Saturday, April 23, 2016

Vintage Hammered Aluminum

My little greenhouse/she shed has given me hours of enjoyment.  I love everything about it, including the decorating.  Finally, I had a space for my two milk cans, the perfect plant stands for some herbs, and I loved the way they complimented my galvanized watering cans and trays.  Consequently, when I saw a vintage aluminum dish at a thrift shop, I knew it would look perfect in the greenhouse.    And thus began my obsession.

A little nostalgia anyone?  These were often called poor-man’s silver and were the serving pieces my “child of the depression” mother had at home.  Hammered aluminum was very popular in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s, and were usually given as wedding gifts.  The pieces are cheaper and lighter than silver but never needed polishing.  The downside is they scratch and dent easily so they need to be treated with care.  They can be found in consignment or thrift shops for a few dollars, and there are a multitude of shapes, sizes and designs to suit anyone’s fancy.  The authentic collector would look for the company’s name and/or hallmark, and many times the product number and the term hand wrought or hand hammered  is indented into the piece.  I'd like to tell you that I'm a serious collector, but I'd be lying.  I just like what I like, and let's be real, it's going into the shed.

Vintage  aluminum pieces in the greenhouse

I have tried several methods of cleaning these pieces including baking soda and vinegar, cream of tartar and lemon juice, you name it.  Do NOT put them in the dishwasher, or use silver polish or silver pastes, for it will ruin the finish.   All that’s really needed is mild soap and water, but if that doesn’t do the trick, I found that Bar Keepers Friend worked fine for me.  In my search for methods to clean these vintage pieces, I’ve also come across a paste aluminum cleaner named “Mothers”, found in the auto supply stores.  The problem with this cleaner is that it leaves a film which can be unsafe if the piece is to be used with food.   Please note  when purchasing these aluminum pieces, any pitted or deteriorated finishes will  not give you the results you hope for, but they’re in the greenhouse so who cares. 

This large bowl is excellent for mixing potting soil,
the crumb catcher is ideal for scooping spilled soil,
small garden tools in the oval tray are readily accessible,
and the pea pod handled dish holds the season's plant tags.
Don't you love the pea pod handle?
Everlast Forged Aluminum Covered Bowl #1038

This flat tray was the perfect solution for this
little table with a broken glass top.
I was fixated on collecting the vintage aluminum trays for my seedlings, appreciating the attractive designs that rivaled any of the trays you buy at the garden centers.  They look so charming on the shelves.  Added bonus - they cost a fraction of store bought trays. 

Some of my treasures never made it to the shed.  This ice bucket is used to collect the kitchen scraps for the compost pile.


And this little tray is perfect for holding my kosher salt cellar, pepper mill, and the toothpicks for baking.

 During my treasure hunts, I found unique serving pieces that I thought would be perfect for my garden brunches.   I had originally bought this pie taker as a base for a miniature garden, which it still may become.  But as you can see, the casserole dish did make it into a miniature garden as has several other pieces. 

Vintage aluminum in the she shed
Yes, it's gotten out of control, but I love the hunt.  Searching for these distinctive pieces adds charm and character to my she shed, with a little bit of nostalgia.

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