Gothic Revival Ebonized Parcel Gilt Side Chair

Accession # F.528.1

'Iolani Palace
Honolulu, Hawai'i

Walnut side chair with abrasions, deep sanding scratches, structural separations, layers of finish, overlaying adhesive residues, and partial gilding.

Treatment and Findings:

Upholstery and upholstery tacks removed.  Upon removal of the tacks, it became apparent that termites had breached many of the holes from within the wood structures.  Dowel pins holding the side rails to the chair back were completely eaten/hollowed out.  “Wood dough” type fill materials were found in some areas.  Corner blocks, one of which was missing, were relatively undamaged.

Prior to paint removal, tack holes and exposed (open) termite exit holes, dowel holes, and  collapsed termite galleries were injected/filled[i] to lessen permeation of solvent borne paint residues into hollowed areas of the frame.

Finish removed with a commercial methylene chloride/MeOH paint remover.  Finish consisted largely of oil-based paints (at least two layers), which swelled and came off unevenly and with difficulty.  Bottom layer(s), where present, appeared to be binder-lean, pigment-rich.  Areas of gilding came off with difficulty as the gilding acted as a barrier to the solvents. 

All of the over gilding was done with what appeared to be a bituminous/asphaltum sizing that was little effected by the stripper.  Various solvents were tried to remove this layer and a combination of mineral spirits and xylenes eventually succeeded.  A partial layer of what was likely the original gilding remained below in the pierced quatrefoils.  These areas required multiple applications of stripper to finally clear.  All surfaces were then cleared with commercial lacquer thinner on cotton rags.

Numerous newly exposed holes were injected/filled as before and the entire frame was sanded to 320 grit.  At this point additional exposed or collapsed areas of termite damage were again filled and then sanded.  In order to withstand handling, areas of collapsed bead trim were filled[ii] and built up from a slightly stronger mixture than that used elsewhere.

The filled dowel holes were drilled out, new dowels cut to length, chair reassembled with hide glue and clamped. Replacement corner block fabricated from walnut and installed to inside seat rail-to-back with hide glue.

Chair was then sealed with three thin coats of clear sanding sealer lacquer[iii] and sanded as before.  Chair was resealed as before and spray coated with black lacquer.

With the wood now smooth, sealed and glossy black, a number of hitherto unfilled termite exit holes were visible and had to be injected/sealed with filler.  These areas were then sanded, resealed and lacquered black.  Entire chair was rubbed down with 0000 steel wool and re-lacquered black due to thin, unevenly black areas.

A photograph of the right front leg was taken to ‘Iolani Palace and compared with one of the other original chairs to accurately plot gilding boundaries.  While plotting out the boundaries, it became apparent that the pigment of the black paint used on the original chairs was noticeably darker and cooler than that applied to the chair being worked on.  In order to correct difference in color/shade, black Orasol ® dye was mixed with 2-propanol/actetone and added to clear gloss lacquer and spray applied to entire chair.

Areas to be gilt were sized with Rolco ® Quick Size and leafed in 23 ½ Kt gold leaf.  Leafed areas were then sealed by brush applications of Acryloid ® B-72 acrylic resin.  All sealed surfaces were then paste waxed and polished.

[i] Phenolic and silica microballoon (50:50) :Epotek 301 ® epoxy resin:hexane:2-propanol  ~ 50:30:15:5(v/v)
[ii] As above at ~ 60:40:0:0(v/v).
[iii] Cellulose nitrate based lacquers used throughout.

Collapsed termite eaten areas in seat rail - front left leg

Back left leg

After treatment


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