Repair of Horse Carving by John Adamson

A client brought a carving of a horse that her grandfather, Jim Lupton,  had made.  It had an accident and now had five breaks.  Each leg had two breaks and the tail was also broken.   My first thought was that there were too many bits to handle with only two hands, and it would work better if the horse and the base could be held in something like the correct relationship to each other.     The work consists of a horse carved from a fairly soft wood, on a carved  base, on a flat base plate.     The flat base is 6in wide and the horse and the carved base are only 3in.     I thought that if the horse and the flat base plate could be separated, then the horse and the carved plate could somehow be rested in the right relationship.    No such luck.    The original carver, Jim Lupton, must have been a belts and braces man as the flat base plate was screwed and glued to the carved base plate.     So I put a flat back board on to my carving clamp, and screwed some blocks to it, so that the flat base base plate could be clamped firmly.












I found some scrap wood to pack out the space between the horse and the back board, and hold the horse in position.












There theoretically 8 different ways I could try fitting the first of the broken leg pieces ( I will leave it to you to work out the 8 ways).   Having done it once, I colour coded the legs and appropriate broken bits, so I did not have to do it again.    Remembering Nick Pantelides talks about joining the head of a walking stick to the stick using a threaded rod to strength the joint, I hunted round my “Will come in useful one of these days” box and found 2 bolts of a suitable size.   I drilled into the broken bits, the legs attached to the horse and the legs attached to the base.   Although I tried to get all the holes in line, they were a smidgen off, and had to be ground out to allow all three bits of the leg to be inline and meet correctly.

The horse upside down in a vice with the bolts in place











Again remembering Nick’s talks, I knew that I had to get special glue for the job and a provide an escape route for the expanding glue.   Richard Colbran had mentioned using the method in his report on  his Fence Post carvings, and as I was not sure of the details of the process, I asked his advice.
















I took all my courage in my hands, and mixed and applied the glue, to both ends of the rods, and the tail, and clamped it all together.   The only clamp I could apply was to the tail, as the legs had no parallel surfaces.    So I had the 4 leg joints to hold and squeeze the legs together for the 5 minutes before the glue sets.   That’s not easy with only 2 hands.     When I was able to look closely at the legs joints, they were a bit out of line, less than a 16th of an inch but noticeable.   With the owners consent, I smoothed over the problem joints, and filled in parts of the tail.    As you can see from the picture above the paint round the joins had split off when it was broken.   As there was no way I could match the faded black paint, I rubbed down all the horse, touched in some of the bare patches, before repainting all the horse.
















I am not a good painter, and all my doors have paint runs marring the surface, so I approached the painting task with some trepidation.      As preparation, I have been told, is the most important element, I covered the base with lots of plastic to prevent drips and splashes.













The final result!!     Looks ok even with a close up of the legs



5 replies
  1. Glynnis Cruice
    Glynnis Cruice says:

    I admire you for tackling such complex breaks and final result looks good. It also struck me that as proffessional as you are, you still seek advice from other members of the club. Well done John.

  2. Lyndsey-Jane Lupton
    Lyndsey-Jane Lupton says:

    Thank you so much for the professional repair you carried out on my Grampa’s carving, I know it can’t have been easy to repair due to the complexity of the breaks. It’s so nice to have the horse back on it’s feet, and it will shortly return to the collection in Scotland where it belongs.


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