Snag » Review All Found. All Vintage. Wed, 05 Oct 2016 21:18:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Review: Armstrong Vinyl Composite Tile Flooring Wed, 14 Jan 2015 17:34:00 +0000 It’s all fun and games until your sweet little baby who will never grow up starts making the motions to crawl. Then it’s time to actually install a kitchen floor. We’ve been living with a sub-floor for over a year and had purchased the vinyl composite tiles (VCT) for almost that long. This weekend I took the kids to save them from the adhesive off-gassing and my husband tackled the floor.

Here is the flooring we chose after much debating...In October. Of 2013! Reader Carol suggested taking a peek at Armstrong’s line, and while I had looked there before this pattern caught my eye.

VCT Detail

While I do want to show an overall before and after, the condition of the walls, torn wallpaper, nasty ceiling fan makes an “after” shot really underwhelming. It barely looks any different! But here are a few closeups.

VCT Closeup VCT Closeup

As you can see from the first shot, the original vinyl flooring went up the sides of the walls about 6″. We’re debating whether to do the same or to patch all of it and just leave a smooth wall. What do you think?

For the installation it was pretty easy and straightforward. We prepped the subfloors by cleaning them off, leveling the high spots and marking where the first tile should go. My husband used the Family Handyman’s article here for some good tips. After the prep work, the adhesive was spread out and left to dry. While typically this should take half an hour, since it is so cold and drafty in our house it took more like two hours. Bummer.

The tiles themselves were easy to cut and easy to install. We did run in to weird black greasy spots being on some of the tiles which was super bizarre and kind of a pain to clean up. It took my husband a solid two and a half days to install and us an evening to clean and polish. But for the price and vintage look of our new flooring we are definitely pleased with the results!

Next up is taking down the wallpaper, 90s curtains and weird moldings that happen throughout the room. Stay tuned, we’re going to get moving on this project!

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Product Review: Howard Restor-A-Finish Wed, 21 May 2014 14:38:19 +0000 If you’ve ever done even the lightest internet search for any topic related to restoring furniture finishes, you’ve no doubt run across the name Howard’s. A favorite product of dealers and collectors, it’s often touted as a miraculous cure-all for whatever ails your wooden furniture. Despite the widespread enthusiasm, I’ve remained a skeptic. Why? Howard’s and several products like it are basically waxes that apply over an existing finish. The waxes and added colorants restore shine while filling in scratches and imperfections. It sounds great, but waxes don’t play well with traditional wood cleaners or wood finishing products. In other words, once you use Howard’s, a piece will require some special care and any future attempts to refinish the wood might not end well. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder about the hype, so I decided to put Howard’s through it’s paces with the most difficult project I could find.


Ok, this 1950s desk isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but for Howard’s to be an option the finish must still be somewhat present. When I found this on Craigslist the ad said there were some scratches overall. In person, those “scratches” turned out to be deeply carved words.


Further complicating things is the fact that the wood is white pine with a dark walnut finish, causing every scratch and blemish to stick out like a sore thumb.


Ordinarily I wouldn’t attempt any scratch-fixing on a case like this, it would just automatically go to the refinish pile. And in actuality, I would normally never even consider buying a piece in this condition unless it was something really special. But I decided  if I was going to give Howard’s miracle potion a shot, it might as well be on something that desperately needed a miracle. Here goes nothing.


Howard Restor-A-Finish comes in a range of colors to match whatever finish you’re working with. The directions say to simply wipe on the product and let dry or, for extremely rough finishes, apply with #0000 steel wool and wipe dry. I figured the latter applied to me. The product has a very strong odor and I wouldn’t recommend using it indoors. The consistency and application was very similar to applying Danish oil. I rubbed the product on one area at a time, wiping off excess with a rag. After the product dried, I followed their recommendation to apply a coat of Howard’s Feed-N-Wax, a solution of orange oil with carnauba wax and beeswax and let dry.

Drumroll please…


Overall it performed better than I had imagined but didn’t quite live up to the hype. That being said, it did improve the appearance ten fold. Minor scratches and nicks disappeared, but deeper gouges tended to take on a dark and dull appearance. It didn’t quite fully restore the sheen as I had been led to believe, but it didn’t do a half bad job either.


The carvings in the top are still visible, but much less jarring than they originally were. I think it gives the desk some character. Nothing short of sanding the entire top down and refinishing could have remedied this, but I will say the product did a good job of covering scratches in a light wood/dark finish situation that’s normally an uphill battle for any method.

Pros: Howard’s mostly does what it says it will do—fix scratches and minor wear. It’s relatively inexpensive, comes in a wide range of colors, is compatible with most wood finishes, is easy to apply and dries quickly (though in my experience it took longer than suggested on the package to fully cure). The resulting finish doesn’t leave a waxy feel like similar products such as Briwax.

Cons: It has strong fumes, though not worse than most wood finishing products. It may require special care with products that contain wax or oil rather than aerosol polishes or cleaners. If wood surfaces require refinishing in the future, residue from this product may hinder the ability of stains or finishes to bond to the wood or cure properly.

Summary: I would recommend this product for pieces that just need a refresh—those with light scratches, nicks or mild water rings. It performed well, but it’s not a magic bullet and it won’t resolve severely damaged finishes. For best results, use it with woods that are naturally closer in color to the final finish of the piece to avoid any exposed wood from becoming darker or a different tone than the surrounding finish.

The results of this were so similar to my experiences using Danish oil to fix scratches that I’m not sure there’s any real benefit to using Howard’s, especially considering Danish oil doesn’t affect a piece’s ability to be refinished in the future. But I do plan to try Howard’s on a few different types of woods and finishes before making a wholesale judgment for or against it.

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Review: Vintage Sears Griddle and Waffle Iron Tue, 25 Feb 2014 14:10:34 +0000 A long time ago I was at an estate sale and came across this appliance shoved in the back of a bottom kitchen cabinet.

Waffle Iron IllustrationEven though I wasn’t sure if this combination Sears brand griddle/waffle iron worked, I had to buy it to test it out. It was a whole $2.

Variable Temperature ControlLet’s just say it works exceptionally well. We use this little guy at least once a week for pancakes. There’s a variable temperature control, but we usually keep it turned all the way up. The entire unit heats extremely evenly, but doesn’t get very hot so you need to have some patience. Do you see that small dent in the lower right corner? Yes, I dropped it off our countertop on to our tile floor. Nothing broke, no tiles chipped, and it keeps on grilling.

Grill PlatesThe grill plates remove for easy washing and are covered in some sort of a Teflon coating that isn’t going anywhere. I was reading reviews of a Cuisinart Griddler and several reviews mentioned the coating just flaking off. This stuff doesn’t have a scratch.

Cord CaseThe best part? The deluxe cord case. The cashier at the tag sale started to throw this orange juice can away and I had to convince her I really wanted it. It’s just too perfect. Bottom line: if you run across one of these models I’d say go for it. We’re really happy with it and that illustration makes me smile every time I go to wash it.

Update: Snag reader Tracy mentioned her griddle just like this one having an overheated cord and melting the countertop, so please keep an eye on your vintage appliances!

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Coffee + Physics: The Sunbeam Coffeemaster C50 Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:00:37 +0000 Last week I posted about the sheer simplicity of the Chemex coffeemaker, but today I’m going to show you the exact opposite end of the spectrum with a how-to and review of the glorious, fully automatic chrome beast that is the Sunbeam Coffeemaster C50.


About a year ago I discovered that Krups had discontinued the filters for my Moka Brew, a coffeemaker I finally loved after two miserable experiences with mold-prone automatic drip machines. So, I began cutting paper filters for it by hand, but decided it would be good to research possible replacements. Through research on coffee aficionado forums I discovered a type of brewing called vacuum brewing that is widely regarded as a gold standard for brewed coffee. With several high-priced new vacuum brewers to choose from, I was surprised to find that some of the most recommended machines were from the 1930s through the 1960s. For a vintage-phile like me, this was the best news possible. I found this Coffeemaster C50—original manual included—on Craigslist.


Vacuum brewing goes back hundreds of years, but electric automatic models came onto the scene just before WWII. Makers such as Cory, Proctor Silex and Sunbeam were among the most prominent. Throughout the 1950s, however, vacuum brewers lost market to faster, less expensive electric percolators. Sunbeam introduced the Coffeemaster with model C20 in 1938 and ceased vacuum brewer production with the C50, produced only in 1960. Here it would remain in obscurity until future coffee lovers rediscovered what made these machines so great in the first place: the coffee.


Although they may look like exotic percolators, vacuum brewing is very different from percolating. Percolators flash boil water, sending it up a tube to splash over coffee grounds repeatedly. In a vacuum brewer, water heats in the lower chamber creating vapor which, blocked by the upper chamber seal, creates pressure. Eventually enough pressure builds to force the water up the siphon tube into the upper chamber where it combines with the coffee grounds. When the temperature of the lower chamber cools, the water flows back down the tube, ending the brewing process. Unlike the percolator, the water never reaches boiling and brewed coffee is never recirculated through the grounds. For these reasons, many believe that vacuum brewing is one of the best extraction methods for coffee. I had to try it for myself.

Broken-DownThe first step for me was cleaning the machine. With years of built up black coffee residue in the lower chamber and filter, I wasn’t about to drink anything that came out of it. I cleaned the lower chamber with oven cleaner about three times before it shined up to bare chrome. The stainless steel mesh filter was also almost completely black. I ended up using a toothbrush and Goo Gone to break down the oils and get down to the bare metal. After several rinsing cycles, I was ready to test the self-proclaimed “Finest Coffeemaker Made.” Here’s how it’s done:

Add Water

Add Water

First, add water to the lower chamber. On most models, lines up to 10 cups are marked on the inside of the pot.

Add Coffee

Add Coffee

Next, insert the filter rod into the siphon tube of the upper chamber. The end of the filter rod is crooked and simply goes through the siphon tube and hooks over the end. Set the upper chamber on top. Sunbeam Coffeemaster models before the C50 press on, the C50 locks on with two levers. Put the appropriate amount of coffee into the upper chamber.

Switch to Brew

Switch to Brew

Turn the switch toward “Brew.” It will immediately snap back to the center position, but the light will come on to indicate the brewing process has started. It will take a few minutes, but eventually you’ll hear a sudden gurgling noise.



Once maximum pressure is achieved in the bottom chamber, the water suddenly bubbles up into the top and churns around with the coffee. Perhaps the most fascinating part of watching a 50+ year-old appliance make coffee is the level of automation. Once the appropriate temperature is achieved in the lower chamber and the water leaves, the pot automatically switches itself into warming mode allowing the bottom to cool and the brewed coffee to return.


Remove upper chamber and serve

After a few minutes of gurgling about, you’ll hear the water rush back toward the bottom. The brewing is complete. The upper chamber can be removed and the coffee is ready to serve. Because I had read so many positive reviews I was anxious to try it, but admittedly skeptical that an all-metal coffeemaker from 1960 with a reusable filter was going to make a half-decent cup. But, here goes nothing. Down the hatch.

Amazing. A super smooth but rich and complex cup of coffee with no bitterness or “bright” taste. In terms of flavor, hands down it beats the Chemex, every drip coffeemaker I’ve ever used and even my Krups Moka Brew. It really is some of the best coffee I’ve ever made at home and I’d recommend one to anyone. That being said, there’s a lot to consider if you’re thinking of adding one of these to your kitchen lineup.


The obvious pro is the amazing coffee. Quality construction is another solid pro. These things are thick chrome over solid copper and built to last for generations. It’s very likely that with proper maintenance one would last the rest of your natural life. Plus, that’s all wrapped up in timelessly beautiful package. All models feature reusable filters, whether cloth or metal mesh, so there are no paper filters to continually buy or toss out either.


Vacuum brewers take longer than most modern coffeemakers to brew and that might be a consideration for daily use. The biggest con is the cleanup. It breaks down into four pieces that really should be cleaned after each use. The grounds are loose in the upper chamber and must be rinsed out. The mesh filter almost always has to be cleaned with a small brush to get the sediment off of it. The amount of time required to set it up, brew and clean it would probably be too prohibitive for making a quick travel mug of coffee on workdays. The rubber gasket on the upper chamber can be a drawback as they can dry out and must be replaced. Although the gaskets are becoming easier to find with more interest in the machines.


If you’re using a model with a metal mesh filter, use a slightly coarser grind to prevent fine sediment from making it into the brew. Many people recommend the older models C20, C30 and their variants rather than the C5o, claiming that design differences in the C50 cause it to slightly over-brew. I haven’t done the research to see, but I thought the C50 made a great cup. If you’re looking for one, I’d recommend buying in person if possible to be able to verify the condition of the seal.

In the end, I’d recommend this for anyone who truly loves coffee and wants a device capable of producing a large amount of great coffee at one time. Once you get the hang of it, it may just become your favorite way to make coffee at home.

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