CoachBuilt Prams

Subtitle

 

Diary of a Pram Restorer

My friend Fiona has taken on this lovely vintage pram after she saw it on Ebay and bought it last week.    As you can see it needs a fair amount of work but she has bravely decided to restore it herself and I have asked her if she would be prepared to keep a sort of Diary for us so that hopefully you can all be inspired to have a go yourselves.  I will be posting new 'instalments' now and then and you can watch the pram reborn.

Sandra



 

Hi Sandra  I have loved coachbuilts ever since I was a child,  including the more modern ones,  I do prefer the boat shapes to the flat bottomed ones but given a choice between a Carlton and a modern pram there is no contest!   I had a lovely twin coachbuilt dolls pram when I was a little girl which my neighbour borrowed for her first baby as they couldn't afford a pram at first!

When I got married and considered starting a family it was a condition that I have a coachbuilt pram and I had a Tenby,  it needed to go in the car!   About 3 months ago I got my Tenby back from someone who had borrowed it 12 years ago to use for her grandchildren and I was devastated to discover that it was badly scratched and chipped.   So I started searching the internet to find out if anyone was out there to help me renovate this pram to it's former glory.   That is how I discovered that I was not unique in my love for coachbuilt prams,  I discovered that people collected them like others collected classic cars or whatever.     It opened up a whole new world for me and I decided I wanted to start collecting.   I soon realised that this could be quite an expensive hobby, but if you have time and space and were prepared to have a go yourself, you could still pick up old prams in need of TLC for a reasonable price....I was hooked!

The first pram that I bought was a 1950's Silver Cross dolls pram in a sorry state.   It was my first project  and still isn't finished but is coming along.  The handlebars need to be re-chromed the most expensive job on it.    Since then I have also bought a 1950's drop end Marmet pram which is in quite good condition but needs some touching up....one day!     Then I spotted this lovely old Edwardian pram going for a song,   I just couldn't resist and it has really got my hubby fired up too,  so he is doing some of the donkey work for me, like sanding down those wheels!       I am so glad I found this new world,  I have seen some fantastic prams and made some truely lovely friends,  long may it continue and please Mr Lotto can I win some money so I can buy more prams??

Fiona

 






After taking a deep breathe we set about evaluating what we had and took as many photographs as we could for future reference.

 

 


I fell in love with this old lady when I saw her picture.   She was looking for some TLC   We collected her and bought her home to Devon, complete with the rainwater, the vendor had left her out in the rain and we had to stand the stink in the car all the way home!



The two way hood means that baby can face mother or forward to see where he is going.   The main fabric seems to be navy blue but faded now with age to a pale blue.   I don't think that it can be salvaged and will have to look out for more fabric for this job.

The wooden body is in excellent condition for it's age, (1800's) much of the damage to the paintwork seems to be fairly recent.








The handle is around 38 inches from the floor, with porcelaine  hand grips.








 




We have decided to start work with the chassis,  we removed the wheels (all hub caps were present, they are actually screwed onto the wheel hub, which is probably how they have managed to stay complete.  The chassis is cream with blue coachlines.

Today we have sanded down one wheel and straightened up a couple of bent spokes which has dramatically reduced the wobble on the wheel.





When  all the wheels and chassis have been stripped back,  we will undercoat them and then spray with a satin or matt cream paint finish as close to the original colour as we can find.   Hopefully then we will be able to replicate the original coachlines which you can see in the photograph above

 

22 October 2007

We have now sanded down all 4 wheels and they are remarkable for their age.   



Having sanded them down they were sprayed with a white primer and then a matt cream top coat.   I wanted satin finish really but couldn't get the cream colour that I wanted except in a matt finish!    Life is full of compromises isn't it?  Well the plan now is to use matt paint with a satin varnish finishing coat.








We are now researching the tyres.   It is difficult to know what the tyres were like originally as they are now worn down to the wheel rim.  What is clear is that they did not have the  central wire coil reinforcement and appear to be made of a solid material.....some kind of rubber I am guessing, although what is left has lost any of it's elasticity.  I have contacted a number of people with more experience of these very old prams than me, to see what profile they think it would have had.     I have managed to find a supplier of tyres with a central wire coil core, but to be frank they are too expensive to even contemplate.......£330 plus vat for 60 metres minimum order.............I mean the wheels aren't THAT big!  As this pram is for display only we are looking for alternatives that will give the effect only because they don't really need to be taking the weight in use.   The hunt goes on....!

 

5th November, 2007

Now that the wheels have been painted and sealed with a satin varnish,  I have turned my attention to the chassis.

First I made sure I took lots of photos of the coachlines which were still visible.   I also traced some onto some greaseproof paper so that I would have a guide for  exactly where they went on the framework.

The next job was to scrape off and sand down all of the old paint on the chassis.    This was not such a difficult job as you might think,  because what paint was left was quite brittle.   The chassis came up quite well and we were able to release the fused belt loops, so that they hinge and move freely again.   I would think that this chassis framework was never as smooth as the ones that we are used to on a modern pram and from that point of view this type of restoration is much easier than working on a more modern pram.   You are not looking for such a concourse finish!

After all of the sanding down was finished we sprayed the chassis (and handlebars) with white primer.   We noticed that one of the axles hadn't been fitted symetrically and had been adjusted by the addition of a welded washer.



The Primed Chassis and Handlebars (below)]



I needed to strip the pram bed if I was to stand any chance of cleaning it,  so, taking photos at every stage,  I set about undoing the hundreds of small tacks that held the pram bed in place.    Tacks to hold the edging braid,  tacks to hold the piping edges to the top of the pram bed,  each of which was done as a stand alone item,  tacks for holding the fabric on the sides of the pram bed.




Seaweed stuffing

Once all of the tacks were removed it was possible to ease out the beautifully upholstered and buttoned end panels.   There were completely self supporting being secured through a heavy duty card backing sheet.    Unfortunately one end - which had been open to the rain at the pram's previous home - was quite sodden and covered in mould.   All of the pram bed was stuffed with a dried plant like material.   When I had collected the pram some of this had been poking through the tear in the fabric and it was flat, ribbon like, about 1/2 cm wide and looked slightly slimey.  I have subsequently spoken to a French lady who has been collectiing prams for some time and I described the plant material to her as being like seaweed.   Danielle my French friend has told me that that is exactly what it is, a sea or possibly a water weed which was regularly used in French prams in times gone by!   I am going to keep this stuffing and put it back into the pram as I wish to keep Monique as authentic as possible.



Right side and Reverse of the beautiful end panels



All of the components are now spread across my dining room floor......if I don't get them sorted there will be no Christmas dinner this year!    I have decided that I will clean and renovate the two end panels but but will replace the fabric in the side panels.

Now that the pram body is stripped we can turn our attention to that as soon as we have finished with the chassis.   The most exciting bit of the project so far was being able to take apart the pram bed with the end panels intact and to find written in chalk on the side of the pram the French words,  'Bon Marche Marine', confirming my belief that Monique was manufactured in France.




 

January 2008

 When  we came to put the handle  back together  it was obvious that there  was something missing between the two middle porcelain  sections.  After  talking to Jan Oakes  and studying pictures, we thought  it was probably  a brass washer of some description.   Well, they say  necessity is the mother of invention and so after much thought  we stumbled on the  idea  of a  28 mm Olive as used for plumbing.  It fitted the bill perfectly and although very bright at  first, should weather  down to a deeper  tone to match  the lovely original  brass knobs  on  either end of the handle.



I am very much looking forward to completing the body so that I can put the handle back on it.

 

Another decision that had to be made was whether the hood was good enough to keep or if it needed replacing. Sadly it was too far gone to repair and so I had to take a deep breath and set about making a new hood. The first problem was sourcing a suitable fabric. This was very difficult. I wanted a navy blue leathercloth but that is no longer available. I finally settled for a navy vinyl that I got from my local fabric store. It is not quite what I wanted but at the time it was all I could find. Of course as soon as I finished it I found some lovely fine leatherette that would have been perfect!!!!!  I think its called  ***'s law you can fill in the stars for yourselves! Anyway on the up side the original hood was complete enough for me to unpick and use as a pattern and I have kept all the pieces. I thought I would store them in the footwell of the pram for posterity.







Monique's  Old  Hood


So having carefully unpicked the old hood  I cut out the new one and reversed the unpick process to make the new hood. What was different about Moniqué’s hood was that it was lined with a cotton fabric not vinyl. This made life much easier! The other thing that was different about the way the hood was constructed was that the hood and lining were not stitched together in the same way that my new pram hoods are.

I chose a buttery cream curtain lining fabric for the hood lining and just as with the outside I cut a pattern using the old hood lining. Having sewn the seams I stitched the lining to the frame of the Hood in the appropriate places.  Then, having sewn the vinyl hood seams I set about securing that over the frame hand stitching it around the edges and through the lining.  It is not perfect but it is the first hood I have ever done from scratch so I am quite pleased. I had  no idea  where to start  at first,  but  I used the advise  available  elsewhere on this  site,  which I found very useful.

I am still missing a hood arm and had to improvise with a piece of timber in order to get the tension right on the hood. I think I may have managed to locate someone who has a spare one which whilst not identical is of a similar period. I am so looking forward to getting it and completing the job.

 

 





Monique's New Hood


 


 

The chassis has come up very well using the cream spray paint. The difficult bit was yet to come!  You will have seen in the pictures that the chassis was very rusty with most of the paint gone. However there was sufficient paint to tell us that it was a) originally a cream  colour … my research told me that the pram would have had a cream chassis unless the client specified they wanted it a different colour, and b) we could just make out some blue coachlines….

In the weeks since I have come to regret that fact that I could see the coachlines! They have been a real trial. The hardest part of the job by far.  We tried coachlining wheels and emulsion paint but couldn’t get a smooth line on the pitted surface, We tried a permanent marker but when it went wrong we had to undercoat and respray the area before we could try again!!!!  Coloured pencil crayon didn’t leave a solid line …. Finally we opted for a simple washable fine felt tip pen which we could at least erase with soapy water and an eraser if we needed to.

I have to confess that during the whole process it wasn’t only the coachline that was blue!!!!!!

We have finally completed the lines to resemble something like what we think the original was. It is still not quite to my satisfaction but I think I may have to live with it for now at least. The alternative is to respray yet again and start over!!!! I console myself with the fact that I can see that the original lines were not precision works of art and my lines do give the overall effect. It is certainly an improvement on how the chassis looked when we received it!

 

You will probably remember we had reached an impasse with the wheels. They had all been stripped and painted but needed tyres. Well after investigating a variety of options we found that the business that suppies mower drive belts could supply 12mm diameter solid rubber tube. The channel in the wheel was 12mm so it seemed perfect. My son bought me sufficient to do the wheels for my Christmas pressie. I was delighted. All we needed to work out now was how we would join the ends and secure the tyres in the wheels. Whatever we did needed to be strong enough to take the weight of the pram. Whilst I don’t have plans to wheel the pram very far the tyres needed to fit tightly enough for it to be wheeled across a room at least!. We thought we could use super glue on the joint but were concerned that this would not be strong enough under pressure. Many older pram tyres had a coil/spring running through the middle of them and screwed together at the joint. We wondered how we could replicate something like that. We decided that what we needed was something like a double ended screw. We scoured the hardware stores and found exactly that. Little double ended screws. You will see in the photo they look just like little slugs!!!!

We cut the rubber about 1/8th shorter than the circumference of the Wheel and screwed half of the screw into the end. We then estimated that the thread on the opposite end of the screw was about 5 turns so we twisted the rubber 5½ turns and then as we screwed in the end of the screw it unwound so that by the time the two ends met the tyre was no longer twisted. In addition we put super glue on the end of the rubber. We left it to set for about 10 -15mins then it was ready to be stretched over the wheel. Before applying the tyre we ground down some of the raised spokes in the channel… it was obvious from the smell when we did that that the original tyres had be stuck in with some sort of rubber slip. We did not have hot rubber slip so we lined the channel with a bead of silicone sealant. We decided that this would help to hold the tyre in place but we would be able to remove it if we need to without leaving any lumps of rubber!  Once the silicone was applied we stretched the Tyre into the channel and Voila super douper new tyres. I hope you will agree they have worked really well.

 




New solid  Rubber  Tyring






New Tyre in Place







 

With the tyres fixed and the chassis painted it just remains for me to decide for sure  whether I can live with the coachlines as they are and then spray the whole chassis with a coat of clear satin varnish to seal and protect the surface. I have put the wheels on the chassis temporarily so you can see the finished effect. Compare it with the original photos and you will see we have come a long way which is very rewarding.










 



Body-work


In between all these jobs we have also been working on the main body of the pram…  We sanded it down  to remove and lumps and bumps and filled some little holes where the old tacks had been covered with filler that had popped out. We also treated it with woodworm treatment as there was some evidence in one corner of the base of the pram.  Once sanded down we sprayed it with a base coat of primer paint using the compressor and spray gun. It was interesting to see how the dimensions of the pram seem to change depending on what colour the finish was! We wanted a deep navy blue for the top coat of the pram as we were sure that was the original colour. We looked everywhere for an eggshell finish paint in the right colour. Finally we found it on a colour chart but not in the finish we required so we  got it scanned and mixed at one of the dulux paint mixing stations. I had had this done before and got an excellent colour match. I also knew that  very dark colours are often very bright in their wet liquid form so I didn’t worry too much at how purple the paint was. We went ahead and sprayed the  pram but oh dear it was nothing like the colour we were aiming for!  So it was back to the drawing board. I decided that if I mixed that  paint with black I might be getting somewhere but we couldn’t buy eggshell black!!!  We seem to be coming up against obstacles at every turn! In the end I bought a satin coat black and mixed some with the eggshell  that we had bought originally. Both were oil based paints so they seem to mix quite well. I think I have achieved the right colour finally. Now all I have to do is re-create the same mixture in a large volume to put in the spray gun and we will be set. The problem now is the weather and temperatures which are not good for spray painting so  I am hoping for some bright fine days when I can get some heat into the workshop  and spray the body. In fact I would go so far as saying I am desperate to do it so keep your fingers crossed for me!

 

 


Monique avec   Chassis!






Fi's   Beautiful   Moniqué,

 just  in need of  tightened   leathers   I  think   and  doesn't  she look  beautiful?

 




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