Our armchair, affectionately known as the “lollipop” chair, was made circa 1880. George Jakob Hunzinger (born 1835 in Tuttingen, Germany), was a progressive designer out of New York who was often influenced in his designs by machinery; their geometry and patterns of repetition in their elements. This is a Hunzinger original, a family piece, which has weathered more than a century of continuous use.
Note: Mitchell muses about the process in several areas; these parts are italicized.
The chair before finish treatment, below right. We performed a modified “mechado” treatment to preserve and revive the historic finish.
“Mechado” in this case refers to a blending of compatible materials as well as a technique for preservation and restoration. Our intent is to preserve and revive the historic coating using a layering approach which when thoughtfully applied, in a circumspect order, will not only bind to the historic coating but also become an amalgam (combine as one) with the historic coating. Our layering “Mechado” approach is described below.
VARNISH FORMULA COATING APPLICATION
The original finish was shellac varnish over asphaltum oil glaze. It was thoroughly cleaned using VM&P Naptha. Once the cleaning distillate had thoroughly evaporated the surfaces were gently skip sanded using a wet/dry lightly abrasive paper, concentrating upon areas of odd accretions and losses in varnish elevation. The surfaces were again treated to a wipe-down using Naptha then set aside for 24 hours to completely evaporate.
MPFC creates our own shellac which are true to original formulas, occasionally choosing to infuse the shellac with compatible tree resins which will add either stretch, or hardness, or both to the coating. For this chair’s base varnish we chose a blended shellac and tree resin varnish which we prepared, in-house, from a traditional recipe. The varnish was chosen for its ability to balance hardness with flexibility. Lab grade isopropyl alcohol was decanted into a wide-mouth glass jar while mixing into the distillate fresh beige toned shellac flakes, copal resin and larch sap turpentine. These ingredients dissolved over the day and rendered a brush-able 1lb-cut solution of varnish. The fresh varnish was then brush applied to all surfaces, melding with the historic varnish and sealing the damaged varnish surfaces. The fresh shellac coating produced a reliable foundation for amending the damaged historic surfaces with blended waxes and resins after we performed selective infills into losses.
We allowed this coating to cure for several days.
TOUCH-UP AND COLOR INFILL
In order to blend distressed areas of color losses from careless usage and indiscriminate wear, MPFC created a “repair” spirit-varnish (shellac varnish infused with earth based pigments which would infuse into shellac while remaining transparent and non-textural). This maintained a viscosity which could be manipulated with artist brushes in order to blend into historic surrounds. Once the infill varnish was satisfactorily applied we waited a day for the material to fix to surfaces, then we re-coated those areas of touch-up with the primary varnish in order to seal the pigments prior of the wax applications.
Hard carnauba wax infused with a small percentage earth based pigment, bees wax and tree resin was melted into our specialized applicator, then drizzled into areas of loss. Once the hot wax fills cooled they were selectively contoured then leveled to match surround.
Finally, a warmed wax slurry was applied over the varnished surfaces before the varnish had the opportunity to harden to the point of rejecting the wax infusion. As the wax solution spread over the surfaces they were assisted in flow by using over-large artist brushes which were dipped into odorless mineral spirits.
Once the surfaces would no longer absorb wax the finished elements were both buffed with soft brushes and rubbed with cotton diaper cloth and woolen rag.
The final polish was turned into a semi-gloss patina which allowed for normal wear anomalies to assert themselves visually while giving off a rich, well appointed and historically accurate patina.
Our next post is Upholstery to complete!
Hunzinger “Lollipop” Chair, 4 Upholstery
Written by Kate Powell ©MPF Conservation.
May be printed for your own use ONLY, not for use on blogs without permission.