THE TRADITIONAL WAY
SELECTED SHOP FORMULAE
John T. Kramer
Traditional Wood Conservator
P.O. BOX 8715
Sugar Creek, Missouri
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.
TO POLISH VARNISHED FURNITURE
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.
TO POLISH WOOD
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
TO POLISH BRASS INLAID IN WOOD
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.
RUBBING OIL FORMULAE
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.
PRESERVATIVE & REVITALIZATION
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
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
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.
GOOD WOOD RECONDITIONER OR PRIMER
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
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
A FEW FORMULAE FOR GLUE
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.
FIRE AND WATERPROOF CEMENT
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.
YATES WATERPROOF CEMENT
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.
TURKISH CEMENT FOR JOINING METALS,
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.
COMMON CEMENT FOR ALABASTER, MARBLE
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.
CEMENT FOR IRON CULINARY UTENSILS
6 parts yellow potters clay
1 part steel fillings
Sufficient oil to make paste the
consistency of glazier's putty.
GOLD LACE & EMBROIDERY
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
TO CLEAN ALL SORTS OF METAL
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
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.
BOTTLE AND DECANTER CLEANER
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.
PATENT LEATHER REVIVER
Mix warm linseed oil and cream in
equal parts, apply with a sponge and polish with a soft rag.
LEATHER PRESERVER OIL
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
WATERPROOF PASTE FOR LEATHER
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.
TO REMOVE TARNISH AND POLISH COPPER
Mix whiting with enough water to make
a gruel rub on with a clean cloth. When dry wipe clean with a
clean soft cloth.
ANOTHER METAL POLISH
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
BRASS POLISHING PASTE
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.