Restoring crystal and glassware
By Dianna Tindell
Each restoration project presents its own unique set of problems and challenges. The restoration specialist, therefore, is constantly being challenged to use his/her knowledge and experience in the development of new techniques and processes needed to meet the individual needs of a particular project. This is especially true in the field of crystal and glass restoration.
A Northwood Carnival Glass bowl with sections broken and missing, and in need of repair.
To repair such items, the restoration specialist is often called upon to create new parts, bond existing parts together, ' fuse or fill in cracks, remove scratches and stains, reapply golds, silvers, paints, etching, and frosting, and, through the use of molds, duplicate the original piece. Because a competent restoration specialist is able to perform these tasks, glass and crystal that might otherwise be discarded as worthless is now being restored.
One of the most common requests for glass and crystal restoration involves the repair of a chipped area. Normally, depending on the location of the chipped area and the type of piece, a restoration will include grinding the damaged area down, reshaping and polishing it out to a clean, clear surface. Unfortunately, many glass and crystal repairs are far more complicated, as in the case of deep scratches, cracks, broken or missing parts, and stains.
The same Northwood Carnival Glass bowl after total restoration.
Owners of damaged pieces are, for the most part, unaware of the complexities involved in the restoration of glass and crystal. For example, clients will often ask the restoration specialist to "reheat" their cracked or broken glass in an attempt to fuse the piece back together. They don't understand that in most cases this method of repair is not possible. When glass is reheated to fuse a crack or add a broken piece, it will often be unable to withstand the heat and shatter. Newer or more reliable methods of making glass, however, may allow for reheating of the piece in some instances.
A crack can be stabilized or pieces may be fused together through the use of "cold" processes. In the case of a crack that has opened on the surface of the item, the crack can be filled with clear and non-yellowing liquid filler. The filler should add support and remove the absorption of light into the crack. A crack is normally visible because of the reflection of light off the damaged area. By applying clear liquid filler to the crack, the reflection is eliminated, thus making the crack nearly invisible.
When attempting to bond broken pieces of glass together, a non-yellowing adhesive should be used that will also provide strength and support. Usually, the area where the broken pieces are joined together will hold better if the fit is snug and the surface area is not too thin. It is best to use an etching product on the surfaces to be joined to create a microscopic abrasion prior to an application of the bonding agent. In this way, more support is created by giving the surfaces and the bonding agent more to "grab" onto.
The weight and design of a piece are factors relevant to any restoration project. If the area being repaired is designed in such a way that substantial weight and stress will be placed upon newly bonded parts, it may be wise to provide additional support to the restored area with the broad application of a clear (invisible) material which would act as an overlay.
Modern science has given the restoration specialist the ability to replace missing parts with new parts made from synthetic liquid glass. These parts can be made clear or, through the use of additives such as paints or metallics; can be made to reproduce any special effect needed for the project. In addition, a new part can be made clear with the addition of specialized outer applications of paints and more to recreate a particular surface texture.
"Sick" glass is glass that has a stain that cannot be removed by normal cleaning efforts. Methods are available to clean such stains and restore the "sick" glass to its original appearance. However, most of these specialized cleaning methods would require an experienced restoration specialist. They include the use of equipment that can rotate glass items with specialized materials placed within for a long period of time. Some stains can be removed with the application of various toxic chemical solutions.
Damaged areas that are frosted, etched, or have a satin-type finish can be restored as well. The portion of the piece being rebuilt may require some sort of surface sanding and a dull glaze coating. Additional conditioning of the damaged area may be attained by sandblasting the surface using an airbrush abrasion method.
If the design on the restored area is missing, it may be reproduced with a mold cast and then textured by hand using a chemical etching process. Some chemical etching can be duplicated by stencil to ensure exact design detailing.
There may be times when an owner will ask a restoration specialist to repair a damaged item and reproduce an exact copy of the item. This might occur when an item has so many cracks in it that a reproduction made with synthetic glass would prove better than the restored item itself. It could also happen when an owner needs a copy of the restored object to complete a set.
The use of synthetic glass is very helpful in the art of restoration. However, as with most things, it does have a few drawbacks. Synthetic glass is not normally as durable as the original glass. Therefore, it should not be used in the same way. Sometimes, harsh cleaning can scratch or cloud synthetic glass. Pieces made or restored with synthetic glass should be handled with care and used for decorative purposes only.
Glass and crystal can be very vulnerable to changes in the environment. Care should be taken to avoid displaying such items in direct sunlight, severe temperature changes, drafty or humid areas, and high traffic areas that create vibrations. Stains can be avoided by not allowing liquids to sit in a glass or crystal container for extended periods of time. The cleaning of expensive glass and crystal should be done by hand rather than by dishwasher. Mild cleaners are always recommended to avoid the accidental loss of gold, metallic or hand painted designs.
Time, experience, science, and the innate talent of the restoration specialist has made it possible to restore damaged glass and crystal that once was thrown away. So, the next time you have a disaster at your house, get a qualified opinion first before you throw the damaged piece in the trash.
Dianna Tindell is a professional restoration specialist with international training in many areas such as hot/ cold glass, porcelain, pottery, metallics, gilded frames, marble, alabaster, and more. She has working studios and has founded a school for the teaching of restoration, Tindell's Restoration School & Studios, in Nashville, Tennessee. Request for further information and your comments may be directed to her at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Fax 615-391-0712, Tel: 615-885-1029, Website: www.collect.com/tinrestore. Or send mail to: 825 Sandburg Place, Nashville, TN 37214.
Published by Collectors News, P.O. Box 306, Grundy Center, IA 50638, 800-352-8039, www.collectors-news.com.