Museum Microscope Box Conservation

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Blog entry by BritBoxmaker posted 04-24-2011 05:18 PM 2721 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hi there. About a year ago I posted this as a restoration project. After some discussion with Jenny, our Museum administrator, it turns out that it wasn’t restoration she was after but conservation. There is apparently a difference.

Restoration. Returning the item to as close as possible new condition.

Conservation. Arresting the decay/ decline of an object and securing its condition so that it doesn’t deteriorate any further.

So here are some before and after conservation shots.


Here Ive basically glued back in the right hand side, hide glue this is about a century old, and cleaned/cut back the French Polish finish with Methylated Spirits (Denatured Alcohol). The top veneer was also glued down to prevent further deterioration. The lid top will not notice on display as the lid will be open to display the microscope.


Here I’ve glued back in anything that was adrift and cleaned out the interior. I used a low power vacuum trick to get the white fluff off, without tearing out the lining.

As this was a conservation project I did not replace missing slipfeathers in the exterior mitre joints. Its now in a museum and is not likely to have the rougher handling it had in earlier life.

Jenny is happy with it and thats what counts. That and not charging for the work. I’m a volunteer at the museum and after all they do exhibit my boxes.

Any questions, please ask.

Be seeing you.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

11 comments so far

View RogerBean's profile


1605 posts in 3313 days

#1 posted 04-24-2011 06:48 PM

I’ve never done any restoration or conservation work, but find it fascinating. I probably would not be good at conservation as I’d probably always be fighting the urge to fix/restore. Either way, it is the fine old things that endure, and are well worth preserving and studying. Well done.

-- "Everybody makes mistakes. A craftsman always fixes them." (Monty Kennedy, "The Checkering and Carving of Gunstocks", 1952)

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3475 days

#2 posted 04-24-2011 06:55 PM

for what you are alowed to do you have done a good job on it :-)
is there a chance you have or will get a picture with the microsope in it

thankĀ“s for sharing Martyn

take care

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3438 days

#3 posted 04-24-2011 09:27 PM

It always amazed me how antiques are restored . . . especially how they remove a whole cover layer of paint to reveal a master’s oil painting. You’ve gotta know your stuff! It must be truly satisfying when you’ re finished?d

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3945 days

#4 posted 04-24-2011 09:40 PM

I would be tempted to take the item in and leave it in the corner for three weeks then sigh and say at last I’m finished and charge for an almighty fee for three solid weeks of hard work.Alistair ps only joking well done on the conservative work

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View mafe's profile (online now)


11956 posts in 3449 days

#5 posted 04-24-2011 09:47 PM

Fine job.
It is always a hair fine balance to conserve.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View degoose's profile


7255 posts in 3714 days

#6 posted 04-24-2011 10:13 PM

First do no harm…

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 3282 days

#7 posted 04-25-2011 02:43 AM

That is a beautiful box you had restored and the inside part looks better design than the outside one. How old does not matter but I think it is a lesson for us what choice of wood will survive for a long time… SOLID, HARD, EXOTIC WOOD and the GLUE been used…in the case above… I think the veneer glue is not really the bad one but the way it was exposed to water. Just a thought.

-- Bert

View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3402 days

#8 posted 04-25-2011 06:56 AM

Conversation piece are you suppose to talk to it. Damn dyslexia, I thought you said conversation piece. :~0 Looks like it is both, well done.

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3396 days

#9 posted 04-25-2011 12:01 PM

Oh I talked to it alright. Then it behaved.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9238 posts in 3280 days

#10 posted 04-26-2011 02:33 AM

I am with Dennis. I would love to see the box with the microscope inside. Projects like this are once in a lifetime opportunities. I would spend the time that I worked on the piece daydreaming and imagining about how it was used and the people who used it in its day as well as the construction.

You did a wonderful job with it. It was a pleasure to see.


-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View stefang's profile


16700 posts in 3694 days

#11 posted 05-07-2011 10:56 PM

Nice work on this Martyn. I can understand the point of conserving something rather than restoring it, but I think it could also be interesting to have it displayed alongside a replica so visitors could have more appreciation for it’s original beauty and functionality.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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