Archive for April, 2011

The Angelus

Monday, April 25th, 2011

I always liked the 1857-59 painting by French artist Jean-François Millet called “The Angelus.” It shows a peasant couple stopping their potato harvesting to pray when the church bells ring at the appointed hour.


My antique postcard of The Angelus by Jean-François Millet

In addition to the simplicity of it, it shows the custom considered quaint today of the man praying with his head uncovered, and the woman praying with her head covered, as specified in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 11. The man has removed his hat to pray.

My grandmother had a porcelain sculpture of this painting in her Dining Room when I was little. It turned up in a box of my Dad’s things from his attic, broken in half and badly stained by age and a couple poor glue attempts. The man’s hat has also been lost, despite having been glued in the past.


Sculpture in its found damaged condition

The sculpture is French, as it says “L’Angelus d’après Millet” on the base. It could have been my great-grandmother’s, who was from Europe. I don’t know.


Old glue along crack of the base on the femme side of the sculpture

I decided, instead of trashing it, to take it on as a restoration challenge, to see how much I could clean it up. Miraculously, the delicate basket and wheelbarrow were undamaged, despite the whole thing being broken in half under its handles. The whole femme side of the sculpture was unscathed, with the main problem there being the remnants of orange-brown glue along the base fracture.


The homme with broken hands, missing hat and orange and shiny glues

The homme was a different story. Because of his hat and hands having broken off, he suffered several distressing glue attempts, with both an old orange glue, and a clear super glue. The super glue ran in rivulets down both legs, and collected around his arms, coat hem, ankles, shoes and potato sack. Because the porcelain is unglazed with a flat finish, the shiny glue was very visible everywhere.

The first question was: Could the old orange glue be removed from the crack edges of the thick base by soaking in warm water? Yes, it actually came off very cleanly with careful scraping using an X-acto knife.


The femme's base cleaned of orange glue

Question number two: What about the clear glue, would fingernail polish remover with acetone take it off? I suppose it helped. This superglue was much harder to remove, not only because it was in crevices everywhere, but because it had adhered better. But scraping and chipping with an X-acto knife after applying acetone, it slowly was removed with no damage to the porcelain surface, even when sparks were sometimes created!

Now for the hands — some delicate pieces there, and really globbed up with both kinds of glue, including hollows inside the pieces. It was tedious, but the operation to remove the three glued pieces of the hands was successful.


The femme praying for her homme's successful operation

All the little pieces cleaned up well, too. That is good news, as they should fit much better now and the seams be much more invisible.


The homme finally free of his humiliating glue problems

Next issue was the light brownish age staining. What about denture cleaner? I got the cheapest the grocery store had, a 90-tablet pack of Efferdent. You put one in a glass with your teeth, but how many for a plastic kitchen washtub filled about 5 inches deep? I went with 36. Did that twice, leaving overnight each time. The femme liked to float, so she was weighted down with a wet wash-cloth.


The homme and femme enjoying one of their Efferdent baths

I used the remaining 18 tablets this evening with less water, focusing mostly on the bases, where most of the discoloration was. I’ll take them out in the morning, and let everything dry well for several days before trying to glue it all back together.



Beveling keyshaft ends

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Since I ordered my kit requesting maple keyshafts for the top row, instead of the dark wenge ones, like in the bottom row, they needed to be cut to the right length. Last Wednesday, my friend Jerry was able to trim them for me on his table saw.


Tabs on keyshafts for buttons, note numbers

The keyshafts all came with a pre-cut tab on one end for attaching the buttons. The other end facing the player needs to have the edges beveled at 45 degrees. I don’t have any power tools to do this, and wouldn’t trust them if I did. They probably would chew off way too much before I realized what happened. Just sanding them by hand wouldn’t have given me the crisp, even 45-degree angles I wanted, either. So I came up with the following jig last night by clamping the miter box and combination square to the table…


My simple edge beveling system for the keyshaft ends

The keyshaft is held by the left hand against the miter box edge, and pushed to the left. Meanwhile, the sanding stick I made for the keychest holes is slid back and forth with the right hand against the 45-degree angle of the combination square. The amount of bevel is figured by eye. It took awhile, but had very pleasing results.


Beveled keyshaft ends

Good to have this done. The next step is drilling the holes for the tangent screws.