|"The Chicago Gang, Part 2" Olaus "O. C." Wold starts out on his own.|
Olaus Wold, a Norwegian immigrant, worked for Thayer and Chandler as a foreman and did the vast majority of the design work on the airbrushes the company made. His most inventive work was done at T & C and his many contributions to airbrush design are as important as any you'll find. Around 1899 he had a falling out with Chandler and opened, what else, The Wold Air Brush Company in Chicago. I use the term "around" because it's hard to pinpoint a date. The Wold catalogs claim "since 1891" and " in 1891 we made the first one", but there is a patent still assigned to Thayer & Chandler filed in March of 1897. The current manufacturers of the Wold, now made in New Zealand, claim 1896.
Wold's first airbrush is a gravity feed model similar to Thayer & Chandler's. He also makes an airbrush that uses a side mounted cup that slips into the body ala Thayer & Chandler. In 1904, Wold patents an airbrush that uses a side cup that is different, the tube comes out the bottom, makes a 90 degree turn right into the airbrush body. This accomplishes two things, the paint path is greatly reduced giving better performance, and the cup is mounted above the centerline of the airbrush meaning its gravity fed. For some reason the short tube idea is kept but the concept of the cup mounted above the center line lies dormant for almost a hundred years, until its revived in the late 1990's by Iwata and Aztec. Wold, Thayer & Chandler and everybody else in between mount the cup on a short tube below the center line of the body. This makes it a siphon feed and somewhat neutralizes the shorter tube because it requires more air pressure over the tip to "draw" the paint into the airbrush (Bernoulli's Principle). The cup idea is great, but in this 1904 patent, what it mounts to and how it operates/moves are, well, bizarre. In this airbrush, the needle is rigidly mounted and doesn't move. To vary the opening around the needle, Wold uses a sleeve that moves fore and aft and this is in turn controlled by the trigger. This sleeve contains the paint path meaning that the cup moves fore and aft as well, requiring a slot in the body to allow for this movement. It gets better. The cup is threaded so as not to leak, negating any quick and easy changing. To get air you depress the trigger, to get paint, you push the trigger forward, totally backwards to any other airbrush ever made. Thankfully, this "don't raise the drawbridge, lower the river" contraption was never produced. Wold was a genius and undoubtedly the most underrated of the early airbrush pioneers but he did have his "Whipple" moments and this was one of them. To be fair, this and a couple of other were created as design exercises to test various ideas.
His next airbrush design, patented in 1912, was for an airbrush that would spray a flat "fan" pattern as opposed to the conical pattern of other airbrushes. He accomplishes this by having two small tubes that run along each side of the tip to the front of the body. These tubes take take air from the body and discharge it on either side of the tip thus blowing the paint into a flatter less conical shape. Itís the same principle still used on large spray guns today. To my knowledge it was never produced.
Remember that 1897 Wold patent and its uni-directional trigger? In 1917, Wold filed a patent for an airbrush that uses the same concept. On this one, rather than sliding back and forth, the trigger is depressed to proportionately control both paint and air. Wold's reasoning is that an artist shouldn't have to think about having to depress the trigger and then have to pull it back and forth as well. Nice idea but in use it's not as practical as it sounds because you don't have the same degree of control as you do with the standard up-down pull-push dual action trigger.He does produce this one as the Wold type "U."
Not satisfied with producing extremely well built precision double action, internal mix airbrushes, he manufactured the Wold model "BB." It's an oscillating needle type, mechanically similar to Liberty Walkup's airbrush. It's big, it's cranky, its thumb operated, itís a throwback, and the paint can only be shot downward. Why he decided to make this monster is anybody's guess, but he might have had help on this one from one of his employees, Jens Paasche. Wold's "BB" was influenced by Paasche, directly or indirectly. Paasche, who had a spat with Wold and started his own company in 1904, was fascinated by the oscillating needle, wind-wheel design. (I've been trying unravel this for years. If you know anything, please let me know). I once saw one of these at the engineering firm that my father worked at when I was 11 or 12. One of the draftsmen there had one, and on the rare occasions that I was there, he would let me hold it and press the trigger and I've been fascinated with airbrushes ever since.
Wold made several models through the years and all were extremely well made, sturdy tools designed to last. The fit and finish are flawless. In addition to the side cup models, he made some that were bottom fed and some that were convertible that could be used with either a side cup or a bottom fed jar. Alberto Vargas, famous for his pin-up girls, started his career using Wold airbrushes. The company prospered until the 1960's but never had the market share due in part to the fact that they never advertised as much as the competition, namely Paasche. When Paasche would run quarter page ads in the front of art magazines, Wold had small ones in the back pages. Prior to the 1980's, airbrushing was a niche market for illustrators, photo retouchers, and a few T-shirt artists. Serious artists looked down on the airbrush. Sadly, The Wold Airbrush Company went out of business in 1980, just prior to the airbrush explosion of the 80's. Fortunately these wonderful airbrushes are once again being made in New Zealand and should be available in the U.S. in 2002.
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