PDA

View Full Version : Refinishing Medicine Tins



TimKindred
09-21-2006, 08:11 AM
Comrades,

I thought that I might add a couple of things towards upgrading our equipment. The tin medical container is a "must-have" item for field medical displays. It was the primary container found in the medical panniers, and was designed to hold a 30-day's supply of a particular medicne, as indicated on it's label.

The tin container may be thought of as a disposable container for the medical department. Like bandages and sponges, they were a "use and discard" item. They came into wide-spread use because of the unsuitability of glass vessels for field use. the harsh conditions of weather, and jostling about in wagons and on horseback were too much for glass vials and containers, and considerable breakage and loss was the result. The tin container solved the problem of breakage, but some medicines were prone to have a caustic effect upon either the tin plate, the solder, or both. Therefore, it was strongly suggested that they be discarded after 30 days of use in the field.

The original items were japanned. That is to say, they were treated with a finish that required several coats and was baked on. For a basic description of the process, I would suggest here:

http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Japanning

Currently, no one, to my knowledge, offers an accurate reproduction of a period government-issue tin medicine container. True enough, the ones available from the usual suspects are accurate as far as dimensions, and construction. However, the finish and spout are incorrect. The original tins had a glossy black, or plum-brown color, and were even issued in kelly green and perhaps other colors. It is known that tin makers and dealers offered household items and other tin products in red, blue, green and pink, besides the basic black. For an example of the kelly green tins, see here:

http://www.geocities.com/hospital_steward/ImageFieldCase.html?1078381069687

The spouts on the tins were of cast pewter, similar in design to those on the Federal canteens. Unless someone is willing to create a mold and begin casting and finishing new spouts, we are stuck with the current rolled tin spout on the container.

As to the finish, it should be a tough, glossy coat, either of black, or a purplish-brown. If you have the time to invest, then the latter colouring may be had by making a thin lacquer of the desired shade, one that will not give an opaque coat in one covering. Take a wooden dowel that will fit into the spout, insert it, and use a thin strip of duct tape around the upper part of the tin spout to hold the dowel in place. Next, use any commercial paint stripper to remove the current painted finish. After that is done, wipe it clean with rubbing alcohol and allow to air dry. Now, using a 1" or 2" wide soft camel's hair or sable brush, apply a coat to the tin. Place the wooden dowel into a clamp or other device to hold it firmly, and allow the tin to dry completely, preferably in a warm well ventilated place, such as outdoors. Repeat the coating process until a uniform color has been achieved. When completely dry, coat with a protective finish of clear gloss enamel.

Now, the latter step thete, coating with clear gloss enamel is certainly not period. However, the tins will recieve much handling, and the finish is prone over time to scratching and chipping. Since the tins were disposable, the actual damge wouldn't be too great. Therefore, we either have to prevent chipping through a clear protective coat to preserve the new appearance, or strip and repaint the tins each year.

For a gloss-black appearance, the following works very well. Clean the tin well with rubbing alcohol to remove any grease. It's not required to remove any finish currently on it, but you will (obviously) need to remove the label and any glue residue.

Next, affix a dowel as in the previous example. In a well-ventilated and warm area, such as outdoors, coat the tin with a thin but opaque spray primer. This may be of any priming color, such as rust-red, white, grey, or hot-rd primer (a dark charcoal grey). Allow this to dry. Next, give the tin a thin coat of gloss black spray paint. It's not necesary to completely cover the tin in one coat, or it will build up and run, or "orange-peel" giving a pebbly surface. It's far better to use 3-4 thin coats, sprayed evenly, than one thick one. Allow each coat to dry. Finally, finish the tin with one or two thin coats of clear gloss, and allow to dry completely before handling.

Finally, apply the label of your choice with muscelage or a glue stick.

As an addendum, it should be noted that virtually ALL tin containers were coated, and that includes the chloroform container. Many are seen in plain tin, but extant examples are japanned. I've included an example of an original chloroform tin below for your perusal. Note also the red wooden stopper on this vessel. The easiest way to reproduce this is to take a wooden tompion and cut off the bottom section, then glue a section of cork to the bottom. Cut the cork so it fits fully into the spout, level with the top, before gluing it to the tompion top. When it's fully dry, run a wood screw up through the cork and into the wood handle to secure it and prevent breakage. paint the handle red with whatever paint you have handy.

Trusting this is of some small use, I remain,

Respectfully,

TimKindred
09-23-2006, 01:40 PM
Comrades,

Bob Sullivan had enquired as to whether the label on the chloroform tin I attached was colored. I responded that yes, I believe it was colored originally, but as to whether it was printed in color or hand-colored, I cannot say. I suspect that much of the medical label industry used colored labels, or at least printed in black ink upon a colored paper.

Respects,

Archibald Mungo
10-16-2006, 07:55 PM
Why not just strip the tins and japan them for real? :confused:

TimKindred
10-16-2006, 11:17 PM
Comrade,

Why not try and make a silk purse from a sow's ear? I'm not being flippant, but the effort to strip them and japan them would be cost-prohibitive.

Japanning involves multiple layers of laquer, each layer baked on, then sanded in between. Normal japanned ware has between 5 and 7 coats. Just finding a suitable kiln for baking the seperate coats would be an extreme effort.

Add to this the fact that, as I tried to point out, the spouts are incorrect to start with, and it's not likely that a proper one will be available anytime soon, and it's simply not worth the effort to try and add an actual japan finish. The initial cost of the individual tins runs between 8 and 16 dollars each, and with a typical medicine chest or pannier requiring 16-24 tins, that's a ton of money to be throwing down.

Yes, I WOULD like to have properly constructed and finished tins for my displays, but until someone can offer them at a reasonable price, the solutions I offer will have to do.

It's no different than 20 years ago when the best Enfield you could buy was either a Parker Hale or an original, and there was NO ONE making proper lock plates, or barrel bands or sling swivels like nowadays. So you had to either accept the limitations of the Parker Hale or buy an original and pray you didn't damage it. In fact, up until the past 10-12 years or so, your choices were the M1863 Springfield, the M1841 Mississippi, or the M1853 (not) Enfield. That was it for rifle-muskets and rifles. Yes some other 2-banders were available, but the pickings were slim.

It's easy to offer simplistic solutions here, but unless and until someone wants to start making accurate tins to begin with, at a reasonable price, we'll have to do the best we can with what is available, or else stay home and give up the impression entirely.

Respects,

Archibald Mungo
10-17-2006, 05:15 PM
Japanning can be baked on in a regular oven. It doesn't require a special kiln nor does it require that many coats for a period matching finish.

P.A.M.
Tinware dealer

TimKindred
10-17-2006, 09:35 PM
Japanning can be baked on in a regular oven. It doesn't require a special kiln nor does it require that many coats for a period matching finish.

P.A.M.
Tinware dealer

Comrade,

Yes indeed it can, but I suspect that most folks wouldn't want to be baking large lots of japanned ware in the same ovens they cook in, especially if they don't have a range hood or other venting device to clear the fumes from the kitchen and elsewhere throughout the house. They'd also need to design and build a jig to hold the tins.

Since you are a dealer of tinware, why don't you simply let us all know when you have the properly made and finished tins available? Proper Janned finish, cast pewter spout and fitted cork, etc. That way we will have the proper article, and you will have a profit for your efforts. We won't have to offer suggestions on how to improve the current offering(s), and you won't have to comment so much.

Do let us know when they're available! I'd love to have them for my displays and field use. Can you have them available for purchase before the spring campaign?

Respects,

Archibald Mungo
10-18-2006, 07:37 PM
As I sit and look at my properly japanned reproduction tobacco tins and other japanned repro items, I try to remember what special kiln they were put in to bake on the finish and the specialized jigs that held them in place.
I'm drawing a blank.

I had thought about checking into making the proper tins, but with your flippant attitude, I will think no further about it.

Since you apparently know so much about the japanning process, there is no need for me to respond anymore.

coastaltrash
10-18-2006, 08:56 PM
Tim,
I've purchased a large amount of tinware from the person you are thumping your self righteous chest at, and honestly they are the best reproduction items of tin I have ever seen. Included the properly japanned tobacco tins. In fact, I use it as an everyday item. His stuff to me is better than Otter Creek, which is a hard comparison.

Patrick Landrum

TimKindred
10-19-2006, 07:29 AM
Tim,
I've purchased a large amount of tinware from the person you are thumping your self righteous chest at, and honestly they are the best reproduction items of tin I have ever seen. Included the properly japanned tobacco tins. In fact, I use it as an everyday item. His stuff to me is better than Otter Creek, which is a hard comparison.

Patrick Landrum

Patrick,

I'm not thumping my chest about anything. I'm just fascinated that a man with as incredible background as Comrade "Mungo", feels the need to snipe at someone's post rather than offer constructive comments.

His attitude is both self-righteous and boorish, and more to be expected of someone posting on the OTB rather than here.

If Mr. "Mungo" has something of value to offer on this thread, then he should do so rather than take a swipe at my comments and/or suggestions. .

I have done nothing to offend him, but he seems determined to act as if I have.

Patrick, all he has to do is identify himself and offer some constructive comments. If he has so much of such value to offer to us, then by all means post it and let us share in his knowleadge. Hiding behind a moniker and taking adolescent shots at others is not of any value whatsoever.

Respects,

hanktrent
10-19-2006, 09:12 AM
I didn't see any sniping, self righteousness or boorishness from Archibald Mungo's side. Seems to me the normal response to

Japanning can be baked on in a regular oven. It doesn't require a special kiln nor does it require that many coats for a period matching finish.
would be "I didn't know it could be that simple. Neat! How is it done?"

Actually, that was my reaction, but I didn't post, because I figured someone else would ask the same thing. There's lots of stuff that people need japanned in the hobby, in addition to medicine tins. There's probably not much chance of getting an answer now, and that's a shame, but I don't blame Mungo for that.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Archibald Mungo
10-19-2006, 04:47 PM
Mr. Kindred,
I wasn't going to respond to this because I had no intention for this to evolve into an argument, but I will try to explain a few things that others see but you apparently have blinders on to.

I started off asking the question "Why not just japan them for real?". Your response was instantly offensive:

Why not try and make a silk purse from a sow's ear? I'm not being flippant, but the effort to strip them and japan them would be cost-prohibitive.

...Add to this the fact that, as I tried to point out, the spouts are incorrect to start with, and it's not likely that a proper one will be available anytime soon, and it's simply not worth the effort to try and add an actual japan finish.

Funny you just had to mention the disclaimer "I'm not being flippant" when that's exactly what you were being. All I did was ask a simple question. Instead of using paint, substitute japan varnish. It's really not that much more cost prohibitive than painting them. The kind of top it has on it really doesn't matter at this point since you are trying to work with what you already have at hand.

Then I got:

Japanning involves multiple layers of laquer, each layer baked on, then sanded in between. Normal japanned ware has between 5 and 7 coats. Just finding a suitable kiln for baking the seperate coats would be an extreme effort.

When I tried to explain that the process is not that complicated (at least from what I've witnessed with my own tinware), I got:

Yes indeed it can, but I suspect that most folks wouldn't want to be baking large lots of japanned ware in the same ovens they cook in, especially if they don't have a range hood or other venting device to clear the fumes from the kitchen and elsewhere throughout the house. They'd also need to design and build a jig to hold the tins.

For some reason you are dead-set in thinking the only way to do it was with special kilns and jigs. Maybe some people would do it in their own oven. Have you ever thought of that? Just because YOU wouldn't, doesn't mean someone else might. Someone might also use ANOTHER oven. You are not required by law to only have one oven.
Apparently there is only one way to do it and you know the process. Why you couldn't respond like Hank suggested ("I didn't know it could be that simple. Neat! How is it done?")? You had to go on the condescending and sarcastic tirade:

Since you are a dealer of tinware, why don't you simply let us all know when you have the properly made and finished tins available? Proper Janned finish, cast pewter spout and fitted cork, etc. That way we will have the proper article, and you will have a profit for your efforts. We won't have to offer suggestions on how to improve the current offering(s), and you won't have to comment so much.
Do let us know when they're available! I'd love to have them for my displays and field use. Can you have them available for purchase before the spring campaign?

THAT'S why you got the response from me that you did. I never took an attitude with you like you did me. I have NO idea where you got the idea that I was "sniping" you. All I did was ask a few simple questions and make a few simple suggestions. Hank Trent was seeing this clearly enough, as were others that have contacted me about this thread.


all he has to do is identify himself and offer some constructive comments. If he has so much of such value to offer to us, then by all means post it and let us share in his knowleadge. Hiding behind a moniker and taking adolescent shots at others is not of any value whatsoever.

I never took any adolescent shots. If so, please show me where this occured.
Why would I want to offer any more info after your condescending and sarcastic comments? Also, most people know me by the name I use, since it's one I use for public performances.

This whole episode with you reminds me of something that happened on a WW II reenacting discussion board a few years ago. A person had stated that all the boots worn by the German soldiers in the movie "Saving Private Ryan", were modern black G.I. combat boots. At the time I worked for one of the largest suppliers of WW II reenacting gear (ATF). The Company had bought EVERYTHING that was in that movie (even including the clothes that Ryan's grandkids were wearing the the opening Normandy Cemetary scene, the blindfold that was used on "Steamboat Willie", etc...). When I tried to tell him that they were not G.I. boots but were repro German lowboots, he got offended and told me I was wrong. When I told him that I had sorted & sized EVERY pair of German boots (along with every other piece of fieldgear, both German and G.I) in the movie and knew for a fact what they were, he STILL wanted to argue with me. Finally I had to ask him "Were you standing over my shoulder while I was sorting the boots in a warehouse in Louisville?".
He just couldn't take an answer that wasn't the one he wanted to hear, even though I sorted the boots, knew what they were, and tried to kindly inform him what they were.

It's kind of like what I experienced here with you.

Archibald Mungo

Green Mountain Boy
02-22-2008, 04:48 PM
Reproductions of japanned case bottles with pewter spouts have been available for a couple of years although I only recently saw this post. They are not cheap but one expects to pay a premium for authentic wares.;)

http://i258.photobucket.com/albums/hh257/ottertin/sewingacademypics/tincasebottle.jpg

Tin spouts were not as common as pewter spouts but they did exist - however they were not a tin tube with a folded lip:

http://www.sullivanpress.com/images/CivilImages/medlabel.jpg

They had an applied lip - a soldered stamped ring sort of like a hollow donut cut in half: (notice the lip on the smaller bottle to the right.)

http://mysite.verizon.net/ottertin/origquina.gif

The type of japanning that requires multiple layers of sanding, etc. is for fancy lacquer ware although they both go by the same name. The japan-finish that was applied to tinware was a paint composed of asphaltum with lampblack for pigment (if desired), and various combinations of varnish, linseed oil and/or turpentine. It can be cured by baking but this can also melt soldered seams. For tinware "japan drier" (still available in paint stores) is added to the asphaltum mix. The japan finish can vary from a light transparent bronze to a very dark near-black brown. The finish is always sensitive to heat and can chip - this is apparent when you look at original pieces. For tinware the most common shade for mass-produced wares is a little bit lighter than the darkest near-black. It was often applied in a quick and sloppy manner and shows brush strokes. (see examples above)

Marylander in grey
03-25-2008, 01:58 PM
Sirs,
I have an extreme interest in knowing where to procure these correct tins and correct labels. Federal, Confederate, or English manufacture prefered.
I, like Mr. Trent, agree to the miscommunication between two valued members of this hobby is non productive. At least we can agree to disagree. Perhaps we get a little to excited in pursuit of our endevours at times.
I commend Mr. Kindred as well as all for thier research and the idea of
sharing of this with all whom choose to read and learn.
Please continue the excellent work.
YMHOS,

NoahBriggs
03-25-2008, 09:31 PM
The top photo is from Otter Creek Tinware.

The middle and bottom photos of the labels are from Sullivans Press.

Marylander in grey
03-26-2008, 09:02 AM
Noah,
Thank you very much, I am going to contact Otter Creek.