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Carl Massaro




Location: NY
Joined: 02 Mar 2004

Posts: 87

PostPosted: Thu 16 Jun, 2011 5:49 pm    Post subject: Preserving a wood handle - help needed         Reply with quote

just got a nice 17th century German "Felddegen" that has an original wood handle with no remaining grip. There is no eveidence that it was taken apart.

Unfortunately, the handle is cracked in several places and is becoming unstable. It is a very nice sword and I do not want to take it apart to restore it or replace the grip.

I remember hearing mention of some type of resin or epoxy that can be injected into wood grips to preserve and stablize them. Does anyone know of this or have any suggestions?

I have some pictures of the handle here:



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Geoff Wood




Location: UK
Joined: 31 Aug 2003

Posts: 634

PostPosted: Fri 17 Jun, 2011 7:21 am    Post subject: Re: Preserving a wood handle - help needed         Reply with quote

I remember hearing mention of some type of resin or epoxy that can be injected into wood grips to preserve and stablize them. Does anyone know of this or have any suggestions?



Well, I suppose you could use one of the wet rot wood hardeners, which appear to basically some sort of resin dissolved in an organic solvent. They penetrate quite deeply into the wood. They wouldn't fill the cracks or anything, so you need to follow up with one of the two part epoxy fillers. They're strong, don't shrink and will take wood stain stain, so you could try to match up the repair. I suppose after all of that you'd have a partially plastic handle and I'm not sure how good it would look, so they're just my thoughts, not recommendations (I've only ever used them for less 'valuable' pieces of wood).

Regards

Geoff
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Carl Massaro




Location: NY
Joined: 02 Mar 2004

Posts: 87

PostPosted: Sun 19 Jun, 2011 2:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Geoff.

Do you have a product name you could recommend? Is this a reversible process?
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Geoff Wood




Location: UK
Joined: 31 Aug 2003

Posts: 634

PostPosted: Sun 19 Jun, 2011 3:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Carl Massaro wrote:
Thanks, Geoff.

Do you have a product name you could recommend? Is this a reversible process?


As I said above, I wouldn't exactly 'recommend' doing this. I'd hate for you to ruin your sword handle! If you can get hold of the stuff it might be a good idea to try it on something less valuable than your rather nice original, if only because the processes are probably not reversible (well, I suppose you could sand or drill out the two part epoxy filler, but the wood hardener is, as far as I know, impossible to remove from any wood that it has penetrated [you could probably remove excess from the surface]).
As for product names, I only know what I used on my junk furniture, but since I'm in the UK, they may not be available to you; both were of the 'Ronseal' brand, one called ' Wet rot wood hardener' and the other called ' High performance wood filler'. You might be better off just doing a Google search for equivalents available in the US.

Regards

Geoff
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Eric W. Norenberg





Joined: 18 Jul 2008

Posts: 265

PostPosted: Sun 19 Jun, 2011 4:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Carl,
What are you hoping to achieve in stabilizing the handle material? Wood is tricky, finicky stuff, does all kinds of weird things with age, oxygen, bacteria and bugs, and too much or too little humidity.

I have a little bit of experience with epoxy wood fillers and wet-rot arresting products, and a little more case history knowledge, as they are used in preservation of wood in old buildings. They can work but don't always do the trick. They also sometimes look terrible, worse than simply replacing something with an obviously new piece of material.

Of course, here I'm speaking of buildings that are exposed to weather and will eventually fall down without intervention. For a historical artifact, the less you do, the better, generally. I would definitely get in contact with a nearby major history museum or a university program that deals in artifact conservation. They ought to know how to halt the decay, stop it from getting any worse (or at least retard the process appreciably).

The route Geoff is suggesting would almost certainly retard if not stop the decay, and make the thing much more handleable. But it would also likely be hard to do "invisibly" and that would reduce it's value as both an artifact (tangible link to history) and as a collectible (investment). So that is really where you have to decide what you ultimately want the piece for. I have no idea what the sword is worth as an antique but, as a history buff, I know that if it's the real deal, there's only so many left in this world...

Cheers!
Eric
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Hendrik Kivirand





Joined: 25 Jan 2004

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2011 12:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Preservation of artifacts is tricky. Balance is often very hard to maintain between preserving the original and making the artifact look good (me, being in the archaeology and heritage protection business, prefer the first). If the wood part is stable enough and you do not intend to actually use the sword Wink, you may want to rethink doing anything to the handle. First, no matter the cracks, if you will not handle the blade forcefully, the grip may last another 300 years (cracks derive from excessive drying and by now the wood has dried as far as it will). Second, no matter which method you choose for reinforcing the wooden part, you will not be able to do it invisibly, end result may not end up to your liking and will probably reduce artifact's historical (and monetary) value. Added problems come from the fact that you have a composite artifact in your hands, what is good for wood may not be good for steel. Many wood-preservatives and strengthening agents are actually corrosion-accelerants. If you do see fast degradation in the wooden part, then you will have to seriously consider what to do and with what, your best bet may be to actually stabilize the wood in it's current state instead of reinforcing it. Consider consulting a professional close by (if you can) who can examine the state of things and give you first-hand advice.

Best regards,
Hendrik
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Carl Massaro




Location: NY
Joined: 02 Mar 2004

Posts: 87

PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2011 8:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, guys. I know one professional who suggested cyano-acrylate (crazy glue) and has used it successfully and sparingly to stablize cracked handles on other antiques. This seems to be the least invasive, most "invisible" method.

As of now, the sword cannot be handled or held by the grip, due to the unstable wood. It moves a lot and I fear it will break in half. I would simply apply a small amount and compress the cracks together and stablize it with no visible residue. I don't need to take it apart to do this. I am thinking that this might be safer way to go.
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Geoff Wood




Location: UK
Joined: 31 Aug 2003

Posts: 634

PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2011 10:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a further thought. IIRC, Polyethylene glycol (PEG) has been used in some cases for preserving/stabilising wooden archeological artifacts. Don't know much more about it, but maybe someone on here will ?

Geoff
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Geoff Wood




Location: UK
Joined: 31 Aug 2003

Posts: 634

PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2011 10:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Carl Massaro wrote:
Thank you, guys. I know one professional who suggested cyano-acrylate (crazy glue) and has used it successfully and sparingly to stablize cracked handles on other antiques. This seems to be the least invasive, most "invisible" method.

As of now, the sword cannot be handled or held by the grip, due to the unstable wood. It moves a lot and I fear it will break in half. I would simply apply a small amount and compress the cracks together and stablize it with no visible residue. I don't need to take it apart to do this. I am thinking that this might be safer way to go.


Hi again
The ' with no visible residue' part is not always easy to achieve with cyanoacrylate glues, based on my personal experience, but maybe I'm just clumsy/unlucky. Best of luck with it anyway, whatever you decide.

Geoff
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Eric W. Norenberg





Joined: 18 Jul 2008

Posts: 265

PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2011 1:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Geoff, I think PEG is typically used to displace water content in wood that is new and green, and prone to cracking as it seasons (for folks carving some of the more fickle hardwood species, for example), or for old wood that is thoroughly waterlogged (i.e.: artifacts from shipwrecks or riverbeds that will begin to deteriorate very quickly as they dry out once brought out of the water). It displaces the water in the cells of the wood, and stays in place and remains volumetrically stable as it dries; basically it lets wet wood dry out while preventing the usual shrinking, warping, and cracking. I just learned of this stuff myself, and it has some intriguing properties - I will soon have my hands on a great deal of fresh-cut holly, and I've had a devil of a time with that wood in the past. Maybe worth further investigation, talking to conservation experts or the manufacturer.

Hendrik, I'm glad you chimed in here, I for one had not considered the possible effects on the metal! Have you any insight in to the use of cyano-acrylates or similar stuff?

My track record with crazy glue ain't so hot... I'd wind up with the wood stuck to my fingers and the steel still on the workbench...


Last edited by Eric W. Norenberg on Tue 21 Jun, 2011 3:08 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Geoff Wood




Location: UK
Joined: 31 Aug 2003

Posts: 634

PostPosted: Tue 21 Jun, 2011 2:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric W. Norenberg wrote:
Geoff, I think PEG is typically used to displace water content in wood that is new and green, and prone to cracking as it seasons (for folks carving some of the more fickle hardwood species, for example), or for old wood that is thoroughly waterlogged (i.e.: artifacts from shipwrecks or riverbeds that will begin to deteriorate very quickly as they dry out once brought out of the water). It displaces the water in the cells of the wood, and stays in place and remains volumetrically stable as it dries; basically it lets wet wood dry out while preventing the usual shrinking, warping, and cracking. I just learned of this stuff myself, and it has some intriguing properties - I will soon have my hands on a great deal of fresh-cut holly, and I've had a devil of a time with that wood in the past. Maybe worth further investigation, talking to conservation experts or the manufacturer.

Hendrick, I'm glad you chimed in here, I for one had not considered the possible effects on the metal! Have you any insight in to the use of cyano-acrylates or similar stuff?

My track record with crazy glue ain't so hot... I'd wind up with the wood stuck to my fingers and the steel still on the workbench...


Eric
Thanks for the explanation. Not much use in this case then. I recall my father using holly for detailed additions on objects because it was such a light (coloured) wood (he was a carpenter - I inherited none of his skills, as my comments so far will have indicated). However, it was used in very small pieces, so the drying issues were not really such a big deal. The only thing I've learned wrt drying new wood is to always leave the bark on as long a possible and let the whole process be very gradual. Anyway, I'll stop digressing now.

Geoff
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Hendrik Kivirand





Joined: 25 Jan 2004

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Wed 22 Jun, 2011 2:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric W. Norenberg wrote:

Hendrik, I'm glad you chimed in here, I for one had not considered the possible effects on the metal! Have you any insight in to the use of cyano-acrylates or similar stuff?

My track record with crazy glue ain't so hot... I'd wind up with the wood stuck to my fingers and the steel still on the workbench...


Superglue is OK, it can be removed by prolonged soaking in water (most variants) or by 70+C heat, if needed. AND it actually CAN be applied sparingly, if care is taken to do it WinkWinkWink. Use the gel version, not liquid one, doesn't dry quite as quickly and doesn't run. Neither will hold on rusty/dusty/whateverdirty surfaces, though (which old cracks in wood tend to be).
But PEG, albeit indeed used for stabilization of wood, should never be used in contact with steel, as it accelerates corrosion. I've seen new rust developing in few years in metal parts of organic artifacts treated with PEG, even though metal parts were stabilized with tannic acid.

Carl, from reading what I said about this weapon, not sure anything actually suitable for handling/using can be made out of this one, decision must be made if you wish your weapon to remain in it's original shape and for or you wish to be able to handle it... Can't always have both.

Best regards,
Hendrik
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Carl Massaro




Location: NY
Joined: 02 Mar 2004

Posts: 87

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jul, 2011 11:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the input, guys. I will have to think this one over.

What do you guys think of these products, Liquid wood and Woodepox?

http://www.abatron.com/building-and-restorati...dwood.html

http://www.abatron.com/building-and-restorati...depox.html

From what I read on the Stanford.edu conservation dlist archives, some conservators use them.

The woodepox comes with a powder dye to tnd the epoxy to the right color.

Would it be wrong to stabilize the handle and professionally re-wrap the grip in wire?

I know this is somewhat of a subjective, philosophical question. Some people like restorations, and some like stabilized, "as-is" artifacts.

Opinions?
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Hadrian Coffin
Industry Professional



Location: Oxford, England
Joined: 03 Apr 2008

Posts: 383

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jul, 2011 11:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

Having dealt in antiques, and collected a fair number... I would most strongly advise you to not "preserve" nor "restore" the item. It is obviously your piece and you can take my advise as you please, but I would suggest at the very least considering my points.

In general there are very few reasons to restore an antique, and on many items even professional restoration can significantly devalue the item. There are exceptions, 1950s Coca-Cola machines for example are increased in value by restorations. Antique swords are not. In restoring an item you are often damaging precious information for future generations. In the case of your sword the fact that the wood hilt is visible could be useful to someone. Most likely one could study it and determine the precise method in which the handle was carved, perhaps even the shape of the tools used. Recovering it would hide these details and provide none of the insite an original wrap would have. Adding a new wrap, and stabilizing the wood may seem a good idea now, but in reality you are not the permanent owner of the piece. Like the swords original owner you will die and eventually the sword will be owned by someone else. Something like this destroys a little bit of history in a permanent manor. Everytime someone does this type of thing another bit is lost. I have a musket in my collection from 1837 that is almost worthless because of so many different owners making "little" changes. Unfortunately you also modify history negatively by restoring an item. There is absolutely no way to prove the exact look of the original wire wrap, and a subtle difference will change the item. Perhaps 500 years from now some proffessor will be doing a study of sword grips and will see your item, with 500 years of age he won't know it was replaced and perhaps it will skew his entire study, thus misinforming a whole generation.

Many of the wood stabilizers have not been tested over long enough periods of time to truly determine their long term effects on antique wood. I have a koummya in my collection that got it's wood handle nicked and someone filled it with a wood putty/epoxy unfortunatly over only the past 10 years it has seriously degraded the wood surrounding it. Somehow eating into it, acid-like.

Lastly why does the sword need it? Its lasted the past few hundred years as it is. Keep it dry and protected, don't alter it.

Best regards,

Hadrian

Historia magistra vitae est
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