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Very large supplier of everything a restorer would need. Please note, this solution only works on unlacquered brass or bronze. Easily reverisible by polishing, if so desired. Simply submerge the item until the desired level of darkening has occurred.

Removes by polishing if you wish to reverse the process. Simply immerse your object in the antiquing metal solution until you reach the desired level of patina. In extreme cases, the entire object may be re leafed, and the new leaf visually modified to fulfill the aesthetic requirements of the treatment. Once the ground has been stabilized and cleaning is complete, areas of loss to the metal leaf may be re leafed. Ground which is unstable and cannot be satisfactorily re united to the substrate may be removed and replaced. Traditional techniques of workmanship are most often used.


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Losses, whether of the substrate or of the ground can then be replaced. Extreme care must be employed because of the inherent fragility of the microscopically thin metal leaf, and the likelihood that the binder holding the leaf to the surface could be damaged by vigorous cleaning. Once the ground has been stabilized, or if it is stable to begin with, the surface can be cleaned. Depending on the extent of damage and the style of gilding or leafing, the consolidants of choice would be gelatin or synthetic resins, notably acrylics in solution or emulsion. In instances where the mineral ground (gesso or bole) is weak and no longer integral, it must be consolidated. The first option for damaged leaf work, regardless of manifestation, is to remove and eliminate the cause of damage. In general, treatment options for leafed surfaces revolve around the repair of the ground, as already implied. The former is easily rectified by eliminating all unnecessary contact with the surface, and the author knows of no reasonable approach yet devised to solve the second problem. Exceptions would be abrasion loss of leaf and oxidized non gold leaf. Painting techniques vary from verisimilitude to neutral value crosshatching which merely acts to diminish the distraction caused by the damaged area. Materials used for inpainting include acrylic resin and emulsion paints, synthetic dyes in natural or synthetic resin solutions, as well as watercolor wash and gauche. Techniques for inpainting vary as widely as the restorer's talents and philosophical approach to the treatment. As with all treatments, stable and reversible coatings and colorants are preferred. Inpainting is executed in a laminated manner, with an isolating layer below and above the added layer. Inpainting can be conducted at any time in the treatment, and can be used in conjunction with any of the options already listed. Inpainting, or visual compensation for missing polychrome, is usually the final step in treating damaged paint surfaces. Mylar) with weights, clamps, or heated spatulas used to iron the flakes down into place. In circumstances where the substrate has shrunk, it may be necessary to trim some of the tented coating in order to allow the set down paint to fit into the space remaining. If the cleaved coating is too brittle to be manipulated without further damage, it can be plasticized by moisture or heat, or both. To resolve the problem, an adhesive must be introduced into the void between the substrate and the coating and the lifted material "massaged" into contact and conformity with the substrate. A special technique that has been developed in response to the problem of cupping and tenting, where delaminated and distorted polychrome no longer conforms to the substrate. This can be accomplished by impregnating the surface with resins or waxes. Since cleavage and chalkiness, and their associated loss, are the most prevalent problems faced by polychrome objects, consolidation of the paint layer is a common portion of treatments. As with transparent coatings, stable polychrome surfaces can be visually enhanced by the application of wax or resin coatings.


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Cleaning procedures outlined in the preceding section apply to the treatment technique here as well. Cleaning the accretions and adulterants which obscure the polychrome is the least intrusive treatment, although it can be very important. The framework presented for treating transparent coatings pertains also to polychrome surfaces, although obviously not all the specifics are applicable. In general, as with transparent finishes, the goals of any treatment involving a decorative painted surface determine the treatment options. For that reason polychrome surfaces are virtually sacrosanct, and any manipulation which could destroy the visual character of the decoration is not an option. In contrast, polychrome surfaces not only aid in the interpretation of an object, they are frequently the entire basis for that interpretation. However, if a strong enough rationale can be presented, part or all of the coating material can be manipulated or even removed and replaced. Transparent varnishes are important to the interpretation of an object and as such should be retained whenever possible. Removal can be mechanical (abraded, scraped or chipped) chemical (solvent removal) or biochemical (using enzymes to render the film non-viable). The final option for treating degraded coatings is to remove and replace the damaged film. Removal of coating material can be accomplished mechanically by abrasion, or chemically by solvent or soap solutions. This allows simultaneous reformation and augmentation of the film. The next option would be to conduct the reformation process with the addition of a compatible resinous component to the reforming solution. Coatings which are being altered can be allowed to reform unassisted, but further manipulation of the softened film with a polishing rubber is common. Common "retarding" solvents such as glycol ethers, are used since they are both excellent solvents, and can remain active on a treated surface for days. Mixtures are formulated depending on the specific problems encountered. For complete reformation, solvent mixtures with low volatility must often be used. In partial, vapor based reformation, the solution is to simply leave the vapor chamber supplied with solvent for as long as it takes for the treatment to be complete. As a consequence, the solvent exposure to the coating must be lengthened.


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One factor which must be overcome is that many coating films, while remaining soluble, require a longer exposure to solvents in order to complete the dissolution. If the intent is to more thoroughly reform the film, to actually reliquify it and allow it to flow out, then the solvent may be used in liquid form. If the intent is to only partially reform the coating, such as when re adhering a delaminated coating to the substrate, the solvent may be introduced in a vapor chamber with good success. The basic procedure for reforming is to first determine which, if any, solvents modify and reliquify the existing coating. Conversely, reactive coatings like oil/resin varnishes are not as likely to be improved by such an approach. Solvent release coatings are good candidates for this procedure, even if degraded and partially polymerized. The success of this approach depends entirely on the thermoplasticity of the existing film material. Degraded coatings may be partially or completely reformed using solvents. This accomplishes not only physical consolidation of the fractured or flaking film, it also provides optical saturation and enhancement. This may be defined as a maintenance procedure, but in the holistic approach to preservation of artifacts, the line between the different activities can be blurred. If the surface coating is clean and physically sound yet needs additional optical saturation and enhancement, a wax coat may be applied.

It should also be mentioned that visual compensation can be conducted at the conclusion of any of the treatment options, and can be applied by brush, spray or pad. It is prudent to mention at this time that inpainting should not done directly on bare wood, but should instead be executed as a laminate with resin coats above and below, which serve to isolate the coloring layer in between. In addition to dyed shellac, common approaches to inpainting transparent coatings include dyes in other resin solutions, pigments in solution, and watercolor washes and gouache. Most conservators feel comfortable with shellac combined with pigments or dyes for this purpose, but any coating material which fulfills the specific requirements of the treatment is acceptable. All compensation for damage regardless of extent, should be done with stable, thermoplastic coatings and permanent colorants. Applying varnish and colorants to scratches and nicks involves little other than the introduction of a small amount of material to the surface in order to provide some measure of visual uniformity.

Another relatively minor intrusion on the coating is the visual compensation for damage in localized areas. Whether or not this approach is considered "low impact" is a matter of much debate, and both "pro" and"con" arguments can be articulated persuasively. By this technique, if the underlying materials are stable enough, selective portions or areas are literally ground away with very mild abrasives to reach a layer of desired materials, or mechanically scraped away with tools to accomplish the same ends. Mechanical cleaning is an entirely different conceptual approach to the selective removal of either solidified adulterants or degraded coatings. Other procedures available include using solvent gels to control manipulation of the solvent(s), making soaps from oils and resins which can effectively remove some overcoatings selectively, and using enzymes such as lipase to digest and break down oil containing layers. Oil polishes and oil/resin varnishes are less thermoplastic, and depending on the formulation of the coating can also be removed with solvent solutions, although stronger solvents are required. Thermoplastic materials, such as waxes and some resins, can be removed easily with relatively mild solvents. Cleaning strategies for adulterants depend on the results of the initial examination, particularly the results of the solubility spot tests. This brief description will deal with removing adulterants on top of the coating strata critical to the interpretation of the object, while a later discussion will center on the removal of degraded material within the strata of importance. Selective removal of coating material from the coating falls into two categories, one which will be discussed here and the other later on. To repeat an earlier caveat which cannot be overemphasized, it is imperative in such treatments to fully characterize the strata of coating materials and decide which layers will be removed. The materials selected for removal may be accumulations of polishes and waxes, varnish overcoats, or defacement. In other words, partially removing a portion of the coating itself.

In many instances the goal of the cleaning procedure is much more than simply removing dirt; it may involve removing contaminants integrated with or attached to the coating. Several detailed descriptions of these procedures and poultice formulations are present in the literature, and the reader is advised to consult them for further technical information. Ideally the poultice will have some physical integrity in order to facilitate its removal by enabling the poultice to be peeled from the surface once the cleaning is complete. As the gelled cleaner contacts the adulterant, it adsorbs or absorbs the material, removes it from the surface and leaves a clean, undisturbed coating. In this instance a poulticing mixture could be applied to the surface, flowing into the crevices yet not saturating the surface with solvent. A useful example of this application would be to address an alternative solution for the problem described at the beginning of this section, where a fractured surface was "cleaned" and the dirt simply forced into the fissures. One final method of removing surface dirt from the coating is the use of poultices, which can be extremely effective in cases where wetting of the surface is not desirable or the mechanical removal of the contaminant is not feasible. These cleaners should be employed in a similar manner as aqueous solutions. A number of alternative detergents are available which are soluble in petroleum thinners or other mild organic solvents. If the surface coating being cleaned is sensitive to the presence of water in the cleaning solution, non aqueous detergent mixtures can be used. It is important to keep from saturating the surface of the object with the cleaner, to avoid abrading the surface with the cleaning swab or pads, and to immediately rinse and dry the area after cleaning is complete. Because all cleaning procedures are potentially damaging to the object, it is often preferable to employ two weakly effective cleaners than a single more powerful solution which may cause damage. Simple aqueous detergent systems are among the first to be considered, providing the coating is unaltered by the water in the cleaner. Solutions under consideration should be tested in small, discreet locations to determine efficacy of the techniques and the cleaners' effect on the coating materials which are to be saved. In many circumstances the grime on the surface is more strongly adhered than can be simply "dusted off" and a liquid cleaning solution must be employed. In this instance the coating would be more damaged by the cleaning than by the continued presence of dirt on the surface. If the fracturing is more severe, and the coating is lifting or cleaving, the mechanical action of dusting can literally knock coating off the surface. When this type of cleaning is used on coating films with extensive fracturing, characterized by a network of fissures in the surface, the result can be to simply push dirt into those fissures, leaving the surface no cleaner than before the attempt. However, fractured films are susceptible to further damage if an attempt to brush or rub off dirt is carelessly done.


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Careful mechanical removal of grime from the surface can be useful for the object. Methods for removing unbound dirt and grime from the surface of a coating are similar to cleaning procedures for wood surfaces with the additional consideration that coatings can be physically or chemically more fragile than wood. The first step in this procedure is to precisely determine what is supposed to be on the surface of the object and what is not appropriate. Cleaning surfaces can be straightforward, as in the removal of light dust and dirt, or complex, as in the removal of overvarnishes or other accretions such as polishes. Cleaning the surface is the least intrusive action to be taken by which an alteration to the object is attempted. As described earlier, a great number of the problems associated with coatings deterioration are mechanical. A non exclusive hierarchy of treatment options begins, as always, with: 1. The options below are roughly listed from least intrusive to most, but this listing is by no means the final word on the subject. For several of the broad option categories, several additional considerations are explored, each of which must be evaluated and considered. As has been discussed elsewhere in this piece, the ideal is to intervene the minimal extent necessary to stabilize the object and accomplish the treatment goals. Often the treatment concerns only portions of the coating strata, which reinforces the need to fully characterize the nature of the existing coating system(s). In reviewing options for the treatments of coatings, it is important to remember that not all treatments deal exclusively with degraded coating films. Instead, the guidelines presented are an attempt to provide some direction within that broad framework to help focus considerations of the damage and also the appropriate treatment options available to compensate for it. Certainly, no attempt is made here to describe every possible type of damage and deterioration manifest in coatings. Other colleagues have been turning their attention to coating formulations for several years. Finally, there is the vast wonderland of finishing materials and processes waiting to be discovered. The perfect example of this is shellac, which is widely used in conservation because it is very stable and remains reversible for long periods of time. However, not all finish materials used in furniture care are expensive or exotic, and not all traditional materials should be avoided. A finish undergoing a chemical reaction which turns it very dark and makes it difficult to remove, is a problem indeed. Another instance of a traditional material being inappropriate for finish care is linseed oil or other drying oils. Acrylic copolymers are applied in the same manner as nitrocellulose lacquers and could be formulated for commercial finishing. Although nitrocellulose is considerably more stable now than in the past, it still degrades much more quickly than acrylic coatings and is therefore not the first option in most cases. An example of this would be using specially formulated acrylic copolymer resins rather than commercial acrylic lacquers or modified nitrocellulose lacquers. The combination of craft skills with materials science in choosing stable finishes eliminates some historic materials from consideration while adding other modern ones to replace them. Finally, there is the practitioners obligation to keep accurate and detailed records for future reference. Fourth, restoration should be detectable under close scrutiny, to insure that future caretakers and scholars are not confused or misled by what may appear unaltered to casual or uninformed viewers.

Third, and related to the second point, is the use of materials known to be stable over long periods of time. Second is the choice of materials which, if necessary, can be removed without further damage to the object. There are many considerations about the use of materials used in finishing, refinishing, and caring for finishes on historic furniture. Material quality is certainly a fundamental factor in furniture preservation and restoration when engaging in treatments that will remain "healthy" for centuries. How can we ethically preserve historic integrity vs. For convenience, these questions have been coupled into pairs of competing concepts. Finally, what resources do you have and how will you consume them?

A successful framework has been devised for doing exactly that, in the guise of a series of questions whose honest answers provide insightful guidance for responding to the deterioration of nearly every object in every circumstance. The task is to find a process that works for making decisions in the broadest possible set of circumstances. The problem in decision making and furniture care occurs when we apply the wrong expectations and limitations to the wrong circumstance. And while neither set of functions is right or wrong, each has its proper role. These are very real limits and expectations.


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Inside the museum, the object's function and purpose is often to just stand there and look a certain way, and bear the evidence of history. However, the purposes and functions may change depending on the specific circumstances. Common sense dictates the fundamental truth that each object has a purpose and was intended to serve a function. Fortunately there is, in principle at least, a common objective on the part of furniture caretakers across a broad spectrum of experience based on honest good will. Interpreting, preserving, protecting and restoring finishes on historic furniture combine to form one goal within the larger framework of furniture care. While restoration or refinishing certainly may be part of the process, in many instances it is not as important as an understanding of the nature of the materials, the treatment of their deterioration and ultimately their preservation. This approach is much broader than restoration, or the physical repair of existing damage. On the whole, best practices for furniture care and preservation must involve formulating and implementing a multi faceted approach for stabilizing and preserving furniture. First and foremost, existing finishes should be left in place unless they are clearly inappropriate to the object or so badly degraded that they do not serve any of the three functions outlined earlier: aesthetic "enhancement, " surface protection, and providing a historical record. For example, how was the piece originally fabricated, and what has been its history since?

A balance is always sought between stabilization and restoration, which may require alteration of the piece as it currently exists, while preserving the historic information contained or discovered in the piece being treated. This means that trying to leave the object as undisturbed as possible and yet insure the long term stability, function and preservation of that object. Every effort should be made to preserve that integrity. These general guidelines revolve about respecting the historic, physical and aesthetic integrity of the object. In fact, in the articles which discuss treatments, the information presented is intended to be appropriate only for the specific application cited by the author. Because of these individual differences there are no rote methods, no "how to" recipe book treatments that will work in all cases. The craft skills employed in finish conservation are virtually identical to those used other finishing procedures, although the application of those skills may be highly specialized. Restorers and other caretakers must be able to do what is necessary, not just decide what is necessary. Even if there is a full understanding of the chemical and historical aspects of finishes, that knowledge is of little value without the craft skills needed to solve the problem. Finally, being well versed in the craft of wood finishing in invaluable.

As the final step in furniture making, finishing has a long tradition, and the more that is known of it's history, the better finish problems can be dealt with. In addition to "antiques", museums and collectors are acquiring furniture whose makers are still living, so historical knowledge should cover all periods. Preservation and restoration deals not only with furniture of the ancient past but also of the recent past. To these one must add all of the new materials which have been developed in recent times. The list of historic finish materials is a long one encompassing hundreds of different items. Familiarity with historic materials, their use, and their appearance makes these decisions more easily reached. Scientific analysis of finish samples can provide some clues, however, most practitioners do not have access to instrumental chemical analysis and must base their conclusions on knowledge of historic finish processes.

This framework provides for an understanding of the compatibility of different materials, the condition of a finish film, and the behavior and deterioration not only of historic materials but also of contemporary finishes. A new one may be applied, but the old finish is lost forever. For example, if the wrong solvent or procedure is used to clean a surface, the existing finish may be destroyed. For the caretaker of historic furniture this understanding is critical as there may not be a second chance when working on a historic finish. Without the knowledge of chemistry a finisher can observe, but may not fully understand processes and reactions. By understanding the nature of finishes as chemicals on the surface of the wood, the finisher can greatly expand his abilities to use different finish materials.


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This experience generally does not include a study of the fundamental nature of finishes, much less the areas of optics, color theory or analytical methodology. The finisher who does not pursue this endeavor can progress no further than his own limited experience. In order for this core knowledge to fit into a rational context, and ultimately expand, the finisher must begin to study materials science in general, and specifically paint and varnish chemistry. This anecdotal information is usually quite accurate, but it is also very limited. The knowledge of what works and what doesn't is compiled during years of experience and practice, success and failure. Most furniture finishers develop an intuitive understanding of the materials they use. While these four areas might seem to be unrelated, they must be integrated into all treatment procedures to insure successful finish care and preservation. These are: preserving historic artifacts; paint and varnish chemistry; furniture history and construction; and, the craft of furniture finishing. When faced with the task of dealing with finishes on furniture, each problem must be approached and address four broad areas of concern. However, craft skills alone are not enough, skilled practitioners must have scientific and historic knowledge as well. Finally, the treatment must take into consideration the expectations and requirements to be placed on the object once the treatment is complete. While each individual material has unique characteristics, the framework for approaching the solution to problems can be dealt with in a relatively similar fashion. It is in this step that experience with and knowledge of historic coating materials and techniques is invaluable. Further explanation of the role that each of these components takes in the formulation of the treatment strategy will be included as this discussion progresses.


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Finally, the examination involves analytical methods, including instrumental determination of the coating constituency. The second method usually employed to evaluate the coating condition is to test the surface with solvents, to see if and how the coating reacts to individual solvents or combinations of solvents. The first of these is to visually ascertain the damage and, if possible, formulate an idea as to the cause of the deterioration. If the deterioration also involves he mechanical failure of a supporting gesso layer or bole layer (which are particularly susceptible to repeated humidity cycles), this can in turn cause fracture and delamination to the laminar system. Most common damage to metal-leafed surfaces is in the form of abrasion, as the soft metal foil is literally rubbed off by use or housekeeping. For example, 23 carat gold is 23 parts pure gold and one part other metals, usually copper or silver. In the first instance the damage can be caused by surface contamination, as in instances where non-gold portions of the leaf oxidize or tarnish, thus changing color from that intended by the makers. The mechanism and manifestation of deterioration of metal leaf on furniture occurs both at the microscopic metal layer at the surface and in the underlying ground or size layers. While these changes can be compensated for (as detailed below), they are generally permanent, non-reversible phenomena and the underlying damage itself cannot be undone. On its own, electromagnetic radiation, of which visible light is a small part, causes degradation resulting in fading or color change to most components of furniture coatings. A second manner in which radiation affects the surface coating is the effect of ultraviolet radiation, which breaks down resins and bleaches coatings, colorants and surfaces. Thus, for example, if a surface is being heated by light or infrared, the degradation reactions will accelerate.