Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How to Light a Toy with its Own Lights

Friday, June 29, 2012

How to Light a Toy that has its Own lights

     I've been writing about  a very nice toy for the last 2 days. It's a pressed steel Girard Pierce-Arrow toy from the 1930's-early 1940's. It comes with small lightbulbs and is wired for lights. It is powered by 2 size D batteries.

     The problem here is that the light bulbs don't produce enough light to light the car. If you take a photo, all you'll get are the lights. If you overexpose to get the car, the light bulbs will overexpose and you won't see them.  If you don't have photo lights like myself, then using a  table lamp would be alright. However the table lamp light will overpower the light from the toy car , and you won't see them.

   So what do you do? You set your camera to B or Bulb, and photograph in Manual mode. You'll keep both the table lamp on, and the car lights,, but turn off the table lamp early. This will then allow a longer exposure necessary for the small car lights.

   In my case, I've used my small studio spot lights. I 'll show you the procedure, and the same instructions can be applied to a table lamp. Please use caution when doing this, and make sure to have a small flashlight to see what you're doing in the dark!

I like to work with the camera in manual mode and with small f-stops (lens openings).
It's easier when doing a multiple exposure such as this.

The above composite photo shows different exposures all set at f 16.
Of course, you'll need a tripod.

 The rear lightbulb is less bright and is red.
The exposures were much longer.

The front lights only require an exposure of 40 seconds.
What I did was place a piece of black cloth over the front lights, and let the rear red light exposure for the remaining 80 more seconds for a total of 120 seconds altogether.

The above cloth is not the best. The best is a piece of black velvet.
Black velvet is like a dark hole in space. It absorbs light unbelievably, and is much better than the material that is shown above. You can get a small piece usually from a retail fabric store.

A series of exposures to determine the overall light from your table lamp or my studio lights.
You need to balance the exposure form the table lamp or studio lights with that emitted from the car lights. It's better to underexpose that to overexpose, otherwise you'll overpower the car lights.

Another series of exposures.
The middle image shows the combined lighting of the table lamp (my studio lights) and the car lights.

I decided to use a technique called light painting instead of the studio lighting and car light technique.You use a small flashlight with a fiber-optic attachment, and actually move the light around as if you were painting.

 This is the result with the technique.
I "sloppily" removed the white background and placed the car on black.
This presents the combined lighting better, since the white background would detract from the actual lighting.

I wasn't happy with the above results, so I returned to do a reshoot. A reshoot for those who don't know, is simply redoing what you first did. This is done either because you , as a photographer is not happy with the results, or the client that you might be working for is not happy.

When I had installed the size D batteries, I later learned that I did not install them properly. I had installed both batteries parallel with each other.In other words, both batteries had their positive end up, and their negative ends down. Since there were no + or - signs on the battery case, I ended up doing the wrong thing. I realized this when I though that my rear lightbulb was not working right. I returned to my toy later, because I was going to remove the lightbulb and look for a replacement at the local Hone Depot or Reno-Depot store.  The toy was hot, and when I removed the batteries, 1 of them was burning hot! Obviously I had created a loop in the current and it built up resistance or heat!

My advise for anyone working with batteires in an old toy is to ask an electrician how the batteries should be installed, so that you don't hurt yourself, cause the battery to explode,, or perhaps create a fire!

When I did the reshoot, I rearranged the batteries so that 1 had its positive (+) terminal at the top, while the other battery had its negative (-) terminal at the top.

I'n still unsure if that was correct, and when I was finished I removed the batteries for safety reasons.

What I did discover however, was that I could have 2 power settings for the lights. One was bright, and the other was dim. I was then able to finally get better exposures to improve upon the previous images.

I also changed the foundation or material to a darker colour, which made paintin g with light easier to do.

Test # 1


1. The car moved when I changed the power setting (see below for explanation).
Notice the white area (highlight) just in front of the rear red lightbulb.

2. I used a small flashlight to better expose the black tires. I "spilled" light or added light to the burlap brown material, which made the exposure look "weird".

Test # 2

Solutions to the errors from Test # 1

1. I taped the car in the back side, so that it would not move.

2. I ensured that I placed additional light on the tires very carefully, so that there was no spill.

Think of how hard it was before the digital era, for professional photographers to photograph real cars with their lights on! The photographer would have to photograph the car with many exposures as I did, and he/she would be using an 8" x 10" (200mm x 254mm) piece of film with the large-format view camera. There would be supplementary lights to light the car, as well as exposures for the inside instrument panel, the exposure for the outdoors, and then of course the black tires. Of course, the photographer would have to use a Polaroid back in order to see the initial images and their respective exposures. Once the correct exposure was obtained with Polaroid film real slide (transparency) film would be used.

Naturally, there were perhaps, at the most 50-100 photographers around the world who specialized in photographing cars. The work was very hard, but they made excellent salaries for the photography.

Nowadays, I could easily have photographed the car with 4 separate exposures, and then used Photoshop and layers.  By using  Photoshop and layers, one simply places all 4 images above 1 another in a new image. You then can erase  unwanted parts from each image to expose the tires, the front lightbulbs, the rear lightbulb, and the overall exposure. 

This can be done better, and faster than my "old-fashioned" method!

The Exposures:

All exposures were taken at f16 with the camera in the "B" or bulb position

1.  f 16 @ 15" 
(Front headlights set to low power position).

2.  f 16 @ 30"
 ( Cover the front headlights with black material and set the power to  high power position).

3. F 16 @ 3" 
(Remove the black material form the front headlights).
In total darkness paint each light with the flashlight for 3" each

4. F 16 @ 10"
Turn on 1 spotlight aimed at the white ceiling tiles and expose.

*Since the camera is set to the B position (bulb), the exposure is being counted on the back screen.
The camera is exposing all the time.

The camera  shutter reamins open until you press the shutter to close the shutter.

Total exposure was f 16 @ 15" + 30" + 6" + 10" = 

f16 @ 61 seconds.

So thanks for dropping by, 
and have a great weekend, wherever you may be.

Looking for Parts to Restore a Toy

Thursday, June 27, 2012

Looking for Parts to Restore a Toy


14 1/2" (L) x 5 1/2" (W) x 5" (H)
368 mm x 140 mm x 128mm


3 pounds 5.9 ounces
1.528 kg

     Yesterday, I wrote about this Pierce-Arrow car that I'll be writing about  here. I purchased it in order to be able to show a highly skilled repair person what's missing on the another toy that I bought. That toy is the same as this one, but is missing parts, ad has a different colour.

 A Girard Pierce Arrow 1930's Pressed Steel Car.
Mechanical Wind-up Mechanism with Battery-Operated Lighting
Circa 1930's-Early 1940's

 The same car.
However, this one is missing parts and was repainted.

   A photo showing the inside colour of the car.
The owner of the toy did not re-paint the inside!

   Another clue that informed me that the car was repainted.
Notice the  orange colour at the bottom left where the on/off battery switch (lever) is.
Also notice the orange underneath some paint chipping.

   A closer look at the battery on/off lever.

   More paint chipping.

Missing: The rear luggage rack

Missing: The rear light bulb and the housing to hold the bulb in place.
On the original car, this light, was left on at night to notify other cars when it was parked.
Street lighting had not yet been universally adopted for all city streets.

Missing: The special rear axle.
Notice that the rear axle has a gear, and 2 metal prongs  near the bell.
The prongs hit a small spring that then bounces back to hit the bell.

Missing: Front Light Bulbs and Wiring.
These are easily available through toy-parts sellers on the Net and E-Bay.

Missing: The Battery Compartment and the Battery Cover.
This replacement part will definitely require a very good parts-maker and repair person!
As well, the wiring is missing and will have to be rewired.

At $75.00 an hour, I think that with parts and labour the restoration will cost between 200-300 dollars. I will have to strip the car, and repaint it also, and purchase 2 replacement tires as well.

I'll have to see what lies ahead.
Toy selling slows down at this time, and spending that much definitely will require serious judgement.

Thanks for dropping by, and as always, have a great morning, afternoon, or evening.

A Girard Pierce Arrow Car

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Girard Pierce-Arrow
Pressed Steel
Battery Lit Car
(Circa 1930's)


14 1/2" (L) x 5 1/2" (W) x 5" (H)
368 mm x 140 mm x 128mm


3 pounds 5.9 ounces
1.528 kg

     Yesterday, I received a beautiful 1930's Girard Pierce-Arrow car.  It's made of pressed steel, has a wind-up mechanism to allow it to move, and has a battery-operated switch to power the 3 small lightbulbs.

     I had purchase a similar one before which was missing many parts, and even though I had a nice seller on E-Bay send me photos of a complete car, I bid on 1 that was complete. It's much easier to show a handy person a real one when it comes to making parts for the one missing parts.

    For today, I'll talk both about the new arrival, and looking at a complete and incomplete car in terms of restoration. I'd also like to mention that in most old or new books or old catalogues, there usually is only 1 photo of the toy. As such, it's hard to know what's missing in a toy, or if the toy was repainted.

 The Underside of the Girard Pierce-Arrow Car

Not only does the car move, but it has a bell that clanks.
This is done by 2 prongs on the rear axle that hit a small metal spring that then hits the bell.

 The Battery Compartment.

The car takes size D batteries.I had to go to 3 places before I found the size D.I think this size of battery is eventually going to be discontinued.I asked an electrician friend of mine what would then happen if one one couldn't find size D batteries anymore.He said that you could resize the battery compartment in order to accommodate the smaller-sized batteries., which in this case happen to be size C.

This certainly was a very sophisticated and costly toy for the time that is was then made. I'm sure my father and most of my reader's parents never had such toys!

Thanks for the visit, and have a great morning, afternoon, or evening, wherever you may be reading this blog.

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Doepke Jaeger Cement Mixer

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Doepke Jaeger Cement Mixer
(A Big Toy!)

     When I first started to buy and sell toys (mostly on E-Bay), there were always some toys that you couldn't help but notice. I noticed particularly the Doepke toys. The ones that I saw were made in the early 1940's  and were very "hands-on" mechanical toys. I purchased many Doepke sand movers, which you can read about on this blog. You just have to bring up all of the posts for this blog to find where they are.

     Anyway, I always wanted to get my hands on the Deopke Jaeger Cement Mixer, and this one arrived yesterday. It's missing some parts, so I'll try to see if Thomas Antique Toys Pats has them. 


13 1/2" (L)  x 7 3/8" (W) x 9 1/2" (H) 
343 mm x 188mm x 242mm


3 pounds 1.9 ounces
1.419  kilograms

    I guess the kid in me still would like to play with these toy, and sometimes I do, as I embarrassingly have to admit, but only a little. This one I can;t play with as it was repainted. However I move it around on the carpet!

A Size Comparison

The small cast iron A.C.Williams measures 5"(L) x 2"(W) x 2" (H) or 127mm x 51mm x 51mm

You can read about the A.C.Williams Coupe in yesterday's post.

 The cement shoot in the up position

The cement shoot in the lowered position

A front view where the cement ingredients would be placed.
A crank would then lift the shoot, and gravity would allow the mixture (sand, rocks, mortar) to fall into the black drum.

The silver bar at the top is incorrect.
THat should have a crank at the end with strings attached to raise the raw mixture for placement into the black drum.

The hubcaps and the chain that rotates the black drum are missing from this toy.

A left front view of the Doepke Jaeger

Now that's a toy for paying with!

Thanks for dropping by, and have a restful weekend 
and enjoy the summer, or winter depending in which hemisphere you may be.

A Pair of A.C.Williams Cast Iron Coupes

Friday, June 22, 2012

A Pair of A.C.Williams 
Cast Iron Coupes

     Today's post has to do with 2 A.C.Williams Cast Iron Coupes.  A toy friend from Ireland, Stuart Judd, sent me information about the A.C.Williams COmpany.

     The company's company's history is at that site. Of course, the cast iron toys stopped production a long time ago, but the company is still in business producing other things today.

     After I had purchased the 2 Williams Coupes on E-Bay, I realized that they are almost the same car, but for their different sizes. I recently purchased an old out-of-print  pair of books titled Dictionary of Toys Sold in America written by Earnest and Ida Long of California. They also are the publishers. In that book, I noticed that many of the old toy models from the 1920's-30's came in  different sizes. It wasn't uncommon to see the same toy design but ranging from small to medium to large.

You can see that the 2 cars are very similar to each other.
The smaller-sized one that's missing most of its paint just has different wheels (tires).

The larger red car measures 6"(L) x 2" (W) x 2 3/4" (H) or  153mm x 51mm x70mm.
The smaller car with almost no paint measures 5" (L) x 2" (W) x 2'(H) or 128mm x 51mm x 51mm

Their respective weights are 1.07 pounds and 9.1 ounces or 474 grams and 261 grams

It's always interesting to discover new information about old toys, and to pass it on to my readers.

That's it for today, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Have a nice weekend, wherever you may be.