From Wed Jan 13 11:48:05 1999
Date: Fri, 25 Dec 1998 12:06:46 -0500 (EST)
From: "Hugh A. Blackmer"
Subject: stove wicks (fwd)

Hi Brad and Jude,

Merry Season, and here's a message I got from a niece who thinks I know everything. I answered that so far as I knew pretty much all of the old hardware stores had been replaced with HomeHardware wrap-it-in-plastic no-we-don't-have-that you-want-a-WHAT? stores, but that my friends in Yarmouth would know if anybody did.

Kate's here, John comes tomorrow, we're already eating stuff... hope you're all well and enjoying the assorted fruits of the season. Hugs all 'round,


---------- Forwarded message ---------- Date: Wed, 23 Dec 1998 20:21:57 -0500
Subject: stove wicks

Hi Hugh,

How are you? I trust you're all planning a that-end-of-the-family-Christmas-feasting-get-together down there. I hope you have fun and that all the food is delicious, as I'm sure it will be.

I have a question that you may just be able to answer. A friend of mine has an old Franklin Stove c.1890, which was converted to oil in the 20's. He used to be able to find the wicks for the oil burners easily, as the factory that made them was in western Mass and supplied all the local New England hardware stores. However, when that factory burned down a few years ago no one took up the challenge to continue making these oil wicks. My friend thinks it may still be possible to get them in Canada, and he particularly thinks so about the Nova Scotia area...Do you know if it is possible? Do you know who to ask? Seems like the kind of thing you'd know about. Please let me know if you do, or if you have any other leads for me.

Thankyou and have a wonderful holiday. Please give my love to Betsy and John and Kate.
Love, Jenny

From Wed Jan 13 11:48:24 1999
Date: Fri, 1 Jan 1999 10:19:32 -0500 (EST)
From: "Hugh A. Blackmer"
Subject: wicks (fwd)

Here's a bit more, perhaps not enough for Uncle Paul to guess at what's required. Me, I've never seen a Franklin --> kerosene conversion, and find it difficult to imagine, but hey...

So is it that I could send you some tapes of music, eh? What kinds would you be thinking of? I shouldn't mention how very effective CDNow and are at supplying CDs to the bereft...

all the best in the noo year...

---------- Forwarded message
---------- Date: Wed, 30 Dec 1998 09:48:34 -0500
Subject: wicks

Hi Hugh,

Got a bit more information about the wicks. Tom couldn't remember a brand name. He said they used to come packaged in a box that had enough wick for him to use on two burners. It was all one coiled length and he had to trim it to fit his burner.

The wick material is about 1 1/4" wide and perhaps 1/8" thick. The kind he uses is made of woven fiberglass. There is another kind that has a strip of metal included along it's length, but he didn't think that kind would work with his stove.

The burners he uses these in are 6" diameter pans and he trims the wick to length so that it fits along the edge of the pan (perhaps a length of 18" or so). The wick is set on edge and I guess right against the edge of the pan. Somehow the wick, by its placement, regulates the amount of oil (kerosene) that's let into the pan, and that's why Tom didn't think the metal-edged ones would work with his stove.

Thank you again for checking into this.
Love from, Jenny

From Wed Jan 13 11:49:18 1999
Date: Sat, 26 Dec 1998 09:53:23 -0400
To: Hugh Blackmer
Subject: Season's Best

Dear Pogo et all:

The very best of the season to you all from South Ohio! X-mas card perfection here with 2" or so of polite powder snow arriving on the 23rd ... clear and just cold enough to keep the snow from melting now ... dream it and it will come.

Converted Franklin wood stove oil wicks huh? I accept the challenge; this has Jude's Uncle Paul written all over it. Any more detail available as to model/type etc? ... in the meantime the search begins.

Time to buy a new car time arrived a while back, and the "best buy" Jetta just happened to have air conditioning ... a good thing to have when we go visit Pogo and Betsy Jude says ...something to think about ...

We're off to Dartmouth to return Jude's Mom and make the family rounds to-day (what this really means in practical terms is that I get to drop in at Lee Valley Tools - Halifax has actually come of age so to speak). Just might find myself at Sam's (the record man) too ... Yarmouth may have old stove wicks, but interesting CD's are still another story.

Busy in the studio these days with nine students, and my first set of violin tonewood came in a surprise package from Nick Tipney just a week ago . time to make some wood chips!

Hugs and cheer to all. Hi Kate & John!


Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 12:30:19 -0400
To: Hugh Blackmer
Subject: Tales of the wick


The here and now of this opening paragraph is lunchtime Wednesday. It's been just a wonderful little adventure hunting old wicks, and also writing to you. Of such stuff are some of my favorite things in life made. Hugs all around.


My search didn't have a very auspicious beginning, and I confess that I had my doubts after Uncle Paul's opening "oh jeez, Billy LeCain is dead, and so is Fred Munroe... them fellers knew everything about stoves and burners..." Seems like we might have been a little late in our request for converted antique stove oil burner wicks. Ran into another dead end with the local antique wood stove collector who had no personal knowledge about such a beast. He sent me on to Bea Bryant Stove Works in Thorndyke Maine (207-568-3665). Old Bea herself was away on vacation, and her son had never heard of such a thing. He was less than enthusiastic about doing a full blown search for me through her back rooms to look for a wick that might fit the bill. (kids these days). Bea might still be worth Tom's while to talk to, she came highly recommended from my stove collector; but I wouldn't waste any time on her boy.

Things picked up considerably when I found the old "stove man"of the former EK Spinney hardware store. He remembered the "wick burner wicks"in great detail, and could tell me the exact location on his shelves where the small orange wick boxes were kept. Things were picking up. He actually closed his eyes and tried hard to remember the brand name on the box for me, but came up blank. He remembered clearly when their supplier in Montreal had stopped carrying them, but thought for sure Spinney's had found another supplier somewhere (the ill fated Massachusetts factory?) It was beginning to look a little bleak, but an EK Spinney endorsement was all the affirmation I figured I'd needed to know this quest was still worth its salt.

When all else fails I go to Carson's. It's just about the last place left. That funky well seasoned unassuming warehouse on Water Street with it's leaning walls and seagull painted roof... Carson's must have the wicks....

There were never less than three fishermen in Carson's leaning on the office counter with some grease stained piece of necessity needing replacing in their hands. I couldn't even identify half of the articles "on display"on the rough pegboards on the walls.... my kind of place. The all knowledgeable clerks would always ask a few questions of the petitioner to verify model types and like that, disappear into the bowels of the warehouse and come back with just the gadget for the job....and would then throw in a few details on the replacement operation to the customer as a matter of course.

My heart fell to the floor when I walked through the door into a barren office. Make that a former one of the last places.... outlived both Billy and Fred, but oh jeez....a little too late again?

Craig, the last of the old guard, wandered out from the back when he heard me come in. Settling in on our respective sides of the counter the sad tale was told of the German buyer who bought the entire block, and how the offer was too good to pass up. Seems with the downturn in the fishery and the parting of the Bluenose (our biggest account ... it kept us afloat for the last number of years) the time had come to pack it all in. Did he know about the wicks? Yup, had a few boxes left as a matter of fact, just right exactly where was another matter. Nobody yell bingo yet.

He knew where they were in the world, but pinpointing and retrieval may remain an elusive goal for a good long while to come. Everything from the warehouse had been crated up and stored away in his barn in Chebogue. "So dam much stuff"he now just barely has enough room to squeeze the tractor in, requiring him to literally climb out over the back wheels after he parks it in between the stacked crates. Craig may not be too far behind Fred, and with the heart condition and all he simply just can't orchestrate the complete emptying of the stuffed to the gills barn "for just a few wicks". Bea's lazy boy he ain't....they aren't going anywhere soon he promised, and when the inevitable buyout price comes by from whomever for the remainder of the old stock, he"ll let me know. I think we can trust Craig (and probably his heirs). As a one last make sure I asked if he could remember the boxes with the wicks. "-bout the size of a hockey puck...coiled in various widths up to 11/2"...color of the box?". bingo anyone?

[I don't think Jenny's instincts were too far off after all. It's doubtful, wouldn't you agree, that there'd be another in Lexington that could have tracked down Craig's stash of wick burner wicks? And what Jenny doesn't know about you, I do.... that affinity for finding interesting people, places and adventures. Add to that a dose of the mystery ingredient (far be it for me to understand just what it is, but it's got music at its center as sure as I was born) and you don't have to convince me twice to set out.]

"You really need wicks?"Craig asked after leaving me hanging after volunteering to search the barn carefully, replacing everything under his supervision. He knew an old guy that deals in wicks for kerosene space heaters....knew for a fact he'd stopped carrying the old wick burner stuff years ago...might be worth calling him up...

Dick Feldman was born and grew up on a peninsula in Boston Harbour. Before coming here he'd worked for some twenty long years in New York supervising aircraft maintenance crews at Kennedy airport. His mother-in-law grew up in Salmon River, and when the arthritis got to that point, he packed it all in leaving NY for good wandering first up this way at his wife's behest. All his life he wanted to be by the ocean, never liked lakes, and one walk out around to the front of the camp for sale on the tip of Rocco Point, and he'd found his home again.

"Nobody uses them anymore"was all he seemed to want to say about old wick burner wicks when I called. Well, maybe he might have a piece or two somewhere, but he hadn't had call for it in more years than he could remember, so there were no promises... but if I came down he'd search. "I'm not rootin" through the entire shop only for you not to show up!" ..what did I have to lose?

Every good quest deserves an omen somewhere along the line, and when I rounded the corner in Tusket at the Hanging Oak a bald eagle about the size of a hang glider swooped out from an upper branch directly over my car and out across the river. I could feel it in my bones now, something good was going to happen, the eagle sighting alone was worth the price of admission.

Seems Dick had one of the earliest kerosene space heaters when he first took up residence on the point, and when wicks got ridiculously expensive he started ordering them in bulk. One thing led to another and his wick sideline business was born. "Never really meant to start up anything, it just happened". I'm thinking the "business" is likely pretty near the end at this point. Shades of Bea's boy's reluctance were evident when I was invited in the cottage finding old Dick comfortable as a clam in an old armchair, smoking a cigarette gazing out the window. We weren't going anywhere until the cigarette was finished and the story of looking for the wick was told another couple of times. Out in the loft/office/junkheap in the barn a twenty minute search (with more than a little inventive prodding on my part) produced a 2' length of what I'm hoping is the genuine ticket wick burner wick. Dick said it was, in the same breath telling me again that no one uses it anymore. It's 11/2" wide and only 2' long (nothing a good knife and straight edge wouldn't quick fix I'm thinking). When I asked if he could get any more of it he sighed and thought maybe he could, and when I asked where he got it from he refused to say, "it's my business, no good me tellin" you where to get it!". I casually mentioned the factory in Massachusetts having burned down, and although I'm not certain, I think there may have been a hint of recognition on Dick's face....could this be the last scrap of wick (Craig's stash aside) on the planet? I sent it in the mail to you on the 11th (Jude thought it should have been insured it for a princely sum). I do hope it fits the bill.

The big search having been successful, we headed on back to the armchair and another cigarette to close the deal. That's when grandchildren came into the conversation. Seems the granddaughter plays the violin - and didn't he just happen to have a couple of old violins in the attic somewhere he'd always been meaning to get fixed for her, one of which was made by his wife's great uncle back in the thirties - double bingo!

Great Uncle made a giant of a Strad copy with a one piece cut on the slab back. The arching is monstrous and the varnish is a gummed up mess, although the overall look is so wonderful, and the work looks to have been very finely done. The tailpiece and pegs are also handmade (out of the same wood) and even the old warped bridge was handmade from scratch! It's a gem of a fiddle to be sure. It's only needing seam work, saddle, nut and post; can't wait to set it up and see how it sounds!

They are most interesting instruments, the "other"one especially. It has an incredible one piece highly flamed back. It's a body only - no neck, but there's no sign of the neck having been violently broken off, as the end block and button are intact! It must have been in the midst of a neck adjustment/ replacement repair or something when the body got separated from the neck. Even more interesting is that in the same plastic bag with great uncle's fiddle there was a neck only, complete with fingerboard (from a third violin) ?? My theory (not substantiated by Dick) was that a luthier had planned to replace the original neck (broken beyond repair?) with this replacement neck, and the job was never completed for some reason or other. The two would have remained together as a "to be mated"set since. Dick thinks (not substantiated by his wife) that there may be a third fiddle in the attic (or somewhere... in the office...?) Here my theories ramble to this perhaps being his reminiscence of the donor fiddle. ...wouldn't want to proceed with a neck replacement only for the original to surface under a pile of old wicks though....Dick also added he thought there might also be a bow ... somewhere.

This just breaking: (Tuesday)

End of workday I get a call from ex-Spinney man, Donnie; there's a place supplying wicks of the very kind in where else, Dartmouth. Value Sales 902-468-1220. Ask for Anne or Ken...they"ll know wicks....full card, double bonus bingo?


Addendum, May 2001: this just in from Brad:

Speaking of wonderful, the other day I had an interview with an elderly woman subdividing her property in Chebogue, and at the end of the appointment she asked if I still needed the wicks? It had come to pass that her husband Craig had an emergency call to search the bowels of the old barn for a drive shaft part, and true to his word he pocketed a few boxes of the old wicks when he happened upon them (a lifetime of supplying life's necessities for those in need keeps the memory sharp it would appear). I thanked her profusely and advised I'd check and see if wicks were still in demand on the other end ..... only in Yarmouth.