A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Part One)

The Capital District’s consumer product advertising history often fascinates me.  So when an eBay auction came up that featured this old milk crate … I couldn’t resist snagging it.

Is that completely waycool?  Yes it is.  That’s an old milk crate from the Normanskill Dairy – okay, back in the day it was called Norman’s Kill Dairy, and it – like many local dairies and creameries in the area – used these porchside milk crates as repositories for milk and dairy deliveries.  If memory serves me correctly, there was a Norman’s Kill Dairy outlet in downtown Albany – I believe its exact location is now part of the Empire State Plaza complex.

I’ve had this crate for a while – and during that time, I tried using it as a convenient endtable, as a storage crate, as something, anything.  But there was something about this little crate that really interested me… not so much as function, but as fashion.

And like my “K-Chuck Cabinet” project last year, where I took a 1930’s radio highboy cabinet and upscaled it into a super-awesome hideaway storage cabinet, I wanted to upscale this milk crate into something artistic.

And thus began my first steps in achieving this lofty goal.

As you can see from the photos, this crate was made of scrap oak wood, with a logo machine-carved or stamped into the slats.  The slats were then riveted to a metal skeleton, which allowed the crate to hold several delivered bottles of milk or cream.

This crate was designed for durability and functionality – as well as for a standing advertisement to any passer-by that this house chooses Norman’s Kill Dairy as the milk provider for their family.

And when I said “durability,” I meant it.  Although there were some cracks and splits in the oak slats, the unit looked as if it could still handle a few Monday morning cream runs.

I looked it over.  If I could remove some of the wooden slats, perhaps I could perform some wooden restoration.  All I need to do is remove those metal rivets, and …

Off to the hardware store.  Hammer purchased.  Cold chisel purchased.  Metal punch spike purchased.  I had to chisel off the top of each rivet, then use the punch spike to poke the rivet out of each metal-reinforced corner.

And after much labor …

I freed the slats.

So this is what sixty-plus years of Capital District weathering can do to scrap oak planks… wow.  If you look at the edges of each slat, you can see what the original wood color looked like at the time the crate was assembled.  And the little logo still looks kinda nice… but it’s hard to see among the weathering.

I had an idea.  And I hope it works.

A quick trip to Home Depot, where I rented a palm sander.  I attached some 100 grit sandpaper to the palm sander, and lightly sanded the top layer of age from the planks, making sure to not over-sand the piece.  I wanted the logo to stand out, and I also wanted to bring out some of the original wood grain.

As you can see from this picture, here’s what one of the sanded planks looks like when compared to the four unsanded boards.   Yep.  Not too much pressure; I didn’t want to sand away the logo.

A few more rubs here and there, man I never realized that using a palm sander was this easy.

And I know some of you are right now screaming at me, “Chuck, what the hell are you doing?  That’s an antique milk crate, you schnook, you’re destroying it!  Have you no sense of history, you dumbass?!?”  I can hear you.  But just know this – it’s MY milk crate and I’ll do with it as I choose.  If I felt like taking the rest of the planks and having a wiener roast at Paine Street Park, I can do it.  Of course, that’s after I get permission from the Green Island town supervisor and whatnot… nah, don’t have time for that.  So let me get back to sanding.

About 30 minutes later, all the planks were sanded.  And here’s what they look like now.

Not bad.  Not bad at all.

So what do I do, now that I’ve gotten this far?

I take a break.

Well, actually by “taking a break,” I drove to Curtis Lumber and talked to one of their “woodchuck” lumber specialists.  My original plan was to try to stain this wood to bring out more detail in the grain, but the specialist said that I would be better off clear-coating or shellacking the planks.  I purchased some amber shellac, along with some small carriage bolts (the carriage bolts will go in the planks’ edge-holes where the rivets once resided).

I will undertake this part of the project on another day.  Right now, I’ve made a good start for this project.  And for that, I am grateful.

I’ll keep you all apprised on my progress.  Hopefully this can turn into a sweet little crafting project.