A to Z: Restoring chinese wood carvings, wooden screens and carved architectural elements.

3) Retouch color

old chinese homes

When a Chinese traditional homes is demolished  to make way for the new, elements like antique window screens, carved panels & screens and other architectural elements are typically salvaged to be reborn as decorative items in modern homes. Thinking about adding such a piece of history to your collection?  Here’s a quick look at the restoration process  from start to finish.

cleaning antique chinese wood carvings
Before and after cleaning

1. Cleaning

A years of being exposed to rain, dust, smoke (and who knows what else), quite a lot of build up can occur, which must be carefully removed. While there are several methods used in cleaning, initial stages typically use water.  Depending on preferences, this process may be repeated several times, often using a small quantity of a gentle cleaner like hand soap or a touch of dish washing liquid.

restoring antique chinese carvings
Removing years of dirt

In Chinese, this process is often referred to as piāo bái   (漂白) which means “to lighten,” and details may emerge that were not evident under all the years of dirt.

Beautiful color emerges

2. Repairs to carvings

After cleaning, the second step is repairing some (or all depending on preference) damaged sections of the wood carving. Typically this involves scraps of the same or similar wood which are then pegged and glued over the damaged areas (known as bu mutou 补木头).  Once pegged and dried, the damaged sections can be carefully re-carved, sanded and detailed to match. Some people may prefer to re-carved/repair every minute detail. Others may choose to repair major damage only. Depending on the shape and structure of the carving other repairs to joinery may be required as well.

Repairing of damaged sections of carving

3. Touch-ups

After any damaged sections of the antique carving have been repaired, if the screen was painted, then replaced sections will need to be carefully hand painted to match the original color and style.

Retouching the color

4. Display in the home!

The final and most rewarding step… Options range from hanging or mounting to stands and even frames.

design idea for displaying chinese screens and carvings
Display in the home

5. Learn More

Chinese Houses: The Architectural Heritage of a Nation I recommend you buy the book Chinese Houses: The Architectural Heritage of a Nation from Amazon.


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