Tuesday, January 28, 2014

On Dry Mounting

We get a lot of questions about dry mounting, so I'm going to address the topic as best I can. Keep in mind Poster Mountain does not offer this service, so the information you're getting here is the result of experience-based speculation and some internet research. So here we go.

Compared with linen backing, paper backing, or the gelatin process (all of which we offer,) dry mounting is inexpensive. You can do it yourself at home or you can have your framer do it.

Dry mounting involves fusing your print or poster to a sturdy backing with dry mount paper or spray mount adhesive. The dry mount paper goes between the backing and the print, and it's fused using either a heat press or a standard fabric iron. The backing can be a sheet of wood, plastic, foam core, or cardboard.

Dry mounting is technically irreversible. You cannot undo it, although WE usually can. Once the print is on there, you are not getting it offa there. Some types of dry mount paper claim to be reversible. I don't know. In my twelve-odd years restoring posters, I can't say I've heard of reversible dry mounting. On the streets of conservation, the general consensus is AVOID.

Here's why it's bad:
You may not care whether that print ever comes off the backing, but if there is a flood or a fire or even just a spill, even if you just move to humid Florida, the paper will get damaged, moldy, brittle, brown, stained, wrinkly, or wavy. Paper is fragile and a frame is not a hermetically sealed chamber. The elements will get in.

In order to repair a damaged print, you're going to have to take it to a conservator like Poster Mountain. In order for us to fix the print, we'll need to take it off the backing. And if it's dry mounted, we often won't be able to remove it without a lot of labor and even some invasive damage to the print (read: invasive damage to your wallet.)

Here are a few images of dry mounted misery. Sensitive viewers beware.

Does this look good? Does it? This Amelie poster is beyond help due to the ravages of dry mounting and the low value of the poster. Believe me, we COULD remove it from the board but would take 2 people about 6 hours and this poster just is not worth that much time, easy to replace with a new one.
Here you can see the anatomy of a dry mount, with the poster on top, nasty horrid dry mounting paper in the middle, and foam core board at bottom.

The first battle in a dry mount war is the backing. John has clamped this piece face-down to a table and is shaving down the foam core with a sharpened spatula.

Once the backing has been thinned down to a flexible layer, he will be able to peel it off without danger of bending the poster. Since this poster is glossy, he has to be careful to keep it flat since many glossy inks tend to flake off when the paper is bent or curled.

In this particular example, a solvent called bestine is poured over the remnants of foam core and dry mount paper. This loosens the disgusting adhesive. When demounting a traditionally linen backed poster we use water to loosen the glue, but not with a dry mount. This method will not work on all types of dry mounting tissues, some are wax based and require the use of heat!

John lays a sheet of mylar over the poster to let the bestine soak in without evaporating.

The dry mount paper came off pretty easily in this case, but...

Now John has to remove a very thick coating of adhesive.

Dude, ew.

There are many variations on removing a dry mount. Here they will be working from the front. The poster is resting on a board that has been elevated on one side to let the bestine run down.

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The poster is gently lifted up off the backing. You can see where the bestine has seeped down behind the dry mount paper.

We still need to buy some size-small rubber gloves. Here Robin peels back the dry mount paper to reveal tape! Yay, more stuff to pick at!

Here's what the dry mount paper looks like once it's moulted. Yech.

Your print may not have much value in today's market, but you'd be surprised what fifty or a hundred years can do for the value of ephemera. Linen backing really is the best way to mount paper. It's archival and reversible. If you take the benefits into consideration, and the avoided potential headaches, linen backing is easily worth the extra money.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Lichtenstein Unhinged

                            Welcome back to the blog! The holiday nonsense is officially over and it's time to get back to business. We're going to start off with a tiny post about a large Lichtenstein silkscreen. This was a very simple and routine de-hinging project. The piece had been in a frame and was therefore hinged to a foamcore backing. This means there were two undesirable pieces of water soluble gummed tape on the back of the art. 

John begins by running a sharpened metal spatula underneath the print to cut the tape from the foamcore backing.
Here you can see the gummed tape on the back.

John and Gabe flip the piece over. Notice the white cotton gloves. These keep the bright white paper safe from smudges.
Melissa clears the remnants of foamcore from the tape before getting down to business. She massages a solution of water and cellulose into the tape in order to loosen up the gum.

She then carefully edges her palette knife under the tape. She has to go slow in order to keep from damaging the paper underneath.

The tape is removed and now the residue must be dealt with.

She paints more water onto the gluey debris. She has to be sparing so as not to allow the art to wave up or wrinkle.

The most satisfying part of the work, scraping off the residue with a blade. Notice all the bits in the foreground.

And clean! She takes a bit of cotton wool and wipes away any remaining evidence.
That's it. This is an admittedly drawn-out way to remove tape from an area no one is going to see. The reason for all the fuss is the high value of the artwork. It's not a mass-produced piece of advertising but an original piece which should be kept completely intact wherever possible. We were just lucky the framer used water-soluble material as it kept this project very simple.