Thermometer, Barometer, Hygrometer Rescue

I picked up this combination thermometer, barometer, hygrometer at the thrift store the other day. You see these often at second-hand shops, they are the kind of stupid present akin to a desk top pen set or a crystal clock. I, however love these particular meter’s shape and feel. They look like vintage aviation or nautical equipment, but they were attached to this hideous piece of red moulded wood. I wanted to do the meters justice by shining them up, calibrating each one and finding a more subtle display.

First up was removing each meter, they were easy to unscrew from the board, and each had a removable back cover.

All three were extremely dirty inside, covered in dust and dead bugs. Once cleaned here is the exposed mechanism for the hygrometer.

I wanted to be sure that they were working. After some internet research I found a method for calibrating each meter.

Easiest was the thermometer which can either be checked with freezing or boiling water. Since this is an indoor thermometer its highest reading is 120, boiling point is 212 degrees Fahrenheit so it makes more sense to use the freezing point to calibrate. Prepare a bowl of crushed ice and water and submerge the back plate. It should read 32 degrees. If it doesn’t then adjust the calibration screw to make it read 32 degrees. My thermometer was already working so I put him back together and got to work on the harder to calibrate hygrometer.

Basically there are two methods for this one as well, wrapping the meter in a damp towel for 6 hours should yield a reading of 90% humidity. When I tried this method my towel had dried out and the hygrometer was back at 50-ish%. I thought that the towel method seemed too imprecise so I tried the salt water method. Mix a 1/2 cup of salt with a 1/4 cup of water in a coffee cup and place the cup and the hygrometer into a plastic bag and seal. After 8 hours or so it should read 75%, mine read around 80% and so I adjusted it. (Source)

Lastly and hardest to calibrate was the barometer. A barometer’s weather predicating skills are based on relative change not the actual reading. So most sites recommend using your local barometric pressure reading as a calibration point. Then simply place your second arrow to match. When the pressure changes you will be able to measure the difference. However to make it more complicated a barometer is significantly less effective at a high altitude… like Denver. I attempted to adjust the barometer to the local reading but once I had and put it back into its housing the dial got jostled and was out of alignment again. I decided to leave it. I don’t plan on watching for weather changes on it, and a home barometer at high altitude isn’t really useful anyway. (Source)

So now with science out-of-the-way I got back to design. I wanted a plain piece of wood, distressed and weathered like the meters for mounting. Outside of my townhouse there is a pile of wood planks half covered in weeds. I went out and pulled up two planks the exact right size, it couldn’t have worked out better. I picked the nicer one and cleaned it up:

In order to attach the meters I needed three holes drilled for each. Matt was nice enough to do this for me once I had marked out where they would go. I used the original wood plank’s holes as a guide so it was very easy to do. Here it is drilled out, you can still see the pink sharpie I used to mark it.

I wanted to seal the wood with something, but I didn’t want a stain or anything that would significantly add shine. I haven’t had much experience working with unfinished wood but my dad is an expert and he recommended using lacquer. Even better he had some I could use, which was Deft Clear Wood Finish Brushing Lacquer in Satin. This stuff has a great effect but is difficult to apply as it begins to dry on contact so touching up is out until the next coat. I sanded down my plank and put around 5 or 6 coats of lacquer on it. The wood was so dried out and open that the first two coats just sunk right in with no visible effect.

To attach the meters I had to buy new screws as the plank was an inch thicker than the original. I also attached a sawtooth hanger on the back so I would be able to hang it up. As you can see I needed a washer to hold the screws and these came of the original hardware:

Here is the finished result:

For now it is sitting against the wall in the living room while we finish painting but I think it’s going to look great once it’s up. I adore the contrast of plain wood, metal, and black dials, so crisp.

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