Dealing With the High Cost of Restoration

Our conservators, as artists first and foremost, understand that sometimes it is unrealistic to be able to budget for full-scale restoration work on an item, no matter how precious the piece. When the case, we try to find non-invasive solutions to temporarily repair and ultimately protect your piece until it can have more extensive work done.

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Here, a client had already spent a good deal of money at a jeweler attempting to reconnect the clasp with solder. The work was incomplete, with the link weakened by lack of material and over-shaping the remaining. As a result, the fastener was unstable and breaking open with wear.

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We knew the client did not want to spend a fortune repairing the previous job, so we recommended a temporary, yet stable, fix. First, we tested out some shades of gold powder, to find a close match to the original material.

 

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We mixed that into a two-part epoxy and carefully dotted along the clasp to complete the fastener. Allowing for cure time, our work reveals a wearable and relatively durable solution for his piece at a far smaller cost than the previous unsatisfactory restoration.

 

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DIY Conservator: DO’s and DON’Ts

bread1. Cleaning a Painting

DO NOT use bread to clean your painting. Many diy gurus and online forums will suggest using the “traditional” method of removing dirt and grime from your painting by using bread. However, the organic enzymes in bread can not only leave a tenacious film that is difficult to fully remove, but it may attract insects that will permanently damage the paint film of your piece.

DO consult a professional conservator. A trained restorer can assess your painting in detail, and appropriately choose a cleaning method. Even some seemingly stable paintings can instantly begin to flake away with a drop of water, so it is particularly important to have a professional take a look at your piece.

 

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2. Gluing Broken Porcelain/Pottery

DO NOT use Super Glue to reconstruct your object. Super Glue, Krazy Glue or cyanoacrylate was originally developed during the search for materials suitable for clear plastic gun sights during WWII. Dermabond, a derivative, has been used for superficial wound closure since the 1970’s. For porcelains, however, Super Glue is an extremely poor choice for an adhesive because it is so thin and quick-drying. It will likely absorb into the object’s porous material and set too fast to properly align. Additionally, removal of Super Glue by a restorer is extremely time consuming and expensive.

DO keep your broken pieces in an airtight bag to prevent dirt and debris from staining the break lines. If you cannot find or a professional conservator to repair your piece, you may use a water-based school or craft glue, preferably thinned out with water. Use the smallest amount of glue possible, and try to place all the pieces together before the glue dries, as the contraction of the setting glue will make it impossible to fit pieces inline later.

 

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3. Cleaning Wooden Furniture

DO NOT use household cleaners. These proprietary ingredients can be extremely harsh, and can not only strip a varnish or blanch a surface, but can permanently damage a valuable piece. Water is a common solvent in household cleaners, and can cause everything from warping to mold growth and decomposition. It can also destroy gilding and veneer, rendering a precious work of art nearly worthless.

DO wipe with a dry, soft cloth if you wish to remove dust and grime. A deeper clean needs the expertise of a professional, because the restorer can evaluate your individual piece and understand its particular needs. A conservator uses a variety of oils and waxes to polish wooden artifacts, but the blend is dependent on the type of source material, technique, and finish of an individual piece.