Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Something Unique



(This continues a series of entries explained below in ‘Something I’ve Made’.  If you read that first installment, you’ll know I’m jumping around a bit in the order of the assignment - but rules are made to be broken after all….)




I would have liked this entry to be about a pair of cast metal ewers that sit proudly by the fireplace in my Great Room.  They are heavy and solid yet delicate in their fine detail, and they have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember – first gracing my parent’s home and now my own.  But unfortunately, I know so little about them that their story cannot be told – and all those who could tell it took it with them when they departed this earth.  I know that they were hand-crafted by a relative - a great or perhaps even great-great Grandfather if I recall correctly - but the circumstances of their creation are now lost to the ages and there is no proud family history of great forgers or decorative iron-workers upon which to fall back, so they will need to remain ‘only’ a delight to the eye and a physical link to a relative who shall remain forever faceless and nameless despite the beauty of this physical reminder of his existence.




But instead my subject will be a relic of an industrial past that was at least partially intertwined with my own life and working career for many years.  I’ll tell you a little more about my working life in the entry revolving around a ‘gift received’ in a day or two, but suffice to say that the very effective doorstop pictured above is a link to a simpler time when ingenuity solved many challenges at low cost, and time was not so much of the essence as it always seems today.


This is a miniature version of a ‘ball mill’ - used to grind paint pigment to a uniform size.  Coarse granules of colored pigments were placed in this vessel, along with a number of the ceramic balls and other shaped objects pictured here.  The lid was clamped down tightly and the mill was placed on a set of mechanically-driven rollers that spun for hours and hours – slowly letting the ceramics grind the pigment to a size acceptable for use in making quality paints and other coatings for any variety of industrial and consumer uses.


This was a research-sized mill – the baby brother of massive tanks that were used in actual production for many years in the first half of the last century.  I found it one day in a heaping pile of trash stacked outside an old storage room at work.  While it obviously no longer served a useful purpose, it was a part of the history of the industry and I couldn’t see simply relegating it to a landfill. 


I consulted with some of the ‘old-timers’ and listened to their stories of howthese were used and – even better – what work life and life in general were like in those times, and then cleaned my new-found treasure up and put it to alternative but still productive use as a combination doorstop / conversation starter in my office.  For as long as it resided there, it always seemed to bring a small sense of peace and a reminder of simpler times – and that gift alone made its rescue and salvage well worth the effort.


inafrnz247 said...

I love to find old tools and objects from long ago... I find many in the woods down behind my grandfather's home here in NH.  The last time we went for a visit, I took the girls fishing down by the river and found some old bottles and a very strange hand drill type of tool.  It was rather large, and I couldn't carry it back up the hill and through the twists and thorns while I carried the poles.  I'm going back after was very interesting but rusty and somewhat eaten away by many, many years in the water and mud.  Intriging photo and entry!  Michelle

mutualaide said...

I never could have guessed what it was used for.  Thanks for sharing it and also the great explanation.  It is always good to be reminded of simpler times -- helps to relieve the stress of a busy life and schedule!  

bedazzzled1 said...

Way cool, Rob! I love the history behind that ball mill. It is so interesting. A unique piece, indeed. Great way to put it to use, too.