Notoriously difficult to work with, Boulle objects can prove to be very challenging due to the different properties of the combined materials. A Boulle work clock case recently conserved at Orbis proved to be no exception.
Although arriving in the studio in an extremely degraded condition we were able to transform it into a beautiful decorative object once again.
Water damaged, covered in corrosion with multiple losses and evidence of poor historic repairs, the first job was to remove all mounts and non-original material. The wooden structure was badly damaged and required reconstruction in areas of loss. We also discovered that up to 40% of the original brass was missing.
After cleaning and consolidation the missing areas were traced and then templates made for the replacement brass. Using precision laser cutting techniques, replacement sections were made and then refined and finished traditionally, where required, using a piercing saw. Before attachment the brass elements were engraved to match the original sections.
Buckled water damaged turtle-shell was softened and removed, immersion in hot water revealing its amazing natural thermoplastic properties. When warm and pliable it could be smoothly re-laid on a pre painted surface, and when cleaned, its depth of colour returned.
Losses of turtle shell were filled and the fills painted using multiple layers of transparent glazes in order to re-create the shells characteristic luminous quality.
The heavily tarnished ormolu mounts were treated with a buffered chelating agent. When reassembled the whole object was then polished with traditional pigment based paste and finally protected with a layer of micro-crystalline wax.
This project was a great opportunity to use the very latest technology and scientific approaches coupled with established historical techniques to find solutions to complex conservation problems.