Following recent work on the head gasket of a 1926 Th. Schneider I was rummaging through some nuts and bolts from the engine. I had cause to pause to consider the humble nuts themselves for a moment. They display evidence of a hard life with marks of a cold chisel having been applied to loosen them at some point in the past. But of interest is how they also reveal some of the story of the way automobiles were manufactured in the 1920s. The automobile industry in the 1920s was in transition from largely individually hand produced automobiles to what we now know as “mass produced”. As I understand it automobile production in France in the 1920s was largely still small volume and to a significant extent hand produced. Prior to the economic depression toward the end of the decade there were hundreds of small automobiles producers in France.
It isn’t clear how the nuts were produced or to what extent they were mass produced but what is apparent is evidence of having been hand finished. So the sides show hammer signs, perhaps by hand. And they have clearly been machined finished on the ends. They bear the hallmarks of, if not hand production, at least hand finishing.
It is this evidence that underlies the importance of preserving such automobiles, and of course much other machinery, houses etc, rather than restoring. Too often the results of a restoration is the loss of the original components and along with that, the loss of the way in which the artifact was originally produced together with the skills that were required to produce it.
We may be able to “manufacture” patina but it is a truism that an artifact is original only once.