with antiques, you will come across a rough gem that needs a little attention
to bring it back to life. With a little patience, knowledge and basic skills
you can often rescue a worthy piece from the obscurity of becoming storage
material in someone’s attic or garage, without ruining it`s character.
particular mirror I`m going to restore was made in France in about 1880. Rather than carving the
detail in wood, a process or method of simulating carving was
developed using a substance known as "composition". Composition is
similar to the linseed putty used to hold the glass in place in sash windows
today. It was heated up and then pushed into carved wooden moulds. This
was then laid, while still malleable, onto the mirror frame. Once left to dry,
it was then gilded.
run through the process step-by-step:
With no access to the original moulds, I use a two-pack putty to make a mould
of an undamaged piece of the mirror frame.
I then pour a resin plaster product into the mould. Once set you can carefully remove the mould (putty) leaving the plaster. This is then placed onto
the damaged area.
Before it can be gilded a coloured “bole” has to be painted onto the surface. Bole is a
mixture of rabbit skin glue and a water-based, natural colour product that
resembles clay. Historically the colours used were a reddish-brown, a yellow-brown
and a purple-brown. In this case I’ve copied the reddish-brown used on the rest of
We can now go ahead and apply some gold leaf.
Finally I have to blend in the new piece with the rest of the mirror.
Hey presto – restoration complete!