Description: Hand carved, early kou wood umeke, measuring approximately 8 ¼” H x 10 ¼” W.  Numerous wooden butterfly and small lozenge inserts cover major cracks on bowl sides. One round and a triangular patch are above each other at/below the middle of the bowl; a square patch is in the bottom center.  Losses exist along many of the old cracks with a major[i] deep and wide loss along the outside rim. A steel brad head protrudes from one of the butterfly patches. Several of the cracks that come to the rim are slightly loose and flex. Many of the losses have been filled with what appears to be shellac[ii]. Bowl appears to have been finished with shellac, outside and in, with a “non drying” oil [iii]applied over the older shellac finish.  Overall, dirty/dull in appearance.

Condition/Areas of concern:  Cracks at rim that are significantly loose. Protruding brad-head in butterfly patch. Unstable shellac fills. Overall dirty/dullness of finish.


Treatment: Stabilize obviously loose cracks in rim with hide glue. Remove brad from butterfly patch and fill loses with bulked/tinted PVOH filler. Stabilize loose old shellac fills with polar solvents. Removal of surface coating (non dying oil) with non-polar solvents down to shellac layer.  Solvent wash (non-polar) inside of bowl to lessen oil over shellac. Paste wax all.

[i] Loss slopes nearly horizontally from edge and intersects one butterfly patch.  Loss measures roughly 1 1⁄2” L x 3/8-1⁄2” W.

[ii] Many of these fills have lost their adhesion to the wood and become cracked/crazed.

[iii] Presence of silicone is very obvious and may interfere with subsequent attempts to finish. Silicone is a seriously damaging contaminant (likely from spray waxes) that can often preclude finishing materials or adhesives from adhering satisfactorily to the object’s surface.



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Conservation of Historic Furniture & Objects
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