Tools

Cooperstown couple creating tin ornaments from antique molds once again

By WKTV News

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (WKTV) - A husband and wife in Cooperstown are giving the ornament business another try. The Rigby's are using antique molds to bring history to life.

William and Janet Rigby started an antique hardware business in 1994. They dabbled in the ornament business for a couple of years in the 90's, but stopped to raise a family. Now, 14 years later, they've decided to add sparkle to the business once again.

"It was rough," said William Rigby. "I had to learn this all over again. I learned each mold has it's own quirks. I had to relearn them all."

"I know more about doorknobs than anyone should have to," said Janet Rigby. "These ornaments are just so pretty. It's just such a creative process."

"We started to make these on our kitchen stove. Just heat it in a pot on the kitchen stove," said William Rigby.

The Rigby's graduated from the stove to a machine that heats up the tin.

There is a story behind how the molds came into their possession. Gustav Mayer was the original owner, in Staten Island. He had them shipped from Germany. "He (Gustav) made them from the 1880's til about 1910 when the electric lighting came in they kind of fell out of favor and he packed the molds away," said William Rigby.

Rigby did some work at the home where Gustav's daughters were living years later. "I knew that their father had all of these confection businesses. He was an inventor. He had all of these tin ornaments that he made and they described the ornament business to me," said William Rigby. "The man that bought the desks out of the library found the ornament molds in the desk drawer. He knew that I was interested in this stuff so he brought them by and I knew exactly what I was looking at at this point so I had to buy them."

All together there are 42 molds, only about 20 of them are in working condition. "They are fragile and if I damage that mold it's not in production anymore," said William Rigby. The rest were sold for scrap during World War II.

It's an intricate process but the end result is worth the effort. "We have customers contacting us from when we started making them 25 years ago (who say) 'I still have your ornaments keep them in a box and they are the favorite ornaments that we put on the tree," said Janet Rigby. "It will never be made in China it would always be made here in Cooperstown or wherever it is we may be."

The ornaments are for sale at their home at 73 Elm Street in Cooperstown or online at www.wmjrigby.com. You can call them at (607) 547-1900.

What's On