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23 August 2012

Guest Post - Paul - Lefax Radio Log

Some weeks ago, I bought a vintage Lefax from Ebay. It is a 1928 Lefax Radio Log, in what would now be a slimline-sized binder.


The actual condition looks worse than it did on eBay, but we’ll see what some restoration and patience will do. It will be difficult to restore to proper use as the inside is lined with a what seems like a vinyl-type layer which as gone completely hard. The covers feel brittle and would probably snap if bent. Leather cleaner then leather restorer, followed by a long soak in some leather polish may bring back some of the flexibility but I think it may remain a museum piece, not one to be used, sadly.


It is embossed on the front cover with RADIO LOG in gold leaf, and the owner’s name on the bottom, G.F. Arndt. From the 1928 catalogue inside, it looks like these subject-specific Lefax binders all came with the titles embossed in gold, even the “Family Budgets Made Easy”. Looking inside, you can see the mechanism is quite badly rusted and I’m not going to attempt to open the rings until the leather is more supple, in case it damages the covers.


The first page shows the “Lefax Radio Log” for December 1928. It even has the Dewey Classification system number for it: R531.2


The inserts seem to be monthly, and cost a whole 25 cents each, or a whopping $2 for a year’s subscription.


Or if you paid $3.50, you got the “Genuine Morocco Leather “binder included., with “your name in gold”. If only they were that cheap today.


The 1928 Calendar is also included at the back.


As personal telecommunications were not as sophisticated as today, it even came with a pre-formatted, blank Western Union Telegram, just in case you were out of radio contact or were away from home, and desperately needed to send an urgent message.


An explanation of the Lefax system is included, together with a very comprehensive catalogue of every insert available in 1928.


Inside the rear cover, there is a clearly legible imprint of the Binder Code number, and the fact that it was made in Philadelphia.


I managed to gently open the rings, which use a completely different mechanism to modern binders. There are no levers to press, and you have to open each set of three rings individually. I will scan the inserts and post them on Flickr. The seller told me some of the radio stations are still operating, so they may be of interest to the Radio Hams on the website. The 1928 catalogue is also of historical interest, as it shows just what a rich and varied selection of inserts was available, 85 years ago. Filofax, take note.

The binder itself was bone dry and very brittle, and it was crying out for the Nivea treatment. I bought a large tin of the original hand crème in the blue tin, and applied an amount that would make most people cringe. Bearing in mind this binder was over 80 years old, it was in desperate need of being moisturised. Here is a photo of the new tin, after I finished applying the coating.


And here is what it looked like immediately after the application of copious amounts of Nivea.




I placed the binder, covered in Nivea, into a Ziploc sealed plastic bag and left it in there for 5 days, sitting on the windowsill soaking up the warmth of the Dubai sun. After 5 days, I opened the bag and removed the binder. Notice how much less Nivea there is on the leather now and hardly any of it was transferred to the bag. Most of it has already soaked in.



Time to get the lint-free polishing cloth out. It took 20 minutes to remove the excess Nivea, and then to gently rub in the remaining coating. Before the Nivea treatment, it was brittle, and would have snapped in two if I had tried flexing the covers. After 5 days of a Nivea bath, the covers were once more flexible, and pliable. Here is the finished result.






The Nivea bath did reveal some damage to the spine, and made it more noticeable, but at least now the binder can be handled without fear of it snapping in two.


Next job is to clean the metal ring mechanisms and to remove the worst of the rust.  This binder was sold on eBay around the same time as a 1930s Mathematics binder which was also bought by another Philofaxer,  so hopefully we will see a guest post on that one too.

Paul

36 comments:

  1. Very interesting post Paul. Loved all the detail and pictures. Three cheers for Nivea! Isn't it amazing how effective it is? I wonder if it is as effective on my wrinkles!

    I love these bits of history and it's good to know this particular binder is in safe hands and will be appreciated once again.

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    1. I might go and have a Nivea bath myself :p

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    2. LOL Alison and Lily, I think I will cover my face with Nivea and leave it on for a few hours and maybe it will help with my wrinkles!

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    3. Does it act as hair restorer by any chance???!!!

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    4. LOL Steve - you are funny!!

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  2. 1928 ? Wow. I wonder how today's filofaxes will look like in 80 years.

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    1. I can't help thinking the current ones will be lucky to see out a decade. While the vintage Windsors, Balmorals, Dundees etc. will just keep on going, like the Duracell bunny.

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  3. That's really interesting, Paul. A quick google reveals that $3.50 in 1928 would be roughly equivalent to an average US earner spending $210 today so it's the 1928 equivalent of an Enigma or a Regency!

    I love the telegram forms too. The 1920's equivalent of an iPhone holder maybe??

    What a great post and such a great purchase!

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    1. It puts it in perspective, doesn't it? Its a lovely touch, having the name of the binder, plus your own name, in gold block. Pity they don't do the same today. And I loved the Telegram form. A really nice touch.

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    2. (Sigh) - I'd really love an Enigma Brindle! I would move to a personal binder for that. Second best would be an Almond Amazona.

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    3. Alison, I had a good look at the Enigma Brindle in Covent Garden on my last trip to UK, and I wsa surprised how popular it was. It seemed such an........odd design. What is it that captivates? The colour or texture? It is very usunual, though, and unlike some of the frankly hideous creations of recent years, I can appreciate the design work that went into it. By the way, I have just resumed using a Fountain pen for the first time in ages. I read your comments (and others) with great interest, about the combination of brown ink on cream paper. I don't have any of the cream paper in Dubai, but I did see Montblanc Toffee Brown ink here, so bought some, filled it, and loved the colour. I know nothing about fountain pens but have an old one that writes beautifully (the only photo I have is here: http://musingsofmax.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/the-seed-of-an-idea/). I'e used it for the last 2 weeks, on and off, and I'm surprised at how much better my handwriting is. The strange thing is, I doubt it's the pen, more the fact that I concentrate a lot more with the fountain pen. But now, it has made me very interested in getting some fountain pen friendly paper for the Filofax, for our trip. I don't mind if I have to buya notebook and guillotine it to fit, but any recommendations would be gratefully received.

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    4. Paul, Good paper is Rodia, Clairefontaine, or if you are near a paperchase they do a Migueluem (??) paper in some of their spiral notebooks that you could cut down. I've also had some great cheap notebooks from Asda with grid paper - it's fantastic with a fountain pen! Would need removing from the book and trimming though.

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    5. Thanks Alison. We have a Paperchase in Dubai Mall, so I'll try that first. I bought a Notebook about the same size as the oblong Moleskine, it has one of the Pantene coulours on it, and the paper was beautiful.....or so I thought, until I tried my fountain pen on it, and the ink just sat there, going nowhere. It was very smooth paper, and seems to be almost coated, so unfortunately a waste of money. I'd love to take some suitable paper on our trip, so I can use my fountain pen and brown ink.

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  4. I always am amazed at how fast technology moves on. It was not only unusual to see the Filofax, but the inserts were fascinating. Great to have a small glimpse into the 1920's lifestyle where obviously sending a telegram was the fashionable thing to do. I love watching programmes like Time Team, and last night Greg Wallace on Who Do You Think You Are? I can't help but muse over who GF Arndt may have been. Thanks for such a great post.

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    1. It really makes you wonder about the owner, doesn't it? It would be great to find out more about him or her.

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  5. Is it not more likely to be GF Arnot? An O rather than a D - that's a fairly common name around here (Scotland) - with a variation in the spelling (double T or single).
    Fabulous to see the binder - nice snippet of history!

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    1. Yes I think you are right Amanda.

      And I've found a reference to a GF Arnot dating back to 1929 in the USA here:

      http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu//full/1929PA.....37..521B/0000522.000.html

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    2. I don't know why I never considered that, I just saw it as a "D" and assumed it was a German surname. But looking at the GF Arnott in the scan of the magazine, it has two letter T on the end, so maybe it was a different chap. I'll email the seller and ask if he has any more info on it.

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  6. I loved to see the photos, now I'm curious who bought the other old filo. It's amazing what some Nivea can do.

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    1. It was Chris. Here's the link: http://philofaxy.blogspot.com/2012/07/free-for-all-tuesday-no-77.html

      Hope we get to read about that one too!

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    2. I wonder if it's the Christ that did the three guest posts recently?

      Steve

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    3. No it was this Chris: http://philofaxy.blogspot.com/2006/10/wikipedia-coolness.html?showComment=1162236840000#c116223688259569916

      I've been reading Philofaxy for a long time but rarely post. I will put together a guest post showing off the Mathematical Lefax soon.

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    4. Hi Chris
      It looks like the Wikipedia entry has been edited by Filofax and they have removed all evidence of us. May be we should have our own page? Not sure how we do that.
      Steve

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  7. Ohhh!! Of course an O rather than a D makes sense and a huge wow that you've found a historical reference Steve. I didn't know it was a common Scots name either.... so already some information. Right..... brekkie first..... then off to look that one up straight away Steve. Thank you. xx

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  8. I have just looked it up. GF Arnot was a Princeton graduate and a member of the American Astronomical Society. So one clever guy... with a passion for the universe! Wonder if any of our Philofaxers are related to him?

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  9. This is absolutely amazing!! I'm astounded at what Nivea can do to a very old binder, that is fantastic. And, how interesting--a Filofax that was not intended to be used as a diary/ planner, but for a completely different purpose. Shows how versatile these binders are!

    Thanks for showing us this!!

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  10. Great post and great detail! And I'm with the other posters...bring on the Nivea bath for me too!

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  11. This proves that leather really stands the test of time! How did you manage to restore the vinyl lining as well?

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    1. Nicole, I just used the same (enormous) quantity of Nivea on the inside too. I'm not sure if its vinyl, or some kind of webbed coating, to give it rigidity. The catalogue describes three qualities (and proce range to match), of binders. The Radio Log came in Morocco Leather, but it definitely has a coating inside. After 5 days of soaking in Nivea, it was pliable again, not brittle. I'm planning to give it another bath this week, using much less Nivea. Instead of a soaking, this will be more a case of gently rubbing in a small quantity. Then I need to clean the ring mechanism. I need to measure them, as they are tiny, much smaller than a modern-day Slimline. I have an old Mini Executive, with equally tiny rings, and I think these may be the same size.

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  12. Very interesting - thanks for posting. The Nivea does a great job. As suggested, I tried it on my not-nearly-as-old Winchester, and I'm really happy with it. Much more flexible, and you can tell it's navy instead of black. There's so much information on Philofaxy . . .

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    1. Its a good point, Emma, that it brings the colour out too. I previously did this on a Burgundy binder and it looked rejuvenated.

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  13. p.s. I think it probably is Arndt. It looks like a 'd' to me.

    Interestingly, I work with a G Arndt!

    Chris

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  14. This is so amazing Paul! Thanks for posting it.
    Unbelievable how you brought it back to life with the Nivea treatment. Amazing job you did there! Congrats on your vintage and happy binder!

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  15. I followed this item on ebay for awhile. I collect old radio stuff and have many radio logs scanned in at my website VintageRadio.com/history. My interest is the content. I had no idea that the concept, if you will was collectible. I actually just did buy a LeFax binder like this that is a 1922 radio catalog and station list. I am glad, of course, that this one found a very good home!

    As to the stations in the list, many from 1928 are still with us. Many still were leaving the air for a lack of funds or interest and more interestingly, changes in regulation. 1928 was a year of significant change in US radio. Many stations were purged and forced to leave the air so there were some interesting stations whose last listing is likely in this book. The problem was that for a relatively short period there was no real legal enforcement of broadcast rules as it was determined that there no real way to enforce the bit that they had written. If you wanted a station, you, more or less, just asked for a license and call sign. 1928 was the year this started to change. By 1934 we has the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). That's possibly more than you may have wanted to know here but we all likely do share a general interest in history or we wouldn't collect and help preserve this stuff!

    By the way, Go Jo, the white mechanics hand cleaner is great for wood restoration and is at least very helpful for leather too. You don't want a version with abrasives though, of course. I will certainly remember the Nivea tip here too.

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  16. I have a Lefax Boston which is in very good condition. It has been sitting around for yonks. Perhaps someday I will do something with it.

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