Repairing broken China - When a large china object smashes into a number of bits, it requires time and patience to effect a good repair.


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Broken China

 Unsightly cracks in the glaze of old china can often be made less visible by careful cleaning, while less serious hairline cracks can also be repaired.

 Perhaps the most infuriating dam age to a piece of china is a crack. The piece may well be usable but it is damaged, often visibly so, and may well leak. It will certainly have been weakened and is liable at some undetermined time to break along the crack - probably at the most inconvenient moment.

 This usually seems to be when you are filling your cracked cup with scalding hot tea fresh from the pot or when you're passing a full plate to a guest you'd hoped to impress. The resulting mess will do absolutely nothing for your temper.

 The most important thing to remember when dealing with cracks is to take prompt action as soon as you spot them. If they are left untreated, cracks will only get worse, never better. They become discoloured and much more evident with time.


 If you can afford it, your best bet is to pay a good restorer to do the job. This is certainly worthwhile if the piece is a really valuable antique, and it will save you time and trouble.

 If the piece is of no great value and you can bear to part with it, throw it out and buy a new one. Alternatively, you can use it purely decoratively, putting it somewhere where the crack won't show. However, if you're determined to keep the piece and want either to use it or at least conceal the damage, grasp the nettle and set about do ng a good repair job.

 Repairing a crack will not only strengthen the piece and help prevent the crack from getting worse, but should also act as a disguise, making the crack less visible, and will prevent unsightly staining in the future.

 Glazing cracks are something that tend to happen naturally in the course of time and are often quite acceptable to collectors as a sign of age. If the cracks have got sufficiently dirty to detract from the look of a piece, though, there is a simple treatment.

 On robust, mainly undecorated pieces and the inside of flower vases or teapots, simply apply a liberal swabbing of hydrogen peroxide, a good bleaching agent, on cotton wool. This should remove any stubborn dirt. If it persists, try a further treatment. Always wear protective gloves when handling this chemical and rinse and air treated pieces thoroughly.

 Proprietary bleaching agents should not be used on fragile or coloured pieces as they might remove some of the glaze and the paint along with the dirt. Something more gentle is required. Preparations for sterilizing babies' bottles are ideal for this; soak the piece in a solution of one part sterilizing fluid to three parts water.

 Cracks in the china itself need to be glued before they spread and become a break. The trick is to get the crack to open up so that glue can be applied to both surfaces. One answer for non-sensitive pieces is to place them in an oven set at the lowest temperature, around 110 degrees C, until they are hand hot. The crack, which should have been thoroughly cleaned first, will open up and glue can be forced in. Remove any excess glue and let the object cool.

 Deep cracks in a fairly flat surface can also be repaired following the steps illustrated below. A little kaolin (China clay) mixed into the adhesive acts as putty or filler and also helps to disguise any crack on a white surface. If you are working on a piece of coloured china you should add a mix of appropriately coloured pigments to the glue.


 1 Thoroughly wash the piece in a warm, soapy solution, then leave it to soak in a plastic bowl for at least 12 hours. Dry thoroughly with a clean, lint-free cloth.

 2 Clean along the crack with a dab of acetone on a piece of cotton wool. Prepare a 'putty' by mixing equal parts of adhesive and hardener with a little kaolin.

 3 Use a clean wooden cocktail stick to apply a fine layer of the 'putty' along the crack. Build it up in layers until it stands slightly proud of the surface of the piece, then place it in a support for four hours.

 4 Remove the piece from its support, and level back the ridge of putty to the surface, using small pieces of wet and dry paper rubbed across, not along, the crack. Take special care when doing this so as not to scratch the glaze.

 Read articles and references: Good standards are Warman's English & Continental Pottery & Porcelain (Susan and Al Bagdade), and Marks & Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain (William Chaffers).


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Warman's English & Continental Pottery & Porcelain (3rd Ed)
by Al Bagdade


Marks & Monograms on European and Oriental Pottery and Porcelain
by Wm. Chaffers


The Arcanum: The Extraordinary True Story
by Janet Gleeson