How to Restore Antique Frames

Should you chance to get an original Monet or Rembrandt, any damage to the frame is priceless proof of the job’s history and should be preserved — not restored. But less auspicious old frames are not so valuable and will gain in attractiveness, not lose value, when you restore them into appealing condition. As soon as you’ve determined it’s secure to restore your antique frame, consult with an expert framer for a costly heirloom, or choose the appropriate repair method for this fantastic old frame from the loft.

Loose Joints

An antique frame is old — a little loose at the joints and worn around the edges. Clean up it carefully, to avoid further damage, by draining the frame with a clean paintbrush, then wiping it down with a soft cloth dampened with nonflammable solvent. Test the cleaner on an unobtrusive part of the frame first to be sure that you won’t damage or remove the finish. Label the parts of the frame and then gently disassemble it so that you can scrape off the dried, useless glue, reapply clear carpenter’s glue and fit the pieces back together. Measure to be sure the frame is perfectly square; frame straps will maintain the corners in place as the adhesive dries. Heavier frames may require metal corner braces to reinforce them — brass won’t discolor the old wood.

Gouged, Chipped and Cracked

A frame fancier than a wedding cake, with a couple of bits missing, demands prosthetic assistance. Create missing segments in sculpted and carved frames with gesso or tape glue. Materials a crack or a lost chunk with the compound, and copy the detail on the undamaged part of the frame. Use a toothpick, painting knifeor your fingers to mold the new piece. Once it dries rock-hard, a fine nail file smooths off any rough edges. You are able to replace a larger missing section by making a silicone putty mold of a similar, undamaged piece of the frame, filling the mold with resin and then gluing the resin replicate into the gap.

Straightforward Scratches

Do not tear the frame apart and reconstruct it if it’s just scratched or dented a little bit. Simply touch up it — evidence of wear is part of its charm. Dust and wash out the frame, and then dab on fitting wood stain or a liquid scratch remover on any distress to the varnish or lacquer. Use a fine artist’s brush or a cotton swab to apply the correct; cover your own finger with a sterile cloth to wash off excess end. You may require a touch-up with some glossy or matte varnish so the repaired segment mimics the glow of the remaining part of the frame.

Dirty Gold

Gold leaf is fragile and tricky to use, but you are able to wash an antique gold leaf frame that period has dimmed with a half-and-half mixture of ammonia and water. Proceed carefully, working the solution to cracks, corners and carvings with a delicate brush. Shake the frame above a trash bin to release any dirt. Proceed over the cleaned place with a different brush and plain water, and then shake it again. Rubbing gold foliage could remove it from the frame, so allow the washed framework dry naturally. Dab wax gilt finish from the art supply shop on any scratches to cover them. Extensive scratches may require a reapplication of the golden leaf, likely a job for an expert. If you’re able to handle it yourself, make sure you match the antiqued quality of the gold colour as closely as possible with fresh silver foliage.

See related