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at the Sign of the Hygra
2 Middleton Road
London E8 4BL
Tel: 00 44 (0)20 7254 7074
Fax: 00 44 (0) 870 1257669

Antique Boxes in English Society
1760 -1900







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We try to preserve original finishes and condition: the emphases is on conservation rather than restoration.

Project: the replacement of some missing edges on  A single tea caddy in harewood with an oval medallion of figured wood Circa 1790.


A few inches of the maple edgings of this 18th Century caddy are missing. The edges help to protect the end grain of the harewood both from moisture and damage.

The early finish  has survived and should protected.

A discussion of the procedure was filmed with a view to being included in the BBC's Inside Antiques program on tea caddies. 

A single tea Georgian caddy in harewood with an oval medallion of a distinctively figured wood fragment, framed by a formal design of delicate foliage, suggesting the Grecian laurel or myrtle wreath.


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The edge probably became loose when the mitered sides became slightly loose. 

Before the edges can be fitted the mitered glue joints should be consolidated. Otherwise the groove will be oversize. Part of the reason for doing the work is to consolidate the caddy.

The work is carried out on a baize work-board to avoid scratching the caddy surface. 


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So as to protect the surviving surface a former is made up with a groove of the same size and shape as that on the caddy. 

The replacement edging will be fully shaped and finished using this former before being finally glued in position.


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Warmed hide glue has been fed into the mitered joints. Hide glue is a refined form of animal glue and is traditionally used by fine woodworkers. It should be available from musical instrument makers suppliers. 

I find it convenient to heat the glue in a baby's bottle warmer/sterilizer. The glue is in a recycled jam-jar.

I find it easier to first put enough glue for the job in the jar and add a little water. In the dry state it looks a bit like brown sugar!  The desired consistency of the warmed glue is of  honey. 

There are several reasons for using hide glue in restoration. The new glue will revive the remaining glue in the joints. This avoids the need to take the caddy apart! The glue is water soluble and the job is reversible.

A hot iron with a damp cloth is used for a few seconds on the joint before allowing  the clamped joins to set. The steam warms up the glue.

 I left it overnight. 

The caddy is protected from the clamps with pieces of card and scraps of wood.


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The replacement edging is carved and sanded to shape before being finished. The new wood is a little lighter than the surviving edging which has had over 200 years to darken. 

By shaping on the former the original is protected. Originally when the caddy was made it would have been shaped in situ. 

I was able to obtain a more similar color by oxidizing the replacement edging with a weak solution of Potassium Bichromate. 

In bright light under close inspection the replacement is still just recognizable. 


 A drop of industrial alcohol applied with a hypodermic syringe is used to help undo the glue holding the replacement edging to the former.  The alcohol dehydrates the glue making it momentarily brittle.

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The color and the shape look good. A length is cut to size and glued in place with a little of the warmed hide glue. 

The excess glue is cleaned up with a damp cloth.

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This page is under construction. More Restoration/conservation projects will be added from time to time.






© 1999-2004 Antigone Clarke and Joseph O'Kelly