John T. Kramer

Traditional Wood Conservator

P.O. BOX 8715

Sugar Creek, Missouri 64054

copyright 1988


Fillers are similar to putty except made much thinner. They can be painted on but, best results will be obtained by rubbing into the surface with a circular motion, especially cross grain. Open pored woods such as oak, walnut, hickory, and ash usually need a filler. Filler, as putty, can be made from talc, rottenstone, whiting, chalk, pumice, kaolin, brick dust or powdered clay; they can be pigmented. Filler, as putty, will dry slightly lighter than the surrounding wood but, will darken more than the wood when finish is applied. It can be pigmented to match; and sealed with clear shellac to prevent over darkening by final finish.


Scrape four ounces of beeswax into a basin and add as much oil of turpentine as will moisten it through. Powder a quarter ounce of resin and add as much color as will bring to match the wood. Indian red finely powdered will provide a rich mahogany color the other pigments listed in these articles can be used to match any wood and finish.

This paste when properly stirred will prove excellent cement or paste for blemishes in mahogany and other furniture. It can be hardened by replacing 1/2 ounce of the beeswax with carnuba wax.



Take two ounces of powdered tripoli with water to cover. Wet a piece of white flannel layed over a piece of cork or rubber and rub with the grain keeping the felt wet. To test if finished wipe a part of the work with a sponge and observe if a fair even gloss has been achieved. When finished clean the work with a bit of mutton suet and fine flour.


Dissolve beeswax in turpentine to an agreeable consistency. Rub on with a rag to a thin even coat. A polish is brought up by friction with another clean rag rubbed vigorously on the surface; repeat rubbing at intervals. A harder wax surface can be obtained by adding 1 part carnuba wax to 4 parts beeswax, the rubbing will also be more difficult.


This labor intensive method produces a dull but attractive finish. It is conducted over an extended period of time by working many coats of oil into the wood well, then with a clean cloth rubbing very hard with much friction. This can require months of effort rubbing down the work every twenty-four hours. The resulting finish has a remarkable effect in bringing up the tone, grain and markings of the wood. It is excellent for mahogony and light oak.


There are many descriptions for achieving this the most difficult wood finish known. Primarily it is thin shellac rubbed well onto well filled wood and then spirited out in many repetitions of the rubbing. Several weeks work is required to achieve a good french polish. Oil is oft applied in initial stages to reduce initial friction and aid covering evenly. Some speed methods have been devised to achieve a look-a-like finish with glazes and allowing full drying before final rubbing but, results are less than totally satisfactory.


Pass a piece of pumice stone over the work until the raised grain is cut down. Then take powdered tripoli and boiled linseed oil on a felt rubber and polish to a bright surface.


File clean and level with a smooth file. Take fine powdered tripoli mixed with linseed oil and dip thick hat felt in it and polish.


Place raw linseed oil in a glazed pipkin with enough pigment as it will cover (i.e., alkanet root for mahogany). Boil gently to a strong color. When cool it is fit for use alone with friction or with fine pumice, fullers earth, tripoli, talc or whiting as the need dictates. The oil can be thinned with equal parts turpentine, and vinegar to speed drying and absorption; for regular use and maintenance. Heavy oil treatments should never be used more than twice a year on furniture, except outdoors. Once a year, once fully treated, is generally sufficient for most furniture; aside from dusting.



Ralph and Terry Kovel have named and recommended this formulae which is based on an ancient recipe proven by centuries of use. It is far superior to most commercial preparations and if a superior formulation like "Kramer's Best Antique Improver" is unavailable is recommended in place of modern tung oil, lemon oil, and other such concoctions.

1 part boiled linseed oil

1 part white vinegar

1 part turpentine

Please note that modern boiled linseed oil is "boiled" with the addition of petro-chemical dryers.

A superior boiled oil can be made by carefully boiling pure raw linseed oil over a gentle heat and adding dryers. Be extremely careful as the fire hazard is considerable.

A simple and effective home method is to take a crock pot fill it with raw linseed oil, set it outdoors, put the lid on, set the control to high, let cook for at least 24 hours. Cool and decant to a tightly stoppered container. It will not be as quick drying as that prepared with driers but, does not offer the environmental hazard created by driers. It is superior to the commercial product.

What is meant by drying is the oxidizing of the oil. Linseed is in a category called fixed or non-drying oils. It never fully dries only feels so to the touch.


2 parts turpentine

1 part raw linseed oil

1/16 part Japan Drier

Warm mixture in a double boiler until warm to the finger (both turps and oil are combustible so be careful while warming). Commercially available chemically boiled linseed oil will dry quickly, but, will not penetrate as deeply and tends to darken when heated. Take a rag and saturate the surface until it appears wet with the warm mixture. Let dry and observe if all areas are thoroughly covered, repeat if necessary. Prime back sides of wood and out of sight areas to extent possible.

The Japan Dryer you buy today is not the same heavy metal it used to be, it is a petroleum substitute. The advantage of the above recipe is there is less of the driers than in the commercial product.

The recipe can be used to good effect without the Japan Dryer if the linseed is first prepared as in the above recipe and a little extra time is allowed for curing before painting.



16 parts gutta percha

4 parts pure rubber

2 parts yellow pitch

1 part shellac

2 parts linseed oil

Melt all together. Store in a sealed bottle in a cool place. Spread evenly and warm the work for about half a minute, bring together quickly and press hard.


1 qt. water

3 oz. alum

Heat until alum has melted, when cold add flour to the consistency of cream. Boil the misture while stirring. By adding a little powdered resin and a clove before boiling the paste will keep for up to a year and can be softened with water when dry.


2 ounces salammoniac

1 ounce of sulphur

5 lbs. iron fillings

Iron should be clean and free from rust, pounded and sifted. To use mix all together with enough water to slightly moisten. Ram or caulk into joints with blunt caulking chisel and hammer, clamp and let cure. The mixture soon spoils so mix fresh for each use will set as hard as the iron in a few days.


1 gill vinegar

1 gill milk

Seperate the curd and mix the whey with;

5 egg whites

Beat well together and sift sufficient quick lime to convert to consistency of thick paste. Vessels mended with this cement never seperate and resist action of both fire and water.


4 oz. best glue

2 oz isinglass

Dissolve in standard glue pot with mild ale over slow fire to the substance of strong glue. 1 1/2 oz. well boiled linseed oil is gradually added and the whole well mixed. When cold and made into cakes it resembles india rubber. Dissolve in equal part ale for use. Used for wood, china, earthenware, glass and leather. For leather apply hot and allow to cool six hours while clamped or weighted. By adding a little tow it is suitable for sealing casks.


Dissolve mastich in as much spirit of wine as will sufice to render it liquid. In another vessel dissolve as much isinglass (previously soaked in water till swollen & soft) in brandy as will make two ounces by measure or strong glue and add two small bits of gum galbanum or ammoniacum, which must be rubbed or ground till dissolved. Then mix the whole with sufficient heat. Keep in a stoppered vial and set in hot water when used.


2 lbs. beeswax

1 lb. resin

Melt together and add 1 1/2 lbs. of the powdered stone to be mended mixing together well. Then knead the mass in water to insure complete incorporation of the powder in the mix. The proportion of the stone powder may be varied to more closely approximate the color of the matter being repaired. THe cement must be heated to apply as well as the parts being joined, care must be taken that all is throughly dry.


Rice flour is mixed intimately with cold water and then gently boiled. It dries almost transparent and is ideal for pasteing fine papers, it is of the strongest paper glues and suited for built up paper work as layered boxes, tea trays, &c. This is highly recommended for conservation.


6 parts yellow potters clay

1 part steel fillings

Sufficient oil to make paste the consistency of glazier's putty.



Spirit of wine is thhe most innocent sovent which may be employed. The gold may be worn off in some parts or the underlaying base metal may be corroded so as to leave the particles of gold disunited and the salver base may have yellowed to a more or less agreeable color. If tarnish is removed the end result may look much less like gold than before the cleaning.


Mix 1 gill neat's foot oil and 1/2 gill of spirits of turpentine. Scrape a little rottenstone in a seperate container. Wet a woolen rag with solution and dip into the scraped rottenstone and rub the metal well. Wipe off with a soft cloth, and polish with dry leather using more of the rottenstone. Steel should be first treated with the solution using powdered pumice on a separate woolen rag.


Mix the beaten whites of three eggs with powdered black pigment (stove black or tempera paint) to a thick paste. Dilute with vinegar to the consistency of hand lotion and boil for fifteen minutes. Apply with a brush and polish with a scrap of velvet. When the stove and pipe are heated the blacking is baked on and becomes durable. It stinks, but, it works. If the stove is rusty clean with kerosene on steel wool, pumice, or a fine grained brick. Clean residue with alcohol and clean cloth then apply blacking.


Apply hot vinegar and salt with a scrub brush. Hot water and borax applied with a brush will develop a high sheen. Rinse with hot water and dry. Badly tarnished copper can be cleaned with a strong solution of oxalic acid mixed one to one with water. Rinse with clear hot water and dry. Oxalix acid is a poison and should not be used on food utensils. Use this to remove heavy tarnish and follow up with the first mixture. To polish use one of the whiting mixtures.


Use this mixture only on solid brass. Mix equal parts of sulphuric acid, nitric acid and water. When the mixture settles brush on brass. Rinse immediately with ammonia water and wipe dry. Be very careful as this mixture can cause severe burns. Pour the water into the acid never the other way around. Brass inlays may be renewed with this solution carefully applied with a cotton swab, be careful not to touch surrounding areas with the acids.


To clean badly tarnished silver boil for five minutes in one pint of water with one teaspoon each; cream of tartar, borax and common salt. If silver is left cloudy polish with a paste made of alcohol and whiting. A slice of potato dipped in baking soda will remove the most stubborn stains. If silver is discolored by sulpher from eggs, gas fumes or rubber moisten a cloth with potato water (water which potatoes have been boiled in) dip in dry salt and rub out the stains. Ink stains on old inkwells can be removed with a paste of chloride of lime with water (DO NOT mix any chloride or bleach with ammonia, it will emit poisonous fumes) and rub out stains. Wash with soap and water, rinse and wipe dry. Iodine, medicines and any other stains that do not come off with the above methods should be treated with a cotton swab dipped in a dilute sulphuric acid solution (1 part acid to 8 parts water), wash in ammonia water, then in soap and water, rinse and wipe dry. Ammonia will dull the luster of silver so don't fool around too long or with a strong solution.


2 tablespoons of vinegar

1 tablespoon of baking soda

Scrub on with a brush while the mixture is effervescing. Wash with hot soapy water, rinse and dry. If corroded make a weak solution of muriatic acid and pour on the object, rinse in ammonia water. Wash with soap and water, rinse and dry.


Liquefy a raw potato with a little warm water. Shake until clean. If stubborn add a little uncooked rice to the mix. If more drastic measures are required disolve 1 tablespoon lye in a little water in the bottle. Note that the caustic, lye, will generate a lot of heat when mixed with water, protect your hands and keep pointed away from your eyes and body it can cause severe burns and blindness. Pad your hands and slosh the mixture around, there is almost nothing this won't remove. Place the object in a pan of water about the same temperature as the lye mix and bring to a boil. Dump the lye down a non-plastic drain with the water running and then wash with soap and water, rinse and dry.


Mix warm linseed oil and cream in equal parts, apply with a sponge and polish with a soft rag.


Melt 3 pounds pure tallow without letting it boil and add 1 pound pure neatsfoot oil. Stir continually until cool or it will separate into lumps. To color add lampblack.


Melt two ounces of resin and then add three ounces of beeswax, if color is desired, when melted add 1/2 ounce of fine lampblack and 1/2 ounce of prussian blue. Stir all well and add enough turpentine to form a thin paste. Cool and apply with a sponge; polish with a soft brush.


Mix whiting with enough water to make a gruel rub on with a clean cloth. When dry wipe clean with a clean soft cloth.


Mix whiting with ammonia or kerosene to a thick paste, apply with a thick felt rubber, let dry and buff off with a clean cloth. Wash with soap and water and dry throughly.


Dissolve 3 parts oxalic acid in 40 parts water with 100 parts pumice stone powdered, add 2 parts oil of turpentine, 12 parts soft soap, and 12 parts fat oil.


4 oz. whiting

1 oz. turpentine

1 oz. alcohol

2 oz. benzol

3 drops camphor

Store in a tight lidded jar.

One caution: every repair and restoration I've ever been involved with has been different than every other. Each required the learning or doing of something new, all that experience can teach; is how to more quickly learn how to do.