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Preservation question


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Jun 11, 2004
Edwardsburg, MI
I'm in the process of cleaning and restoring two frames that are over 100 years old and are encasements for extinct species of birds...two woodcox and two pheasants. The customer brought them to me to replace a fluted convex glass that had broken, replace the velvet covered oval mats and generally clean and do minor restoration of the antique decorative frames.

I was able to have the custom glass made and in disassembling the package I noticed that the rabbet of the frame had some type of a glazing compound applied...maybe as a sealant.

My question...Is it necessary to replace this compound to preserve the birds? Does it act as a barrier to keep airflow down and is this necessary for preservation of the contents?

Inside the package is an oil painting backdrop, natural vegetation and the carcasses which have, according to the notes on the back, been expertly taxidermied.

I'm going to call a local taxidermist who may have some answers, but any experienced Grumbler input would be appreciated.

Dave Makielski
I guess you're asking whether you should put a sealant on the rabbet.

The quick answer is yes. In framing, there are two absolute barriers against chemical migration: glass and metal. I suggest using Lineco's rabbet lining tape; a paper-backed foil tape made for the purpose.

The barrier tape serves to keep lignin and possibly other contaminants in the wood from ofgassing into the frame package.
More info...I did call a local well known taxidermist who said that air is not so much a concern as sealing the package against insect pests and dust, etc. He was excited to come down and see how well they stood the test of time.

Any other input?

Dave Makielski
Dave, by your description, I think you are talking more about the glass "caulking" then you are about any lignin migration that may occur after 100 years of being perfectly fine so far.

Back in the early 70s I was walked through this very thing by the conservators at the Huntington Library and the Getty.

[And might I add, there is no glazing as beautiful as that florentine fluted glass.... it's a pity that someone can't replicate that and coat for museum glass.]

The "glazing compound" is/was exactly that. If it was still ply-able after 100 years, then it may have been a precursor to "plumbers dope". Both were used with the fluted glass and sometime even with flat glass.

Yes it was to seal against air migration, as well as bug infestation.

I am currently working on two pieces that pre-date the 20th century. One is a needle wool needle work that dates into 1790.

In order to combat against bugs in 1878 when it was re-framed, the glass was puttied (glazing compound) and the backing is layers of newsprint (pre-wood-pulp...rag paper) interleaved with cornstarch like substance. [which I have sent out for identification.]

As for the glazing compound on the flute, it was there specifically because of the uneven surface contact of the glass. Even though you are replacing it with a "flat surfaced glass", I would think that a small bead of glazing compound may be in order.

Maybe Hugh will be along her soon and kill this thread with the definitive take on which to do.

I am all for sealing tight because of the bug attracting nature of the birds. I think I would also consider Jim Millers propenscity for clear package sealing tape to seal the back before the dust cover, which I would use Tyvek or Cambrick.
Originally posted by Dave:
Any other input?
Well, yes, now that you mention it.

Keeping insects out may be a bigger-than-usual issue. The critters attracted to organic frame contents are known to chew through dustcovers and filler boards in pursuit of their favorite foods. So, it may be a good idea to use Marvelseal or some other kind of sheet-metallic barrier, sealed to the frame package, under your dustcover.

For example, you could assemble your glazing, mats, backing/reinforcement/filler boards/Marvelseal into a package, and then use the Lineco tape to tightly seal the edges.

As I recall from Hugh Phibbs's class, the Marvelseal may be used to completely seal the frame package, to the extent that it would be watertight. Run a thin line of electrical-grade hotmelt glue all around the glazing's edge. Then wrap the entire package in Marvelseal, and then use a tacking iron to attach it to the hotmelt on the glass.

Note that if you completely seal the frame, it will be necessary to condition all hygroscopic contents to a moisture content of about 20%. Otherwise, you could end up building a fancy terrarium -- complete with clouds, mold & mildew inside.
Thanks, Jim and Baer, great input and just what I was looking for.

I think I have good air sealing due to the fact that the glass is right up against the velvet liner and, after removing the linen fabric used to encase the back, I covered and held in place the existing package with Cor-X board on top of tin straps (existing). I will seal the edge of the Cor-X as suggested. The frame itself does not come within two inches of the encasement where the birds are located so I don't believe lignins would be a problem. I used acid free fom-cor to wrap the new velvet oval liner around.

Yes, Baer, the florentine fluted glass is beautiful. I was going to have In-Line Ovals duplicate the existing intact piece, but unfortunately my client had the glass made himself by someone in the Seattle area and it doesn't come close to the original in quality. I think In-Line would have done a better job.

I'll try to post a couple pictures when I get a minute.

Dave Makielski
Careful when handling the contents Dave as liberal application of arsnic was commonly used right up to the 1930's and later, as an insecticidal preservative with stuffed birds and animals. It's very likely that some would migrate to other parts of the frame interior. Wash yer hands often.


Thanks, I read this as I'm eating a sandwich! I'll go wash thoroughly now.


You've saved my life often, but not quite this literally!

Dave Makielski
In fact, I'm going to search Google now for info on the symptons of arsenic poisoning just to be safe!


Dave Makielski
How di yer spil desoreirtasion?


I'm still here!

Dave Makielski
Ok Baer you mentioned it and I am asking...Cambrick ...what is this? Not heard of it and I know you are always finding new stuff so out with it!!!

He's probably referring to cambric which is a basic cotton cloth used for certain types of needlework. I remember my mother had some cambric table cloths that had stitching on them when I was a kid.

I think that furniture makers used it years ago to cover the bottoms of chairs and couches and box springs so dust and dirt wouldn't go in or come outof the furniture and it sort of finished off the look of the furniture.

(If you happened to be lying on your back with your head under the couch, you would possibly already know about this stuff.)

what am I reading about now..keeping insects out..out of where...your house? Is this really a problem where your at??? You got bugs in your house?
what will it be next? Reading the grumble has become an entertaining experience for me.. Sort of like an ongoing soap opera. Bugs...really, geesh!
PL, the Cambrick I am refering to is not the "cambric cloth" Framerguy is remembering. [That was a cotton/linen blend]

Cambrick is a polyester blend cloth that replaced the old cotton fiber cambric cloth. It indeed still is used by the furniture industry for the same usage, it is just now an inert fabric instead of a silver fish bait.

The weave is very tough and then "fulled" to make it kind of fuzzy to filter out dust into the micron level. It comes in black and 54" wide. 50 yards will cost you about $100 from Frank's Fabric. [same cost as Tyvek which is only 36" wide and slippery white].

Tyvek is also a polyester blend and made similar to felt, in that it is an "unwoven" cloth.

Both have the nice trait of beind untearable.
Ok so is Frank's the only one carrying this? Has it been used in framing before? For how long? And is this the new deal...I think of myself as pretty hip and knowing for the most part, this is the first I have heard of this.

Why would one use Tyvek and why would one use Cambrick-just the size limitations? Or is there certain things that work better with this than Tyvek...Sorry I am interested. You know if you bring it up we got to get answers.

Tyvek is 36" and VERY WHITE. :eek:

Cambrick is black and very 54" wide. :D

What I like the most of Cambrick is that I can take my roller out of its plastic sack, and roll some Frank's Fabric Adhesive on the back of the frame and roll out the Cambrick faster than you can use an ATG gun and at 1/10 the cost.

As to anyone else selling it? "Blind Bambi" [no eye deer.... no idea... :D ]

I know that United sells Tyvek at something like $2.50/yd but I doubt if they sell Cambric.

But either way, what's important to me is that Frank sells Cambrick. But maybe that's because Frank started the whole idea of providing fabric to framers and is the only one who devotes his waking moments to thinking about what framers might need in the way of fabric. [as we surpass 600+ fabrics, textures, and colors].
Ok I am more educated...if that makes sense? Thanks I will have to try some of this to see what I am missing. So you use the roller and glue method still for tha back of your frames? I did not think people still did that on a regular basis. Is there an advantage to that? I would think it could get messy? And how do you only focus on the back of the moulding? I think it would be very easy to get it on the foam core/backing material?

Just wondering\\

Narrow roller. Or just be careful. In this case it was a 3" wide moulding.

When using Krapaper on narrow frames, still use ATG. I just like gluing down Cambrick. It sticks better, because ATG doesn't stick to fabric and visa versa.

But then, if you ever take my class, you would know the mantra. :D