We have removed iconic sign bearing the name Ball & Socket Manufacturing Co. in preparation for another hard winter. The sign was taken to the shop of Gary LeClerc of [RE]new Furniture Gallery, right across West Main Street from the factory, for refurbishment. Not only is Gary a local business owner, but also second generation furniture restorer and a true artisan. We love that he’s young and making his living in the field of preserving old things. Sound familiar?
The sign was in pretty bad shape. When we originally started scouting the site in 2011 the first A in Manufacturing was still in place, hanging crooked, but still there. When we finally bought the building in 2014, the loose A was long gone and the B in Ball was starting to loosen and pivot out of position. Despite searching for the lost A in all the bushes and brambles, it was not to be found. We figure it has found a new home as someone’s souvenir. This didn’t worry us too much as there was a second A in Manufacturing and that could serve as a template to recreate a new one. Naturally, if the original A returned to us somehow, we’d be very happy.
Removing the sign revealed a few surprises. We learned that the background is a rectangle of sheet metal painted matte black. The frame around the sign is wood and was painted over in the same matte black which had almost completely peeled away. However vestiges of gold leaf remained on the wood. As can be seen in some old photographs the sign was originally framed in gold. That will most likely be recreated for the restoration.
The letters are wooden, in two different sizes and are covered in gold leaf. It appears that some of the letters are hand-carved and others were carved with the assistance of a router, signifying a few different generations of sign-makers involved.What was most surprising to discover was that the back of the sign had been used as a surface on which the letters were spray painted in preparation for gilding. All the letters and symbols used on the front of the sign are jumbled on the back making a truly cool graphic and fun puzzle. It is not yet clear to us whether this was left by the original sign-maker or by the person who had refurbished the sign somewhere along the way.
The sign will spend the winter indoors being restored and will be rehung in the spring.