Toy Automata Booth August 13th

Hey there everyone! I hope you’re enjoying your summer – somehow Seattle managed to escape the heat that seems to have enveloped America. So with that – I’m excited to announce I’ll be hosting a booth in Seattle at the Rainier Valley Heritage Parade. Come visit and save yourself from the shine wave.


I’m going to be making automaton toys out of card board, paper, and other materials with kids. I’ll also have copies of my first issue of the Horologica Obscura zine and it’s all free!  It’s filled with some exciting (but true) short stories about magicians and other odd happenings, a magic trick or two, and some patterns from my (soon to be out!) coloring book.  I hope you’ll make the trek! Come learn about gear loops, cams, and simple mechanisms.

Here are some of the toys I’ve made for examples.  A little cardboard goes a long way!

8è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Final by Ségolène Girard

Seg is speaking !

Hello everyone ! Because now I know I am not speaking all alone (ha ha) actually I was lately saying to Brittany that I thought I was only writing these articles for her (and that I was still happy to do it), and two or three friends of mine. But she told me to look in the insights of the blog, and….to the 90 people that read my last post, and to the others (maybe more) that read my former posts ; I am so very flattered !

It’s been exactly a year after I first started writing on this blog thanks to the spot Brittany allowed me to have. It was also at about the same moment that I met her so that is very significant for me, and probably an important date on the calendar for both of us. But that you will know about in time. So yes it makes me sad, and at the same time very happy to write that last article about the Horse Racing Game, at the same time the end and the beginning of even more great things to share with you people ! So much happened within a year.

Now, the last pictures of the Horse Racing Game with before/after restoration comparisons (I know you all love this, we all do). Enjoy !


The plateau before and after treatment of the felt, stabilization of the rust, and fixing of the flaking paint :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.54.20Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.53.03_________________________________________________________________________

A sight of the cardboard of the base that I had to change ;

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.54.42

Remember all the mold it was suffering from ;

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 23.01.32Now with a new non-acid cardboard, and an extension of the flaps that were missing from the base papers. I replaced them and colored them to merge with the originals ;

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.52.23And here is a closer view of the aspect of the paper and the details of the plaque. Remember also that golden papers had all to be replaced, you can see the final result here :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.52.39_______________________________________________________________________

The cardboard lid was extremely warped. Thanks to the dampening room, weights and patience, I got excellent results as you can see on the following pictures :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.54.03Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.51.36

Unstucking the papers thanks to the Gore-tex® process allowed me to regain the original flatness and resorb the folds and deformations of the paper. These pictures also gives you the comparison before-after dusting, cleaning and bathes that the papers had been subjects of ;

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.53.46Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.53.23________________________________________________________________________

The pinky-greyish marks are the result of passage of time. I decided not to touch them as I feel that we already get the best results of the original colours with the cleaning process. Nevertheless, I of course executed retouches on the pieces of papers added in order to fill the torn and missing parts. Yet, they are executed in a slightly different tone to let appear the restoration. As part of our ethics, we are not pretending that our restoration never occurred. We are here to extend the life of the object, and if possible, allow a better appreciation of it.

There, on the left and right sides of the corner, and even a tiny piece in the point of the angle.

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 22.50.36And here, visible when close, but invisible when at one meter of distance :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-06 à 23.20.15


Et voilà :

IMG_4443IMG_4443 copie IMG_4430 copie Capture d’écran 2013-05-06 à 00.30.33 Capture d’écran 2013-05-06 à 00.33.15

7è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game -Conservation (Part II) by Ségolène Girard

Seg is speaking !

I put aside all of the unstuck and bathed papers to dry, and to flatten under a press.

I also prepared a dampening room, consisting of a sort of tiny plastic tent (that you can close perfectly) and bowls filled with water. The cardboard lid was placed higher than the bowls, to avoid any risks of contact with liquid water. I then started to put some unheavy weights on the deformed sides. The idea is to progress gently. Everyday, I would add a little more weight, to flatten regularly the cardboard. When it would be flat enough, I could place a big weight to flatten definitely the side treated. This took me a few weeks, also because I had to treat each side individually, to have it horizontally (simple logic !).


Meanwhile, I decided to treat the mechanics of the game.

I first removed the green felt, that was not really green anymore, nor sticking, and almost “holing”.  I then dismounted the game in order to put it right again in order to work. I gently sanded the pulverulent rust.

Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 19.34.20I then applied bicarbonate fluoride with a brush. In order to stop the process from too much action, I cleaned the dissolute residues with a moisten fabric, and dried it right away. On this picture, you can see the action of bicarbonate fluoride in the lower part :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 19.40.42

Here are the results after full treatment :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 19.34.13Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 19.49.53________________________________________________________

 For the red ring, I used Paraloïd B72, which is a thermoplastic resin, used especially in ceramics and metals restoration. It is stable in the passage of time. I first applied it everywhere between the flakes network with a tiny brush, to fill the holes, and when it was dry I applied a second layer in top of it all.

Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 19.48.45______________________________________________________

The insects holes of the wood were treated individually with a syringe and insecticidal.

I could also have used anoxia, that I did not know at the time and avoids using toxic materials. It consists in killing insects by deprivation of air. You can do it at home ! It consists in keeping the object contaminated in a plastic well sealed for at least 72 hours.

Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 19.53.12

Finally, I mounted all the parts again right at their places. The game was indeed working better. I closed the base with a non acid cardboard to replace the one that was contaminated by mold.

I replaced the fabric with a new felt cloth, antique, but never used, and with unfaded color. It was a hard part. I had to cut it exactly to fit the original place, and to stuck the sides well between the wood and the metallic parts.


Now that the papers were dry, it was time for mending. In fact, each side where separated from each other due to wear and tear, while they used to be just one long band wrapping the box. I also had to figure out how the flaps used to be, as some of them where missing.

I torn some pieces of Japanese papers, to keep fibers on the side that will be stuck to the papers tears. This allows us to naturally extend the paper, as if it had never been torn. Cutting it perfectly would not offer a good adherence. Also, the fibers of the Japanese paper and of the ones of the object needs to be in the same direction to offer a perfect tension. I chose a Japanese paper that would approach the basis weight of my object papers.

I stuck these papers with wheat starch glue, on about 0,1 in, and put it under weights.

There you can see it on each side (top band is the one of the cardboard lid, and bottom part of the wooden base, you can even see the hole for the trigger) ;

Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 20.27.08

Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 20.27.15

The white parts where painted with acrylic in order to match with the rest, but in a color slightly different to make the restoration appear. I then prepared like-sized strips of Japanese papers that I painted with golden acrylic.


Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 20.33.50This is a sketch of the cardboard lid. As a wooden “T-bar” was missing (first arrow on the picture above), I replaced it with a non-acid piece of cardboard, before remounting the papers.

First, the montage of the golden strip, on both lid and base, as follows ; was stuck with wheat starch glue :

Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 20.38.04Capture d’écran 2014-05-02 à 20.39.01

I did an “in situ” retouch on the golden papers to tarnish them a little.

Then, I re-stuck all the pieces of papers again. Oh no I will make you wait a little longer for the final picture. Exactly a year after my first post on this game ! Boy, it’s been a rough journey. I can’t believe all of the things that happened meanwhile !

Until next time !

6è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Conservation (Part I) by Ségolène Girard

Seg is speaking !

Finally after a year, here my conservation process. No more talking, let’s get to work.

First, I dismounted the cardboard base that was covered with mold, in order to get rid of it rapidly. It was easy to do since the paper flaps of the base were already unstuck from it. Then I pulled the nails out, it was more delicate because they were so rusted they could break at any moment and remain in the wooden base, unreachable.

Then I dusted all of the game with soft brushes, and powdered rubber. Just like a peeling ! Making sure to go everywhere, insisting on the intern metal parts now accessible with harder brushes made of pig bristle. Everything was removed with soft large brushes of goat hair.

This is a picture of the papers on the lid after this process, you can see the rubber is absolutely grey :

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.05.25

Here is a better picture of its aspect before and after the dusting treatment :

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.09.16

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.08.05

Just with that simple process, it sure looks better ! But that is not all, dusting is extremely important for the interventions to come ; indeed, we are about to bring water to take the papers off. The maximum of the dirt needs to be removed before bringing up some water, because it could cause more stains, or encrust even more the paper.

The papers need to be removed in order to clean them into a bath if the colors holds fine to the paper. The side papers are not too complicated to remove because the sides of the box are already quite flat.

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.32.42

The harder part is the top paper, because the cardboard is curved, and the paper, almost unstuck, is ripping at the limit stuck-unstuck.

We cannot bring directly water on the box, because the cardboard would disintegrate. Now how do we proceed ?

Let me introduce to you ; The Gore-tex® !

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.27.40This technology created especially for the needs of restoration is the sort of gauze here on the picture. It transforms the water held in the soaked blotters (ivory form), into water gas ! The plastic sheet is called Melinex®. It creates a dampening room, this way, the paper will unstuck gently through a night, without any risk of making halos. The only inconvenient is the length of the process, since I had to do it side by side for logical reasons. But it was worth it !

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.48.37There you see it perfectly unstuck without any liquid water added. Magical ? No restoration !

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.50.02Oh wait yes there are stains I know… but it can be explained ! The darker stain is actually the remaining humidity in the paper brought by the Gore-tex®, it was already drying away.

The brown watermarks in the bottom were there already, and that is one of the reason I now processed to a bath, and did as well with all of the other papers.

Cleaning them is important for several reasons ;

=> Visually, it would be nice to remove the remaining dirt that is really encrusted in the paper.

=> Then, it will help us to flatten them, and also the cardboard of the lid, which has to be done separately since the cardboard and the paper moved differently beginning at the moment they got separated by the flood.

=> Flattening them will allow us to repair the tears and gaps, remount golden papers on the edges, and to stick it back on the cardboard.

=> Finally, water will do good by reuniting the fibers of the paper, reorienting them, and getting the oxidize particles off. Indeed, any paper made after the middle of the 19th century has chemical components, that oxidize with time and yellows the paper. This process is inherent to the composition of the paper. We cannot stop it, but we can slow it down with bath.

Be careful, this is not something you can do at home ! Many people use also whiteners ; now if you did not know, never redo this ! You are only destroying further your object. It sure looks great and white again after the bath, but it will now be destroying itself ten times more rapidly, in ten years it will be even yellower than before the bath, a former yellow color that it had gain within 150 years.

Capture d’écran 2014-04-16 à 18.54.27

After having done tests in order to see if the painting held well on the paper, I put them into a bath of water only. You can see the upper paper, and a torn bottom flap. They are laying down on a non-weaved fabric used in restoration, the papers are actually very thin and brittle, and the cloth allows us to take them off the water with no risk of tearing them (a philatelist’s dream !).

With soft brushes and a gentle action I removed all the dirt I could, which was easier as it was softened.

You can see how the paper regained its original color.

5è Partie. A French Horse Racing Game – Report by Ségolène Girard

Seg is speaking !

And sorry for the delay – the end of my third year is full with the preparation of the two next years : those of my master’s thesis, and long-term internships. Hopefully, I will get the chance to study in England to follow the path of Brittany, and hopefully at Brittany’s future workshop that promises to be filled with any restorer’s dreams, thank to the amazing job she is doing !

Let’s now get into the real process of restoration of my horse racing game.
After a full report of the deterioration it suffers of, and having took many pictures to complete it, I began thinking about options on what would have to be done on the game.

Capture d’écran 2014-04-03 à 23.05.05

It sort of was a personal project I did on my own, so of course, there are things that after a year I know I would have done otherwise with experience. But I am glad I got the chance to work on that piece so soon, since it has been a challenge the all way long. Also, considering that with only a year +1 I am already reconsidering my choices, and designing new options if I had to deal with a piece like this again, I feel it is very promising, and that this “stepping back” will grow with each year gained in experience.

As a two years student in restoration and conservation of paper works, I envisaged quite advanced actions :

– The game will be dismantled, drawings made to build it back.

– All of the pieces will be treated separately, and first dusted.

– I would then unstick all of the black papers, in order to repair the tears and gaps, and gain in flatness. Also, this would allow me to flatten the cardboard lid, before sticking the papers back. The golden papers, too oxydised would be removed and replaced by new ones. I felt that their now green colour was not rendering back the cheerful aspect of what that of game fortune used to give. If it has only been for the colour, I might have let them, considering them as part of the story the game came trough, but anyway, they were too incomplete, brittle, and could not offer their former protection to the edges.

The lid needs to be flattened, and the paper cleansed

The golden edges are not gold anymore, and they are leaving the sharp edges vulnerable to wear and tear

– The cardboard lower part, covered with mould, will be removed and replaced with a non-acid cardboard used in restoration.

Mould on the lower part of the game, after dismounting it

– The base, made out of wood, will be decontaminated because of the insects before putting the papers back.

Insect holes on the wooden base

Did you know you can recognize the insect that lived there only by the shape of the holes it leaves behind him ?

– The metal parts will be treated against rust.

Rust on the plateau of the base (inside view)

– Lead painting will be stabilized to prevent it of more flaking.

Flaking paint on the hoop

These actions resume what I dealt with the same way that I would now do it.
The only part that caused me trouble at that time, and that I would have done differently if I had had the time and funds is the treatment of the felt on the plateau. I decided to remove it because of its faded colour, and it was sometimes so thin you could see through it. Also, I wanted to access the metal parts to treat them against rust. It was a very hard choice to make ; choosing between which part to favor, and which to sacrifize. Anyway, I will probably have more time to study these types of problems in the future when I will be my own master on board !

Felt in good condition of conservation on another game / State of the felt on my own game