Conservation work on collections to be displayed in the Bridewell Museum is continuing steadily. One of the more challenging objects that David Harvey has recently conserved, has prompted more quizzical looks from visitors to the laboratory than most. Looking more like an instrument of torture, the object which has caused the repeated question “What’s that!?” is a 1930’s hair perming machine.
The object is constructed from cast iron and aluminium, chrome plated steel, Bakelite fittings and cotton sheathed, silk and copper wound electrical cord. After a thorough assessment, a course of treatment was decided upon which included cleaning and corrosion removal on the metal fittings.
However, the complex electrical cords were in a very poor condition with much of the outer cotton sheath frayed, brittle and unraveling.
The cords that attached to the curling heaters, had become damaged through age and use, and a method of repairing and consolidating them was required.
After considering several different approaches, it was decided to carry out a two phase treatment. Firstly, after realigning each stray fibre, an appropriate adhesive was used to secure them in place. Once this was done, all the components of each cord were further secured by wrapping a very fine nylon mesh around it and stitching down one side.
The nylon mesh had been dyed to a similar colour as the electrical cord, so that it would not appear too obvious on the finished result. The stray fragments of cord were kept in a smooth line, so that the profile of the cord would appear to be intact.
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