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Farm Family Turns Milk Cans Into Art
There's something about a milk can that has universal appeal to anyone who appreciates rural heritage. That's why Lavon Rapelje and her family in Placerville, Calif., have been turning rusty old milk cans into pieces of functional art for the past 30 years.
  It started 36 years ago, when Lavon's sister in Kansas offered her 100 rusty milk cans. Lavon and her husband, Denis, started experimenting with painting and marketing the old cans.
  "When we started we could still find cans that looked like new," Lavon says. "Now they are almost all rusted inside and out and have to be sandblasted."
  After that they're painted with a metal primer, and then the insides are painted with silver paint.
  The cans are personalized with a wide range of farm scenes or scenes from photos clients send them that are then enlarged. The prints are moistened and glued to the cans. When dry, Denis carefully paints on a sealer. Finally a resin finish is applied.
  The Rapeljes top most of their cans with tractor seats.
  "The Amish make the best tractor seats," Lavon says. "They are new cast aluminum seats. We used to use old tractor seats, but these have a better shape."
  The majority of customers are men, who use the milk cans in their workshops, garages, patios or around countertop bars.
  The couple's son, Paul, sells the cans at big events such as the International Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., bull riding events, and other big shows.
  They also take orders on their 10-acre hobby farm where they sell U-pick blueberries, raspberries and apples.
  Cost for a finished can with seat is $375. Without a seat they're $250. Postage on the 35 to 40-lb. cans is additional.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lavon Rapelje Cantiques, 2620 Carson Rd., Placerville, Calif. 95667 (ph 530 344-0288; cantiques@internet49.com).

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2009 - Volume #33, Issue #3