Conservation Mixing and Storing Starch Paste

Topic of Preservation and Conservation

Mary Beth van der Horst

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Ok so full disclosure. I still don't use starch paste on everything I honestly should. I am endeavoring to be a better framer and get over the lazy factor. I really just don't feel like cooking it up every single time I need it. I'm looking for tips and tricks on mixing and storing for longevity. I know it could last a week in my fridge, but possibly MUCH longer if mixed under sterile conditions. I'm kicking myself because I know I've read some scientific articles by archivists on this, but now everything I find is behind paywalls.

If you care to share, what's your starch regiment?
Rice, wheat, or other?
How often do you use it and need to make more?
Preferred container?
Do you strain it and what do you use?
Any recommended glue brushes?
While we're at it, what's your preferred hinging paper?
 

Framing Goddess

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We mix it up several times a week. It's so cheap, easy and fast that it is not worth storing it. Sometimes we pop it in the fridge overnight (covered with plastic,) but rarely. We use wheat paste 5 parts water to one part paste and put it in a ceramic mug. Microwave it for 10 seconds, then stir. Microwave it for 20 more seconds or less. The longer you nuke it, the drier it gets . You can always play with that 5 to 1 ratio, you always have to tailor your paste to the paper on which it will be adhered. Very thin paper wants only a wee bit of dry paste, where heavy watercolor paper likes a good sticky, gooey paste. We have lots of weights of mulberry paper on hand. I usually get it at a local Dick Blick or you can order it at Hiromi paper. You can paste two or more layers of paper together (and let dry overnight) for a sturdier hinge.
 

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We use rice starch, with the same water ratio as Edie.
 

Greg Fremstad

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Try putting a glob of cooked wheat starch paste "under water" in a jar. Dip out a bit when you needs it and spread it on a piece of glass to get any lumps out. My paper conservator suggested this years ago.
 

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I use both rice and wheat paste and cook a new batch every time I need it which is usually 2 to 3 times a week. I do not try to save it from day to day, it isn't expensive enough to have the concern about loss and besides you are being paid for hinging, or at least I charge significantly more for hinging.
 

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Rick Granick

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I know the question is about starch paste, but another option is methyl cellulose, although I have found its adhesion isn't as strong as that of paste.
Another more recent addition to the toolbox is Klucel-G, which can be mixed with 90% isopropyl alcohol. It forms a gel which has an indefinite shelf life, and which is used similarly to paste. Hugh Phibbs has written extensively on its use.
:cool: Rick
 

Nikodeumus

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Ok so full disclosure. I still don't use starch paste on everything I honestly should. I am endeavoring to be a better framer and get over the lazy factor. I really just don't feel like cooking it up every single time I need it. I'm looking for tips and tricks on mixing and storing for longevity. I know it could last a week in my fridge, but possibly MUCH longer if mixed under sterile conditions. I'm kicking myself because I know I've read some scientific articles by archivists on this, but now everything I find is behind paywalls.

If you care to share, what's your starch regiment?
Rice, wheat, or other?
How often do you use it and need to make more?
Preferred container?
Do you strain it and what do you use?
Any recommended glue brushes?
While we're at it, what's your preferred hinging paper?
Thanks for posting this Mary Beth.
I have the exact same feelings.
I don't use rice starch every day. Some weeks not at all.
A longer shelf-life/storage solution would be ideal.
 

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I know the question is about starch paste, but another option is methyl cellulose, although I have found its adhesion isn't as strong as that of paste.
Another more recent addition to the toolbox is Klucel-G, which can be mixed with 90% isopropyl alcohol. It forms a gel which has an indefinite shelf life, and which is used similarly to paste. Hugh Phibbs has written extensively on its use.
:cool: Rick
Not here he hasn't.

Here he sang the praises of starch paste over and over and then, on PFM, affter he stopped posting here, he said he had, for a long time, been worried about the edible nature of starch paste - where is that from him, here? It seemed to me that he needed to write something new/different, for his own gain after retiring, which is great if justified but the actual article made no sense and I've seen no sense since, as in an actual "how to" as per there is plenty of on starch paste .... like thou shalt mix 3 grams of this stuff with 10mil of this - blah blah.

It actually makes me laugh here in UK, where nobody - in trade mags/bodies etc etc - has even caught up with the pros of paste over gummed tapes.
 

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Hugh has written about Klucel in PFM magazine, and in several framing groups on facebook.
I don't see his interest in Klucel as mercenary, as he is not selling it. He is interested in advancing the state of the art. I don't understand why you are questioning his motives. He has been well respected in the preservation community for many years.
 

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It was in hs PFM article he said he had for a long time been worried about the edible nature of starch paste. It was a very short time previous that he was saying, here, that it got no better. That's a fact and I wonder why.

It's still all good with the library of congress, well it was last time I checked, not many weeks ago.
 
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He might have been worried about it, but it was the best available at the time. Probably why he kept searching for alternatives.
I see him more as an explorer, I don't know how he gains anything from now recommending Klucel.

I like that there are people who look at other options and do the research for us. We probably don't need it 99% of the time, for the things we frame. I think there are still a lot of framers who don't use hinges and paste as their 'go to'.
I can see the advantages of Klucel.
 

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Hugh's word is/was gospel here and I've quoted him many many times elsewhere. It's just like I said, the concern he mentioned was a big surprise to me and the PFM article describing the new alternative, regards mixing and applying, made no sense to me at all and I've still not seen a good description with pictures/diagrams/mixing ratios etc anywhere. I am however retired so I may not be lookng that hard. A search for Klucel by preservator here has no results.
 

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+1 for methyl cellulose. Been using it for at least 45 years and never seen or heard of a failure in the work I've done. If mixed properly and done with care I think it's plenty strong and shelf life is pretty open ended. I never used the starch pastes. I don't know what the deal is with Hugh Phibbs thoughts on it but I've always thought starch pastes sounded like a potential attraction for bugs and microbes so I just stuck with the MC. I doubt I'm alone in this but of course YMMV.
 

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I've not tried it, but I think you can pre-coat tissue with methyl cellulose and let it dry, then tear to the size you need and re-moisten like a water-activated tape.
Anyone here use it that way?
 

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If you continually took Hugh's classes in person, you watched this decisions on starch paste and Klucel-G slowly change throughout the last couple years. European conservationists switched to Klucel-G long before the US accepted it. Difference in strength is the Klucel-G is that it has stronger Tensile strength (pull strength) vs. starch has stronger tear strength. Also, Hugh is a huge advocate of practicing (with non original work) to find out the best formula and use for you. Also consider the circle Hugh travels in, and that preservation techniques are of top priority. Our framing techniques are both for conserving the piece (keeping as close to original as possible) as well as reselling for client's display.
 

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OK - I was always up for moving on and up and it seems the klucel G thing is all good. I had the microwave starch paste thing an almost daily thing. 1-6 ratio - 10 sec blasts in the mocrowave, blah blah - it's all here. Show me the klucel recipe, preferably with pictures and diagrams. If it's not here on the G .........???
 

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How long do methyl cellulose and Klucel G powders stay usable in unopened bottles?
 

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How long do methyl cellulose and Klucel G powders stay usable in unopened bottles?
I make enough to last months. I'm sure I've used batches that were as old as 6 months, maybe even more. If I suspect contamination or if the consistency seems off I still save it for making inks, it's a great binder for that in fact I suspect the original mat magic inks may have used a MC formula as a binder. I think it could last for years for purposes like that. * Klucel G I have no experience with but it sounds like a good product. Where can you get it?
 

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Thank you for sharing that. It is far more comprehensive than any article I have yet seen and much more specific about the formula and techniques used.

It would seem that using this approach, one could make their own sort of "homemade Hayaku" reactivatable by carefully brushing on isopropyl as described.
You would need to test it for hinging items (not originals, of course) of various weight and textures, as I assume using these for hinging would put them under more stress than they would be under when used for mending.

:coffeedrinker2: Rick
 

Mary Beth van der Horst

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I think I dove down Hugh Phibb's Klucel G rabbit-hole a while back, maybe on Facebook, because I just found a bottle of Klucel I bought a while back and never found the time to use. Assuming I magically find time to play, I will conduct a few experiments myself to compare the pros and cons of wheat starch, methyl cellulose, and klucel-g. Obviously the Klucel is more expensive, but assuming it keeps well, and in theory could have some of the reactivating power of methyl cellulose, the price may be very well justified in the minimum waste expected.

Time... just need more time... Whatever. This thread will be here when I do find the time. I'll get back to you guys eventually!
 

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Thank you for sharing that. It is far more comprehensive than any article I have yet seen and much more specific about the formula and techniques used.

:coffeedrinker2: Rick

Agree! There's enough there to make me want to go buy the gear and try it out. I have to say though - have yet to hear a horror story about bugs getting in to frames and eating the starch pasted hinges - or even more exposed things. Still - it would be another weapon in the armoury and great in your marketting to show you're keeping up with what's new

.
 

Mary Beth van der Horst

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I broke out the Klucel G Monday/Tues to see if I could make some of my own "tape" like in the article posted. Despite a few blunders, I think it was a success!
I have some methyl cellulose on the way. I intend to try the same method and compare once it gets here. For now, I'll post my method and results for Klucel G Mulberry Tape.

Materials:
Lineco Klucel G
91% Isopropyl Alcohol
100% Thai Kozo Hinging Tissue(20gsm), torn down into strips

Monday evening I put about 1 tsp of Klucel in a jar and added 4 liquid oz of isopropyl. Shook it up real good and started noticing the crystals blooming nicely.... and then I realized that was the suggested ratio for leather consolidation... not making paste for paper adhesion. Realized the ACTUAL ratio should have been closer to a 1:2 and more specifically it should be weight:volume, but not having any scales around... we went with a 1:2 volume ratio. In my defense, my brain was still sputtering out from staying up too late eating Halloween candy the night before. Since it had already started gellifying, I had to stir in the additional Klucel and let it all settle out overnight. By morning it looked like an extra thick hand sanitizer from all the bubbles I introduced while stirring... no longer frosty but clear with bubbles.

IMG_0865[1].JPG IMG_0867[1].JPG IMG_0872[1].JPG <--pics show initial blooming, second concentration, and clearing up the next morning.


I scraped a bit out with a pallet knife onto a piece of glass and used one of my razor blades to draw it out as thin and even as I could across the surface. I had already taken my mulberry paper and tore it down into little 1x3 and 1/2 x 3 pieces. I just stuck them down onto the pasty glass, covered them with a scrap of acetate, and ran a brayer across to make sure the goop made a full contact with each piece of paper. Once satisfied there weren't any air bubbles, I took the acetate off and set the glass panes to the side to dry. I got distracted with something or other, but they were all dry within an hour or two. From there, I took my razor blade again and scored between each piece of paper since the Klucel goop made a fine film across the whole pane. I could also scrape the edge of each piece of tape up with the razor blade. Once started, each was pretty easy to pull off the glass even just by hand.
IMG_0869[1].JPG IMG_0871[1].JPG IMG_0870[1].JPG

The real test was using the Klucel tape after all that prep! I had a couple of tiny intaglios that my client wanted floatmounted. For whatever reason, I couldn't convince her to just do a normal mat over the edges, so I had to float mount them on a solid mat with a tiny reveal around them. I hate floats.... I second guess and have to re-teach myself every time. I decided to try 4 hinges on the larger etching(1/side) and 2 on the smaller(top/bottom). I laid each print face down, laid a little strip of mylar along each edge just to mask the outermost 1/4", and then I used a brush to apply isopropyl right to the end of the tape(about 1/4") and attached that to the edges of the back of the print, just beyond the edge protected by mylar. I thought I might have to blot it dry or something, but nope! Just make it stick real good with your finger. If you want to apply pressure, lay another little strip of plastic ontop so it doesn't adhere, and put a lil weight on it for a minute. The hinge was dry in no time at all though, and the bond was really strong! I cut slits in my solid mat just barely inside where the edges of the print needed to lay, and I fed the free ends of each hinge through. I took turns tugging on each hinge until the print was centered where it needed to be. Since the activatable side of the tape was now facing the back of my mounting mat, I figured, why bother with a T-hinge... they are so so small? I just wet the end of the tape and stuck it down to the back of the mat.
IMG_0873[1].JPG IMG_0874[1].JPG

AND NOW.... I have a little pouch full of Klucel tape ready to rock and roll... as well as a large jar of Klucel gel in case I need to make more. I'll periodically try to make more from the same batch to test how long it really lasts, and if my seal is proper enough. I suspect it shouldn't mold or anything, but considering the strength of the final concentration and the dubious nature of this walmart latch jar, I could envision adding a tiny amount of alcohol to the jar and letting it disperse overnight once every few months, just so it's easier to work with.
 

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That is a really well-done test and demo Mary Beth.
I have bookmarked that post so I can refer to it when/if I get the time to try this myself.
Thanks for putting in the effort and sharing with us.
You are officially a Master Hinger!
martial arts fire GIF by Parlophone Records
 

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Realized the ACTUAL ratio should have been closer to a 1:2 and more specifically it should be weight:volume, but not having any scales around... we went with a 1:2 volume ratio.
So are you saying that the mixture should be 1 tsp of Klucel G to 2 tsp of alcohol? If so doesn't that make the mixture way to stiff?
 

Mary Beth van der Horst

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So are you saying that the mixture should be 1 tsp of Klucel G to 2 tsp of alcohol? If so doesn't that make the mixture way to stiff?
That is indeed the ratio I ended up mixing. I added 11 tsp after I realized I messed up, for a final mixture of 12 tsp klucel to 24 tsp(4oz) alcohol. It was a thick paste but still able to smear with the razor blade. This is why I mentioned the correct ratio should be calculated by weight, as I have realized now the relative weight of klucel is heavier than water.
 

Joe B

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That is indeed the ratio I ended up mixing. I added 11 tsp after I realized I messed up, for a final mixture of 12 tsp klucel to 24 tsp(4oz) alcohol. It was a thick paste but still able to smear with the razor blade. This is why I mentioned the correct ratio should be calculated by weight, as I have realized now the relative weight of klucel is heavier than water.
I have just tried mixing that way and it is really clumpy. Does it get smoother once it sits for awhile? Are you pre-making your hinges or are you doing one at a time? I tried a hinge just now with your mixture - darn, even at my age I learn something new every day:) Thank you for the information.
 
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Mary Beth van der Horst

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I have just tried mixing that way and it is really clumpy. Does it get smoother once it sits for awhile? Are you pre-making your hinges or are you doing one at a time? I tried a hinge just now with your mixture - darn, even at my age I learn something new every day:) Thank you for the information.
Every single resource I referenced suggested leave it alone overnight to let the alcohol fully disperse throughout the gel. At the very least, several hours. I'm so excited someone else is learning with me! :D

I ended up making a few dozen hinges and letting them all dry before trying any out. Just brush some fresh alcohol on to reactivate and make sure it penetrates the paper fibers real nice.
 

Joe B

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Just brush some fresh alcohol on to reactivate and make sure it penetrates the paper fibers real nice.
Another thing I really like is that if you reactivate the hinge it will easily be removed from the art. I am trying a couple of other mixtures too, maybe so it won't be so clumpy? I have 2 additional mixtures made up just to see what the outcome is and if it will hold as well as the 1:2 mixture. I've mixed 1:3 & 1:4. I will try a 1:6 when I get another jar available.
 

Mary Beth van der Horst

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Another thing I really like is that if you reactivate the hinge it will easily be removed from the art. I am trying a couple of other mixtures too, maybe so it won't be so clumpy? I have 2 additional mixtures made up just to see what the outcome is and if it will hold as well as the 1:2 mixture. I've mixed 1:3 & 1:4. I will try a 1:6 when I get another jar available.
Excellent! Please let me know how the dilutions compare. I've been rereading scientific articles this weekend trying to recalculate, but they don't make much sense at 2am when my motivation peaks and the brain has already shut down. I already had it in my head to order more klucel and jars and do exactly what you are doing, but I most certainly don't mind you beating me to the punch!
 

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Please let me know how the dilutions compare.
Ok, for the comparisons -
  • 2 tsp Klucel G to 4 oz of alcohol...humm...applied after 2 hours of mixture easily removed when dried. 20 hours later after mixing...Paste smooth and can be applied with brush, attached nicely and secure when dried. No cockling of light paper.
  • 3 tsp Klucel G to 4 oz of alcohol...applied after 2 hours of mixture slightly harder to remove when dried than with the 2 tsp mixture. 20 hours later after mixing...Paste minimal clumps and difficult to apply with brush, attached nicely and secure when dried. No cockling of light paper.
  • 4 tsp Klucel G to 4 oz of alcohol...after 2 hours of mixture harder to remove after dried. 20 hours later after mixing...Clumpy and cannot be applied with brush, attached nicely and secure when dried. No cockling of light paper.
  • 6 tsp Klucel G to 4 oz of alcohol...after 2 hours of mixture firm after dried. 20 hours later after mixing...very Clumpy and must be applied with blade, attached nicely and tightly secured when dried. No cockling of light paper.
I suggest you do your own testing to be sure of what mixture works best for you. NOW WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL OF THIS PASTE :CRAZED::CRAZED::CRAZED::CRAZED::CRAZED::CRAZED:
 

Mary Beth van der Horst

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@Joe B , thank you for taking one for the team! So the actual dilutions you made were (by volume) 1:12, 1:8, 1:6, and 1:4 in addition to the 1:2 I originally made. (24 tsp=4 oz)
It sounds like we can use less Klucel to the same effect. After hinges were dry, did all of the dilutions have about the same holding effect? Or am I correct by interpreting that the holding power of the weakest 2 was noticable less?
 

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Or am I correct by interpreting that the holding power of the weakest 2 was noticable less?
The holding power of the 2 tsp to 4 oz after letting the mixture sit for 20 hours before applying to the hinge appears to be as strong as any of the others mixtures. All mixtures after the 20 hour resting period were strong...it's just that the 2 tsp mixture was easier to apply. The only mixture that didn't have clumps was the 2 tsp mixture.

On all of the mixtures I applied the paste to the hinge after about 2 hours of waiting and the 2 & 3 tsp mixtures did NOT hold strongly, in fact the hinges peeled right off. IMO it is imperative that you allow the mixtures to rest at the very least 20 hours before use. After that 20 hours of mixture rest, before applying the hingers, made all the mixtures strong. I had not cockling of the paper on any of the hinges.

The one question I still have...every time you open the container you are allowing the alcohol to evaporate. Can/should we add more alcohol after a few times of opening???

and again - Do your own testing, I don't want anyone to have issues if something were to go wrong when using my findings.
 
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Mary Beth van der Horst

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The holding power of the 2 tsp to 4 oz after letting the mixture sit for 20 hours before applying to the hinge appears to be as strong as any of the others mixtures. All mixtures after the 20 hour resting period were strong...it's just that the 2 tsp mixture was easier to apply. The only mixture that didn't have clumps was the 2 tsp mixture.

On all of the mixtures I applied the paste to the hinge after about 2 hours of waiting and the 2 & 3 tsp mixtures did NOT hold strongly, in fact the hinges peeled right off. IMO it is imperative that you allow the mixtures to rest at the very least 20 hours before use. After that 20 hours of mixture rest, before applying the hingers, made all the mixtures strong. I had not cockling of the paper on any of the hinges.

The one question I still have...every time you open the container you are allowing the alcohol to evaporate. Can/should we add more alcohol after a few times of opening???

and again - Do your own testing, I don't want anyone to have issues if something were to go wrong when using my findings.
Yes, I will do some further testing myself, but you really helped me ballpark how far down we can change the ratio.

I have thought more about the evaporation thing when the jar opens. For the most part, it will already be in a gel-state when opening the jar to scoop more out. I think the exposure should be minimal, and due to the solid state, it will have a harder time evaporating than liquid alcohol. In theory, much of the alcohol is bound into a matrix with the Klucel, and it will have a hard time naturally escaping except by drawing out greater surface area, such as we do by drawing out on glass in a thin layer. Conversely, it can be hard to incorporate additional alcohol to disperse into the solution due to the same solid state, but will have to experiment to confirm. I know this is true with Klucel's relationship to water, as inferred from THIS ARTICLE, but it seems that there are differences in solubility and reprecipitation when using water vs other organic solvents. In conclusion, if we can find a happy medium ratio between 1:12 and 1:2, even if evaporation happens, it will draw the solution closer to the 1:2 that we know is THICC AF, but still perfectly effective.

Going back to the article that you had posted in #20, it seems the solution they had made with no appreciable weakness was about 8% ("16 g of Klucel G powder with 200 ml solution") I guess I still gotta get some scales to figure out what that means volume-wise. Looking back at the bottle of Klucel I got from Lineco, they actually do suggest the full obscene strength that I originally made: "Use about twice as much alcohol as powder, shake vigorously in closed jar, and leave overnight"
 

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You all convinced me to order some Klucel G. I had to order some more Japanese paper from Talas anyway so I added on 1/4 pound to play around with. You are truly a wealth of information that benefits us all.

Thanks so much!
James
 

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Personally, I believe the biggest benefit of using Klucel G is that the alcohol evaporates so quickly that the art will not get the cockling or the pillow (raised) effect that you can get from hinging with rice or wheat paste. Of course I will be testing and using Klucel G on my own art before I use it on my customers.:oops:
 

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By the way - this just crossed my mind. The alcohol I used is 99% Isopropyl Alcohol. I do not know if the 91% or less will effect the mixtures.
 

Mary Beth van der Horst

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Myrtle Beach, SC
By the way - this just crossed my mind. The alcohol I used is 99% Isopropyl Alcohol. I do not know if the 91% or less will effect the mixtures.
Shouldn't make much of a difference for dissolution. You are practically using lab-grade stuff. Most applications in the papers we referenced were using 91%, 95%, and 97%, which is more readily affordable and available... Remember Klucel is essentially soluble in water as well, which is what the remainder percentage is. Looping back around to the evaporation issue, your solution probably dries a bit faster than mine due to the lack of water content, but probably not enough to make significant observations about.
 

Manny Costa

True Grumbler
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Jun 12, 2020
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toronto
here's a little post i made on social media about a year ago upon switching to glucel G

Moving forward, I'll only be mounting with fine Japanese tissue hinges and Glucel G adhesives for all works on paper.
Previously, I did what many framers do - use the pressure-sensitive tapes (PSTs) that are found in almost all art stores. PSTs or gummed adhesive tapes (which are activated with water) aren't terrible products. They were actually developed to overcome the difficulties that come with traditional wheat paste mounting. That said, they aren't as archival as advertised on the labels. Even more importantly, they're prone to failure over time. The thought of receiving a phone call years from now from a customer whose work didn't hold up was reason enough to make the change. For me, this switch to more traditional methods also represents my growth as a picture framer. For many years, wheat and rice paste adhesives have been known (and are still considered by many) to be the most archival method of paper repair or mounting. But if not used correctly, they can lead to costly errors such as cockling or cause damage to the paint surface. The latter happens when the water used isn't properly exhumed. Any moisture that you introduce into the artwork must be properly removed and this process requires in-depth knowledge as well as more time. PST tapes were created so that artists and framers could mount much more safely and save time, but their manufacturers are playing with you a little when they say they're 100% "archival" or "acid-free" on the labels. It's kind of like how we were taught to drink orange juice for vitamin C...but weren't necessarily told how much sugar we're consuming. In recent years, world-renowned paper conservators have begun to practice archival framing with the use of Glucel G, which is said to be a "non-ionic adhesive that is soluble in both water and alcohol, which dries clear and is very flexible." Glucel G adhesives are used in the same manner as wheat paste but they have the extra benefit of being soluble with pure alcohol. By using pure alcohol, the solvent flashes and dries before it can cause any issue. Put simply, you don't see the same problems that many faces with water-soluble adhesives
 
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