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Repairman Steve Fowler inquired sometime ago about repairing ivory.
<< The ivory has a crack about 3/64" wide, along
its entire length. If I decide to repair it, what
is the best solution for aging the new ivory.
I've heard of people using tea. The old ivory
is of course a dark yellow and the new is very white." >>
The question was posed to readers of the Woodwind Quarterly and a response
received by David Smith may interest others. Mr. Smith is a New Zealand
repairman, who enjoys a fabulous private collection of exotic woodwinds
he had personally refurbished. He replies:
<< Staining ivory to match is not an easy job, because being a
natural substance no two pieces will have aged to the same
color, and each new piece will react differently to chemicals
I have used various methods. Quite effective is Condy's crystals
(Potassium Permanganate). A few of these crystals dropped into a
cupful of hot water will make a bright purple solution which stains
brown. By dipping the ivory in and out it is possible to see the
staining take place, and stop when the darkening is adequate. The
ivory must be clean, and polished to its final finish, because otherwise
you will risk polishing off some of the stain, which doesn't penetrate
very deep into the ivory. Also, if there are any small flaws or pores
in the ivory, the stain will soak into them, leaving dark spots.
Another method I have recently found is to use a wood stain sold here
as an NGR (non-grain-raising) stain. This seems to be a spirit-based stain,
available in various colors, including brown mahogany, red mahogany,
and rimu (a N.Z. native timber which is more yellow than mahogany).
Dilute this stain slightly with a solvent such as a contact cement solvent,
and paint it on with a small artist's brush. It seems to penetrate further
than a water-based stain, and brings out that almost translucent look that
old ivory can develop near the surface. By varying the color slightly and
applying more in some places than others, it is possible to build up a good
match for most old ivory.
But, if Steve is hoping to insert or inlay a piece of new ivory into
the crack, no matter how cleverly stained it is, I don't fancy his
chances of doing it invisibly. However good the fit and color match, a
line will show between the pieces, and unlike wood, impossible to conceal.>>
This response addresses real ivory. But what about using a synthetic
replacement? One of the most popular substitute for ivory is a polyester
product made by GPS in England. It does a very convincing job as an
alternative new ivory. However, there are several refurbishers that have yet
to discover a suitable material to replace vintage ivory.
I have suggested trying to stain the alternative ivory with a strong
acid, though I have not yet tried this experiment to find if it would
work. Has anyone tried this with the GPS product? Does anyone have
any other suggestions for this problem?
Scott Hirsch, Editor daylight fax = 1-509-935-6835
The Woodwind Quarterly e-mail: WQ@ix.netcom.com
1513 Old CC Rd. toll-free telephone = 1-800-450-1148
Colville, WA 99114