Monday, February 7, 2011

New wine, old skin

The battered old door I’m resurrecting for the Harry Potter suite has a few issues, not the least being severe damage from being kicked in and some large gaps between stiles and rails where the antique cedar timber has shrunk. 

As I mentioned earlier, I needed to shorten the door by some 8 inches in order for it to fit the opening - so the question arises, what standard of fit am I aiming for when I rejoin the shortened style to the rail?

My antique conservation teacher, Anselm Fraser, maintained that such work should be to the same quality as the rest of the piece.  He’s right, because a perfect join between a style and rail on a repaired corner will stand out like a sore thumb when the other joints have large gaps. 

Further, Anselm would argue against dismantling and rebuilding an entire piece just to improve some gaps.  He contended that overtly “improving” a piece often detracted from its aged look and, indeed, its value.  Of course, if the whole thing is falling apart then one has no option but to improve.

The Bible reminds us that we shouldn’t put new wine into old skins, otherwise the wine will burst the skins (Matt 9:14-17) ruining them.  The analogy works just as well with antique conservation, a brand new repair on an old cedar door will only ruin the original piece.

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