An extremely challenging four month treatment of one of our figureheads has had brilliant results. Following on from the sonic tomography which was conducted on Topaze, we discovered she was in much worse condition than first expected due to being encapsulated in fiberglass resin in a prior restoration 50 years ago. Unsurprisingly, this caused water to be trapped and the brown rot to completely dominate the five metre wooden structure.

This rot had caused innumerable damage to the timber, with next to no sound timber remaining. Following our consolidation tests and analysis, we decided the treatment would require us to open up Topaze, by cutting her into two halves in order to remove the bulk of the rotted and soaked timber.

Many of the moisture content (MC) readings taken on Topaze were 90% and upwards, so the drying process needed to be carefully controlled in large humidity chambers to minimize any further damage through drying out too quickly and unevenly. When a suitable MC was arrived at, the rotten timber was given an initial consolidation treatment throughout, which was then repeated again once MC reached 20%. This process allowed us to save the outermost shell of Topaze, in the region of 25-50mm, which was intially fully rotted timber, importantly enabling all the original carvings that had existed in the timber to be saved.

We have now started to reassemble these sections with wonderful results, with all the pieces fitting back together exactly as they did before. Our daily dimensional record keeping of all the pieces of Topaze throughout the treatment process has shown that there has been no dimensional change in any of the sections thanks to the slow drying and consolidation treatment. We can now start to make Topaze whole again and she will now be structurally sound enough to be hung centre stage in her new home.

Orbis Conservation