Saturday, March 24, 2012

Basic Conservation Tips

 The past few weeks have been so busy, I'm afraid I've been neglecting the blog! When things finally slow down a little bit I'm sure we will have plenty of interesting projects to discuss. This post is going to be a short elaboration on some basic do-it-yourself conservation tips John recently talked about on our Facebook page.

Our example, a contemporary silkscreen by Martin Ansin for the 1927 classic Metropolis.

The back, or verso of the poster has a lot of old framers' hinging tape. Whoever framed this really overdid it because it was applied to all four sides. This particular tape is a pressure-sensitive type of adhesive tape. Someone else had previously attempted to peel it off and as you can see in the photo they started to skin the back of the poster. Thankfully they stopped and left the removal to us.

Here I carefully apply Bestine, a solvent normally used for thinning rubber cement, available at most art supply stores. (Bestine may sound familiar because it was also the capital city of Tatooine during the Imperial Period.) One must go easy with this stuff, thus the special needle dispenser. Note the poster is face-down on a very clean, smooth surface. Here I use a sheet of glassine to shield the poster from the bare tabletop. This prevents any possibility of scuffing the ink as the poster gets moved around.

The Bestine loosens the adhesive so that a thin metal implement can be slid under the tape. I'm using a type of spatula with sharpened edges, but a palette knife also works. Extreme caution should be taken with this step because there's a chance the tape will not respond to the Bestine. If you notice no change in the stickiness of the tape, do not proceed! No amount of coaxing will budge that tape without skinning the paper.

The tape comes off cleanly with no damage to the poster. I continuously apply the solvent just in front of the spatula as I work. The partially-dissolved adhesive, while not sticky, is extra messy at this point and if I'm not careful it will spread everywhere and then dry to its usual sticky horribleness. 

The tape residue is wiped away using Bestine applied to a lint-free "pickup" called Webril. I also use the pickup to clean the glassine.

Here is the burnisher or bone I use to smooth out the edge wear. If you are going to do it yourself, it's important you use only this particular burnisher because it's made from Teflon and will not mar or scuff the paper. There are similar looking, non-Teflon burnishers out there and they absolutely will do damage.

Using the teflon bone directly on the paper, I burnish the borders by pushing out and away from the edge of the ink to the edge of the paper. Don't burnish over inked areas and don't press too hard or the texture of the paper may become flattened (not a good look.) It's better to re-burnish a few times than press too hard. It's always better to err on the side of caution and stop early. If you feel nervous burnishing directly on the paper, you can lay a small protective sheet of hollytex over it and burnish on top of that.
With the right tools and materials, these are all things that you can do at home on your own with the right tools and materials. If you have any questions about something or you find yourself in over your head give us a call at 818.882.1214.

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