top of page
  • Julie @ Home On The Hill

Antique Tanglefoot Box

On a recent spur of the moment stop at a Salvation Army store last weekend this small box grabbed my attention.

I noticed immediately that it had original manufacturers advertising pressed into the wood sides. Excellent! Something to help trace the origins of this little somewhat battered box, I love tracking down the story behind my vintage finds, it adds a dimension to each piece that you just don't get buying new off the shelf.

I also noticed the not so appealing orange brown paint someone had thought was a nice choice at some stage in this boxes my mind turned to how to best give this box back it's dignity?!.......

The sides and one end of the box had the makers name 'Tanglefoot' in large lettering with some additional, somewhat comforting wording - considering this is going in my house - stating that it once contained - "The Sanitary Fly Destroyer Non Poisonous".

Tanglefoot. What a fabulous name for a sticky fly paper that would literally tangle the feet of the pesky critters!

A little research online and the story of the Tanglefoot company and the origins of my box were revealed.

The Tanglefoot company was established way back in 1885 by the Thrum brothers in the USA, who tired of using the apparently messy and sticky fly paper of the time, invented a better adhesive formula from castor oil, resins and wax.

Back in the day flies were a big problem due to all the manure on the streets from the horses pulling carts, but with the advent of the motor vehicle the horses and therefore the manure declined, and so did the flies. Sales of fly paper declined along with the flies and the Thrum brothers business could have went along with it (although they could still make a killing here in an Australian Country Summer!), but they redesigned their fly paper to be used to stop insects climbing and damaging trees and kept the business going.

They have kept reinventing themselves over the last century and to this day still produce non toxic insect solutions and from their website information it seems they also managed to retain their sense of humour - Quote: "While the world has changed dramatically since 1885, Tanglefoot has always found a way to stick around", pun most definitely intended I'm sure!

The box I had found used to look like this - plain wood with a black and red highlighted pressed design.

But the orangey paint had done away with that, even if I sanded it back or stripped the paint off it would most likely take the coloured ink and probably part of the imprinted design away as well.

The lid I think was not original and was in such bad shape I removed it altogether.

So nothing left to do but paint it - white of course - but I wanted to leave the interior natural since that had not been changed. I protected the inside with some newspaper and taped it carefully to prevent any spray paint getting inside. I then spray painted the exterior white and when dry distressed it to further enhance the designs on the sides and finished with a little dark wax to sit in the depths of the design to help those designs stand out that little bit more.

The insides I oiled with Miss Mustard Seeds brand hemp oil to protect it.

Then it occurred to me that this little box could be even more useful if I added a handle and made it a tote. I had a suitable bit of shiplap style wood from an old cabinet in the barn that I cut to fit the width of the box. I then cut out a hand hold in the top of the wood with the jigsaw as well as cut an arch in the top, sanded it to smooth off any sharp edges and remove the stain that was on it. I attached it to the inside centre of the box with small panel pins.

A quick coat of oil on the handle piece and it was done.

1 Comment

Jul 02, 2021

This blog was moved to a new platform on 2nd July 2021 & this is a record of comments for this post prior to that time.

Vicki commented on "Antique Tanglefoot Box"

Sep 16, 2018

You've done a beautiful 'restoration' job.

bottom of page