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Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3 |  Part 4 |  Part 5 |  Part 6 |  Part 7

The Painting of Rooster

Part Three of a Seven Part Series by Bette Largent

Putting Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again

The areas with dry rot have been replaced with new carvings
As we have progressed from wooden pegs to square iron nails to today's myriad of nails, brads, staples, screws and bolts, so has the composition of wood glue changed. From stinky hide glue that was cooked and painted onto the joint we now find as many choices as technology will allow. However, if you ask three wood restorers or carvers which glue they prefer, you will get three different answers. The decision is often based entirely on personal preference. Quite often it comes down to where it is being used and why.

Doweled and ready for new legs
The tightest bond is wood to wood and the tightest glue for this purpose is ordinary wood glue. This is usually used for lamination. The two pieces of wood are planed and then glued together to create a bigger piece of wood. In the carousel figure, the term lamination is used to refer to all these pieces that are glued together to form the basic components of the design. Historically, they are also laminated together with the grain going in the same direction. These laminated sections were then rough cut according to the pattern and then carved. You would have sections - the head, the body, the legs. The body was usually hollow. The legs, if bent, could be two or even 3 sections as well.

Rooster, restored and ready for final sanding (romance side)
The strongest glue is needed to join the section onto the finished figure. Looff and PTC would glue all the components together with hide glue and then dowel the joints from the outside. The North Tonowanda factories would nail or screw the components together - no dowels - no glue. They did, however, use a signature lap joint at the hip and knee. In cabinet or furniture manufacture this lap joint creates a stronger joint. In carousel figures it is only effective if glue is applied as well. The wiggle or box brads that quite often held them in place created a strong joint for a brief period of time, but eventually dry rot would set in.

Many carvers and restorers use the blind dowel system today. This is a combination of dowels and glue that are done on the inside. This prevents the dowels from expanding and contracting at different speeds than the wood, and working their way out of the structure.

Again, the type of joint should be based upon the wear the figure will receive. If it is to be placed on an operating machine, the method and glue will be based upon the wear and tear on the joint and strength of the glue. If it is on a stair-step leg, perhaps a glued joint that will not destroy the carving when it does break will be chosen.

The common wood glue, from Elmer's Glue-All Purpose which can be found in the grocery store to common ordinary Carpenter's glue, can be used for the lamination and dowel process. The Glue-All is water soluble so any use of it for bonding must be followed by sealant such as paint of clear finish. This glue as well as the Carpenter's Glue have no noticeable fumes and drips are easily cleaned up. The carpenter's glue (aliphatic resin) requires that the pourous surfaces must be clamped together for a minimum of 30 minutes and overnight is preferable. Another device such as a dowel may be used in combination with the glue to reinforce the joint.

The advantage to this type of glue is price, spreadability, fumes, clean-up and strength. It is the glue of choice for lamination. It's life span on a joint is comparable to the original joint. It will break away clean when used in an area that will be prone to breakage due to design. It flows well for doweling. It does not permeate the total fiber of the wood. It does require that both surfaces be totally flat and the pieces must be held in place by some outside force such as clamps, pinch dogs, or other support until completely set.

Dowels used should be rasped, roughed up or special spiral types in order to absorb the glue for strength. Today's dowels are TOO perfect. The original hand made ones were rough and not necessarily perfectly round. The hole should be larger than the dowel to allow for the space needed for the glue. Often, the head can have a small crack due to the breakdown of the original glue in a small area. If pried open, inch by inch, with wedges inserted to hold the space open, wood glue can be blown into the area with an air compressor and then the wedges removed. The compression of the structure will suck the joint down tightly, eliminating the need for any further repair in the area.

Rooster, restored and ready for final sanding (money side)
Epoxy glues do not have some of the above restrictions. They are toxic, however. They usually are two part, meaning the amount needed is created by mixing two separate compounds. Some require overnight curing time with clamps, etc. Common types used for joints and joints only are PC.7 by Protective Coating Co. and a more sophisticated type produced by West Systems. The first is readily found and inexpensive in small quantities. The second must be ordered in larger quantities to be economical. They do not require that the surfaces have a perfect match as they are applied in a thick, paste form. The West Systems product does not even require clamping. Just apply an even coat on both pieces and slap it together. It is an ideal solution for mass production.

Often as wood shrinks it will get fissures or cracks along the grain of the wood. A way of getting a bond in this case is a product developed by the miniature wood model industry. It is referred to as the Super Glue for the wood hobbyist. There are two types, Insta Cure which bonds in 1 to 3 seconds and Gap Filling which gives you a whopping 5 to 15 seconds. It is pricey and thin, which means you can apply it to very small hairline cracks. It is cyanoacrilate and is distributed by Bob Smith Industries. It is usually found in hobby stores that specialize in wooden hobbies and crafts.

Ferring Epoxy is product developed for the marine industry and is used in areas that are affected by dry rot. It can not be used as a glue. It does however, completely fill and encase the affected wood fibers and creates an epoxy based salvation for carved detail areas that would otherwise be lost.

Photo 1 and 2 show the body structure of Rooster, front and back ready for doweling of the hips. The dark lines are areas where PC.7 glue was used. The new wood pieces and old wood can also be seen. Photos 3 and 4 show the figure ready for final sanding and priming. Rooster has received a combination of lamination, dowel joints, epoxy glue and treatments for dry rot. As you can see, the areas that will receive the most wear and tear and were in the poorest condition had to be re-carved and replaced. At this point, we should call him Humpty Dumpty. And he has been put together again!

Please remember, there are other comparable glues and brands that can be used other than those mentioned here!

In the next article we will paint "Rooster".

Photos on this page are provided courtesy of Bob Cherot, Montana Carousel Company, Inc.

Part 1 |  Part 2 |  Part 3 |  Part 4 |  Part 5 |  Part 6 |  Part 7

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Bette Largent is a professional carousel horse restoration artist from Washington State, and the author of Paint The Ponies, a guide for those who are interested in learning the art of painting carousel figures.

Click Here for information on ordering her book.

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