A Visit with the Doc, or Carousel Horse Assessment

As promised, an explanation of our assessment process,
and of course, a horse is so much more interesting than a building part!

Terri is a beloved horse from the Jantzen Beach Carousel; locals have fond memories of her!

Terri is also extremely damaged.

We examined Terri with an eye to the necessary repairs to make her stable for many generations of riding when the carousel is finally rebuilt in its new location.

We look at everything:
legs, tail, neck, cantle, pole mount,
and the decorative gemstones.

Terri is set up in our “stable” so that we can walk all around her and
examine both her Romance and non-Romance sides:
the “Romance” side is the side that you see when standing and watching the carousel,
and in the USA carousels move counter-clockwise.
Romance sides are the highly detailed sides, with gems and many decorations!

Terri is not carved from a solid block;
she is created from several blocks joined with hide glue.
This makes her weigh less which is a good thing when she must be moved.

Her teeth and face are dirty; she had gum in her nose.
*Poor Teri, makes it kinda hard to smell the roses!
We took care of that problem, pronto!*
Someone drew all over her teeth with a ball point pen.
Her ear is chipped.  Her eyes and other gems have been covered with dark varnish.

These things are easier to repair.


In past she was chemically stripped during a restoration;
chemical stripping of an older object is almost never recommended.
The chemical strip loosened the glue from the joins, and caused warping.
it opened up the large crack shown top left, and a crack around the cantle.

Wood is protected when it is finished, whether paint or shellac or oil finishes;
an open crack allows moisture to accumulate in the cracks and
eventually they open more, causing more moisture…
Finally, the moisture seeps deep into the wood and fissures and causes rot.
A vicious cycle.  The cracks must be repaired for the life of Terri.

Her extended front leg was repaired long ago using unknown putties;
it is likely it cracked from little kids standing on it.
You can see the corrugated nail if you look closely, something laymen don’t see often.
It looks like a squiggle below the break in the center.
*The blue tape allows us to remember the many areas we need to address.*
Unfortunately, most of the the repairs were not proper woodworking solutions;
we need to remove putties to make sure the repair is strong underneath.

Unfortunately, Terri’s hind end is terribly broken.
Both legs, knees, shin and one thigh, all cracked and/or broken.
Her tail is broken in two places,
both at the rump connection and at the knee connection.
These are catastrophic repairs; if not attended to they will break completely off.

Take heed regarding what we are about to caution.
One improper repair is maybe not a big problem.
But imagine many many knee or tail breaks, all improperly repaired.
Each poor repair compounds the next.
Finally someone comes along and squirts epoxy or carpenters glue
into the break just to hold it together for another couple months
and then when it breaks, it rips wood fibers,
making it impossible to knit back together — a shattered broken leg!
This is what we are dealing with in many of the horses.
Many years of improper repairs, one on top of another,
making them more costly to repair
because they are compound fractures full of hidden nails and screws!
Moral of the story, do the job properly the first time…
And ditch the modern glues!

Terri was assessed, but is not in line to be our sample horse for treatment.
We had to choose one horse which had the best sampling of damages for treatment.
Follow us to get the latest installation of posts on the JBC!

Next, we show the restoration of one sample horse:
White Patriotic Jumper Treatment, Tail, Part I!


Written by Kate Powell  ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use without permission.

About MPFConservation

We are a conservation and restoration firm located in the Pacific Northwest, specializing in objects: furniture, but also other objects; wood, stone or metal furniture or objects; lacquered and painted furniture or objects; traditional finishes on furniture or objects; quilts, beaded objects, and some textile reparation and interior architectural elements, such as leather or upholstered walls. When you think about conservation, equate it to restoring the furniture or object the best way possible for the history, life and value of the object. We are fully qualified to perform museum-tectbook treatments, but also flexible enough to work with private clients to allow for daily use of objects. We work West of the Rockies from Canada to Mexico, and once in a while venture beyond the West for specific treatments. Kate and Mitchell Powell are partners in work and in life; we each have our specialties in work and in our marriage. Mitchell is the cat charmer in both! To see our work visit our official website: http://www.mpfconservation.com
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7 Responses to A Visit with the Doc, or Carousel Horse Assessment

  1. Dan Antion says:

    This is so hard to follow. I know the intention was to keep the horse in service until repairs could be made, and the people making the repairs were schooled by ads on TV, not woodworking knowledge, but it’s so wrong. You guys do wonderful work. I only hope you have the budget (and the remaining material) to make proper repairs. Even routing/carving wider channels and installing dutchmen style connectors is dangerous if there are hidden fasteners. Good luck and be careful!

    • We’ve lost several Japanese sawblades to the one hidden nail we didn’t find…
      I think mostly it is maintenance people who have no training at all… and maybe didn’t even know what they didn’t know. That is where some real damage comes in. Most people do not have any idea the damage certain glues will do on an object.

  2. loisajay says:

    How many horses do you and Mitchell have to assess, Kate? This seems like an insurmountable amount of work to be done!

    • We assessed 10 in this first pass… It gives us a window into all the issues possibly. But ultimately we had to do two of everything — Noah’s Ark! Two Rounding Board, 2 Cherub Shields, etc. The report is looking to be about 5 inches thick!


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