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Antique Boxes in English Society
CARE /CONSERVATION /RESTORATION
We try to preserve original finishes and
condition: the emphases is on conservation rather than restoration.
the replacement of some missing edges on A single tea caddy in harewood with an oval medallion of figured wood Circa 1790.
A few inches of the maple edgings of
this 18th Century caddy are missing. The edges help to protect the end
grain of the harewood both from moisture and damage.
The early finish has survived
and should protected.
A discussion of the procedure was filmed
with a view to being included in the BBC's Inside
Antiques program on tea caddies.
The edge probably became loose when
the mitered sides became slightly loose.
Before the edges can be
fitted the mitered glue joints should be consolidated. Otherwise the
groove will be oversize. Part of the reason for doing the work is to
consolidate the caddy.
The work is carried out on a baize
work-board to avoid scratching the caddy surface.
So as to protect the surviving
surface a former is made up with a groove of the same size and shape
as that on the caddy.
The replacement edging will be fully
shaped and finished using this former before being finally glued in
Warmed hide glue has been fed into
the mitered joints. Hide glue is a refined form of animal glue and is traditionally
used by fine woodworkers. It should be available from musical
instrument makers suppliers.
I find it convenient to heat the
glue in a baby's bottle warmer/sterilizer. The glue is in a recycled
I find it easier to first put enough
glue for the job in the jar and add a little water. In the dry state
it looks a bit like brown sugar! The desired consistency of the
warmed glue is of honey.
There are several reasons for using
hide glue in restoration. The new glue will revive the remaining glue
in the joints. This avoids the need to take the caddy apart! The glue is
water soluble and the job is reversible.
A hot iron with a damp cloth is used
for a few seconds on the joint before allowing the clamped joins
to set. The steam warms up the glue.
I left it overnight.
The caddy is protected from the
clamps with pieces of card and scraps of wood.
The replacement edging is carved and
sanded to shape before being finished. The new wood is a little
lighter than the surviving edging which has had over 200 years to
By shaping on the former the
original is protected. Originally when the caddy was made it would
have been shaped in situ.
I was able to obtain a more similar
color by oxidizing the replacement edging with a weak solution of
In bright light under close
inspection the replacement is still just recognizable.
A drop of industrial alcohol
applied with a hypodermic syringe is used to help undo the glue
holding the replacement edging to the former. The alcohol dehydrates
the glue making it momentarily brittle.
The color and the shape look good. A
length is cut to size and glued in place with a little of the warmed
The excess glue is cleaned up with a
This page is under construction. More Restoration/conservation projects will be
added from time to time.
© 1999-2004 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly