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Getting the Wrinkels Out

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Getting the Wrinkles Out

One of the areas I collect is Japanese decorations, medals and related items; of the “related items” door badges rank high on my “wants list”. Door badges are plates, or plaques, that are affixed to the doorway of a home to indicate that the inhabitants are members of a specific association or organization. In the past these were made of wood, ceramic, metal and pressed paper fibre, the practice continues today but the badges are now often an adhesive strip.

The badge that just arrived and is the subject of this post is made of a thin malleable, non ferrous metal which is very easily distorted. The association’s badge, in this case The Greater Japan Wounded Veteran’s Association, is a separate piece attached by bent tabs; the badges are usually painted on. This badge arrived in a bent condition with several “wrinkles” in the metal caused by its removal from the doorway. I was fortunate in that the bends were not severe and there were no creases. It had been affixed to the doorway with two nails, one at the top the other at the bottom. The nails had caused the metal to be pushed out at the back leaving small cone-shaped protrusions.

This particular door badge is one of the scarce examples and any decision to “improve it” had to be considered seriously. I could have simply placed it in the collection as it was when it arrived or take the chance, as small as that may be, to actually make it even more collectable by restoration. Of course I chose restoration otherwise this post would have absolutely no point at all.

I apologize that somehow I managed to delete the “before” photos so please accept my description of the piece in its original condition. The first thing I did was to smooth out the small cones left by the use of nails that were too large for the holes provided. This I did easily with a large, and therefore heavier, hammer on a piece of railroad iron I keep as an anvil. Light taps was all that was necessary to produce a smooth, back to original, surface.

My first concern was for the separate badge, a prominent and important feature of this door badge. Normally when restoring antiques, whether furniture or muskets (the topic of a future post) you need to disassemble the whole item prior to commencing work. In this case I was worried that the soft metal tabs on the badge itself might break off if I tried to straighten them, and then bend them down when I reattached it. So how to straighten out the wrinkles with the badge attached without damage to the badge? If you have ever worked with metal you’ll know that beating it with a hammer on an anvil (railroad iron in my case) will produce a nice rolled piece of material when done. Not what we are looking for here. Also the edges tend to flair out when struck by a hammer so a gentler means is needed.

I decided to use a press I have in the shop and if you’ve followed any of my other restoration posts you’ve seen it before. This is actually a dental press that I purchased at an antiques mall several years ago and has come in handy on more than one occasion. The next thing I did was to find a couple of pieces of smooth hard wood in the scrap bin. In this case the wood was hard maple. In order to protect the badge I drilled out a space to fit the badge shape fairly closely, fine tuning the space sides with chisels.

Once the hole was the correct size to protect the badge I used masking tape and affixed the plate to the first block of wood with the badge in the hole. Then the flat piece of wood was placed against the back of the door badge and taped to the first board. In this way nothing moves and the badge is protected. In addition to this you won’t need three pairs of hands to hold everything in place while you proceed.

After inserting this “sandwich” into the press and applying pressure the result is a completely smooth plate with the badge undamaged.

One of the things I really dislike about a lot of these so-called do-it-yourself articles is when some well meaning hobbyist working at a professional level tells you that you can do this yourself then lists what you will need. His list can include anything from a Mig welder and 2000 pound hydraulic press to a milling machine and a plasma cutter. This always leaves me thinking that I could hire the work done or purchase another example of the item, in need of restoration, in mint condition a lot cheaper than fixing the item in question. With this in mind, there are alternatives to a dental press. You can use almost any clamp from woodworking clamps (shown in photograph) to large “C” clamps. Even a good sized vise would work well. Failing that a good sized hammer could be applied to the wooden blocks. I have pictured a larger weighted mallet that I often use to set dowelled pieces together; I call it my “coaxer”. I think the heavier the hammer the better and no need to slam the thing down like you are driving railroad spikes; let the weight of the hammer/mallet do the work.

While I like to use hardwood for such projects I don’t think a soft wood such as pine would present a problem except any serious issues might tend to imprint into the soft wood rather than being ”ironed” out. “Ok, smart guy, I don’t have a shop” might be your thoughts at this time. Fair enough, but you can possibly do what some of my friends do. If you have a friend who has a shop then ask them to help. Most of us with shops really like these challenges and would be more than happy to help.

My point , as always, is not to just put a damaged item in your collection without at least considering taking on some restorations yourself.



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Now for the corrections. :blush:

The photo of the press should have been earlier in the post but no matter, it's there.

The missing photo is of a couple of different woodworking clamps that could be used, though there is an endless choice of types. I would NOT recommend the "Quick Clamps" that require squeezing a pistol grip and you really can't get enough pressure produced with this type of clamp for what we are doing here.

Here's the missing photo.



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Thanks Spasm,

It sounds like you may be in for some heating before trying to bend out the folds.

There is a book press at another antiques mall from the one I purchased the small press from. It measures well over 12 inches on the plates and I have been wanting to purchase it ever since it came up for sale. It's priced as if it were a rare antique so I've left it there. I just keep thinking that someday I'll wish I'd bought it.

Good luck on the Me109 piece, please keep us posted on your progress and techniques you use to get the folds out.



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