Tuesday, June 18, 2013

265. A Pressing Issue: COLLECTING OLD FLAT IRONS

I don't know for what reason, but one of my very first antique purchase were these flat irons or "prensa" or "plantsa" made of brass (Php100 in 1985).  I think I was attracted to their utilitarian value more than their antiquity, a reminder of the hard work that went into perfect homemaking. Early presses used heat to iron out wrinkles on clothes and fabric--the above example is called "plantsa korona" as it had an open circular top over which live coals were placed. Held by a wooden handle (now gone), the "plantsa" is then made to slide over clothing over and over again, to remove and smoothen out creases. Made of brass, these 'plantsa koronas' were tricky to use, as sparks would fly from the uncovered top and could singe the fabric.
Later plantsas were streamlined in shape, closer to how modern flat irons look like. They were made with a top cover where charchoals could be place into the 'plantsa's" hollow body that had vents to draw off excess heat. "Plantsang de uling", these were called, and these examples are what are usually found in antique shops today. The above 'plantsa' is Philippine made and dates back to the early 50s.
Antique flat irons from the Asian region looked very similar, although many integrated local designs onto the body. This brass example, from Thailand, has incised designs on the rims, and the wooden handle is supported securely with two brass prongs mounted directly on the body of the flat iron. The cost of antique flat irons remain steady in the Philippine antique market with a price range of Php 1500-3000 for the 'plantsa korona', depending on the size. Plantsang de uling could be had for under a thousand bucks. It's all up to you how to display them--I once used my plantsas as book-ends, as a vase holder, or a desk accent to contain paper clips, staples and post-its. You can even use them for their intended purpose, but do learn how not to burn.

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