Completion! Deciding the manner of illumination was not difficult. LED "bulbs" are too large and shine light in multiple directions. This ornament was designed with a relatively small opening at the base of the Lucite head such that light shines up into the rear of the head and is diffused out the front. The only LED solution is adhesive light strips with the LED buttons pointing up. I positioned two such strips side by side under the opening beneath the head and connected them in parallel to the power supply wire. The only difficulty was the matter of sealing the base of the ornament to the top of the wood block so that light does not leak out sideways. To solve that I put some brown door & window sealant on the underside of the ornament; when it dried I trimmed it to in effect become a gasket.
Top, left is the completed project with the light off. Photos #2-5 show it with the light on. Photo six is the amber head removed from the metal housing, showing the hand-written notation, "GUTENECHT 2016". I would infer from this that the orange head insert is a reproduction, made in 2016. If so, it is an excellent copy. There is slight light-seepage around Chief Pontiac's head, but that is minimal and presumably occurred with the original. I applied a darker finish to the wood because of the darkness of the ornament caused by the wearing away of the chrome.
A word about the original finish of the ornament. The two top photos were taken when the ornament arrived. Someone had tried to freshen the look of the piece by putting a coat of silver paint on it. Most of that had worn off. The two bottom photos are the ornament after stripping and polishing. The underlying metal is in quite good condition, with no serious corrosion or damage. The original chrome has worn down to the copper undercoating so that the underlying copper plate (a common practice in chroming pot-metal) shows through, giving a darker appearance than just chrome. Although this hood ornament would be a good candidate for rechrome, I would advise against it because that would eliminate the lovely patina that use and age have imparted. The classic car world has recently come to appreciate well-preserved and original pieces over fully restored ones. I think this piece looks terrific in its present state.
I have finished the oak block. The cracks and insect bore-holes have been filled with epoxy, the surfaces sanded and a coat of wax applied. I work primarily with wood that has come from felled trees from wild-fires, development or simply from natural causes. This means that a given piece will have cracks, bore-holes and sometimes spalting.
Above are views of the .oak base after filling, sanding and waxing. Without the ornament in place and with. The next step will be to install the LED lighting and connect it to the power supply.
I have two candidates for the base of the 1953 Pontiac ornament. One is an oak block with slight spalting; the other is a pecan block with extensive spalting. "Spalting is any form of wood coloration caused by fungi. Although primarily found in dead trees, spalting can also occur in living trees under stress or even in thriving trees." (Wikipedia)
I have roughed out the pecan block to fit the ornament. The pecan is still moist (which is what allows the spalting to occur) and slightly soft (which will require stabilization after it dries). The oak block is dry and firm. I will also cut the oak block to fit the ornament and then decide which to proceed with.
Below are the oak and pecan blocks, rough-cut to accept the client's 1953 Pontiac hood ornament.
I like this oak piece for the project because it is now dry and stable, requiring only the filling of missing wood with epoxy. This is a process that I use on the majority of my works. It adds interest to the piece and makes the material whole again.
Before the pecan can be used it will need to dry - a slow process that will likely take some weeks, even in the warming summer weather. Then it will have to be stabilized because it is generally softened from deterioration that has progressed beyond that in the oak. But it is usable and will show nicely when it is dried and stabilized.
Given that the oak is ready to go and the pecan isn't, I will proceed with the oak block. The pecan can be reshaped and used for another project when it is ready.
I am starting a new commission for a client in Illinois. The piece is a used, 1953 Pontiac hood ornament with the amber-colored plastic Indian head. The job is to mount the ornament on a suitable block of wood and illuminate the amber Indian head. It arrived by mail yesterday and I discovered it to be in good structural condition with very little corrosion to the base metal, a very shiny plastic head with no crazing or interior dullness, but with considerable wear on the chrome finish. Closer inspection revealed that someone had painted the metal with silver paint and perhaps 20% if it remained firmly attached, such that a rotary brass-bristle brush would not remove it. The Indian chief head has a name and the date “2016” inscribed on the side of the socket, so I suspect that it is a newly made insert.
After removing the plastic head and some remnants of Scotch tape, I applied paint stripper to the metal, let it sit, rinsed it and then proceeded to buff the finish with the brass rotary brush as usual. This produced a much more even and shiny surface, although the remaining chrome plating is very thin and the copper under-plating is evident across most of the metal ornament. This I find to be attractive. Anyone can go out and find a reproduction ornament with a perfect chrome finish, but to locate an original piece with virtually no metal corrosion and the original plating still in this good a condition is not easy. In fact, more and more classic car auction houses are recognizing the value of unrestored original automobiles, rather than ones that have been rebuilt from the frame up to better than original condition.
Now, to find suitable piece of wood.
I am still trying new show venues to find those that provide the most effective exposure for my works.