Samovar SCOOOOORE!!!

Posted in Old Technology with tags , , , , , , , on May 25, 2009 by madmaxine

I had this urge to go to Goodwill the other day. Alexander, my beautiful assistant, agreed to go with me. After the first minute in the store, as we moved around the shopping carts, there we saw a brass samovar, teapot, and tray on a little bump of carpeted plywood near the cast-off wedding dresses. I love it when Goodwill calls me. Not to sound all woo-woo,  but I seem to have a knack for knowing when I should go in there. That feeling has won me a vintage wall phone and a hand-pump fire-extinguisher. 

But back to the samovar… So we gently place this thing that costs only $39.99 in the cart. Based on my previous ebay research, just the water-heater part of a samovar set tends to go for a couple hundred dollars–even in bad condition. The get up in my cart has four pieces. It’s only missing a drip bowl. Needless to say, I watched my cart like a hawk while I shopped to make sure no one wandered off with it. Finally, we got rung out and headed home. 

And here it is:

Samovar, teapot, and chimney

Samovar, teapot, and chimney

The samovar has a stamp near the steam vent with some cyrillic letters and a double-headed imperial eagle. The tray has a round stamp with a bust of Alexander in the middle. These two stamps seem to be, based on research, seals that were commonly put on samovars during the Czarist period of Russia. 

Here are the samovar and tray stamps:

Czarist Russian seal with the letters т.ф.и.г.б.

Czarist Russian seal with the letters т.ф.и.г.б.

The technology of the samovar and chimney include some hand-fabricated bits, spun brass bits, and primitive threaded parts that lead me to believe that they’re from the mid-to-late 1800s. The tray appears to be pressed brass with some hand-hammered finish areas along the decorative edges.

The tray and tray stamp:

Drip/spill tray for samovar

Drip/spill tray for samovar

Czar Alexander's head seal

Czar Alexander's head seal

The teapot is probably spun brass that is hammered to look like it was formed by hand. It has a spring-loaded lid-remover that is a pretty modern compression spring, and there are some nicely machined threads that hold the sieve screens in place. So I’m guessing the teapot is from as late as the 1920s or 1930s. The teapot has a little stamp on it that has two fishes, belly-to-belly, pointing in opposing directions.

Squeeze the lever to pop the lid off the pot

Squeeze the lever to pop the lid off the pot

 Teapot seal (on the bottom of the pot):

Opposing fish. Maybe from Odessa?

Opposing fish. Maybe from Odessa?

The guts of the samovar have about 1/4 inch of accumulated scale on them, which I’m hoping has protected the tin lining. We’ve been working since Friday night to get that scale out. Which has involved a lot of vinegar and hot water. The kitchen currently smells like a sidewalk after the first rain in a month.

Soaking brass in vinegar, by the way, is a great way to get it cleaned up. Vinegar removes the brownish deposits of oxidation, and all that remains to finish it is a rouge cloth.  

Here’s the interior:

The interior chimney of the samovar--the location of the fire for boiling water.

The interior chimney of the samovar--the location of the fire for boiling water. The white stuff in the bottom is fizzing vinegar.

We loaded the samovar full of water and determined that it has two leaks–one at each handle. The spigot drips somewhat, but based on its simple design, it’s not surprising. All that remained was to research the use of one of these things. The best description and compiled history of the samovar that I’ve found is here:

After several cleanings, we decided to test it. Saturday morning, in our pyjamas, we headed out to the front sidewalk with a bag of paper scraps, five pinecones, some gathered twigs, a box of matches, and a samovar full of water. The chimney and the tray came with us also.

After a few tries, we got the fire lit. It required a lot of feeding with twigs. Next time I do this, I’ll have a pile of small wood pieces stacked and ready to go. After about 20 minutes, we had a good fire going, and 1/2 gallon of boiling water in the samovar. 

And here’s the crazy video:

So it works. The cleanup continues. I’m looking into re-tinning services, thoughI could probably do it myself with the proper equipment (thanks to my minor in art metals). I just need a really big, fluffy torch and an enclosed fire box. In the meantime, we’ll be looking into finding good tea and trying to figure out what this thing is worth, and we plan to take it to Burning Man to do some tea service. The clock is ticking… EEK!


Hooping and the Creative Machinery in My Brain

Posted in Costumes with tags , , on May 4, 2009 by madmaxine

Well, I finally found a hobby that really sparks my creativity, and it gets me off my butt too! Here’s what I managed to finish yesterday. The little tasseled belt/skirt is a separate piece.

I will coordinate that with a headdress and some foot coverings. Those pieces (the belt, the headdress, and foot coverings) will have interchangeable mix and match bits so I can be color-coordinated. This is the start of a steampunk get-up (the skirt is copper-colored).

The hoop suit (numero uno!)

The hoop suit (numero uno!)


Posted in 1 with tags , on April 13, 2009 by madmaxine

It’s full of stars… No, really.

Just got back from an excellent journey that involved lots of hula hoops and awesome hoopy-goodness. It has inspired all kinds of things in my brain. Time to start being more creative.

The Chiropractic Prints!

Posted in Miscellaneous Cool Things with tags , , , on March 13, 2009 by madmaxine

Finally, I’m back from my blog sabbatical.

My faaabulous Chiropractor not only crunches my bones around, but he also hands over the best loot.  Here are the nifty things he gave me (as if the turkey wings weren’t cool enough).

These are crappy photos, and there’s a really neat artifact in one of these that you can’t see here. I’ll try to update this later wth more details.

With the skin on

With the flesh on

With out the skin

Without the flesh


Posted in Projects with tags , , , on December 20, 2008 by madmaxine

My awesome chiropractor has procured for me, through his wicked hunting skills, a set of fine, wild turkey wings! WOOT! He even removed the meat from the skin for me. I recently picked them up, salted them, arranged and pinned them. I think I will wrap the skin around a solid base and make a pair of wearable wings for myself. 

He also gave me some fantastic chiropractic prints, but that’s for a later post (better photos needed). 

He totally rawks. 


Turkey wingies!

Turkey wingies!

FUCK YOU GM!! (a rant)

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on December 8, 2008 by madmaxine

Dear GM:

You built an awesome electric car back in the late 90’s, then pulled it off the market, shredded it, and hid the plans. Now you want my taxpayer dollars to save your fat, ugly, Hummer-building ass? Are you nuts? What part of “FUCK YOU” do you have a problem understanding?

Did you really think your pathetic apology ad would actually win over the hearts of Americans after they’ve spent years driving your shoddy fleet vehicles? After you flew in your corporate jet to Washington DC with NO PLAN to save your own ass and then had the balls to actually ask for money? After actually conceptualizing to build something as heinous as the Hummer (I mean, really, even the NAME is horrible)? What a bunch of retards.

If you want ANY support from me and the rest of America at all, you need to bring back this:



The EV1 is the only good thing you’ve come up with since the middle of the last century. That, plus you need to shit-can all of your upper-tier, scumbag executives. Then, maybe I’ll go along with bailing you out,you whiny losers. 

You suck. Seriously. I’m (figuratively) holding my bailout funds ransom until you grow a brain.


An Ode to Joy

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , on November 5, 2008 by madmaxine

Holy crap. Obama did it! WE did it. I’m beside myself with joy. Thank you, Americans–regardless of your beliefs–thank you all for getting out and VOTING! And for participating in this amazing election. We all deserve this chance to decide our history, and we picked up that chance and ran for it. I am so proud of everyone I met today.