Robin Butler on Twitter

March 2011

There is an old saying that you can wait an hour for a London bus to arrive - then three will arrive together. So it can be with antiques. One doesn’t see a particular category of antique for a long time, then without warning several cross ones path in short order. I seldom see mahogany wine coasters available to buy, but last week I found 4 in one day. Nor was that all. On the same day, I was able to buy the best example of a very rare type of coaster I have seen in years. It is currently my ‘pick of the month’, and justifiably so; do, please, have a look on my website homepage.

Many people like to have a decanter or two - perhaps more - easily available to use either on the dining table or nearby, but I have the feeling that coasters are much less considered. Most of us have mats to protect our tables from hot plates and dishes, but coasters for bottles and decanters are almost as essential, because wine contains alcohol which can be highly detrimental to the polished surface of a table.

Coasters do more than simply preventing drips of wine from staining the table or its tablecloth; they also prevent decanters from touching one another and thus becoming chipped. If those were not sufficient reasons for using coasters, it should be remembered that decanters in coasters were designed to be slid (coasted) from one person to another across a polished surface - indeed, in former times they were called decanter slides. But perhaps the most cogent reason to use coasters is that they look good on a dining table; they help ‘dress’ the table so well.

Of course, my extolling the virtues of coasters is not entirely without motive. As I write this, I have a magnificent selection to choose from. There are two good pairs of silver ones, two singles, and a silver plated example. In addition, I have two made of papier mâché, two pairs and seven single mahogany ones, as well as the amazing ‘rolled paperwork’ model.

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At the beginning of the month I wrote about cleaning and drying decanters. It seems that it went down well. However, there is one other decanter problem that many people have faced, but which I did not address. It concerns stoppers that have become stuck. The method I have used has never failed me yet, so I am happy to pass it on to you. I know that other methods can work with varying degrees of success, and my old friend Larry, sent me five, but this is mine.

First put a little penetrating oil around the neck of the decanter (WD40 will do) between the stopper and the neck and leave it for about an hour. Then fill a plastic washing bowl with water which is as hot as you hands can bear (but no hotter), and hold the decanter completely immersed under the water for about one minute. When you take it out, the stopper will come away quite easily. Of course, the decanter and its stopper will need washing and drying properly afterwards. So there it is - as Tommy Cooper would have said - "Just like that!"




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