Some of you might know that i am getting pretty handy with antique frame restorations. This skill developped after years of practice on either mirrors or picture frames That i have picked on markets in France.
Antique French frames, are generally made of a wooden frame decorated with relief plaster moldings. Those moldings tend to be quite fragile, and finding antique frames in pristine condition can be quite hard and pricy. It is a lot easier and cheaper to let yourself fall in love with a slightly damaged frame, and take on the task to restaure it yourself!
I have been often asked, by customers and friends, how to restore frames and what materials were used. Being a visual person , i always felt that my explanations fell a bit short and were probably a bit tricky to understand. Surely a step by step tutorial would be a lot more efficient and ” beginners friendly”?
So here it is! The perfect project for my first restoration tutorial, with step by step pictures on how to bring an antique frame back to life!!
1. The basic concept of this restoration is to replace the holes (where the molding is gone) with a copy made out of plaster. To do so, you need to make sure that the frame has enough good original (preserved) areas , which can be used as a template.
2. All moldings have a pattern. make sure to recognise which part of the pattern you are missing, and find it again on the good, preserved area. Using plasticine (a sort of modeling clay which doesn’t dry) take a cast of the area. Making sure to use enough of the clay, and leave a thick, flat surface on the top (this will come in handy later once it has to stand flat on a table)
ps: There are several kind of plasticine, i use a fairly hard one, for this part. It soften up with a bit of heat, to make it easy to use…but hardens once it cools down. This way it keeps its shape better for later. A soft plasticine has a tendency to create deformed casts.
3. Once you have made copies of all the parts that are missing, carefully remove the plasticine from the frame, and try not to deform the shape of the mold. make sure the mold is straight and flat on the table.
4. Using a softer plasticine, create some walls at the end of each mold, to make sure they will be no leaks for the plaster later
5. Pour the liquid plaster in the molds. Shake the mold a little, to remove any potential bubbles and smoothen the top surface to make it as flat and straight as possible.
Ps: I always use a mix of plaster of Paris, water and wood glue. it makes the plaster dry a little bit slower, which is always welcome, but it also hardens the cast and makes it more sturdy once completely dry.
6. Before the cast is completely dry, seperate, as carefully as possible, the plasticine from the plaster.
ps: clean the used plasticine carefully, and store for a later use.
7. This is the trickiest part: the casts have to be sculpted so that they fit in the holes and match perfectly the pattern of the molding. I find it a bit easier to do so before the plaster is fully dry. The cast is more brittle this way, but being softer, the sculpting needs a lot less force and effort. Once you are happy with the pieces, they can be glued in place with wood glue.
8. Finally you can paint the frame. It is up to you to decide what kind of painting effect you wish to do. It is a lot easier to repaint the whole frame with a fresh new colour…It helps blending in the newly created pieces with the original molding. But if you are a bit handy with colours, it is, also, possible to try and colourmatch the original paint effect to restore the frame to its original condition, such as i did on the example photo!
And here it was: my very first restoration tutorial! This is in no way the most professional way to restore frames, The results are far from being flawless, but it is a simple and cost effective trick that anyone should be able to do at home…So i hope you found this information useful, and don’t hesitate to leave me a comment if you have any questions!!
see you soon again on my blog!!
Charlotte , la Chineuse