Restoration of the Shades at the Oregon Caves NM, 1

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is w06-10-14-original-orca-lamps-mpfc-143729.jpg

Original lampshade above, and images of one of the broken lampshades, below.

MPF Conservation conserved and/or restored two dozen pieces of Mason Monterey furniture from the Chateau at the Oregon Caves National Monument (NPS); this page features the overhead Lamp Shades.

The overhead lamps in the Chateau were installed when the Chateau was built. It is believed they were made by Mason Brothers, who also provided the furniture for the Chateau.

We are inclined to agree because the shades are similar to lampshades made by Mason at the time for the Monterey line. Like Mason Monterey furniture (found throughout the Chateau), the style is derived from Spanish, California Mission architecture and furnishings, cowboy accoutrements and simple ranch furnishings.

MPF Conservation was asked to determine how the shades were made, and eventually create six new shades

At the time of the NPS request for treatment of the historic shades, the curatorial staff and MPFC thought they were skin shades, so it was a surprise when one was removed for us, and we discovered they were paper!

MPFC is glad we requested more than one broken lamp, and also had a whole lamp with which to recreate the lampshades (image three above), because by doing so we found that the shades came in several tones, and some were more textured than others.

Some of the variations in colors may be that the lamps were hanging in different places in the Chateau, and the micro-environments slightly changed how they aged. For instance, those that were hanging near the large open fireplace may have much more soot on them,

Also, the original color was obscured by layers of grime from a century of hanging! (A later image with some samples we were working with shown right.)

Before we disassembled the broken lampshades, Mitchell created an initial pattern by chalking the edges around the historic lampshade onto a heavy cotton twill, above.

As we disassembled the broken shades, we took images of the details of the knots and so forth so we could replicate them. The NPS and MPFC wanted the reproductions to be as close as possible to the originals.

Once disassembled, we could see how close we were to the proper sizes, above.

The lampshades are approximately 11 3/8″ tall x 22 1/4″ (bottom ring) x 13″ (top ring). Four (presumably) brass brads hold the seam edge through pre-punched holes, with no glues. The historic shades were hand-brushed with shellac varnish in the Smokey Maple family.

Oddly, a chalk mark, intact after all these years, ran on the inside of one of the lampshades; we have no idea why, as its placement offered no clues. Above, details of the original (broken) lampshades as we disassembled them.

We searched domestic and overseas paper suppliers for an exact match for the paper which created the historic lampshade, and even considered various animal skins (for a visual match). Hiromi Paper, Talas, et all, and finally determined it was not possible to exactly match the textural quality! Complicating considerations were the sizes had to be large enough to make the continuous wrap and have long fibers (100% cotton was not an option).

Finally we found a master paper maker in Japan, Kanetoshi Ozaki, and decided upon a Thai Kozo paper called Kochi Mashi. We ordered the heaviest, 125g weight without sizing, and it took three months to arrive.

Kate’s background in papermaking helped us discuss what we needed with the maker. It was not a perfect match, as the original paper’s texture is made by a dimpling effect (Western style paper) rather than raised texture, but the texture fulfills the intention of the creators of the lamp, which is to mimic, from afar, a parchment lamp.

We ordered enough paper for many more lampshades than we would be building, anticipating that more shades would be needed, and if we did not make them we could offer the paper to the next conservators. The paper itself was not overly expensive.

We created two test shades before production, not shown here.

We also tested the Smokey Maple (paint) glaze against a shellac finish to feel the difference in the oil paint versus shellac on paper prior to final decisions on materials used. The shellac varnish top coating ended up being superior as it not only provided greater strength and flexibility to the paper surface, it also exhibited less surface cracking when manipulated.

The shellac provided more strength and flexibility, though it also made the paper a bit more brittle, there was no cracking.

We took one of the test lampshades and dented and stressed the surface purposely, above. The shade was able to be pushed back to its original shape without damage. This was a good test because from time to time the shades need to be handled.

Our final color choice was a 1lb cut of super-blonde shellac tinted with Transtint #6004 “Medium Brown”.

We created strike-offs of shellac tones without the addition of dyes to the handmade paper in order to determine which natural shellac resin would be most appropriate to matching the historical shade, and tested the various charcoals or pastels that might further recreate the aged shades as they now appear.

We settled on a simple charcoal stick, above, and a rust and brown oil pastel, which we ground onto sandpaper for applying to the shellacked shades.

As we worked the final shades for the NPS, we also kept a real time sample of exactly what we did, and this became part of the NPS report along with samples, shown right. In this way, if we did not have the opportunity to create the next shades, another contractor could match the shades, especially as we coudl give them the paper and samples.

In Part 2, we will show coloring and building the shades.