Monday, October 7, 2013

King Blackstone, Chapter the First

 We have a special treat this time. Earlier this year a client brought in a Blackstone magician's poster that had been mounted to a masonite board with (the dreaded) PVA variety of glue. PVA looks innocent enough. How far up a creek might one travel using good old Elmer's?


 PVA is basically irreversible and unconquerable. It is water soluble while in liquid form, but once dry it turns to plastic. We explained to the client that this poster is a lost cause. We suggested he try demounting it himself if he really wanted to save it. The client left with his poster and we figured we'd seen the last of it.

Not so. He returned with the demounted poster in five hundred pieces. He'd managed to remove it by cutting it up into strips while it was still on the board, then prying off each strip piece by piece. Aggressive yes, but not an unreasonable approach to a PVA mounted poster.

John bit the bullet and dove in. As one might do with any overwhelming task, he divided it up into sections, starting with the left half of the lower margin.

He arranges the pieces into a coherent whole by using a reference photo on his laptop.
This is the (basically) complete section he will start with.

John transfers the pieces to a sheet of mylar and sprays them with water using a move left over from his days as a bullfighter. The high spraying angle prevents the little bits from getting blown away.
He can lower his angle as the paper is weighted down with water.
John then sprays the paper with a cleansing agent called Orvus, lays another sheet of mylar over the top, and flips the whole thing to wash the other side.

He flips it over again and removes the mylar. It is now time to adjust the puzzle so that it lines up perfectly. The reason why it has to be perfect will become apparent.
John goes piece by piece, lining up each one in exactly the right position. Each time he gets a piece positioned he lays the mylar back down and squeegees to ensure it won't budge.

You may have got the picture a long time ago, but this really did take forever.

At long last the section is whole (sort of) and John lays Hollytex over the surface. He applies a gelatin solution and lets it sink through to the paper. 
He burnishes a few areas to make sure the gelatin permeates.

The section is transferred to the melamine board and laid face down. Face down? Yes, face down.

He squeegees the water and excess gelatin out from under the mylar.

He uses his palette knife to make a few final adjustments, making sure there are no loose flaps or folder-unders.

Et voila! Pretty poster! As is often the case it has to get uglier before it gets beautiful. We will let this dry first.
John did another section over the weekend. He took these photos himself.

Many of these pieces are missing, most likely chewed up during the demount.

Here all the pieces are in place and the hollytex and gelatin have been applied.


It's left to dry over the weekend.
Monday morning the pieces are dry and John sands the surfaces (remember they're face down) to get rid of any chunks or irregularities.

 We discuss the next step. Since this is such an unusual situation there is no one tried-and-true procedure.

The thing to keep in mind is that in order to linen back all the poster's sections together, we'll need to either keep the hollytex facings until the whole thing is mounted and dry, or we'll need to mount something to the backs of the sections, which will in turn be mounted to the linen (which is actually canvas, but that's a different blog post.) We don't want all those smaller bits coming apart at any rate. 

We discuss cutting the hollytex to the edges of the poster so that we can line it up perfectly when we go to linen back it. We talk about using PVA to apply thin tissue to the back, then removing the hollytex, then linen backing the sections together. This second option, while it involves PVA, is more appealing because without that translucent hollytex mounted to the front we're much better able to see what we're doing.

We won't know until we try. John opts for a dress rehearsal.

He pilfers a one-sheet from our plastic bin of rejects. The bin of rejects is a story for another day.

He trims off two sections and divides them into strips and squares, just like our Blackstone poster.

He completely recreates the Blackstone situation, washing, positioning, covering with hollytex, saturating with gelatin and mounting face down.

 Once they dry, we will have two sections very similar to the ones belonging to our Blackstone. We will try two different methods for linen backing and see which one is our best option. All this may seem dogged and tiresome. It is. But we have to go very slow when planning our strategy here. In all the tedium it's easy to get impatient and careless. It's much better to move at a deliberately glacial pace right now in order to find the best plan of action.

Did that litany get you champing at the bit for Blackstone Chapter the Second? I promise it will get way more exciting once all the pieces are linen backed. Then all the little cuts will be very apparent in a white grid pattern, and we will have dramatic transformation montages as it gets restored.

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