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Friday, February 15, 2013

Odd bits: Doorknobs, drawer pulls, knops and more

Even after 40+ years of beach combing and looking for sea glass, I continue to approach-- and appreciate-- each trip to the beach with child-like enthusiasm.

I still feel happy every time I find even something relatively common... in an unusual shape, or perfect condition, or deeper-than-usual color.

This used to be a drawer pull or cabinet knob
Of course, "odd bits" offer a particular thrill-- in part because of the rarity factor, in part because of the fun of going "What IS that???" and then figuring it out.

I live in a small seaside city of some 10,000 people. What makes beach combing here interesting is that this was a thriving community in the mid- to late 1800s, and 100's of fine old homes were built here, on the expectation that this would become "The San Francisco of the North."

Alas, that never happened-- for a couple of reasons; one being an adequate natural water supply to support the growing population, the other being a decision by the railroad companies not to extend the lines here... and without rail transport to hand shipping cargo, the dreams of a major seaport were dashed.

How does this relate to beach combing?

Many of the old houses fell into disrepair. Some became so derelict they were torn down for safety reasons (in the 1930's to 1950's)... and the debris was bulldozed into the ocean; basically "thrown over the edge" of seaside escarpments to be taken away by the tides. Contained in that debris were the fixtures used in bygone eras in nice houses: glass and porcelain doorknobs, drawer pulls, chandeliers and more. And, in time, they became a very special form of sea glass.

A conical drawer pull-- the "inside" is hollow, for the attachment
Over the years, I have found a wide range of unusual artifacts around here. I have beach combed in many different places around the US and the world... and whereas I may have found tens of thousands of pieces of glass there, this is the first time I have lived in a place where it was possibly to find the sea polished remains of old building debris.

I find at least a couple of glass doorknobs, every year. They are not as interesting, visually, as they tend to have worn down to where they are just very large, very thick circular pieces of sea glass, sometimes with one side (the side that would have face inwards, towards the door) flat or slightly concave. The cabinet knobs and drawer pulls are more interesting-- a lot more variety of shape and size. Old crystals from chandeliers are relatively rare-- they were usually made of lead crystal, which is relatively soft... and tends to wear away much faster in the ocean. I can usually recognize them by the "teardrop" shape and the glass being uncommonly "white" in appearance.

1 comment:

Dara A Schumaier said...

Those things you are referring to as "drawer pulls" may often (and more likely) be glass bottle stoppers. I've found a few of them. I also own some antique glass bottles with ground glass stoppers which is how I put two and two together.

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1960 vintage Danish national now living in the Pacific Northwest... active in the global HSP community; active beach comber and sea glass collector; lifetime collector of postage stamps from Scandinavia; writer and consultant, primarily to the metaphysics and self-help industries, writer at OM Times magazine; artist who doodles on rocks; eBay & Etsy entrepreneur and studio and production assistant at Radio Nahmaste.

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