Cold case is HOT again!

Susan Lambert's picture

Do you remember this ice bucket? All we knew about it was that it was made in Australia. After very little comment it was relegated to a cold case but unknown to us, horn historian, Adele Schaverein had kept on the case. She has found out that it is made of polystyrene which tells us also that it was injection moulded.  

The 10 Most Wanted Project Team are very grateful to Adele Schaverein and Excel Plac Testing Service and send them both a big thank you.

Read the story of Adele's invesitigation in her own words

"The project was to set out to establish the designer's name and the manufacturer of this item and to establish which plastic material was used and the process employed.

I tackled this project with my usual enthusiasm, hopeful for at least a 90% outcome. My first telephone call was to Des Barrett, a curator at the Powerhouse Museum. The museum has a large plastic collection but is of an industrial nature and virtually no items of domestic ware 1.

Searches on eBay indicated this bucket had been produced in other colours, which would imply this item was in production for some time judging by the selection of colours. 

After tackling the only museum likely to be of help I approached friends who had grown up here who remembered this object very well but could not recall the maker; and the most likely course for find information was to try to then contact dealers and collectors in 'retro' objects. Julie and Christine Carter (publishers of Collecting for Profit & Pleasure) were able to pass on names of the few dealers in Art Deco and early plastic objects. My phone calls to most on the list were not returned but Kaye Rolls of Deco Heaven was encouraging but was unable to come back to me with any positive answers on the maker or indeed the designer. I also contacted Professor Adrian Franklin at the UTAS, a well‐known authority and collector on plastic items and his reply was: 

'Very nice piece. No idea. The trail to unmarked plastic is a long and winding one, usually leading nowhere. But, best of luck.'

The thought of finding out the designer was abandoned in the early stages of my enquiries.

I contacted the Plastics and Chemicals Industries Association and someone very kindly passed on the name of Dr. John Schiers of Excelplas Testing Services. I contacted Dr Schiers and during an exchange of emails and his offer to test a small section of a bucket I had bought through eBay 2, the cost of this test was beyond either my or the MoIP budget. He then offered to test a sample as he put it 'in the interests of science' which was an extremely generous gesture. In exchange I decided to send him a copy of my book Horn: Its History and Its Uses

It is disappointing that the most of questions set out were not answered but perhaps knowing the type of polymer may indicate the method of manufacture. 

The ExcelPlas Testing Service Technical Report 

 1. Objective

The objective of this study is to determine the identity of an unknown polymer sample.

2. Samples Supplied

One sample of an unknown material was supplied by Adele Schaverien for identification purposes.

The description of the sample was:
Piece from an Australian made ice bucket

3. Testing Undertaken

Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) ‘finger-printing’ to identify molecular structural properties.

4. Method of Sampling.

The entire sample supplied was used in the testing operation.

5. Testing Methodology

FT-IR analysis was performed according to ASTM E 573, using an Alpha Measurement Module by Bruker Optik.

6. Results

6.1 FT-IR analysis

Absorbance Units
0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5

4000 3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 Wavenumber cm-1

C:\Program Files\OPUS_65\Data\Job # 3918\MEAS\Job # 3953 Moulding Fragment.0 Job # 3953 Moulding Fragment

C:\Program Files\OPUS_65\search\Hit333.0 POLYSTYROL 7000 CAST FILM FROM THF ON KBR

7. Conclusion

The infrared spectrum of the sample supplied is an extremely close match to the infrared spectrum of polystyrene. This is evidence that the material used to manufacture the ice bucket from which the sample was taken was polystyrene.



1There is information on Nally Ware which is widely known on the Powerhouse Museum website, although there were many colours available they were produced in moulded phenol formaldehyde. In the absence of any further material from the Museum a Google search brought up the following names: Marquis (Australian) and Sellex. Another was a US Company Acme Engineering that also produced a similar ice bucket but not as nice in design. See images.

A sad end to this purchase, which I thought I could have passed on to the MoDiP. Unfortunately it was left on a shelf beneath an anti‐insect spray and the droplets that settled on the shelf caused a blistering on the base and lid of the bucket which could not be restored.