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Peter Achorn
PO Box 276, Tenants Harbor, ME  04860  USA

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restoring the gold leaf decoration on antique fire vehicles

I work with restorers, museums and collectors to reproduce the decoration on antique fire apparatus. Great care is taken to accurately research and document each vehicle's unique designs. 23 karat gold leaf is hand applied. Scrollwork, lettering and pinstripes are painted on in the traditional manner of the original craftsmen.

I also hand letter gold leaf names on yachts along the coast of Maine.

    In September 2008 I gave a lecture at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. about the shaded gold decoration on American fire engines.

   This style of gold work was also used on Empire and Georgian furniture, carriages, clocks, safes, signs, etc. My lecture was on the evolution of the decoration from Colonial times to the present. Many people in the audience were experienced gilders, so I also described the materials and techniques that were used.

1911 American LaFrance decoration

1923 MaximFrench & Webb yacht Erica

1888 Rumsey hand drawn engine1926 Maxim decoration

In 1972 I began my career in a shop that restored antique cars. The phase of the restoration process that I enjoyed the most was the detail painting, pinstriping, and lettering. This led me into the sign painting profession. In the early 1980's I worked for a wagon shop. I found the traditional decoration on horse drawn vehicles more interesting than modern pinstriping. In 1985 I helped on the restoration of a steam fire engine for my local fire department. The following year I move to Maine and began working for Andy Swift of Firefly Restoration. His restorations of fire apparatus are as fine as I have seen. Most of the fire engine photos on these pages are of projects from his shop. 1856 decoration, notice 38 stars on flag

Lyman-Morris yacht Fairweather

Please click on the links below to go to groups of pages devoted to each topic.

There are over 250 photos here of fire service equipment from 1850 to the present. These pages focus on the decoration on these antique fire vehicles.

My shop is located on the coast of Maine. In the spring and summer I am often at boat yards gilding and hand painting names on boats. There are over 175 photos of boats.
I began my career as a sign painter. I still make a few signs each year.
The photos here are of projects that don't fit into any of the categories listed. There are pinstriped antique and modern vehicles, an antique pipe organ console, and other objects.
link to Current Projects page CURRENT  PROJECTS
This page shows jobs that I am working on now, or have recently finished. I try to get new photos up here to show my customers how their project is progressing.
Computers have changed graphic design. Most signs and boats are now lettered with computer cut vinyl. This area is specifically designed for my customers. You can use this as a reference to help you pick what you would like on your boat, truck or sign.  Here you will find letter styles to choose from and color samples.
This area shows the workshop that I built in 2001, designed specifically for fire apparatus decoration. I also show some of the other people doing restorations. There are links to restorers, fire museums, gilders, boat yards, and more. 
There are about 56 pages on this site and over 700 photographs. This map page may be the easiest way to navigate around this site. You can get a quick overview of the whole site here. You can get to any page directly from the Site Map Page. If you prefer, there are page links at the top and bottom of each page.

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All photos, artwork and information are copyrighted by Peter Achorn and FireGold.
1999-2007, Peter Achorn, FireGold. All rights reserved.