Monday, July 26, 2010

Aluminum That Is Not Hammered

All collectible aluminum is not hammered and not all collectors have chosen the hammered look. Today, before moving on to more familiar ground, I want to share a few thoughts about the "other " aluminum collectibles.

Recently, while going out for dinner at a new (for me) restaurant, I quickly noticed the decor with it's aluminum appearance: the silvery metal formed picture frames, other discreet touches of trim here and there, and little bud vases on every table. Then I realized that the chairs were also of a metal with the aluminum appearance. I spared my companions the embarrassment of seeing me turning the chairs over to examine a possible mark identifying the material and the maker, but I assume the metal was brushed nickel or stainless. This seems to be the latest thing in home and business accessories. Does this tweak any memories about the aluminum accessories of 40-50 years ago? I will add that these dining chairs were both elegant and comfortable.
In its heyday, aluminum was popular for much more than the gift ware we have collected. The bank lobby accessories have become fairly familiar, their lamps and desk accessories exist in many of our collections. Although these pieces were generally produced by the Wendell August Forge, and had familiar reposse motifs, other sleek polished lamps and furnishings of aluminum became available. Occasional tables and chairs made of aluminum or combined with other materials became popular. Today some of these items are museum pieces, created by esteemed designers and have prices much higher than even the most rare of our hammered aluminum.
This “look” seems to be returning but mostly in the form of brushed stainless steel or nickel. Aluminum and, even pewter, seem to be in the minority, but the overall appearance is the same.

Will the current use of brushed stainless in kitchen appliances and the revival of the aluminum look in smaller home accessories such as ceiling fans, lamps,and small counter top items, also bring a revival in the gift ware line? There was a surge in popularity several years ago when Armetale serving pieces began to fill the gift wares departments. That interest has declined slightly, but Armetale is still very popular. After Bruce Fox, Inc. was sold to Wilton Armetale in 1975, the Bruce Fox name was combined that of Armetale and sometimes the name of Royal Hickman, who was a renouned designer. With the rise in use of aluminum/brushed nickel/stainless, and even pewter, as accents, all aluminum gift ware items may again be "the rage." Obviously, being a part of a current trend has never been a goal of those of us who have collected hammered aluminum for many years. We have displayed it, used it as serving pieces for at home meals, and surprised everyone with its beauty when we had an opportunity to use it at dinner parties or wedding receptions.
One of the companies of our hammered group has long been a favorite for this type of use. It's decorative trim has made it an attractive serving piece, even when loaded with food. Rodney Kent products were the first aluminum items to merit the attention of dealers and therefore became the first aluminum to be purchased by shoppers who later became collectors of other hammered aluminum.
Below: The familiar Rodney Kent design

In later years, probably the late nineties, Rodney Kent joined this trend of simpler serving pieces. Their first brochure showed very simple pieces with smooth lines, made of Magalon. A listing of their current products describe them as hand hammered, and while still simple, they appear , as pictured, to have lost something in the change from their first sleek style. The Rodney Kent Collection is a division of Shane Industries, makers of fiber optic reels. This doesn't appear to be a logical relationship but was developed because of the association with Stanley Gelfman of the original Rodney Kent company. In a telephone conversation with Mr. Gelfman, he spoke of the earlier company when the gift ware that was to become Rodney Kent, was being developed. Gelfman had been placed in charge of naming this new line of products. He spoke of being stymied by the task until he looked out his office window and focused on the intersection of two streets...Rodney and Kent. He had the name! Now, forty years later and still associated with Shane Industries, his interest in the possibilities of computer use led to the decision to have this new line's design computer generated. photos are available at Rodney Kent Collection
Another highly collectible line of aluminum is one made in New Mexico
Nambi has been around for years and I have two pieces purchased many years ago, probably at garage sales. These are highly functionally, and dull with use, but when new,these pieces have a shine that’ll make you squint.
On my recent trip to NM, I was mainly a follower, seeing displays connected with crafts of which I knew little. I was with my daughter Sherri Woodard Coffey who has become an enthusiastic weaver since her retirement from teaching. She attended a weavers’ convention in Albuquerque and planned to visit several galleries displaying things of special interest in Santa Fe and Taos ( where she has a few pieces of her own displayed). All this was very interesting, but I was stopped in my tracks when I saw the Nambi sign swinging over the sidewalk. My field of interest! I visited briefly with the shop manager and took a few pictures that, because of the brightness of the metal, failed to show their beauty. Their brochure shows both the old classic designs but also pieces of newer more modern design
As you can see, although modern, there is something also familiar about the design of these pieces. The cake plate and servers shown in the photo below remind me of Cellini Craft's style and I'd be glad to include these in my aluminum collection. After all, although the alloy consists of 8 metal, the major component is aluminum. It should fit right in!

There are other materials in the Nambi line. Wood, crystal, and pottery were mingled with the metal pieces displayed in this shop and in their brochure. The same basic simplicity of design was predominate in all.

The company's pride in both the quality of the material and the finished product reads like that of the Wendell August Forge. Perfection is their goal.
The more I dig through my catalogs and notebooks loaded with information, the more I find! I am aghast at what I have forgotten! I have always found it easy to overlook the Russel Wright designs in aluminum, partly I expect, because it is so lightweight. His designs are absolutely elegant ones, all of spun aluminum. This is beautiful stuff when in pristine condition but can be easily ruined by a slight bump. Overall, his designs covered many fields: glass ware, cutlery, pottery, lamps, dinnerware, and "the new metal," aluminum. Ann Kerr's book on Russel Wright has an extensive showing of his work and over 40 different marks!
Imagine having these pieces, in mint condition, pictured in Designs by Ann Kerr.

Returning to the hammered collection, this small tray in the Coffee pattern which is not as plentiful as some.

This small tray and the pair of
vases with the horse motif are
courtesy of Mary Ann's
photographs of her collection.

The horse motif is her favorite.

Now for more details on accessing the Aluminist on line. For those of you who are computer experts, this will be either boring or repetitious! Skip it or think of ways to help those who are only now tentatively entering the world of electronics and are totally confused by it all...I prefer your help!!!

Comments on the blogs.......Irene S. included the following information in her comment:

Sometimes the obstacle to Internet use is not having a computer. I've found that people are surprised that public computers (and often help) are available at senior centers and/or libraries. I've been a volunteer computer tutor and have found that people learn more easily when having a specific goal such as reading this blog. So please spread the word about public computers!
A question was made concerning knowing when a fresh Aluminist is posted; also if I will be aware when a comment is made on an older post.
#1. I will get an email when there is a comment.
#2. You, the person making the comment will be notified if you click on subscribe. Unlike magazine subscriptions no fee is involved and won't be sending out renewal notices!
An email from a collector:

I just looked at your blog and saw the photo

of the Palmer Smith candlabra with the glass

I have a pair, too!! In fact, they were the first pieces I

bought and they are my very favorite! What a treat

to see another.

My own comments...
Please leave a clue to your interest, or/and your reaction to the Aluminist. Any hints of improvements, helps for other collectors, getting the entire process to run more smothly .... all will be appreciated. Do try to refrain from saying "Yuck!" :)

Several sales are planned; at least one is scheduled. There may be more information on Alumilist>

Waiting to hear from you and expecting my computer to fail has symptoms that don't bode well for me.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Looking Back...

I have spoken to several collectors who were not aware that the Wendell August Forge had burned. That their historic building had burned to the ground was sad news but that the business will continue, has been the good news. At present the Forge is operating from other facilities and new property has been purchased for their new building. Although the site will be different, there will be more room to accommodate their needs. In the meantime, a new line of jewelry will be available this fall and their catalog may be available by request.

No one has stated exactly what was saved out of the burning building but it is known that the precious dies which were kept in a vault, were okay. Pictures have been posted on line but I do not have access to any of them but perhaps some may be posted here later.
Over the years a few changes have been made to the techniques used by the Forge in creating their products. The old method of swinging those hammers repeatedly, hour after hour, began to create problems of Carpal Tunnel with numerous workers. The company compensated by installing air hammers. Next, the method of conducting the darkening process has been changed. In the old method, a coal fire was used, and I was told that the heat had to be exactly right to successfully smoke the pieces. In addition the proper heat could be maintained for only a few minutes. The solution was to switch to the use of a chemical, a change we purist regretted. It was this chemical that caused the fire, according to one report.

During my visit to the Forge I was shocked at the shelves of blackened aluminum waiting to be rubbed clean except for the darkening left in the crevices of the patterns. It was almost inconceivable that these black, dirty items would become the polished pieces we are so fond of.
While there I was persuaded to take a few swings of a hammer toward a piece of work in progress. I resisted but lost the battle so, having used a hammer successfully for years and years on many household projects, I took a swing. To my great embarrassment, I did not hit where I was aiming; this, with all the forge workers watching! Why this gal, who had been hitting nails on the head since she was a youngster, failed at that time, is still an embarrassment to me, and I am sure that piece of work had to go into the trash.
A Work in Progress
I am relatively pleased with this new method of creating The Aluminist. There are still decisions to make and some problems to solve. There are still many things to learn, as I've just now discovered! The old Aluminist was printed in two columns and as I was continuing that method in my draft, it was quickly changed into what you are now viewing. For now, that's the way we'll continue.
At this stage, your input is very important.
Not everyone who is an aluminum collector is interested in computer-style communications and these will prefer a printed copy.
Do you, who are reading this now, also prefer to receive the Aluminist by mail?
Will this style of newsletter be one that you can file for reference and participate in much easier?
For those who wish to add comments, find the comment box convenient?
When I use your information, may I use your first name?
(Note … if you are giving cost information about an item, please state if you wish that to remain private.)
If I seem to need guidance in using this electronic method, well, YOU’RE RIGHT, and I’m hoping you will send your thoughts my way!
Seaneen responded to the query about subjects she would be interested in seeing in future issues.
*Sale prices of unusual items.
*An ongoing sharing of pictures, questions, and ideas.,from other collectors.
*pictures of my collection.

Following one suggestion, here are a few of my favorites from my collection. I have a weakness for candle holders as you can see!
Farberware Wendell August Palmer-Smith
Used with footed dish holder Made with different motifs w/ the ball design in solid glass

Unmkd. Wendell August Palmer-Smith Cellini Craft
using their thistle motif including the ball design W/ layered flower petal design

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Getting started,..

Getting started on an Aluminist blog has been extremely difficult for this editor. All my past years of experience in other fields have been of no help as formatting, making corrections, and finding disappearing pictures, have been dealt with. Help pages have not helped. Most speak a language I am not familiar with or refer to other pages with the same confusing wording.

A few email messages have told me several of you are having the same problem. The Blogger Help may solve some of these problems and is easy to find with a Google search (or whatever search engine you are using). Even so, have you ever had had a set of direction that did leave room for doubt? What about the instructions to "cross the bridge and turn left"? Is the large culvert with it's rails considered a bridge? Or what about "Turn right at the first traffic signal"? Is the blinking warning light considered a traffic signal or is it the regular full size one seen several blocks away? So-o-o, navigating in an unfamiliar area gets to be a big problem!

Another major problem is the message that the site cannot be found. Usually this is a temporary situation but sometimes happens when there is mistake in entering the address. There is no room for error in this supposedly simple system.

A list of preferences for future blogs was successfully listed by one collector and those and any others you might add will be our guide.

Please hang in there! I hope to see your comments. I hope to see that there are scads of followers. I hope to soon see new names added to the old familiar list of collectors.

Next blog will be about aluminum with more photos. May I use your first name in making references to collections or questions?



There will be many collectors who do not do internet and have no interest in making the attempt. For those folks I hope to get setup to once more send out the old style Aluminist. This blogging system, however, is so convenient that it is going to be very simply to share our thoughts at any time ... after each of us learn "the ropes", that is!

Several readers have had trouble getting there comments to go through or in being able to become a follower. I believe that the Blogger help site will actually be helpful.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


This question is often asked of collectors and some do. There are a few who buy only Rodney Kent, Everlast, or perhaps Palmer-Smith. Their reasons range from liking the style, to there being a family connection. Their collections are often formidable with examples of every item made by their chosen company.
Like the majority of collectors I have favorite pieces from many different companies. Some are great for serving; some are better for displaying. Some companies did fantastic art work; some used more innovative trim such as handles or finals to create their special look.

In 1980 when we visited the Forge, this plaque was given to me by Bull Knecht with the information that small plaques such as this are copies of the original "Calling Card" used by the Forge in its early days when they were presented as an example of the quality of their work.I hope that after all these years I have the story correct. It is an exquisite piece of work.

The companies that are displayed most proximately here at home are (!) Wendell August (2) Arthur Armour, and (3) Canterbury Arts. These are mostly trays which are easy to hang with plate hangers, and silent butlers which are not at all easy to to get to hang straight!

During these past years I did little shopping but was fortunate to be able to buy directly from another collector, a number of items that would have taken years to find in the shops.

Thia is a great display piece made by Chris Rossi

The World drink set and Wendell August holder with the ceramic Madonna shown in an earlier blog were part of this lucky purhase.

What would be your favorite subjects to feature on future blogs. Possibilities could include:
pictures of my collection
photos of individual companies
known information about each company
general prices
sales lists
shared photos,information and questions from other collectors (this should be an ongoing event)

Friday, July 2, 2010


July 2, 2010

Continuing to add information from the paper version of The Aluminist:

This entire process might be easier if I downloaded every instruction sheet I have access to and took all to a comfy recliner (along with a cold drink) and spent the afternoon studying. That is entirely too sensible so today has been spent attempting to conquer the transferring of photos to these pages.
I appreciate the helpful tips that I've received.

It has just now occurred to me that the past 20 years of publishing The Aluminist has been a constant learning experience! The first few were printed on a manual typewriter and corrections were a real headache. I progressed to a small portable electric one, then to a super helpful word processor that I borrowed from the office. Oh, it was helpful---it was constantly telling me to stop and refused to print another word until I followed it's instructions to make spelling corrections, deleted an incorrect word or comma or whatever else it might object to. I progressed to a simpler PC and then finally to a computer; and then another, and another, until I've lost count. They have all had their own way of doing things and I've never yet won an argument with a computer. I fear that by the time I master all the wonderful things this little laptop has to offer, it will die of exhaustion. TWENTY YEARS and I'm still a dummy. That's scary!

Doug Sutherland is another collector who is continuing to add an occasional piece to his collection. He is very observant and adds new patterns or maker’s names to his extensive collection. He has kindly sent rubbings of these for my records. I hope to share these with you in the future if I’m fortunate enough to find an easy way to transfer the rubbings to these pages. I’m working on it!

Some of you may remember the detailed research that Doug completed on all the companies. The old Aluminist included several copies of that information. Making that information available for serious researchers is another project for this new Aluminist.

Thanks to Mary Ann Felegy for sharing her collection of photographs. I appreciate so very much having them available to share in this and future newsletters. Her collection consisted of many very interesting pieces, many of which I remember her describing to me in a phone call while l turned several shades of green with envy! Texas has never been a good source for hammered aluminum, although a few of my nicest pieces were found at the Canton, Texas flea market —but only because it was frequented by many dealers from northern states .Below, left, is a ceramic Madonna in a Wendell August holder. The drink set, right, was made by World.