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Help me flatten Sheepskin!!!!!!

celeste_k

Grumbler
I have a 100 year old sheepskin diploma that is seriously wrinkled. It came in in its original frame W/ the wood backing and all, and I am looking for ways to flatten it out. I realize that heat press is not an option.
If anyone can help I would be VERY appreciative.
:confused:
By seriously wrinkled, I mean that if you put a heavy weight on it, it would not flatten, I assume this happened from 100 years of humidity changes in a confined space. I also DO NOT want to glue it in any way, since it is 100 years old.

What can I do?

 
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JRB

PFG, Picture Framing God
Celeste, Mounting animal skin diplomas is easy, but scary to go through the process. If your diploma has wax seals or ribons atached to it, please ignore the following.

You will need some new white blotters, must be larger than the diploma, try office supply or art supply stores. Some "Yes Paste" it's a non curling vegatable glue, a short knap 3" paint touch up roller. Glass weights, larger than the diploma. Distilled water in a spray bottle.
Get a clean flat area that can be used for about
a week.

OK, here goes, Lay a dry blotter on the table, spray another blotter with distilled water, get it evenly damp and lay it on top of the dry blotter. Lay the diploma on top of the damp blotter. Spray another blotter with distilled water the same as the last one and lay it on top of the diploma followed by another dry blotter. Lay enough glass weights on top to flatten everything out, and keep air from drying the blotters.

This is the hard part, do not go back and check your work, leave it completly alone for about three days.

Before you lift the glass weights off the diploma you have to be ready to lay it into your wet vegatable glue. Set up a sheet of acid free mounting board that is larger than the diploma. Take your Yes Paste and spoon out a generous glob onto a sheet of cardboard, with your roller, apply an even coat to the mounting board.

Now comes the tricky part, remove the glass weights and pick up the diploma. DON'T LET IT CURL UP, GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT. Lay the diploma into the glue starting at one end, lay it carefully but quickly and evenly into the glue. Put dry blotter paper on top of the diploma and a whole lot of glass weights, enough to realy flatten the heck out of it. Let it dry for about three or four days before removing the glass weights. Trim off the excess mounting board and your done.

I know your thinking the ink is going to bleed having the dampness on the diploma, well it won't.

The whole key to doing this is you must move quickly through each step, never give the diploma a chance to start drying out untill it is doing it on it's own, slowly under weight. Don't even think about answering that ringing phone, let it ring.

This is a very old technique for mounting diplomas, it's the way it was commonly done before Seal came along, and paper replaced parchment.

John

This is an edited add on by JRB

I forgot to say start with a sheet of glass on your table before you lay your first piece of blotter paper. The whole thing should be between glass, top & btm.
 

Janet L

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Celeste, welcome to the Grumble!

John, thanks for such precise instructions on flattening old sheepskin. I have a friend who inherited the original deeds (more than 100 yrs old) to some property. These deeds are on sheepskin but are incredibly large, in comparison to anything I've seen in my lifetime. They would measure approximately 36" x 40". There are several pages of the deed, the sheepskin is more like rough hewn, thick skin. I went back through the archives on TG and determined that the task was too great for someone with no previous experience of working on something this precious.

However, I do truly appreciate your explicit instructions for any further (smaller sheepskin tasks) that might come through my door.

Thanks Celeste, for posting your question. This is why I love this forum!
 

Susan May

Gone.
Celeste, While I agree that the information given to you by JRB is good information, I was once told that sheep are not flat. In other words, don't expect a sheep skin to be flat either.

There are ways to help a sheep skin loosen, and relax, but I would not mount one with any kind of glue. Try contacting a conservator, and see if they would do the job of mounting.

(Where are you Orton? This is a question right up your alley!)

Good Luck.
 

JRB

PFG, Picture Framing God
Susan May, I would be curious to know some of the methods you mentioned to help a sheepskin lay flat. I've never heard of any method other than introducing moisture to them. Unless you mount them after they have relaxed, they will just return to their natural state, as soon as they dry. Their natural state will vary with humidity conditions. You can also control those conditions through specialized framing techniques, but to only a limited degree, the sheepskin will still be buckled and wavy.

The question was, how can I make it flat? Had she asked, how can I preserve it to museum standards, I would not have suggested flattening it. Using a vegetable glue also makes it reversable, if for some reason you wanted it to be buckled and wavy again. Sheepskins are fairly tough documents, they will last 100s of years on their own, with or without our assistance.

Orton, where are you, we need you on this one.

John
 

Framerguy

PFG, Picture Framing God
I had to do some deep digging to find these photos but they are similar to what I think you are dealing with. The vellum is the original charter of the local Moose in a small town near here and dates back to 1898. A few years ago the building had a fire and this document was deluged with water from the firemen trying to put out the fire. You can see the condition of the document after it dried. It was brought to me and I took pictures front and back and sent them to Paul Haner, the head conservator at the St. Louis Art Museum.





His exact words to me over the phone was, "DON'T TOUCH IT!!" Being raised as an obedient child, I took his advice and sent the client to him. I think it cost the Moose a total of nearly $1000.00 to restore the document. They brought it back to me for conservation framing and it was in near perfect condition.

The process to draw this skin back into its original dimensions had to be much more than simply moistening it and putting it under weights to dry. If yours is in any condition close to this one, I would strongly advise finding a good conservator to do the restoration for you. It is so easy to do much more damage by mishandling a document like this one. And the cost to repair the original damage plus any additional damage you may add to it are not worth the effort.

Bottom line, know your limitations.

Framerguy

(My Momma didn't raise no fool?) ;)
 

Framerguy

PFG, Picture Framing God
Addendum to post.

If I remember correctly, which isn't often, this document WAS backed with a rag board when it was returned to me. I seem to recall a note along with the piece from Paul telling me to trim the backing to size after I determined the mat dimensions.

Just to clarify things somewhat.

(Oh, Orton, where art thou??)

FGII
 

JRB

PFG, Picture Framing God
That one looks like it took a soaking from the fire. I'm not sure but the ink looks like it has bled quite a bit. I would have put that one in a humidifier box to loosen it up before going to the blotters. I've never gotten close to a thousand dollars for doing those things.

I have some questions.
1. Did the ink bleed from the fire?
2. Did the conservator correct the bleeding?

The most I've ever charged was $200.00 for doing one much like that one pictured, I didn't have a bleeding problem though.

John
 

Framerguy

PFG, Picture Framing God
John,

As I recall the ink didn't bleed. The dark splotches were caused by smoke, I think, and I am not certain exactly what all Paul had to do to restore the document.

FYI, Paul Haner will not even LOOK at a damaged piece like this one for less than $250.00. He is one of the best in the midwest, from what I am told, and is paid well for his expertise.

He also had an understudy by the name of Jeremy Strick who may well be head of the conservation dept. at the museum by now. This has been a number of years ago.

FGII
 

celeste_k

Grumbler
Thank you all for so many recommendations!Those photos are pretty dead on to what I have, except I think my diploma has MORE wrinkles!! I think what I may do is see if I can find some reputable conservators in the Phila. or Allentown area to send the customer to if she wants to. I would rather not attempt to fix something like this (a family heirloom) without the proper knowledge of it.
Does anyone know any good conservators in Phila, pa???
 

JRB

PFG, Picture Framing God
It amazes me that this is considerd a big deal. In the old days it was a very common procedure in most frame shops, much like cutting mats with a streight edge and a hand sharpened utility knife.
It took a little effort, but if you could not do it, you were not really a custom picture framer.

I think we are all becoming spoiled with technolgy and the easy way of doing things. I can't imagin running my shop without my CMC or my Hot Shot vacume press.

I have noticed a lot of us will use conservation & preservation as a reason for not doing what used to be simple proceedures. If my shop is swamped with work, I've found myself doing the same thing.

Just about every diploma was printed on animal skin back in the 50s and earlier. How can you run a frame shop if you can't mount diplomas? I agree, some folks don't want them mounted, but a lot do, and we as custom framers should at least know how to go about doing it.

I was lucky, I trained under one of the guys who learned everything from one of the old craftsmen in our industry. Our mat cutter really was a streight edge and a utility knife. We've come a long way, but we are also giving up a lot.

John
 

Rebecca

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Hi Celeste -

You can find a conservator by going to the American Institute for Conservation's website at http://www.aic.stanford.edu/ and clicking onto Choosing a Conservator. This will get you to their referal system.

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for flattening sheepskins - I use a number of different methods, depending on the type. Given the training, time, equipment, and a patient temperment, I'm sure framers could do a lot of conservation work. Then they'd be conservators as well as framers!

It's more a matter of specialization. I only work on flat paper, (including parchment) and textiles, wouldn't touch oil paintings with a barge pole, because they require a whole different knowledge and skill set. I could also learn how to frame, and be a framer/conservator, but I find all my energy is taken up by conservation - I wouldn't be able to do the framing justice. That's why I love framers!

Rebecca
 

Susan May

Gone.
JRB, :D

I have had a few (many) conversations with Orton about the flatening, and mounting of Sheepskins. He helped me flatten an old certificate, and it looks GREAT!

If it was going to be just flattened, I would mount like you suggested, but the fact that she said it was 100 years old, made me think it needed to be properly cared for. (Concervationly speaking)

As for Orton... I wonder if he is still having problems with his computer? I'll have to try to call him.
 

Linda Foote

CGF, Certified Grumble Framer
Sue just got off the phone with Orton(pedia)... he is fine, just VERY busy. He will try to post his suggestions on this subject later tonight.
 

celeste_k

Grumbler
"I think we are all becoming spoiled with technolgy and the easy way of doing things. "

I somewhat agree with this statement, but I think it is a vast generalization. The "easy" way out of this sheepskin thing would be to do the flattening procedure and glue it down so it looks nice and pretty and hand it to the customer with a smile and get a big check.... however, since we do have the technology and knowledge of the 21st century, we, as framers, owe it to our customers to do the best thing for their artwork or heirlooms. 50 years ago it was completely acceptable to back an original piece of artwork with cardboard, because that's all they knew, but now we have UV glass, acid free boards, and other ways of not only presenting the artwork nicely, but also preserving it for another 50 years. I can't tell you how many antique prints I've seen ruined by outdated framing practices, that at the time were standard procedure.
To make a long story short (too late, huh?) Since we have the resources, I think that the framer needs to do as much as they can to find the BEST way to frame a piece, not just so it looks the best, or makes us look the best.
I can honestly say I am not a conservator, I did not spend 6 years in college taking chemistry courses and such, so I can not say for sure that any mount that I use would be the best for that particular piece, so I am doing my best to educate myself so I can educate my customer and let them know what they should do to preserve their heirloom.
Thank you, and I will now step down from my soapbox.
 

Framerguy

PFG, Picture Framing God
Celeste,

I think you have made some very smart comments on your last post and I agree with your attitude towards doing what is BEST for your customer. And, if that includes knowing your own limits in handling a piece of art that requires special treatment, then the proper course of action may well be to find someone who does know how to restore the piece correctly and give your customer the most for the dollars spent with you.

The document that I posted earlier in this thread was the first one of that type that had been brought to me for advice. I had no prior experience in restoring this type of damage and, although I may have lost that income to repair the damage, I also had the good fortune to have the customer come back and entrust that document to me to properly frame for them. And they were vocally grateful for my honesty in telling them that I could not do the repair work in a professional manner and preferred to refer them to somebody who could.

JRB, you are in tune with the apparent descent of trade experience that seems to be all too common in our profession today. I would love to have someone like you to study under and learn the higher level techniques of rare document repair and restoration. I made a statement to Frame Harbor that I would jump at the opportunity to study with someone like him who is experienced in building closed corner frames. These specialized talents are quickly falling by the wayside as we storm into the quick turnaround using premade mouldings and mats. And the few who have these talents will soon retire or pass away and then who will carry on those traditions?

Consider that what you can do with little thought or apprehension may be a very scary challenge for those with no experience in that technique. Many times, in relating one's experience or expertise in a specialty area, those who have little or no background as such may feel "put down" by loosely stated comments. (With no malice intended but merely misinterpreted by the inexperienced)

The suggestions and guidance given here on the Grumble is so valuable to everyone and I feel rather inadequate sometimes in what I really know about the framing profession in total. But I am humble enough to realize that there is never an end to one's learning. And, if I am posting here on the "G" with 30 or 40 years experience sometime in the future, it will be as a student always trying to learn more.

Framerguy
 

JRB

PFG, Picture Framing God
Framerguy, please don't confuse me with a conservator. I am a picture framer with 37 years experiance. All I have posted is a method of mounting animal skin or parchment type certificates. I do not restore paper or parchment. I can and do reline oil paintings, repair rips & holes and repaint some areas I have patched. I only do this as a picture framer, I do not pretend to be a conservator.I tell my customers this before any work is left with me.
All work I perform on oil paintings is reversable. The same is true for mounting old parchments.

John
 

Kit

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Rebecca - I tried the site you listed and got a 'Page Unavailable' notice. I'll try typing the Institute into the search engine and see what comes up. This is information I'd like to have available for my customers.

Kit
 

Rebecca

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Whoops! I put in a www, when I shouldn't have! It's http://aic.stanford.edu/, but gee, now the address doesn't go all blue for a link... Anyway, you can get it on Google using that address, or by typing in American Institute for Conservation (AIC). Sorry.

Rebecca
 

MDM

Grumbler in Training
Hello:
I'm an amateur framer (please don't hurt me). In reference to glass weights, are you (JRB) suggesting 2.5" diameter glass disks? Is there an alternative you could recommend?
Thank you.
Michael
 

JFeig

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
You can tape together scraps of plate glass together and cover one side with a scrap of 4 ply rag matboard. Mine are about 1.5" thick x 3x5. I also have 18" long weights.
BTY, leave parchment conservation to an expert.
 

MDM

Grumbler in Training
You can tape together scraps of plate glass together and cover one side with a scrap of 4 ply rag matboard. Mine are about 1.5" thick x 3x5. I also have 18" long weights.
BTY, leave parchment conservation to an expert.
Thank you very much.
 

UzZx32QU

Administrator
Staff member
But; "Where are you Orton?" "Where in the world is Orton?" Yes, the good old day's.

I really like the guy.

framer
 

neilframer

PFG, Picture Framing God
But; "Where are you Orton?" "Where in the world is Orton?" Yes, the good old day's.

I really like the guy.

framer
I didn't know Orton, I joined in about 2010 and he was before me.
I researched and looked at some of his posts from about 1999 to 2003 and he seems like a really good guy.
We could use a few more Ortons on the Grumble these days....:thumbsup:
(sorry to frankenthread about the sheepskin 🐑...)
 
Last edited:

bruce papier

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
I know nothing about flattening sheepskin other than they put them in a humidification chamber and wait. What I do know is how long it can take. We sent a badly rippled sheepskin to a conservator and the sheepskin hadn't fully flattened after nearly a year.
 

JFeig

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Bruce, your description of "badly rippled" is subjective. However, basic humidification of a parchment is at most a week and the same time for drying under blotters and weights. This does not include the time to actually manipulate the parchment for pressing under weights. There are variations to the times I have stated.
In any case, one year of waiting is far to long under normal situations as I have no idea of the backlog of the conservator.
 

bruce papier

MGF, Master Grumble Framer
The sheepskin looked like a topographical map of the foothills of a mountain range when we sent it. It looked like a rolling prairie when we got it back.
 
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