Bronze Sculpture or Statue Repair Services
A sculpture/statue placed outdoors will oxidize from different external variables. This oxidation doesn’t hurt the bronze, it’s actually a protective coating on the metal’s surface. Over time, the patina (or color) will evolve outside due to changes in temperature, pollution, rain, acid rain, humidity, etc. In some cases, this is desirable and we wouldn’t recommend a new patina. If it’s an antique or ancient bronze, the patina is part of its value and helps in authenticating its age.
Sculpture conservation is based on preserving and slowing down the process of change over time. Nature will eventually win this process, but we can slow it down. We provide a maintenance service or can train handy owners how.
If a bronze patina has evolved too far and the client wishes for a brand new patina, we also provide that service. A new patina is a much more extensive process than removing the old patina. We burn the patina off, and by sanding, we break through years of oxidation all the way down to clean metal. This preps the sculpture for a fresh patina.
Extreme fluctuation of temperature will cause expansion and contraction of the metal, and cracks may appear over time. Vandalism or poor craftsmanship are also reasons the metal could crack. Usually, it cracks where it was welded originally, or at fragile spots where the metal thickness is too thin. The only way to restore a cracked is by chasing it out with a carbide, opening up the metal on both sides to get full penetration as we weld and fill in the crack. The welds will need to be sanded out and blended so you can’t tell where it was welded. Then, a new patina is applied. Blending an old patina with a new patina isn’t suggested. We suggest a full new patina after any welding.
Can a vandalized statue be repaired?
The most vulnerable sculptures are those that are installed outdoors in public places, as they are most susceptible to vandalism. We can repair most broken bronze sculptures if the pieces exist. Our master craftsmen can weld them back together and seamlessly repair the break. Some sculptures may not have been cast in bronze, some are copper or pot metal. We only work on bronze castings.
Can you repair a sculpture on site?
In most cases, we recommend shipping the sculpture to us to repair so we can work in a temperature-controlled environment. That way, we have access to all our tools, equipment, and supplies needed.
If transporting the sculpture isn’t an option, we can come to you, but it’s much more expensive. Travel, lodging, equipment rentals, shipping supplies needed, and building a tented structure to protect from the weather while repairs are being done are just some of the extra expenses involved.
Finding out the Type of Sculpture
Most sculptures are made from spelter or bronze. Bronze is created from over 90% copper. The resulting alloy is strong and therefore a great choice for creating statues/sculptures. Because of its hardness, it is less susceptible to wear and tear. Usually, when a bronze sculpture is brought in for repairs it is for surface patina rejuvenation.
To test if your sculpture, you should tap it with metal. If it makes a ringing sound, it most likely is bronze. If you hear a thud, it is something else.
Spelter is a common material used for metal statues. It is a lower value metal and is a composite of zinc and lead. Because it is not as strong as bronze, it gets damaged easily as it’s a much softer metal that can bend and distort.
An easy test to find out if your sculpture is made from spelter is to scratch its surface. If it reveals a gray or silver color underneath, then it is probably spelter. If it reveals yellow or copper hues, it is probably bronze. There is also a third possibility that if it scratches easier than a metal would and feels a little bit like plastic, the material is probably a resin.
Another way to determine what your statue is made out of is to compare weights. This only works if your sculpture does not have a base of wood or stone which adds its own weight. Bronze will be extremely heavy, while spelter and resin will be easy for you to lift on your own.
How To Repair And Restore Pieces
Before you decide to execute a DIY job on your sculpture, remember that experimenting on this piece is something that you may not be able to take back. There are so many technicalities; for instance, these are things to consider: what kind of soap to use, why detergent is a bad idea, how to handle it, what kinds of coats to use, and so on, and so forth. Doing one thing wrong can very easily lead to a botched-up job and further damage.
If your sculpture is high value, you may have to leave it to museum quality restoration. Through brazing and welding, a lot of the restoration damages the original patina and requires repainting and recovering the whole surface area. A better alternative is through pins and adhesives.
However, as we mentioned before, you must think about the value of the piece. Ask yourself if you are going to resell the piece. Welding will always be stronger and sturdier, but it is not reversible. Adhesives are a better method if the technique is right.
That being said, all methods are comparative and have their own purposes, so you have to determine what you are looking for in a restoration job before you pick one. Adhesives are more intricate, while welding is longer lasting against the elements.
If you have a bronze sculpture, you will probably want to repair the patina. Patina restoration jobs are complex and require a combination of experience and expertise. A competent patina repair job will easily conceal scratches as though the damage never happened.
Remember that patina restoration is nothing like crafting a new piece. After the primary weld repair, the craftsman will have to match the original color of the statue using special chemicals and paints. The restoration is dependent on several factors such as the age of the patina, what it is composed of, and what harsh environment it was subjected to for its resulting corrosion.
If it’s a small piece, a craftsman may just remove the patina altogether through the sandblasting technique. It offers the sculptor a fresh canvas to work with and leaves no room for an onlooker to detect the damage.
Taking Care Of Your Sculpture
Remember, an aging patina is desirable. A personal heirloom may tell a story with the scratches and spots, but valuable sculptures retain much of their value by the time that they have endured. When taking care of your sculptures, make sure you do not rub off the patina just to see that shine. This means no abrasives or metal cleaners. It can reduce the value of an item significantly.
Instead, care for your sculpture by cleaning it with a terry cloth and keep the piece well away from moisture and humidity
We recommend cleaning outdoor sculptures with a mild detergent like Dawn and water, and once dry, pick a hot sunny day where the sun is shining directly on the sculpture. Bronze is conductive and the whole sculpture will get warm. Test it with the wax to see if the wax melts. Apply a paste wax while the metal is hot at least 2 times a year spring and fall. This ensures the surface can minimize the oxidation process.