From restoring treasures to toffee apples

HEALTHY ADDITION: Enticing toffee apples make a special birthday party treat
HEALTHY ADDITION: Enticing toffee apples make a special birthday party treat

WE HAVE a rather obvious black burn mark on our wooden coffee table. My husband thinks we can just repair it by scraping off the mark and polishing it up, but I’m scared this will make it worse, and we could end up with a dent as well. Do you have any suggestions? – TR, Port Elizabeth.

Restoration expert Ralph Mothes provides the answers in John Kench’s book, Cottage Furniture in South Africa (Struik).

Your husband is right about scraping, but he will need a very sharp blade and a gentle touch.

You could nevertheless be left with a shallow depression. This can be treated fairly easily.

Cover the area with either a damp cloth or wet blotting paper and press with a hot iron, repeating if necessary.

The compressed wood fibres should swell, and level off the surface.
Afterwards, complete the job with a good polish. Shoe polish in the right colour can often be effective.

My daughter has the bright idea of having toffee apples for her eighth birthday party. I’m sure this isn’t very difficult to do, but I need some guidance. Can you help? – Judy, Jeffreys Bay.

I found a recipe in my files, dating back to Column No 22 – 34 years ago!
For 12 apples, you will need:

300g brown sugar

150g golden syrup

35g butter

125ml water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Wash the apples in very hot water and dry thoroughly. Remove the stalks and press a wooden stick into this end of the apple.

Butter a large baking tray. This is to put the apples on when they are ready.

Using a heavy-based pot, heat the sugar, syrup, butter, water and lemon juice. Do this slowly and stir all the time until the butter has melted and the sugar is dissolved.

Bring to the boil and put the lid on for two minutes. Then uncover. Continue to boil steadily but don’t stir anymore.

When a little of the mixture dropped into cold water forms hard, brittle threads, you are ready for the next step.

Dip and twist each apple into the toffee and then immediately plunge into very cold water. This hardens the surface of the toffee.

As each apple is completed, put it on the greased tray and allow to set completely.

A tip from someone who often makes toffee apples is to work quickly. Apparently, if the toffee gets hard it is difficult to work with. If this does happen, re-heat.

As toffee apples are best within hours of being made, making them on the morning of the party would be ideal.

If this is not possible, wrap up each head tightly in cellophane.

I tried your method for repairing cracked china and my teacup no longer leaks, but the crack marks still show up. Is there any way of hiding this, or have I done something wrong? Perhaps it was because I used long- life milk instead of fresh milk. – GE, Port Elizabeth.

I was surprised to hear that you were using the cup, because this old repair method was certainly not intended as a robust restoration technique, but rather as a way of making the item presentable for display.

Regarding the specific problem, it’s quite possible that the crack had over time darkened from tannin in tea.

You can soak it in a strong bleach and water solution.

Although not good for china in the long term, bleach is fantastic as a whitener. But you must soak the cup in clean water after the treatment for a couple of hours to remove all traces of the bleach.

I hope this won’t affect the seal achieved by the milk, but if it does you can repeat the process, but this time use full-cream milk.

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