Saturday, March 11, 2017

Molding & Casting To Repair The World's Gaudiest Antique

A few months back John and I were antiquing at a steampunk fair - as one does - and under a vendor tent in a field we stumbled across a pair of the most staggeringly gaudy antique lamps:

 
Imagine this, times two.

Thing was, apparently they came from an abandoned mansion in Detroit, and we kind of loved them. John more than me, so over the afternoon he kept dragging me back to that tent to look them over. And as I pointed out all the problems - this bit was missing, those parts were broken, they'd take an enormous amount of work to clean and rewire - I started falling in love with the challenge of it all.

Plus those iridescent crystals are amaaaazing.


Around viewing 3 or 4 a friend with us pointed out that one of the metal hanging shades had two entire points snapped off - a deal breaker for sure. John's face fell. Our group turned to move on.

  Exhibit A.

"Unless..." I said, "We... molded the existing shade pieces and cast resin replacements?"

BAM. We bought the lamps.

Now, I've never repaired anything with resin like this, but I've always wanted to try. And wow was it fun. Here, let me walk you through it.

First, you need this:

It's a two-part putty you mix together, then smoosh on top of the thing you're casting. In our case, that was the unbroken point of one of the metal shades:


The silicone mold cures in just 20 minutes, then we were ready to pour some resin:

We use Amazing Casting Resin. You should be able to get both the mold kit & the resin for less than $30 - and both go a long way, so you can do multiple projects.

Because the lamp points curve outward, John had to reinforce our mold with extra high walls near the bottom.

The resin came out like this:


Again, the tip is extra thick, to account for the curve. So next John sanded down the excess thickness, then trimmed off the parts we didn't need.

Which gave us this:


Lookin' good, right?

To attach the resin I used a 2-part epoxy putty.

Kitting up. Be sure to mix the 2-part putty while wearing gloves; it sticks to EVERYTHING.


I rolled a thin snake of the epoxy putty, then jammed the resin piece in place. The putty hardens in about five minutes, so I had that long to clean off as much excess as I could with a toothpick.
 

I left the back seam thick, though; that gets sanded down later.

I still had a few hairline cracks after the piece was attached, so to fill those I tried another concoction I learned from the internet:

Superglue and baking soda.

If you mix those you'll get a paste that quickly hardens into the strongest substance known to man. Seriously. It's insane. The paste was a little too thick for my purposes, though, so instead I dripped superglue into the cracks, then quickly dumped baking soda on top. Blow off the excess powder, and you've got a nice hard seam of resin-like glue.

 To smooth down the seams, enter my trusty Dremel with a tiny pointed sanding bit:
 

Next we get to see how well I did on the sanding: WE PAINT!

Starting with a base coat of Liquid Leaf in Pale Gold.

Followed by John's oh-so-skillful aging with his custom color match made from craft paint:
John literally did this for a living in our previous life, so he's pretty good at it.

You ready for this?

Ta-DAAA!


Here's a turn-around of the entire bottom edge. Can you spot the repaired ends?


I can spot one - my first repair is a bit chunky - but the second I can't tell apart from the others. Even in real life, I have to keep turning the shade upside down to find the inside seams to tell which is which.

SO FUN.

I hope you guys keep this in mind next time something precious - or ridiculous and gaudy - needs repairing. You can use the same method for frames, knick-knacks (missing hands?), or anything with repeating patterns. And it really is possible for mere mortals!

The lamps will be an ongoing project, I think, and the next thing on our repair list is even MORE daunting: replacing a few of the missing crystals. Crystals we have no prayer of finding, since they were custom-made for these lamps. I have an idea of how to (try to) recreate our own with clear resin, though, so the casting adventures may continue!

Unless of course one of you happens to have these exact crystals laying around in your junk drawer, in which case... [Bambi Eyes]?

Happy weekend, everyone!

55 comments:

  1. This is super cool! For your crystals you could use clear irridescent foil, or something similar. No idea how to get that cool pattern though.
    Good luck!

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    1. That's what I'm thinking: cast two clear resin pieces (front & back) and sandwich foil between them. It won't be exactly the same, but if we can get close with the color, I think it'll pass!

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    2. i'm sure there's an iridescent mica you can stir in...https://www.etsy.com/listing/495015136/mica-powder-chameleon-powder-artcolor?&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=shopping_us_e-craft_supplies_and_tools-other&utm_custom1=2d308cfd-2d98-4786-b19b-546a0e509914&gclid=Cj0KEQiAgJTGBRDLr5_az_Ouk44BEiQAIxaA4iSf3C1usvGvREtyjS4CorcdR3H1qqmdcRC91q8aSk4aAide8P8HAQ

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  2. its such a beautiful lamp!!! i love it!!

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  3. I don't have the crystals, but funny story. I had a roommate, once upon a time. I was getting something out of my closet, and she freaks out. It's a piece of fabric I had bought for an invisibility cloak, but never got around to doing it. Dark purple, shimmery, with planets and stuff on it. Turns out that her mom had used the same fabric to line the black out curtains for their movie room, but had scorched a piece while ironing. She had sent my friend to every Walmart in town, but it was a seasonal fabric and it was gone. We went to visit her mom later and I got to present her with the fabric she needed, probably two or three years later!

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    1. I love when things like this work out!!

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  4. can you get a good bright photo of a crystal not in place? and measure it?
    i like this kind of scavenger hunt!

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    1. I still need to remove one, but when I do, sure thing! I'll add it to this post with the measurements later.

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    2. cool. i'll keep an eye out. ^~^-b

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  5. I am in love with those gloriously ornate lamps and perhaps in love with you guys for oh so expertly repairing them. Good luck with the crystals!

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  6. If you can't figure out how to match them, can you rearrange so that the missing spaces form a pattern and replace those with some other gem or crystal? Make it look intentional, at least?

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  7. What I would attempt on the crystal pieces - see if you can cast or replicate the pattern carved in the back of the clear crystal. Mold clear acrylic in the shape you need with that pattern cast in the back side, so that when it is removed you would have a similar pattern (or you could get super ambitious and carve it yourself. The iridescence is applied to the surface of the original crystals and there is no reason you couldn't get a pretty close match with some irridescent clear nail polish or spray enamel.

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    1. I was thinking something along the same line. I had a gem-making kit when I was a kid (45 years ago) -- it smelled horrible, but we got some really cool looking crystal "gems" out of it.

      I know you guys will figure this out -- you are so talented! That repair of the shades is pretty amazing!
      -Zippy

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  8. There's also cheep iridescent acrylic paint available from the usual suspects. If you don't get a good match, the back up plan could be to just move the repro ones to the back, assuming a non-360° view of these critters.

    Can hardly wait to see what you do for a lampshade and finial, assuming the upper parts are keepers. You might think about casting extra crystals to hang from or work into the shade(??)
    -- Al K

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  9. I'm in awe. How in the world do you guys do it?

    As for the crystals, they have to be somewhere, right? Someone has to have them. I don't, though.

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  10. Look what I found!! http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Cast-Metal-Spelter-Swag-Light-Chandelier-Aurora-Crystals-Works-/322446263178?hash=item4b134b838a:g:iGkAAOSwXYtYwE3I

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    1. Oh my goodness, how on earth did you find that?! Your ebay-foo is STRONG. So cool!

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    2. Well, now I know what I'll be spending my birthday doing! Chandelier shopping!! Yay!!

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    3. I almost feel like you should nab that one and then continue the repair on the other. See if anyone can tell which is which when you're done! (i realize the ebay one is probably more than you really would spend, if you normally do deal shopping)

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  11. I love ridiculously gaudy antique lamps myself. Bonus points if they hang.

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  12. Cool! Yeah ckear resin with foil paper may work. I know theres been a good bit of that effect tried and achieved in the mermaid scale making world ( sadly the foil cuts into the silicone and wont stay but resin can hold it. Theres pigments out there in powder form you could try too. ( mermaid forum in the tail making section has been a huuuge distraction lately. Lol)

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  13. That is a lovely lamp! Great repairs!

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  14. You guys are amazing! I can only tell the difference on one of the points, but that's because I was looking for it. If I didn't know you'd had to do repairs, I don't know that I would have picked up on it. Good luck with the crystals. I'm sure you'll figure out something great!

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  15. Another idea with the crystals could me to make yours and then do an every-other pattern with the homemade and original. Then with the original leftovers.....jewelry!!!

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  16. Found some crystals the right shape, not sure if the size would work. http://www.ebay.com/itm/222421651844?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT
    Also found another fixture by the same maker, and boy does IT need help :D http://www.ebay.com/itm/302234378107?_trksid=p2060353.m1438.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

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    1. These are so fun to look at - that pendant is amaaaazing, though I think they should have left it alone, not repainted it and added those terrible red beads, ha. Nice to see what the shades look like painted, though - it kind of reinforces my desire to leave ours with the natural patina.

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    2. The red bead one's long dangles reminded me that my mom had a pair of earrings about that length & style made from chandelier pieces. I never saw her wear them but now I wonder what she did with them.

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    3. Also, if you can't work it out you might try having someone who's into stained glass fuse/slump some bullseye dichroic glass or replace them with glass bevels.

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  17. If you have a friend who works with dichroic glass, that could be a good replacement too!

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  18. Both you and John are amazing! Good luck with the crystals.

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  19. You guys are WIZARDS!!

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  20. This is really inspiring and gives me hope to fix my grandparents' "dragon lamp" which is currently in two pieces in a rather ugly way. I'll have to investigate resin and molds...

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  21. Dare I ask how much you paid for those? Also, this is inspiring me to fix an old base metal costume jewelry bracelet - nothing ventured, nothing gained!

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    1. We paid $100 total for both. The lady selling them came down a lot because they're a pain to transport and the show was closing. The way I see it, it's entertainment. One ticket for one day at Disney is $100. I just got hours or neat projects with Jen, several posts of material for Epbot, the challenge of rewiring an antique, and, at the end of it all, I have two really cool lamps. Money well spent.

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  22. Love the lamp. What an amazing find and an even more amazing repair! Good luck with the hunt for crystals but I have no doubt you two will come up with something fantastic.

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  23. Those lamps are so gaudy and yet, so glorious. I love that they threw in some marble in the base, apparently just because. Your repair looks perfect!

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  24. iridescent nail polish behind resin or real crystal LOVE this project. Just let a massive beautiful mirror at Goodwill bc the frame had some issues. May have to revisit!

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  25. If the crystals become too hard to match well, you could also strategically remove some of the existing ones and replace with something intentionally different but coordinating (you'd probably still need to make or trim something to the custom size) so you have a pattern, instead. And you could use existing ones that are removed to fill in if the current holes aren't where you want them for the pattern :-)!

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  26. Also, kudos on the LOVELY repair job! You guys are impressively good at this.

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  27. I am in love with your gaudy lamps. I can totally picture them either side of a tufted sofa in a steampunkesque library. Can't wait to see the continuing process! You guys always find super nifty things.

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  28. Similar, but only one...https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/473482763/on-sale-vintage-czech-chandelier-crystal?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=vintage&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=chandelier%20crystals&ref=sr_gallery_47

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  29. Yeah, ebay has got a couple of listings of lamps like this (under "jeweled tulip lily" or "aurora crystals"), but couldn't spot any of the crystals for sale on their own. It'd be better and more cost-effective (in theory) to make your own similar ones. Have fun!

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  30. The tiny holes at the very tip of each shade scallop are giving me the idea that at one time, prism-like crystals hung from the shades.

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  31. I just learned so many things from that post! You may have just created a monster!
    Superglue and baking soda? I think that'll be the first thing I try. No idea what I'll try it on, but... details!

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  32. Those lamps are ridiculous. And fantastic! :D

    Great repair job! I hope you find a good fix for the missing crystals! They're my favourite part. MOAR sparkly things!

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  33. I am a lamp geek and those ate totally amazing lamps. Fabulous find & great DIY job!
    MaryO1230
    Sam Pedro,CA

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  34. I am a lamp geek and those ate totally amazing lamps. Fabulous find & great DIY job!
    MaryO1230
    Sam Pedro,CA

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  35. Here's a crystal that's the same general shape...but doesn't have the starburst pattern inside.

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/473482763/on-sale-vintage-czech-chandelier-crystal?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=chandelier%20crystals%20hexagon&ref=sr_gallery_15

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    1. and another one, that has A starburst pattern, but not the right one.

      https://www.etsy.com/listing/485679791/antique-chandelier-prisim-1920s-gold?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=chandelier%20crystals&ref=sr_gallery_13

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  36. I have been watching the GIF at the end for about 10 minutes now and I can't see a difference. Great job!!!!! -Pinkie Welborne, 16
    Indiana

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  37. I don't think they're that gaudy. I mean, if you took them to my plater and got them done with 18carat yellow gold, then maybe they'd be gaudy...

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  38. So this confirms my opinion that you are basically just a crafting goddess. Wow. You can do anything!

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  39. I had a pair of these. If I still had them, I'd send them to you, but alas they went to the trash. The best part was the lampshades, they were a kind of yellowy orange velvet material. They were ginormous. I don't have any pictures. I don't know if you've had the lamp lit up, it's supposed to be able to light the bulb at the top and the tentacles separately.

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  40. WoW! Just last week I purchased a pair of very similar lamps online. Also same problem with one of the brass tulips missing a chunk off the bottom. Never EVER thought I would find an article like this on how to fix it. Taking this project on this summer when I have more time.. also.. coming up is at least a HUGE 15 square block annual garage sale that never disappoints. tons of antiques... from an antique neighbourhood... so will wait to see what treasures lay awaiting! Also missing many of the crystals.. but hey, I found this extremely, much appreciated article of yours'.. so who knows.. just may find some of the crystals as well.. Thanks so much!

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