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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cleaning and silvering the frame

Todd had studied and studied how the chandelier was wired and when he had a plan in his head, he removed the old worn and damaged electrical wire. 

So, then I had a naked frame with years of grime to remove. I started cleaning with the least abrasive method, Dawn detergent and water - not very effective. I tried an ammonia solution, toothpaste, Barkeepers Friend but the best method was scrubbing with a Brillo pad. I could have used a finer steel wool, but liked that the soap in it helped break down the grime. This was a very messy undertaking even though I had the frame straddled over the kitchen sink.

Rub 'n Buff
Silver Leaf
Once I got the frame clean enough it was obvious that something had to be done to make the frame a consistent silver color. I had to think about it for several days. Paint? Get it re-plated? Or what about that wax-based silver leaf?

I chose the silver leaf because it is easy to use, you just put some on your finger and rub it on. It cleans up easily and cures to a nice finish and it doesn't tarnish.

We are very pleased with the result. The frame is a nice silver color that will really shine when we reattach the crystal and rosettes.

Rubbing on the silver leaf to make the frame
a consistent color 

Cleaned, silver leafed, and ready for re-assembly

Repinning the wire on the prisms

Pinning the prisms with new wire appeared to be a daunting task, but it wasn't with the help of a video I found on YouTube. (See the video on the left for the technique.)

 I found the task quite easy and relaxing as I was able to pull from my jewelry making skills.

I snipped off the old wire and used pins with flat heads on the prisms. For the bobeches I used a 22 gauge wire that I had used previously to attach beads to appetizer spreaders that I made as Christmas gifts. I had purchased some 20 gauge chrome wire but found it difficult to work with because it was a little too stiff to get a good result with the close work.

I repinned the 8 bobeches and 27 colonial prisms that came with the chandelier as well as 9 antique frog prisms I had from a chandelier we refurbished several years ago. For that chandelier we bought new prisms because one was missing. It was a much smaller chandelier with a limited number of prisms and we wanted them to match perfectly. On this chandelier we will use a variety of of prisms and a chain. We are formulating a plan for decorating the chandelier and have started looking on eBay for prisms.

The repinned bobeche and prisms
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cleaning Chandelier Crystal

While visiting John's Antiques on West 7th in Saint Paul last week to purchase the needed electrical parts, I showed John photos of the project. After looking at the photos and noticing the color and condition of the crystals, he said the chandelier definitely had been in a fire. This information proved to be very helpful as we began to clean the crystal parts.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I used Dawn dish detergent on a first pass of the bobeches and prisms. Thinking that this was the path to take, we proceeded to employ this method on the first arm of crystal arm parts. Oh, my, it was slow and tedious and a lot more work than I expected.

Thank goodness for Ms. Google!
I Googled how to clean sooty crystal and came up with a suggestion to try ammonia. It worked like a charm - no scrubbing - just soaking did the trick.

I filled a small shallow bowl with warm water and mixed in about two tablespoons of full strength ammonia and then added the crystals and soaked for several minutes. Then the clean crystals were put into a  rinse bath with clean warm water and dried with a soft cloth. The crystals became extraordinary. And, this method took a fraction of the time.

As the crystals were placed into the ammonia bath
the soot began to dissolve immediately.
Within 2 - 3 minutes the ammonia bath was brown and
the crystals clean

Before cleaning
After cleaning

If you are going to take it apart, you'd better have a plan to put it back together.

Drawings, photos, notes, spreadsheets hopefully will help us not only take it apart in an organized way, it should help us put it back together. 

This drawing shows the general structure of the
Studying the structure of the chandelier and all its parts and pieces made it clear that we couldn't just take this thing apart and be able to put it back together again. The first step was to make a drawing a of the basic structure of the arms. The more we can understand how the decorative parts of various sizes fit together, the better luck we will have putting the chandelier back together.

As parts removed they were
traced onto a large sheet of
drawing paper making a
schematic for reassembly
As we started taking the chandelier apart to clean we made a more detailed drawing of where the placement of the crystals go. In the following schematic as we took parts off we traced the individual pieces as they were attached. Using a 36"x 24" piece of drawing paper, we documented the layout of the arms to simplify the cleaning and reassembly process.

We spent a very long time on the first arm documenting and writing notes and as we disassembled the remaining arms we added more notes and confirmed and reconfirmed the layout.
Parts were packaged by arm and position
After cleaning the crystal we packaged the pieces in Ziploc containers that were labeled by arm and the group or part of the arm.

A tally of the parts
12 per candle arm
42 for the center or long arm
10 per the short top arm

Total of 304 crystal parts for the frame

Photo details will also clear up any puzzlement as we rebuild.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Information breakthrough

Yesterday was the final day of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival so we decided to walk over and take a look at the ice sculptures in Rice Park. Well, the exhibit was pretty much a bust -- warm weather over the past few weeks took its toll on the sculptures -- most were unrecognizable as they were either melted or broken. Oh well, perhaps we should try to view them earlier during the Carnival.

The good news is that as we were walking over there we spotted an antique store that had striking chandeliers in the windows. I looked at Todd and said, "I think we need to cross the street and see if we can pick up some information on our project chandelier." He agreed.

Good idea! The shop had quite a few fabulous chandeliers and there was one of similar configuration to our project chandelier. We showed him a few of the pictures on my iPhone.

The dealer was generous with information and advice and told us that we had a Marie Therese Birdcage chandelier. A Marie Therese chandelier is a metal frame chandelier where the arms are covered with glass or crystal. The birdcage designation means that the center of the chandelier is open or there is no post that runs through the center from top to bottom. Maria Theresa was Marie Antoinette's mother and the first Marie Therese chandelier was made to mark her coronation as Austrian Empress in 1743.

Find out more: 

We found out a few key things. First, generally this style of chandelier is literally covered with crystals having a crystal hanging from every rosette. The 3" crystals that were hung from the bobeches (the small glass dishes that hold the candles) were probably hung at higher points as much larger crystals would be hung there.

He recommended we clean and reassemble and hang the chandelier before we start to decorate with prisms and bead chains. Then we should take pictures and come back to show him what it looks like and also talk to John at John's Antiques, which is a local antique store that specializes in restoring chandeliers like the one we have. Good advice, we already planned on talking to him and purchasing replacement parts as he has a great inventory.

Armed with this new information when we got home we sat on the floor and and did another explanation and found a stamping of CZECHO SLOVAKIA (two words) on the frame which helps date it to the 1920s -1930s. Cool! We always regretted not purchasing a chandelier when were in the Czech Republic 10 years ago.

Examples of Marie Therese Birdcage Chandeliers: