Repairing Antique Artifacts & Historic Homes Using Modern Composite Materials

Jun 15th 2023

Repairing Antique Artifacts & Historic Homes Using Modern Composite Materials

Colonial Williamsburg Lab

Governor’s Palace Colonial Williamsburg

Epoxy Resin & Modern Composites - Restoring the Old with the New

In a recent article about historic building preservation in ‘Trend & Tradition – The Magazine of Colonial Williamsburg,’ centuries old buildings are being kept in good repair, through the integration of current technology, and the use of composite materials. If you’ve had the good fortune to explore these enclaves of historic homes, shoppes and other buildings throughout the country; you realize just how much they are a part of our history and heritage – and worth preserving for future generations.

As part of their ongoing restoration and repair efforts, Colonial Williamsburg has created their own materials analysis lab to identify and trace source material origins to better establish what procedures should be used for ongoing restoration. This assists in both building refurbishment, as well as for their collection of archaeological artifacts and art collection. The lab continuously examines the museums pieces – revealing more and more secrets of 18th century life.

For instance, in the article, ‘New Colonial Williamsburg Lab Reveals Secrets of the 1700s,’ writer Mark St. John Erickson of the Daily Press highlights the labs analysis capabilities on an otherwise unidentifiable and undateable bottle repair that needed attention. (Can you guess the repair material?)

“It was an 18th-century glass apothecary bottle with an old repair to the neck. But we couldn't figure out how old the repair was or how it was done," objects conservator Tina Gessler says.

"When the analysis told us it was epoxy, we were surprised — because it looked like it had repaired much earlier. But once we knew what it was, we knew exactly what to do."

At another historic site, Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine; author and craftsman John Leeke writes about using epoxy resin for restoration in ‘Historic Window Repair: Sash Join Dutchman.’ “Here I’m using two-part epoxy materials as a primer and adhesive system. First, I treat the bare wood with an epoxy consolidate to act as a primer, then I apply a gap filling epoxy paste. Only light clamping pressure is needed with this epoxy adhesive system.”

“A craftsman uses his skill and knowledge of basic materials, wood and epoxy resin, to create something that did not exist before: an effective repair. What makes this repair effective and successful is not the wood or the adhesive; it is the skill and knowledge of the worker who created the repair.”