sculpture repair and aging

finished head

Our recent project of repairing this sculpture and aging it, was an example of an ODD JOB.  The finished look is very raw and unfinished.  The fragile plaster head was shattered in a recent move.

how we received it

Our job was to put humpty dumpty back together again.  This was the photo we had to go by:

reference photo

I put the big pieces back together using a well-bond glue.
We supported the mask by using masking tape to keep it together.  I didn’t worry too much about the little pieces as I was planning on using a filler.

taped together

First, we needed to work on the back to strengthen the piece.  We mixed a small batch of plaster of paris.

mix a glue

I used my palette knife to shove as much mixture in the cracks as possible.

apply plaster

Then we added fiberglass  mesh squares added and mixture smeared to cover the back very well.

apply mesh

finished plaster

On the front of the bust, we filled the big cracks with 2 types of plaster putty (casting and molding refined putty)
Because of the different products I used, it was important that the bust had a consistent substrate in preparation for the aging.  Using a rondin brush, I painted on a very chalky latex paint, thoroughly.

paint white filler

In preparation for the aging, I needed to seal the sculpture.  I used Gum Arabic as a binder.  Another great binder is milk.  I mixed it with Raw Umber gouache, to give an aging tonality.

seal with gum arabic

Using a size 4 domed glazing brush, I generously applied the mixture.

brush on mix

Using the same brush, I continued to work the mixture into all areas while removing some of the mixture.

brush on mix

The large codtail is a fantastic stippler on small pieces.  It pushes glaze into the correct crevices.  I repeated this process a second time — being sure to concentrate on the more sunken in areas that need aging.  For that, I used the rondin brush again.

stipple with codtail

I used Rotten Earth powdered pigment (rotten earth is the color name) for the final aging step.

powder pigment

I used a dry domed glazing brush to apply the powder.

dusting headrub with cloth

I wiped off excess with a cotton rag.  Then I repeated the process on the back.

do the back

final buff

The piece was back to the original state and probably a lot more structurally sound.
I’ve always said that it’s the decorative painter who can do it all — that is the most successful.  This is a good example of providing a complete service.  Don’t be afraid of any project — show confidence and learn as you go!!


  1. Sue E Jegloski says

    I am very impressed with the preceding post. It is explained very well for a mini class. The material is explained very well with the photos used as a back up. I recently had an identical mishap . I was able to do the repair but I went about it the hard way. Wish that I had this posting so I could have done it right in the first place. Time is of essence.
    Thank you,
    Sue Jegloski

  2. gary lord says

    I totally agree with what you said
    “I’ve always said that it’s the decorative painter who can do it all — that is the most successful. This is a good example of providing a complete service. Don’t be afraid of any project — show confidence and learn as you go!!”
    Nice project to illustrate that

  3. Karen Miller says

    Aside from the finished product, which is very impressive, this is a very good ‘how to’ post with just the right balance of visual and factual information. I am very much enjoying your website.
    Kind Regards,

Speak Your Mind