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Posts Tagged ‘paper mends’

  1. Conservation Conversations // A Bit on Paper Mends

    January 18, 2015 by Marianna Brotherton

    Book conservation is a field much like any other; the more we know, the more we learn just how much we don’t know. Specialization is our attempt to foil this conundrum by focusing our view, and therefore narrowing the range of potential “know-ables.” In conservation this can come in the form of “parchment specialist” or “leader in the field of 14th century wooden board bindings.” This type of focus allows one to delve more deeply into the history of the specific topic, and to explore more thoroughly the different conservation problems and treatments that may arise. But with each magnification of topic, more possibilities come into focus, not less.  Ask a Palynologist, and he’ll tell you there’s an entire universe of intrigue in a single speck of dust.

    So how is it done? How does one ever stop themselves from spinning down the rabbit hole of questions and answers long enough to actually produce something? Or, gasp, feel like they KNOW something?

    Conservators take it one page, and one problem at a time.

    So, let’s take a look at just one problem: paper. The ripped, torn, stained, creased, wadded-up-in-a-ball-and-left-for-dead kind of paper. You denizens of Forgotten Attics and Soggy Basements take heart! Conservators CAN put you back together again.

    The first step in mending any sort of paper is to mechanically clean the surface with latex spongeIMG_2785s, rubber eraser crumbs, cosmetic sponges, brushes… The list of implements goes on, but the concept remains singular. REMOVE LOOSE SURFACE DIRT. As you can see, one swipe of the sponge quickly leads to a hefty pile of spent latex, and one impressive jar of hair, dirt, dust, and many other unmentionables. [note: photographs are examples of three distinct pieces, and are adjacent for effect only.]


    Once the paper is thoroughly cleaned of any loose debris, a mental Venn Diagram of all possible procedures must be conjured. If, after weighing the pros and cons of washing (Yes, paper may be washed in filtered and deionized water, pH preference of 7.5)  the conservator deems it best practice for the object, its provenance, and the desires of its owner to perform this treatment,

    he must carefully take note of any water-soluble marginalia, inscriptions, plates etc. I have heard lore of a conservator, who after much spot testing and deliberation, fatefully watched an ‘I’ float off a page to the surface of the water bath. It is always best to err on the side of caution, so be thorough in your spot tests.

    But if, as in the case of this inscribed fly-leaf, the paper really would do for a bath, a wonderful substance called cyclododecane can make an otherwise unfit washing candidate washable. The wax-like material is melted, and applied to areas one wishes to become temporarily hydrophobic. By painting over the letters written in ink as in the photo, we can choose exactly which parts of the paper we wish to remain dry, and any part of the paper not covered in cyclododecane will respond to our aquatic treatment. Within a IMG_2744period of roughly 24 hours, the cyclododecane will sublime off the paper, leaving behind only the unaffected, unwashed ink. Then after washing, one is able to flatten and dry the paper between felts and weight. This particular fly-leaf not only lost any wrinkles or creases it previously had, but it brightened in color, added a degree of softness, and regained a sense of drape as well.

    For papers we deem unfit to wash, but who could still benefit from a good ironing, a more localized approach can be taken.

    Take this mountain fold. If we paint a line of thin wheat starch paste across the top of the fold with a dainty brush, the paper fibers will expand and relax, and with the small addition IMG_2790of a blotter-reemay-weight sandwich, you will find the fold to have flattened out. I find wheat starch paste to be preferable to water because there is a bit of added control in the spread of moisture, and the paste adds just a dash of strength to the weakened area. [Note: tide-lines, and other horrible and unimaginable affects could be consequence to this treatment. ALWAYS spot test before introducing moisture into paper.]

    When working with paste, I have found it to be handy to keep a small glob near the first knuckle of the non-dominant pointer finger. The paste is not only near to application, but your body heat has warmed it slightly, which can be used to create a thicker, drier paste.

    I have also found it handy to work on a clean surface, not merely for the sake of avoiding contamination of the object you are working on, but because it makes quick work to paste up a piece of tissue directly on the table surface. It can also be helpful to paste up on a piece of remay affixed to gray board, as Bill Minter suggests, when one is really concerned with controlling moisture levels.

    Once the paper is flat, we may descend into the third level of mends: Tear Repair. I once thought that all rips, tears, and cuts were to be treated equally, and with the same large, band-aid of a tissue slapped over it. Lucky for me, this was just another beautiful point in my career when I was faced with the reminder that “I know nothing.” Paper mends should be light, delicate, invisible upon first glance, while somehow miraculously remaining strong and steadfast. The chivalrous “Mr. Knight” introduced me to a majority of these tactics, my favorite treatise being, ‘On How To Treat A Scarf Tear: Or, A Look Into The Impossibly Simple Procedure of Just Gluing It Back Together.’ Many tears occur in such a way that a “lip” is created between the two sides. With a little bit of paste painted daintily along the tear and some light pressure, the two edges of paper can happily sit one on top of the other. Tear Repaired.


    If your “lips” happen to be dirty a dark line may appear, looking much like a crack across your paper. It will be noticeable, no matter how strong your repair may be, and it will drive you crazy. I have found that it is possible (though highly aggressive) to lightly and with much care, sand the edges of the “lips”, thereby reducing dirt and repair visibility. A second, less invasive, reversible method is to tone the mend. A new favorite material of mine is Toasted Cellulose Powder. Baked in the toaster oven for a range of several minutes, IMG_2794 you’ll have yourself an array of creams, whites and browns. This powder, being of the same “stuff” as your paper, will blend nicely when affixed with a small amount of paste or methyl cellulose. Sometimes, simply rubbing the fine powder across the mend is enough to discourage the eye from seeing the tear immediately.

    A cleaner tear, or cut, does not have the advantage of overlap, and therefore has little or nothing to affix itself to. In this case, often all that is necessary are a few fuzzys pulled from the edge of your tissue. Laying these long, muscular fibers along the cut bridges the gap in a similar manner as the “lip” in a scarf tear. Another dainty swathe of thin paste across the mend followed by a blotter-reemay-weight sandwich, and you’re good to go.


    BAD FILL. But historical, so cool.

    And finally, I bring you Fills. A fill is a piece of tissue replacing the original, missing paper. The most common fill I have come upon is that of the Lost Dog Ear. The vulnerable position of the page corner, met with the human desire to bend things, creates a most obvious breaking point in a piece of paper. When filling in a loss, it is best to be foppish about it. When time allows, tone your tissue with water colors, a shade or so lighter than the paper you are working on. It will be wise to select a tissue, or combination of tissues, that are equal or slightly thinner in weight to the object. A heavier tissue will create strain on the original paper and will only do more harm than good. Remember, paper mends should be ethereal, and only the smallest possible amount of tissue should be used.

    IMG_1439 If working on a corner or an edge I like to make my fill slightly over-sized, and will cut to size later. Tear the tissue so that the fuzzys are present, and then against the backdrop of a light, snip off any extra or overzealous fibers with tiny scissors. You want enough of the fuzzys to remain so that they can be overlaid onto the edge of the mend, but not so many that they stick out in an obnoxious fashion. Here we can daintily paint on our wheat starch paste directly on the table surface. I prefer to paste out only the edge of the tissue that will be overlapping the mend, and then apply pressure quickly with a piece of reemay between the teflon folder and tissue. I have found that this mend will dry IMG_1457quickly, and only a little bit of weight is necessary. I like to turn the paper over, and add a second layer of the same tissue, overlapping the first mend every so slightly from the verso side. Here, it is good to paste up the entire piece, so that it sticks both to the paper being mended, and the first layer of tissue. A mixture of types of tissues and weights can and should be used to match the mend, the kind of paper being mended, taking into account the condition the original paper is in. Each repair is unique, and requires an arsenal of paste thicknesses (thin paste is more flexible than thick paste, but thick paste can be tackier) and different tissue types.

    To find any hidden tears, run the edges of the paper lightly through your pointer and middle fingers, using only the slightest pressure to reveal any tears you may have missed.

    Document your work in written and photographed documentation. I’ve been taught to photograph in both normal and raking light for flat work (raking light really shows off creases and folds). A light table can be useful for highlighting rips and tears (I’ve read on other conservation blogs that there are apps for phones and tablets that work as cheap, portable light tables).

    And last but not least, don’t forget to make your GIF!

  2. Conservation Conversations // Lascaux 498

    May 16, 2014 by Becky Koch

    I’ve worked in a lot of library conservation labs throughout my training and when I was finally looking for a “real” job I thought I knew more or less what kind of supplies and tools were out there. But then almost two years ago I became the book conservator at a paper restoration company and I suddenly learned about all these new things I had never heard about before. I don’t know if it’s because paper people just use different techniques, or it’s just how my coworkers learned to do things, but I’ve discovered a lot of new things over the past two years! Over the next few weeks I thought I’d share some of the new products I’ve encountered at this job, and maybe you’ll learn something new as well!

    The first new thing I encountered on my first day was Lascaux 498 HV. I’d seen it in a few conservation labs before, but it was always used as one of those “extra” adhesives that you’d only take out on rare occasions when you’d run out of all other options. But we love it and use it all the time!


    Lascaux looks a lot like PVA, except thicker. You can use it like PVA too, as a wet adhesive, but the fantastic thing about Lascaux is that you can use it as a heat-activated, reversible, dry adhesive.

    We make our own heat-activated mending paper by covering one side of a sheet of tissue with Lascaux and allowing it to dry. If you’re using a thin tissue note that some of the Lascaux is going to bleed through to the other side and cause the sheet to glue itself to whatever it’s drying on! To avoid this, move your glued up tissue onto a piece of silicone release, a drying rack, or hang it up to dry. When the tissue is dry, cut into strips. You now have your very own heat activated tissue!!

    photo 1-1Gluing up some tear strips

    photo 3-1Cutting strips after drying

    photo 4Heat activated mending strips!

    While it works in the same way as Crompton’s Tissue, that being you cut a piece out and then adhere it with a tacking iron, making your own heat-activated tissue gives you a lot more versatility. You can use any tissue weight or color, and sometimes we paint up whole sheets of paper if we need to back a brittle print.

    photo 5Even after drying the strips remain slightly tacky, so store them away from dust and dirt.  I suggest a Disney-themed ziploc bag.

    Lascaux is both heat and alcohol activated, that means if your tacking iron dies you can use a bit of isopropyl to activate the adhesive on your strips, and you can also use alcohol to remove anything you’ve already stuck down. You can also remove any tissue by activating the adhesive with a little bit of heat from your tacking iron.

    This adhesive is especially helpful for use with water-soluble pigments. If you have something that is very fugitive or very prone to tide lines, repairing or backing something with wheat starch paste can cause real problems or even permanent damage. Since Lascaux is a dry process there is no risk to pigments, and any mends or backings that are applied can be removed with heat or in an alcohol bath.

    I’ve painted up both sides of the tissue and used it as a kind of archival/reversible double-sided tape. I just finished repairing a scrapbook – I reinserted everything into a new book with my double sided Lascaux pieces and I didn’t have to worry about the pages cockling with moisture, and if I messed anything up they were easy to pop off and re apply.

    photo 2

    photo 3

    I’m sure there are lots of different applications for Lascaux, but this is how we use it where I work. If you want to give Lascaux a try, make sure to use Lascaux 498 HV, there are lots of different Lascaux out there, but this is the kind to use to make mending strips.

  • My name is Erin Fletcher, owner and bookbinder of Herringbone Bindery in Boston. Flash of the Hand is a space where I share my process and inspirations.
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