Furniture conservator Ray Gurney faced two big problems this week with the process of stripping the longest side of the case.

The first problem is that he has to work vertically. Like any furniture conservator, Ray usually takes his commissions to his workshop, generally working on a flat plane whenever possible. But we can't move this very large and heavy case, or turn it over so that Ray can work on one horizontal section at a time. And using liquid stripper across large upright sections of the case is proving tricky.

Crocodile case restoration
The stripper on the crocodile case is covered with glad wrap to help it soak into the wood. Image: Vanessa Finney
© Australian Museum

Firstly, it is difficult to get the stripper to penetrate the wood evenly and sufficiently (though the glad wrap wrapping helps with this). And secondly, once Ray gets to the point of peeling the paint off that has been soaked in stripper for up to 24 hours he must often do this whilst lying on the floor next to the case! The peeling is at least easier than the subseqquent scraping and detailing.

Restoring the crocodile case from the ground up
The size and position of the case are making work very difficult. Image: Vanessa Finney
© Australian Museum

Ray is also finding that the first layer of paint (japan black which may have been mixed with something bitumounous) is not penetrated by the stripper at all (it becomes a very sticky, black soup). The top two layers are peeling off easily but it looks like this last layer will have to be manually removed. The mouldings, which have been removed form the top of the case and taken back to the workshop, have had a poultice of fine sawdust and the stripping agent applied to them. This is proving quite effective, at least for the paint layers.

This week, Ray has also been removing the white laminex kickboard around the base of the case. It appears that this was added at the time the case was painted white, probably around the 1970s. Again, because of the public gallery space, Ray can't use the solvents he might generally use to loosen the glue that holds the laminex to the case so this has all had to be done with hammer, chisel and fine blades. Taking care that the soft pine is not marked in the process is that much more difficult whilst lying on the floor!

In short, this has been a slow and frustrating week with progress not nearly as fast as we would like.

Next post: 'Splendidly stuffed'

Previously: More crocodile case restoration