Monday, July 30, 2012

Toy Box Part 1

Poster Mountain is a paper based conservation company, but that doesn't always mean that our work is limited to posters and prints. This week we are posting about the restoration of an old lead-toy box. This box held lead toys of a hospital ward and was brought in by a client who collects lead toys. His wife is the poster collector, but he brought it to us in the hopes that we would be able to stabilize this box. And as you can tell from the fact that we're doing another two part blog post, we can!

The issues, as you can see from the pictures below, were that a whole section was missing from the box that included an interior flap as well as numerous tears all over the box. Clearly this little thing has had a rough life.

Pictured: Back of the toy box. 

Pictured: Front of the toy box. 

Pictured: The box was falling apart, which made it much easier for us to get a picture of the inside. The section to the right with part of a crescent moon on it is what was missing paper. 

Pictured: A better shot of the section missing paper and where we will add the flap. 
Pictured: A shot of the top of the box. 
John's first thought was to try humidifying the box in a bucket of water on top of floatation device in order to keep the box out of direct contact with water. But that plan had to be altered when someone (cough cough Aaron cough cough) knocked the box into the water while cleaning (we cut him some slack because he was cleaning). So, since the box got wet John went ahead and washed it and put it between two pieces of blotter paper and then put it into the press to dry flat.

Pictured: The box after it has dried in the press.

Our plan after the box was flat and dry was to use John's isinglass gelatin technique to temporarily mount the box to a melamine board with a paper substrate across the whole center of the box that would help support the patch of the missing paper and the additional flap that had to be added.

Mounting the box to the board was a a two step process because the box was actually in two pieces, so the big piece had to be laid down first and then the separate section placed in the exact position. If it was off center even a little bit, then when we tried to fold the box back together it wouldn't fit properly. So, no pressure!

Pictured: The box after it has been removed from the press and before we began the isinglass process. 
We put the substrate down first and then laid the larger piece of the box down next. Then we carefully positioned and adjusted the section that had separated from the rest. We left enough of the base paper sticking out the side to give Melissa something to patch on top of.

Pictured: Smoothing down the substrate before we put the larger part of the box down. 

Pictured: The box while still damp, drying on top of the hollytex and substrate. 

Pictured: The box after it has dried over night. 

Once the box was dry, John took it off the board and back to Melissa. She had to find a very specific type of paper in order to patch the missing areas. The box was made of thin cardboard, which is still thicker than average poster paper. Fortunately she was able to find appropriately thick paper in our collection of vintage paper.

She used one of the other flaps as a template to create the necessary flap. Using tracing paper she cut out the exact shape she needed. Then she glued the patch on top of the paper substrate, mitering the two edges together so that the join was seamless.

Pictured: Melissa checking out the paper substrate on what will become the interior of the box.

Pictured: The patch, tracing and paper that Melissa used to fix the missing section of the box. 

Pictured: Melissa checking the fold of the new flap. 
Melissa also reinforced the corner where the box had come apart so that it hopefully won't split again. She glued a small patch down over the corner and then burnished it flat.

Pictured: Melissa checking the corner patch against the box to make sure its the right size. 

Pictured: Melissa applying the glue before she puts the patch on.

Pictured: Here Melissa is burnishing the patch down flat using a teflon tool. 

Pictured: I kept catching John and Melissa in conference and the pictures were too good to pass up putting at least one up. 
At this point the box was structurally stable, but it still needed a lot of restoration to be up to Poster Mountain standards. Check back tomorrow to see how the restoration went!

It should be noted that several crucial steps in our process have been omitted. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via email at or by phone at 818.882.1214. Also check out our websites: and Please feel free to leave comments or questions on the blog!

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