Conservation Tool Spotlight: Silicone Brushes

Madeline Hagerman

No, not like this one. (Image from Wikipedia).

No, not like this one. (Image from Wikipedia).

This past summer in the midst of writing our MA dissertations, we received a list of tools to purchase. As I perused the list, I felt a bit like Harry Potter, new to the wizarding world, reading his school list for the first time. While the list included familiar items from my oil painting days, such as a plastic spatula, it also specified the need for “Needle holder, with rustless chuck” and “Paint brushes (sable, squirrel and hog’s hair).”

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I may have been a little too enthusiastic in my purchasing of bamboo skewers.

I decided also to buy silicone brushes on the advice of a former MSc student. Silicone brushes, you may ask? Yes. Though not like the lovely pastry brush above.

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Voilà!

They come in different sizes as well. From tiny (Size 0, top), for detailed work, to more moderate sizes (Size 2, bottom) for general purposes.

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They have been especially helpful for work on my delicate porcelain teacup. I used my brush to apply Araldite 2020 (an epoxy resin) to the joins of the cup. This method of application utilized the tight nature of porcelain fractures to allow the epoxy to be drawn into the join through capillary action. I also used my silicone brushes to fill the small chips on the joins of the teacup.

Applying Araldite 2020 mixed with polyester pigments to fill a chip in the interior surface of the teacup.

Applying Araldite 2020 mixed with polyester pigments to fill a chip in the interior surface of the teacup.

The owner had specified she wanted the cup to be fully restored to its original appearance. As such, I infilled the gold paint around the rim. I used a silicone brush to make sure all of my lines were straight. They were well-suited to this task because they easily wiped the excess paint off of the surface of the teacup.

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Fellow conservation student Kristen Gillette also used silicone brushes to fill chips on her high-fired ceramic.

 

Making sure the inpainting lines are all straight.

Making sure the inpainting lines are all straight.

Silicone brushes are not only good for porcelain and other high-fired ceramics, but also especially useful for glass repair and restoration.

Abby Duckor, lab partner extraordinaire, uses HXTAL (another popular conservation epoxy resin) to rejoin a practice piece of broken glass.

Abby Duckor, lab partner extraordinaire, uses HXTAL (another popular conservation epoxy resin) to rejoin a practice piece of broken glass.

Silicone brushes have become a bit of a lab sensation. They are useful for the application of all manner of adhesives: epoxy resins and Paraloids a là the ubiquitous B-72, to name a few. In the restoration side of conservation, the brushes allow conservators to easily create small epoxy resin fills. Because they don’t stick to paint or most adhesives, they can be used to clean up inpainting from smooth surfaces, like glass and resin. Silicone brushes are definitely my favourite conservation tool!

*As a North American student in London, Harry Potter continues to provide many of my points of comparison for British life.

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