One of the core courses for first year conservation students is the year-long “Technology and Structure of Works of Art.” This course is divided into blocks that are dedicated to the major (and many of the minor) categories of materials that one is likely to encounter as a conservator—such as paper, parchment, prints, drawings, etc. In addition to all the coursework, we have a fun project of designing a conservation tool holder. To do so, we were given a few very basic requirements: maximum dimensions (12 x 12 x 4 in.), had to fit a set of specified tools, and needed to be completed by the beginning of December. The project has proved to be a much needed distraction from the copious amount of readings that is the bane of many a graduate student.
When I started thinking about this project, I decided that I wanted to make some sort of box that contained a shelf to segregate my tools. I had some leftover binder’s board (3mm Eterno board) from a previous conservation project that I decided to use. Once I determined my dimensions and design (hinged lid box with removable shelf), I brought the board to the Conservation Center and used the board shear which was a HUGE time saver. Every board shear has its own personality, and this one had a feisty kick!
At home, I took out my decorative paper collection and spent several agonizing hours working out the color scheme. When I say “working out” the color scheme, what I really mean is that I took over every possible flat surface in my apartment playing with hues, sheens, patterns, recto designs versus verso textures, book cloths, etc… In the end, I decided on a silver and plum color scheme where I played with both sides of two Asian decorative papers. I found a strip of silver book cloth that was just barely big enough for my spine.
My next step was to gather the adhesives that I would need. I pulled out my Jade 403 and Zen Shofu Wheat Paste. Jade 403 is used as an adhesive for Eterno board and book cloth and is ready to use. Zen Shufu, on the other hand, comes in powder form and needs to be made into paste. There are a couple ways to do this: double boiler method, microwave method. Since I do not have a convenient double boiler system, I opted to use the latter method. I put 2 tablespoons of Zen Shufu in a plastic container and added 6 tablespoons of water (de-ionized is best). I stirred with a wooden skewer to suspend the powder and let it set for one hour. I came back later and added 6 tablespoons of hot water and stir. I then put the mixture in the microwave for short periods of time (30s, 20s, 20s, 20s, 15s, 15s, 10s, 10s, 10s). Between each session in the microwave, I took the mixture out and stirred it. It is very important not to touch the paste because it is very hot and can leave nasty burns. Sometimes it needs a little more or less time depending on the situation. I know I am done when I have reached a custard-like consistency–yum. I left it cool for a few minutes and then I strained it several times through a fine strainer. After it has cooled completely, it is ready for use.
After I culled all my necessary components, I put my cutting mat on the floor and started to put pieces together. I used Jade 403 to assemble the tray and shelf that are made from Eterno board, and I tried to get everything as square as possible.
While I waited for my tray and shelf to dry, I layed out the cover pieces. I used Jade 403 to adhere the Eterno board covers and spine pieces with the silver book cloth. I had to leave a gap to make sure the box closes properly. I then covered the outside areas with decorative paper and paste. In the joint areas, I left the silver book cloth visible.
The tray and shelf were then covered with decorative paper and paste. When deciding when to use paste, the general rule can help: P + P = P (paper + paper = paste). Jade 403 will leave dark stains on the paper. I decided to use the undecorated verso side of the paper on the inside lining of the tray and shelf. I also made to slits on the paper to make clean corners.
I added a small ledge on the inside of the tray so that the shelf has a place to rest. Tools can be stored on either level. All the components were left to dry.
The covers were then adhered to the bottom and long side of the tray with Jade 403. The final test is to make sure that the tool holder closes easily. Paying careful attention to all the measurement throughout the process has paid off!!!
Stay tuned to see what type of ingenious tool holders my fellow classmates design and make!