Topaze Test 2:

As part of the Figurehead conservation project we were instructed to carry out analysis of the structural stability and condition of the collection. After considering the usual analytical techniques available to us, we could not find an option suitable for the scale of the figureheads, with the largest measuring over 4 metres tall.

After researching analytical techniques used in other professions associated with large scale objects composed of damaged wood/timber, we looked into Sonic Tomography. Designed for measuring decay cavities within living tree stems, the technique is ordinarily used to assess the condition of a tree. We hoped that the technique could be transferred to our large timber sculptures.

After carrying out tests, we compared the tomographs to areas of the figurehead which we could access internally. The results were accurate and gave a good indication as to the internal condition of the timber. Unfortunately for Topaze, the condition was found to be severely degraded, yielding very little structural integrity to the sculpture. We have now begun taking her apart into the constituent blocks that she was made from in order to conserve each section before reassembling around a new armature.

Sonic Tomography on Figurehead at Orbis Conservation