Saturday, November 23, 2013

REPOST: Jack and Jackie Forever

I originally posted this in 2010. Seems fitting to share again. 

I get a big kick out of finding unique furnishings and accent pieces, and there are some great ones for a mid century home.  Jack and Jackie are among my favorites. 

These plaster busts are about 16 inches tall. Jack is finished in a copper color, and Jackie is more brassy/bronze in color.  They have some chips and wear, but I'm leaving them alone. I'm guessing they were some kind of craft kit probably released soon after Kennedy's assassination. 

Underneath the Jack bust is a piece of masking tape with a handwritten note that really adds to the pieces: "For Myrt and Herb - our very dear neighbors - Gran. May 16, 1964".  I scored these at an estate auction near my home, along with a couple of pole lamps, a very cool chair and several other small things.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Estate Sale Find: Cat Painting and a Surprise Photo

Earlier this summer I hit an estate sale with a lot of stuff in the basement. I picked through the goods and left with a couple of big bags of stuff, but this painting I found somehow got left behind.

Later in the day I went back and it was still there so I got it quite cheap. Someone in the house had obviously been a painter based on the canvases in the basement, but this was the only one that caught my eye.  I'm guessing that "hug" written in the bottom left is the name of this siamese cat...(?)

A couple of days later I was going through the things I bought, and among the goods were some old wallets and coin purses.  Sadly no money was tucked away anywhere, but while I was going through a wallet I did find some old ID cards and things, including this photo.

In the photo you can see a gentleman holding a cat.  I think the lady who had used the wallet may have painted the photo, and I'm guessing the man was her husband and the cat was the cat in the painting. There's no writing on the back, but I'm pretty sure it's the siamese cat in the painting.

Kinda cool, so I'm planning to hang the snapshot beside the painting in one of our spare bedrooms.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

New Front Patio - A Tune Up for the Back Yard Courtyard Project, AKAThe Big Dig

Inside the fenced portion of our front yard we've had some luck (finally) getting my old "grass couch" looking better with some annuals, but the rest of the ground inside the fence has been awful - just a place for the dog to play ball. The ground is sloped so we couldn't have a decent place to sit. I've been wanting to do something to it for a while, and finally I made some decisions and went to work!

My idea was to dig out a level area for something like a kidney shaped slate patio with a small retaining wall.

Here's the area after most of my digging was done - I'm estimating I dug and moved about 2 to 3 tons of dirt.

Next I stapled down some landscape cloth to block out weeds, and then I spread about 1500 pounds of gravel to level out the surface, and tamped it down.

At that point I started moving these this pieces of slate I've been saving for years. They formed a patio at our old house, and I had torn that apart before we moved here. Since the old house was only a mile away I brought the slate pieces with me. They averaged about two inches in thickness, much sturdier than what you see for sale these days. Yes, I'm crazy.

Here I was putting the puzzle together and doing my best to keep things leveled.  I was able to get by without doing much cutting of the stones I had.

From past experience, I knew that weeds can sprout up from the joints if you use sand or something loose, so I chose to fill the joints with concrete.

Not the prettiest at this point.

I bought some stacking stones for the wall and cemented those in place.

Now that the concrete is nearly cured, I plan to clean it with some muriatic acid.

The metal mesh chairs and love seat I painted yellow last year never looked right so I gave ten a fresh coat of Rustoleum Apple Red. I like this color much better and it matches the red accents in our front entry.

Here's the way it looks as of now:

SWMBO will be planting along the wall to add some color, and we plan to add some more plants later on this fall. 

I love the result of this project.  It took me about 30-40 hours of work spread out over two weeks, and now we finally have a level place to sit and less grass to cut!  Plus, I'm motivated to get back on the back courtyard project which has been languishing for way too long.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Recent find: Storage hassock

We took a couple days last weekend and visited Asheville, NC, and Roanoke, VA, and one of our stops was a place we hadn't visited before: Black Dog Salvage. Apparently a DIY Network show called Salvage Dawgs is filmed there.  I wouldn't know since we don't get cable.

Anyway, I found a couple things at Black Dog, including this storage hassock. 

 It's covered in its original textured vinyl, and for being about 40 years old, it's still in nice shape.

I did remove the iron base and repainted it with some Rustoleum primer and black semi gloss.  I like that it has some storage space.

I'm not sure what those black elastic straps once held -- any ideas?

In other news, I'm still working on preparing to build our backyard patio, a multi-year project I'm embarrassed to not yet have completed. And I've started to clean up, rewire, sharpen, and repaint to cool vintage electric mower I picked up last year. I should have that done soon and ready for a blog update.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gone Welding: Now I'm Back!

Well hello there!  Apologies for being away the past couple of months.  Let me catch you up on what's been going on:

I just completed a sculptural welding class.  That's my main excuse for a lack of recent posts.  I'm really glad I took the class, and I do have some show and tell in the form of a couple of projects.

The first thing I learned while welding with an oxy-acetelyne torch is you can very easily burn through the metal you are trying to weld!  I wanted to make a danish-stylized wire sculpture of a fish similar to this one I found online, but I kept messing up.

So I changed  direction and decided to start by welding thicker metal - rebar to be precise.  That led me to doing some searches for examples of rebar art, and I ended up with a salmon.  I printed out a photo, traced it onto graph paper, then enlarged it on some construction paper.

Here's the finished piece.  What I learned: bending rebar takes some real muscle!  And it is very easy to burn through rebar with a torch.

I had enough time left in my 9-week class to do another project, so I drew up some plans for a tiki guy based on a photo I found of a vintage surfing trophy.

With a 1:1 drawing I could then start cutting and bending the pieces to make the sculpture.

I realized that my original drawing would need some modifications so I lengthened the base so it would push into the ground for display outside.  This project was destined for a friend's garden, and the letters incorporated into the head also needed to change as it was supposed to be AFFP. (The initials for a scholarly book about to be published by my friend's husband, an anthropologist who appreciates tiki art).

And here's the final.

The first few pieces of this also were welded with an oxy-acetelyne torch, but I finished it up with an electric welder (MIG).  Using a MIG welder seems a bit easier and faster, sort of like working with a very hot "glue gun."  Once again I found myself deviating somewhat from the drawing.  I'm pretty happy with the result, despite some imperfections.

So anyway, I bought a MIG welder and the tools I need to weld at home.  I'm stoked to start doing some repairs on some metal pieces I have that have broken welds, and I want to make some more art and eventually try my hand at some mid-century style shelves and chairs, and also play around some with another hobby of mine, old bicycles.  Stay tuned!

In other news, if you usually read this blog with Google Reader, HEADS UP!  You should know by now that sometimes Google giveth and Google taketh away.  And the Google master plan now calls for Google Reader to go away permanently at the end of June (2013).  So, I want to offer up a couple of ways to continue keeping up with Uncle Atom.

I will continue this blog, so you can always find me at  or  If you are like me and you follow many other blogs, there are other blog readers which can import all your Google blog links, but I think you have to act pretty fast, i.e., before the end of June.  Two that I use are Reeder, and Feedly.

You can also follow me at:


Twitter (@Uncle_Atom)

and now Instagram

I'm looking forward to working on some new and ongoing projects this summer, including the big dig/backyard patio; some welding ideas that I've got percolating; and probably some more projects, vintage finds, and maybe a road trip posting or two.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Recent Estate Sale Finds: Some Keepers, and Some Destined for Replenishing the Etsy Store

When I haven't been continuing my tree cutting, brush trimming and yard work, I've been busy taking a metal sculpture class and learning to weld with an oxy-acetylene torch, so don't think Uncle Atom has been slacking.  Well, I have been slacking some on this blog.  But now it's estate sale season, and I've fit in a few sales already. Here are Saturday's pickups:

Premium Saltines Tin from 1969

Bell Telephone System First Aid Kit - nearly all original supplies, and it also came with original scissors and tweezers.

Small lamp with articulating arm

Small 12 volt auto vacuum cleaner

Pan American Airlines carry on bag (this came with a Polaroid camera inside!)

Vintage Thermaster Polaron Cooler in bronze

Three avocado green barstools, super cheap!

A pair of Salterini style iron chairs

A sturdy wire bookshelf/stand

A small glass-topped iron table

All in all, a good weekend.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Scratching My Kitsch Itch: Yesterday's Flea Market Find, A Barkcloth-Backed Fuzzy Framed Tiger!?!

Here in the Washington, DC, area, you run into a lot of odd stuff with an international flavor.  Yesterday morning I hit my favorite local flea market, and among the few small things I picked up, this framed picture stands out.

This beauty was super cheap, but SWMBO for one thinks any price was too much to pay.  I guess this will have to live in the man cave/shop area.  You haven't gotten a tour of that space, and I may never show it, it's such a pile of tools, projects, and detritus.

This is in surprisingly good condition.  I went over the frame with a tiny bit of Feed 'N Wax and wiped it dry.  I'm guessing the picture dates to the 1950s or 60s, based on the era of the fabric.  The tiger is made of some kind of furry/fleecy material.  Has anyone else seen something like this?  Chinese perhaps?

The claws are painted on below the paws.

Here's a closeup of the fabric.

You can see this writing on the back and the back also shows that the fabric is stretched over a piece of wood for a solid backing.

Does anyone recognize the characters or have some idea of what it says?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Another Recent Estate Sale Find: Starburst Hamper

I love all things starburst.  So when I spotted this un-priced hamper at the estate sale where I picked up that great lampshade, I grabbed the hamper too.

As it turned out, the price was reasonable, so I brought it home.

The hamper is a 1970s green with a gold-ish tint, and it's in surprisingly good shape, so we've got it in our bedroom.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Update on the Gossip Bench with Clock and Sconces: Looking Good!

A couple posts ago, I showed off this pair of sconces and speculated that they would match up pretty well with one of my brass starburst clocks and the funky telephone table/gossip bench in our foyer.  I finally got around to shooting some photos, so here's where we are now.

I still need to put something in the sconces - it's probably going to be some fake ivy or another type of fake plant.

I've been looking for an old telephone book for this shelf, and until I find one I picked up this great vintage binder for keeping phone numbers.  It was an find, and it's in great shape.