Monthly Archives: October 2009

Wax Paper

Gruyère wrapped in wax paper

Unwrapping the goodness of Gruyère.

I use wax paper for pretty much everything other people use PVC plastic wrap, food storage bags, or containers for. Wax paper is paper soaked in paraffin wax, not to be confused with the poisonous paraffin oil which is used in kerosene lanterns. Wax paper is moisture and flavor proof and its texture has a great feel to it. I don’t think anyone can disagree that wax paper makes the food inside more delicious looking than plastic wrap.

Some claim that Thomas Edison invented wax paper, but it is more likely that the French photographer Gustave Le Gray did, in 1851. But Le Gray had only photography, and not food in mind when doing so.

Cheese on board wrapped in wax paper.

Cheeses wrapped up in wax paper.

Pictured above in order from top to bottom: a Morbier (French), a Pt. Reyes Blue (U.S.A.), a Gruyère (Switzerland), and a Pont-l’Évêque, a soft raw cheese from France. The wooden board is a handmade gift by my architect friend Casey Huges.

I grew up in Germany and we used wax paper to wrap cheese, sandwiches and other foods. Even today, many specialty  purveyors of fish, meat, and cheese wrap their wares in wax paper. And you can put it just like that in the fridge. Cheese stays fresh and delicious much longer in wax paper than in plastic. I was happy when I found out that even the American Cheese Society lists it as the most preferable way to save cheese.

A 1951 Los Angeles Times article called “Waxed Paper Eases Tasks in Kitchen, Protects Food” gives more practical advice when storing leftover food in a bowl: “Just cut a piece a little larger than the bowl top and fold the edges of the paper down to form a collar around the top of the bowl”.

Family sitting around the table with bread packaged in wax paper, 1936. (Photo by Russell Lee on Shorpy)

Bread packaged in wax paper makes an appearance during a family dinner in 1936. (Photo by Russell Lee on Shorpy)

In its hey-day, waxed paper was also used for packaging candy, chocolate and bread. In the picture above, you can see bread wrapped in wax paper on the table. The picture is from December 1936 and beautifully puts today’s economic depression into perspective (look at the mattress pushed up against the wall in order to make space for the table). I love the look on everyone’s face.

I found some nice examples of ’50s and ’60s wax paper bread packaging on the blog a sampler of things- a fine site that has many more images for your viewing pleasure.

Vintage wax paper for packaging bread, 1950s and '60s.

Ad for wax paper packaging, circa 1950s.

The 1907 book “The Treatment of Paper for Special Purposes” by Louis Edgar suggests wax paper for wrapping “tobacco and snuff”, as well as  covering jam pots in order to “exclude injurious atmospheric influences, etc.”.

The book also gives instructions on how to make your own wax paper with a hot iron, and suggests the machine below in case you want to produce larger quantities.

An early wax paper machine from 1907.

How to make your own wax paper – a page from “The Treatment of Paper for Special Purposes” by Louis Edgar, 1907.

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Vintage Estwing Hammer

 Vintage Estwing hammer

Estwing hammer with leather handle.

A hammer, closely followed by a screwdriver, is one of the tools you will most likely find at everyone’s house. Most wouldn’t give their hammer a second look. But this can be changed easily.

Bottom of vintage Estwing hammer handle.

A view of the hammer’s sturdy handle bottom, stamped “Estwing.”

The Estwing family probably makes the best hammers you can buy. Founded in 1923 by Ernest O. Estwing (a Swedish immigrant), they still manufacture their hammers in Rockford, Illinois. I love that it says on their website that they want to make “attractive striking” tools. What a great company goal. I was happy when I found this Rip Hammer a few month ago at the Long Beach Antique Market.

Side view of an Estwing hammer head.

Detail of the hammer head.

With this hammer, head and handle are forged out of one piece. This makes it extremely robust, ensuring that you don’t have to fear the head flying off. The grip is made of thin leather discs, which not only makes the hammer particularly ‘attractive’, it’s also a great way to absorb shock. Estwing’s design prevents the discs from coming loose by pushing them into a triple-circle shaped pattern in the steel.

Handle of vintage Estwing hammer.

The Estwing’s head and handle are forged out of one piece.

I’m still trying to find out what year my hammer was made, but thankfully they still make them today – and we proudly carry them in our store.

Leather grip of an Estwing hammer.

Another view of the Estwing’s head and handle – I’ve never seen a hammer with such a narrow neck!