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I was wondering the same thing John..........

On the Subject of Relic Restorations
May 01, 2012 05:42PM
On the Subject of Dug Relic Restoration

The lively back and forth generated by recent posts of relics dramatically transformed from heavily damaged to practically pristine is good forum for everyone. I am not threatened by any of it. It’s a discussion that should inform all current and would-be restorers as well as those considering restoration of their cherished finds and those collecting through purchases.

Let me say that I side primarily with those that feel that major rebuilds are not a good idea. I personally prefer not to take on overhaul projects and have turned many aside. If I do them, I try to leave as much original exposed as I can. Without turning this into a treatise, some of the obvious questions to ask and things to consider when moving forward on any level of restoration should include:

1. What constitutes restoration vs. rebuild/recreation for this relic? Does it matter?
2. What would most consider an appropriate restoration for the particular relic in question?
3. How will the resale value of my piece be impacted if “restored” to the level I am requesting?
4. Do I know what all the options are? Minimal, Moderate, Complete Overhaul
5. Am I comfortable with what might happen with this restored relic once it leaves my possession?
6. Whose opinions should matter to me on this relic before I move forward?

I restore dug relics and antique furniture. Furniture restoration usually involves stripping, sanding, staining and spraying, re-fabrication of broken or missing elements and hardware replacement. It’s not unusual for one piece to require all of these processes. Many of the issues surrounding deciding whether to or how much to restore are shared across both furniture and relic work. For example, stripping the original finish from a Chippendale chair or Sheraton Sideboard is just not a good idea. Just watch a few Antique Roadshows if you doubt me. Removing a 200 year old finish and patina for shiny and new can strip 80% of the value. Shine up a dug buckle or button and the same devaluation may result.

However, I usually don’t get furniture rolled up, cracked and mangled in as many ways as there are angles like I do relics. That’s how relics come out of the ground. The closest thing on the furniture side might have been a mahogany rocker given to me in a grocery bag. All the pieces were there with the exception of some ornate carvings and a large piece of the arm. No problem; cut and carve, dowel, glue up, sand, stain and finish to match. But what about partial buckles or buttons only half there or missing major design elements that makes it what it is…or was?

Firstly, no restorer uses original relic material to “complete” a relic. A button may receive a replacement rim, back or shank from a period donor button but it could just as easily receive filler to bridge cracks and holes. Accoutrement plates may get a combination of period solder and lead or hook to restore what is missing but plan on epoxy or bondo. The face of a breastplate, OVM, US, SNY, Pelican is going to be non-original stuff worked and colored to look like the original. By definition that means partial imitation. Foisted purposely on the unknowing buyer it evolves quickly to fake status. Even if the restorer uses pieces of another relic how much does that move the restoration in any significant way towards genuine or original? It doesn’t. Relic restorers are simply pleasing the eye, simulating, replicating, and matching with those materials we have decided work best together for the task at hand. If I use pieces of repros from Hanover Brass to complete your CS tongue, it is what it is, a hybrid. If you provide original pieces, keeper and disc from two different CS tongues, to be married, it’s still a hybrid, just closer to the real thing. Two from the same relic found in the same field…much closer to original and of course, much more appropriate, still, a repair.

In this day and age of fewer and fewer relics to be recovered (DIV excluded) there is more of a tendency to restore a damaged find. There is less to bolster the hope that another of pristine condition will be found to replace and display. Along with the desire to have a great looking relic in the case, I think this drives many decisions to restore. Rule of thumb…post your find and get as much feedback on the restoration of your piece, not relics in general. Make an informed decision. Look at other restorations and decide what may work for you. I post a site where many of my before and afters can be viewed. I post for several reasons. First, I’m pleased with the work so I want to show it. Secondly, posting the work shows everyone what is possible providing a “buyer-beware” knowledgebase. I’ve had more than one collector shoot me pics asking if I repaired it or think it to be “doctored”. Thirdly, it advertises.

There is an endless variety of dug relics out there and with that an endless variety of damage and deterioration suffered. There is no reason for folks to be uninformed about the pros and cons of restoration. Restorers are able to provide options but it will always be up to the collector to decide. I suggest all of us who have the tendency…to set aside for a moment the romantic vision we might conjure up in our mind of that soldier looking down from heaven upon his totally rebuilt buckle. My or anyone else’s restoration isn’t going to divert any soldier’s heavenly gaze. Make a grounded and pragmatic decision for the present and future collector by tapping all the expert opinions and your conscience (if necessary) to inform your decision.
Some of my categories of restoration are listed below. I cannot say what impact each would have on the value of relics. In one instance minimal work may increase the value, in another the opposite. Don’t ask me because I’m going to direct you to the community of diggers and collectors. Each relic restoration is somewhat unique in this respect. That’s my opinion. I will say that once you move into the “Major” category the trend would be to lower the value. There are recurring themes. In general:

Restoration Levels

Minimal
• Filling small pin holes and freeze cracks in relic faces and rims.
• Stabilizing solder fill (all or most solder present but separating from itself or face)
• Fill and Touch up, simulating patina on non-period damage (dig tool, plow)
• Minor bend out and flattening and minimal touch up to creases
• Shank installs

Moderate
• Rebuild of partial crumbled/missing rims
• Significant bend out with minimal touch ups to creases
• Removal of pushes in 3-piec buttons requiring rim removal/reinstall
• Lead/Solder replacement
• Rebuild of minor details of relics (badges, plates insignia)
• Reattachment and touch up of broken pieces (all original)

Major
• Significant face, rim and solder rebuild of plates and other devices
• Multiple bend outs to severely distorted relics resulting in cracks requiring extensive fill and touch up
• Re-fabrication of major elements of relic (large portion of plate, insignia, etc.)
• Reconstruction of broken insignia (3 or more separate pieces) requiring patina touch ups to match

The rocking chair in a bag that I completely restored still rocks in my house. If it were ever sold as a wood rocker with some restored and duplicated wood elements, no one would care whether I disclosed those facts. After all, it’s not a Chippendale. However, if the repaired relics in my collection were ever sold off without disclosure shame on me. Authenticity affects the value in some markets more than in others. Be informed and make good decisions, restorer, digger, and collector alike. If you are in the camp of believing a soldier would be proud of his now-restored relic think also then that he’d be just as interested in how we conduct the exchange with the next owner.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/01/2012 05:50PM by RoFro.
Great post Roland. good jobAnyone who wants a relic repaired...just be informed.
May 07, 2012 10:45AM
I appreciate the work you did setting my Mississippi button back together!
I will throw in my two cents...
May 03, 2012 05:45PM
I am one of those people that if i find something the way it is then I leave it the way its. I dont give a rip how rare or valuable it is. I would never think of putting new stuff or mismatched stuff on an original piece. It absolutely ruins it for me. I cant even look at a relic that isnt 100 percent authentic. Yes I may try and straighten out a few bends on a breast plate or box plate but i wouldnt think of adding new stuff to it. Lets face it, the relic has character and shows use and that is what I like. Another thing is, which I will probably catch hell for, I never sell or even think about selling relics. Once you do it almost certainly loses its identity, where it was found, character etc and I think thats a tragedy. I keep everything and document it and will be passing it down to my kids for them to learn and pass on down. AS Far as Relics go, HISTORY IS EVERYTHING MONEY IS NOTHING. Just my opinion.
I want to throw in my two cents as well .....
May 03, 2012 09:24PM
dance



~~ "There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure." Mark Twain ~~


Opps! Is that one a copper cent = more than two cents. (n/t)
May 04, 2012 03:29PM
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Molṑn lab --- Great Grandfather Hiram Hill Painter - Co. K - 22nd Virginia Infantry -
The "Fayetteville Rifles" - "when that [money] runs out, we will eat roots and drink water and fight on for our liberty unto death!"
My father always told me I didn't have the cents that God gave a goose ..
May 04, 2012 04:33PM
.. or was that sense .. if so, then it was sheer noncents . shrug



~~ "There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure." Mark Twain ~~
grinning smiley (n/t)
May 04, 2012 04:42PM
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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb."
Well said....
May 03, 2012 08:06PM
thumbs down (n/t)
May 03, 2012 07:25PM
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thumbs down (n/t)
May 03, 2012 05:50PM
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"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb."
Nicely said! (n/t)
May 02, 2012 10:53PM
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thanks for the honest appraisal of your work Ro.
May 02, 2012 07:45PM
I've always been a firm believer that one should only have extensive relic repair done if and only if the relic is intended to remain in ones collection. Just seems to me that its way too easy for any given restored relic to make its way into the market place, and they arent always represented for what they truly are. A layman like me probably wouldnt have a clue most times if a relic were restored or not, and I think, most are probably like me. There arent that many real experts out there that can tell beyond a shadow of a doubt weather or not a relic is the real McCoy.
Appreciate the candor, and the little "nudge" to our concience. Keep up the great work...



"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb."
Keeping it in your collection is a nice idea but...........
May 03, 2012 06:37PM
What happens when you kick the bucket and 150 years from now whomever you left it to has given it to someone else and eventually someone gets it who has no idea where it came from or who recovered it and worse yet could not care less even what it is! Then its out in the public domain and the unscrupolous individuals get their hands on it. Then it's just another fake relic dropped on the market.
Besides, iffin Mr Obama gets re-elected, any discussion of the Civil war will probably be outlawed, our machines confiscated, Reb artifacts will be deemed contraband (and melted down to make Busts of our exalted leader), and all finds in current collections will be taxed 150% (retroactive to 1929) to finance his wifes future vacations. All those reliefers will need new rubber for their Escalades too.
Nope, I aint got to worry too much about what I cannot control....... grinning smiley Besides, I gotta find something repair worthy first! shrug



"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb."
Re: On the Subject of Relic Restorations
May 02, 2012 02:56PM
Firstly, no restorer uses original relic material to “complete” a relic. I was wondering... so do you think that the OVM plate has any original material in it? That is what I'm hoping to see from a black light look at it. If there is original material.. I wonder how much ..or just perhaps the hook on the back? THe job looks so good to me, I really would like to know. The insignias I've done, i use original parts and pieces in them. And the few i've done I've made it clear that the item is their item, and it will look as good as I can get it, but it is still a dug relic.. just touched up to look a bit better for display purposes.

I'd really like to know how much is original on the OVM plate??? Looks good, but if almost all of it is a repo plate w/ aplied patina, it is not what he dug or sent in. I'm not knocking anyone here as I'd love to have foundit in the twisted condition! DOn't find them out my way.. or know one i know has.

J---
Re: On the Subject of Relic Restorations
May 02, 2012 05:11PM
Yeah, I contradict myself to a degree in this quick run down. I was specifically referring to those restorations where one has to build on to the existing piece that which is missing without the luxury of the missing part. This is obviously a different resto' from piecing together a buckle found complete but in pieces or those hat pieces you've worked on out in your neck of the woods.

Not sure what OVM you are citing but if you tap around the face and rim you will hear and feel a difference between what has underlying original metal and what is filled and carved. Use something like the shaft of an exacto knife blade. The build areas will return a "thud" vs. a "clink" where either a layer of filler covers original or where it has been totally rebuilt.

Hope that helps. Never used black light. Another easy but less conclusive test is to run water over the relic. Water will react differently on the surface of original patina vs. the fill unless the entire surface has been "painted" and patina'd as the VMM in the most recent post. That has a complete coating unoriginal to the relic and water will bead uniformly and will not penetrate at all, another indication of a faux treatment. Tapping a relic is a reliable method if black light doesn't provide conclusive results. Metal will clink, filler will "stink".



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/02/2012 05:17PM by RoFro.
Re: On the Subject of Relic Restorations
May 03, 2012 01:02PM
Thanks for the tip on identifying restoration material. I looked at the before and after picture and like a lot of others wondered how much of the original plate was used in the restoration. I also thought the hooks looked to be the only salvagable part.

I think he should have returned the unused pieces to Jason - lol
Re: On the Subject of Relic Restorations
May 02, 2012 10:25PM
typo on my part... the VMM is what I meant. I'm just wondering, I'd really like to know if all of the dug relic is in it plus some additions, because it seems way too nice to me, or is it a repo patinaed over??? I myself don't know, but would like to. I know for certian.. I can't do a job like that eiter repo or original. I can do stamped insignias pretty good though, but have not mastered the patina.. or really tried it.

John
I was wondering the same thing John..........
May 03, 2012 11:11AM
If you look closely even some dents and imperfections in the letters are no longer there. Looks like a complete do over with the hook being about the only original part. This is only my opinion and I must say I know very little about restoring relics. I have lots of plate hooks lying in my junk box and I want an Alabama map on tree buckle bad! I know.....I'm bad....sorry.
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Thanks for the insight! clap (n/t)
May 02, 2012 09:28AM
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Well said! (n/t)
May 02, 2012 07:27AM
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Thank You Roland.... (n/t)
May 02, 2012 05:55AM
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Well said indeed. (n/t)
May 01, 2012 06:50PM
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Well Said! (n/t)
May 01, 2012 06:27PM
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Molṑn lab --- Great Grandfather Hiram Hill Painter - Co. K - 22nd Virginia Infantry -
The "Fayetteville Rifles" - "when that [money] runs out, we will eat roots and drink water and fight on for our liberty unto death!"
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