and general desirability and that scale isn't likely not to change so much.  Only the price will rise and fall in the normal fashion.

I always hear the same story on the "Roadshow" about furniture.  If only you hadn't refinished it, it would be worth $82,000, now it's $19.95.  With some digging you'll find that pristine mint 18th cent furniture might fetch that much, but the beat up damaged stuff never came close to any part of that value in the first place.  So, that's where the evolution of furniture lies at present.  The quality of the restoration matters enormously.  A bad job ruins the piece, a good job enhances it.  Sooner or later though, it will all go back to the piece itself and not the finish.  All the good ones will look beautiful again, wait and see.

Tools will follow at their own pace, but follow they will. They all do.

yours, Scott
in Happy Camp, CA
email:  Scott Grandstaff

January 2007




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