Monday, April 11, 2016

Thing Lotion

Recently I filled a few boring video minutes with a minor maintenance project that's been bugging me for months. I had found a small and elegant piece of reproduction Georgian furniture at a yard sale. The varnish was so  ancient and brittle that the least touch with a finger nail marred it. I removed the classic cast brasses from the piece, wiped it with a damp cloth, and annointed it with teak oil. I let the oil soak in for ten minutes or so, and wiped off the excess. After a few more minutes, I wiped on a coat of briewax, waited an hour, and buffed the surfaces.

The time was well invested. Inspired, I went on line and found a product I had despaired of every being able to buy again, the Boot and Shoe Cream named after Detroit's high-end automobile. The last time I used this product was in the Seventies. I treated one of the first high-quality vinyl side bags with it. The piece looked better and lasted far longer than the untreated one a friend bought at the same time. I also dressed the upholstery of a vintage VW and got an extra decade out of the seats.

Archival quality bookbinder's leather dressing from the Academic Bookstore is worth every penny. I dress every new leather item that comes into the house, and things look richer immediately. They age gracefully. The condition of old leather is a telling indicator of how the household is managed.

When Mt. St. Helens blew up, an auto parts dealer in Chehalis showed a news crew a tire that was on display in his showroom. The tire had been treated with an armoring finish. The dealer cleaned the corrosive microscopic volcanic pumice off the tire with a puff of breath. When I'm in a detailing mood, I dress electrical cords with this product so I can shake them clean, wiping them with a weak solution of no-rinse janitorial cleaner before I apply the silicone repellant.

Janitorial metal-interlock floor polish coats painted and plastic finishes to good effect. Consult an antiques person to make sure you're not vandalizing a treasure. The same advice holds true for the other techniques I describe here.

Surfing the detailing community as background for this post, I realized that even museum-level stately English housekeepers are bush league compared to the lens-grinding quality competition motor-lovers can produce. A 1930s edition of the US Navy's Bluejacket's Manual advises not to paint things that are shiny when they are new, a comment that de-mystified certain kinds of shabby. Shiny equals speed. Bright for speed is not the same as bright for private life, though. Old brightwork is rightly gentle and shows the hazy marks of careful usage over time. A dampened microfiber cleaning cloth is usually just the right product to produce a surface that looks cared for but venerable.


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