Century old Thayer & Chandler Model A


Mac-Valve Maestro!

I'm very excited to present this. I've been restoring vintage cameras (and other stuff) for years and for me there is always a magic threshold when you are holding any artifact that is around 100 years old or more. As a historian buff I can't help but to think in all the major world events that have happened since "this was built" and also personal family stuff like "Grandpa was a teenager when this or that happened", or "my mother was 1 1/2 years old when Pearl Harbor" stuff like that.
As you know, I've been restoring and working with airbrushes for a while now (It was all Jim's fault by the way lol ). Many times it is just a cleanup of a not so old but neglected unit, other times it may be something a bit more special. But there is always a satisfaction of bringing something back to life.
This is one of those very special cases.

Brief history:
In the mid 19th Century, the Thayer & Chandler Company was established primarily as an arts and crafts supplier. When Charles Burdick patented what we call now the Internal mix airbrush in 1891, Thayer & Chandler quickly licensed it and started production. Many improvements were quickly patented, most if not all from the mind of Olaus Wold who worked for Thayer & Chandler before creating his own airbrush company. At the turn of the 20th Century, as early as 1904-05, the airbrush was pretty much recognizable as what we know today. Thayer and Chandler named it the "Model A". Their airbrush business grew and was so successful that by the second half of the 20th Century they had dropped from other businesses.
The Model A had an impressive production run of essentially all the 20th century.
Not surprisingly, improvements and changes were constantly been introduced. Some were small, some were major, but all trying to keep the product ahead of the competition.
At a very High Level, we can identify 3 major changes in the body of the Model A:
1. Start to ~1925. Early body design: What we know today as the nozzle head was part of the body.
2. ~1925 to the mid 1960's. The head where the nozzle goes is a separate part from the body.
3. ~Mid 1960's to the end of production (late 90s?). The original cylindrical body was changed to a more stylized tapered towards the front body.

Countless of other changes made their way into production thru the years like materials, handles, cosmetic changes, etc.

My Specimen:
A few months ago I was able to score an early body Model A. Took me a long time to finally be able to work on it.
The case has a seal type sticker that says "Thayer and Chandler Chicago 50 YEARS OF SERVICE" I am still researching on that but I've seen others online. Maybe a gift for an employee?

Consulting with Dave (our spiritual Leader and airbrush Authority), this type of case was used until the early to mid 1930s.


The airbrush is a fixed head model A, indicating it was made no later than 1925 or the mid 1920s. So it is at least 98 years old at the time of this writing (Oct. '23).

It put quite a fight to be disassembled. Parts were really stuck and seized. Had to use some PB Blaster penetrating oil and considerable (but careful) force to get it to cooperate.

The all important nozzle shows some wear, but seems to be in good shape.

Among other things, the needle needed some help.
Picture from my cheap desk microscope.

Except from removing the nozzle, every other part was disassembled including the air valve. Each and every part then became its own individual restoration project thru the course of many weeks with the constant thought of "This is 100 years old. Take it VERY easy, don't overdo it". i.e. "DON'T DO ANYTHING STUPID!" You stupid! :) Which I almost did. A tiny part went flying off the workbench and took many tense minutes to locate. 🤦‍♂️

A few weeks later it was looking like this:

The case and the included color cup will eventually be addressed as well.

At this point, it would be a matter of simply put it together, test it and live happily ever after, Right?
Well, there was an issue here. While it works, the needle did not protrude from the nozzle as expected.

Took it apart and rechecked everything several times. At the end (again with Dave's guidance), the needle happened to be the wrong one. It looks suspiciously similar to a Model AA needle. It has no markings like Badger needles so I suspect it is a T&C needle, just the wrong type. I found in my spares a proper Model A needle, that by coincidence had a similar bent at the tip but a bit worse. Repaired it to the best of my abilities. Not perfect but almost there.
The handle is most likely not original to the brush. Not only the style is later than this timeframe, but it fits too tight to the needle tube and the threads are smaller than the body. But it kind of works.

The end result:
May I humbly present the oldest airbrush in my collection, pushing a Century.
Three and a half! The magic number of turns of the regulator to work properly.







If you still doubt it works... :)

Now it can live happily ever after...

I'm impressed! Did I mention this is about 100 years old?

Special thanks to Dave for his guidance.

As usual, I hope you like and approve.
As always, your comments and questions are appreciated.

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Nice job, and write up!

On the handle, I do think it is a later add on simply because of the shape (probably from the same approximate time period as the case). That material tends to shrink under some circumstances, so the fit can be affected. They eventually offered the same shape handle made of anodized aluminum as an upgrade for something like $1.00. I have an ad flyer or postcard type thing, offering the replacement in my collection some place. By the 1940's all the handles on the model A were aluminum.
Nice report as always, it was a pleasure to read it. Awesome job¡ Congratulations Ismael 🙌
I know I have posted this before (perhaps I should re-due the layout, as it is not very accurate. There are a few more handles and regulator changes before the Badger brushes came to be in the early 1960's) - but, here is a brief photographic layout of the history of the Chicago neighbors. It all starts with OC Wolds layout of the Thayer Chandler Model A. I have not pinned down the exact year yet, but will estimate that the brush looked very much as we see it here by the first several years of the 1900's. Both Burdick and Wolds first creations for Thayer Chandler had the inkwell in the front of the brush body with the trigger mechanism smack dab in the middle of it (ca.1898). Wold had a patent on a removable color cup as well as an isolated trigger unit by 1904. Side note - I know of two working examples in private collections of those first TC's.

I have been trying to find each revision in manufacturing; whether it was intentional, such as a complete reshape of a part, or inadvertent, perhaps by the hiring of a new machinist. There can be subtle changes, like the shape of the dome of the head on the screw that acts as a preset for the trigger. Maybe a change in the knurling around the head pieces, or the change in shape of the adjustable regulator, etc... or big changes like the shape of the handle. They started out with a flat back, round back, teardrop, and lastly a tapered part...

Badger introduced their first branded brush right at the same time Thayer Chandler altered the shape of the body on the A-1. The body blank on the Badger was identical to the original A-1. That is the raw piece that started the construction - body tube, air valve boss, trigger slot, etc was identical. Binks introduced the Raven off the same tapered body blank of the revised A-1. Badger brushes on the left, Thayer Chandler Model A's in the middle, and Binks Ravens on the right.

badger family portrait.jpg

I also found one of the ad tickets for the upgraded aluminum handle - I have a TC Model A that came with a dated sales receipt from the early 1940's that has the aluminum handle, as well as a few from the 1930's that have plastic (resin) handles... so, guess the upgrade occured around the 1940's.

tc new handle note1.jpg