Boulle Marquetry Decanter Restoration

There has been a renewed interest in Boulle marquetry Napoleon III furniture in the last years. Restoring Boulle marquetry requires very specialized conservation knowledges, Unfortunately, this comes at a cost. But nevertheless, these pieces need to be maintained to uphold value.

Here is a little story on restoring an 1860-1880 decanter with most of its original Baccarat crystals. It had the usual losses of brass elements and little missing shell. The surface had been meanly sanded, without losing the engraving though, and sprayed with lacquer.

Assessing and Cleaning

First thing to do is to lift the loose brass and assess the damage.

Epoxy is not the way to reglue Boulle. It is usally used without cleaning under and therefore the brass is bulging and is extremely difficult to remove when you want to do a proper restoration

Neither is contact cement. In fact you can not imagine how many pieces we have to restore that have been “repaired” with contact cement. It is not long term efficient on any kind of veneering

After cleaning the substrate and the inside of the brass of any glue and oxydation

Consolidating and restoring

The pieces is remoisturized and the pieces that are not to damaged are rehydrated new glue is inserted and pieces are reglued in a vacuum bag

Other way to reglue what can’t or is not easy to reglue in the vacuum bag is sand bags

or hard foam like in this case isolation material

The top was really in a very bad shape, especially as those pieces are made with wood that are deeped in acids and other chemicals to achieve the ebonizing

New brass pieces are engraved

Then the reopened kerfs and the engraving line are filled using the traditional pore filling methode but with soot black and charcoal to get a real nice black

You can see I was doing the black at the same time than a clock for wh

ich you can see the progress there
I am actually engraving the horn and it will be finished this week and I will post about it.

After a bit of polish the hinges and all the harware is put back on et voilà!!

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