another restoration project ~ old plaster



Indeed, another project on the “To Do’ list, still on the list. I have a thing for religious & ecclesial icons, for devotional art including statuary, pictures, art works and so forth even discarded or unwanted pieces like this one. 

When I was contacted about this vintage crucifix a few years ago l was delighted.

 It’s no shrinking violet, quite heavy and  measuring1200 (4′) from top to bottom while the fragile plaster Jesus measures 600 (2′) from head to toe.

That it came needing repairs is not uncommon in these old plaster items. While I’ve done a bit of repairing, re-doing & re-painting in my time, I haven’t done the rather detailed plaster work and restoration this piece needs. I’ve done small plaster repair jobs but haven’t attempted a job of this size. It’ll be somewhat tricky I know but that doesn’t phase me. It’s finding the time.




Being an original old plaster beauty, quite fragile, I keep it stashed away, on the floor, under a bed in the spare room. It fits there safely hidden from inquisitive, prying eyes & touchy, playful fingers.

I’ve had a few years now to contemplate this original old icon and I’ve still not been anywhere near it due to life’s demands. I don’t seem to have the time to stop contemplating, to stop just thinking about doing something and actually fix it!

And these days I’m mulling over whether to take it to a plaster specialist, to one one who does this sort of antique repair.






Basically the crucifix requires repair in 3 parts:  1/ the right arm 2/ the left ankle, heel & foot & 3/ some minor work on the toes & toe nails of the right foot.

The piece came to me as you see it other than under the right arm (above) which was broken almost to the wrist.  Fortunately, the previous owner saved a big chunk of the plaster under arm which I re-attached.




You can see the attached plaster piece runs from Jesus’ under-arm before the elbow & ends at the wrist.  You can see the 2 original (now rusty) thick metal rods or wires use to re-enforce the plaster arm.

I will have to fill/re-construct the missing chunk of arm. Basically I’m gonna have to build it up in and around the arm and old wire rod. Once that’s done I’ll sand smooth & fine & paint it to blend in with the rest of the body.








The other major break is the left foot. Both breaks (jobs 1 & 2) will require finesse in the build up with plaster, layer by layer.

The left foot (job 2) will be the trickiest repair.  There is not likely to be a suitable foot mould around so I’m gonna have to replicate the general style & size of the right foot & ankle & make it (the left foot) fit snug under & behind that foot.

I foresee the need for a tool, a dremel tool perhaps for drilling a hole or two up into the left ankle/calf into which I can insert some sort of stainless steel wire or rod reinforcement, loop it, then build up layers of plaster around it, shape the foot & toes so it rests under/behind the right foot then smooth & sand further.  I don’t see any other way to do it.




Basically, it’s the right arm & left foot that require the most work.

Patching & building up the toes & painting them on the right foot (job 3) is a small job compared to 1 & 2.




I’ll be looking to use materials, some of which I have. Stuff like gesso, plaster, maybe some paper mache, air dry clay, glue, cement & so forth. The rest of the plaster body is in pretty good condition considering its age. The other minor chips & cracks I can easily fill, seal & re-paint to match the original. Basically it’s filling, shaping and moulding. When sanded smooth I can paint the repairs to blend in with the original plaster. Ideally, the repairs won’t be noticeable.

So, I have to decide whether I do it, make myself do it, make the time, or take it to somebody else. 

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