Conservation & Design International
French polished secretary

By Bart Bjorneberg
Bernacki & Associates, Inc.

Shellac is an all purpose sealant and finish that is durable, time tested, and so non-toxic it is edible. It is environmentally friendly, renewable, and capable of incredibly deep rich finishes that are organically and aesthetically compatible with all woods. It can be used alone, with traditional natural finishes and coatings, and with modern synthetic mixtures.

Shellac consists of a resin which is the secretion of the female lac beetle and the solvent ethyl alcohol. The lac beetle (Laccifer Lacca) is found in southwest Asia, primarily India. The beetles feed on the tree sap of three specific trees: Palash, Kusum, and Ber or Indian Plum. During the life and egg lying cycles of the female beetle lac is secreted to protect the beetle and the eggs. The branches are then harvested and the lac resin scraped off. This is called sticklac and at this stage it is still very impure with a lot of contaminants and debris.
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Photo: French polished secretary, side view.
The method is very labor intensive, requires drying between layers, is very tricky to master, and has about as many recipes, methods, and tricks as there are French polishers.

The narwhal hall tree. 1964.1227 Courtesy of the Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.

By Randy S. Wilkinson
Principal at Fallon & Wilkinson, LLC

In the spring of 2013, I was contacted by the Mystic Seaport Museum. I had been a Conservation Fellow there in 2000 and worked under the direction of then Curator, William Peterson and Conservator, David Matthieson. My old friend and colleague Christopher White (then Collections Manager) had a request for me. “Would you be interested in conserving the Narwhal Hall Tree?” My first reaction was: “Yes, of course I would”. It is one of the most unusual and cherished pieces of maritime history and I certainly knew the piece since I walked past it in storage many times. Saying yes was the easy part of the project, what laid ahead was the conservation of an object that would take me on a journey of a lifetime.

The hall tree was said to be made by Capt. John O. Spicer of Groton, Connecticut on the Whaling Bark Nile in the second half of the 19th century. The hall tree came into the museum’s collection in 1964. It had descended in the Spicer family and had one other owner before it arrived at the Seaport. After I had accepted the challenge, an account was discovered in the museum’s archives written by Capt. Spicer detailing the story and fabrication of the hall tree. Capt. Spicer states that wood came from the Sandwich Islands and is called “Man-ne-ta wood”. The letter is a fascinating account, rich with fanciful tales of his whaling expedition and his account of how he captures the narwhal with the large tusk. More >>

Photo: The narwhal hall tree. 1964.1227. Courtesy of the Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc.

1943 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Super Sport Cabriolet coming into the checkpoint at Florence during the 1948 Mille Miglia

Photo: 1943 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 Super Sport Cabriolet coming into the checkpoint at Florence during the 1948 Mille Miglia. Source: Archivio Foto Locchi Firenze, archival number 1948_L402-31.

Alfa Romeo during the 1948 Mille Miglia. Official talking with driver Spartaco Graziani

Photo: 1943 Alfa Romeo during the 1948 Mille Miglia. Official talking with driver Spartaco Graziani. Source: Archivio Foto Locchi Firenze, archival number 1948_L402-32.

1943 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 arrives at Cooper Technica in Chicago. Photo credit: David Cooper

Photo: 1943 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500 arrives at Cooper Technica in Chicago. Photo credit: David Cooper.

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©2015 David Cooper, President
Cooper Technica, Inc.

My company, Cooper Technica, Inc., has been privileged to work on some of the greatest automobiles ever made. At our workshops in Chicago, Illinois and in Lyon, France, we restore rare and valuable vintage European cars from the 1930s and 1940s. These specially selected cars embody the best of pre-WWII creativity and engineering genius.

Because these cars are an important historical record, collectors and restorers share the responsibility to preserve these cars as much as possible in their original condition. Often the best option is to do a mechanical restoration only, and leave the body in its ‘as found’ state. However, some cars are too far gone to leave it ‘as found’. Either the deterioration is too extensive, or previous attempts at restoration destroyed or lost original components. For these cars, the question is, how to restore them to preserve as much of the original car as possible, and also to insure that the restored car is accurate and authentic to the original.

To achieve the highest degree of authenticity and originality, we must be more than restorers; we must be meticulous automotive historians and dauntless forensic sleuths. 
Why? Because we cannot bring a car back to original without knowing what original was. We must learn how the car came to be in its current condition and configuration.
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WoodGrid Coffered Ceilings

Coffered Ceilings

Easy to Install
American Made
Fits Any Room
Many Styles
Great for Basements

Midwestern Wood Products Co.
P.O. Box 434
1500 W. Jefferson St.
Morton, IL 61550
Phone: (309) 266-9771
Fax: (309) 263-2696

Business Hours:
Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. CST


Wood ID Workshop

Wood Identification Class

Fallon & Wilkinson, LLC (Baltic, CT)
Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Seeing and Understanding Wood in a Whole New Way

Did you ever look at a piece of wood and wonder what wood it is? And why it looks the way it does? Were you ever confused about which wood it is: mahogany, walnut, cherry, or poplar?

This two-day hands-on workshop will answer all these questions and more. It is designed specifically for curators, collectors, antique dealers, appraisers, and woodworkers. The goal of this workshop is to familiarize the student with the physical properties of wood and recognize species specific structures.

No experience is necessary!


Saturday, October 10, 2015
9.00 am - 4.00 pm
Fallon & Wilkinson, LLC ( Baltic Studio)

On Saturday, basic wood anatomy will be introduced, including grain, figure, fundamental differences between softwoods and hardwoods, and more. The student will learn to identify common hardwoods that are used in antique furniture using a 10x loupe.

Sunday, October 11, 2015
11:00 am - 4:00 pm
Yale University Art Gallery Furniture Study

On Sunday, the class will be held at the Yale University Furniture Study. Students will get a rare opportunity not only to see one of the finest collections of American furniture, but also to identify woods used in a selection of great objects in a one-day intensive and hands-on inspection.

This class will fill quickly, so sign up soon.

Click Here for Details>>