Friday, March 24, 2017

Vintage Fireman Helmet

We received this fireman’s helmet in pretty poor condition - ironically it had been in a bad house fire itself. Our client was a local police officer whose grandfather was a fireman in 1960’s Hamtramck, and this piece of family history held high sentimental value.

The helmet itself came to us pretty beat up, but the piece in the worst condition was the badge held up in front by a golden eagle, traditional for helmets in the US at that time. It was in multiple parts, and many of the original pieces were missing, having been lost in the fire. After separating each piece, we were able to begin focusing on individual elements of the helmet for a unique restoration process.

Because the badge had the most issues, and is also the focal point of the helmet, we started treating it immediately. Stabilization* had to occur so that the badge did not deteriorate any further. Because so many pieces had either detached or been lost, the best course of action was to completely re-line the badge onto a new piece of fabric so that the areas of loss could be filled with new material.

We were able to puzzle together the available letters, fill and then in-paint, matching the text and texture of the original wording. This same process was done to the leather badge itself. Once the letters and badge were cleaned and fixed, we put them all together and adhered them to a new fabric backing for added strength and uniformity. Using an archival and reversible glue, we were able to ensure true preservation of the emblem. After mounting, we treated the badge with a leather conditioner to make it more flexible for re-shaping to its original curvature. The metal plate bearing the Fireman's crest was cleaned and riveted back onto the badge.

The helmet itself needed a lot of attention as well. The inside of the helmet was padded with a protective fabric liner that needed to be patched to prevent further deterioration, which was occurring due to previous use as well as age. The fabric was too delicate to properly clean until it was stabilized. After the helmet was cleaned, the major areas of loss were in-painted. Not all areas with paint loss were in-painted so as to conserve the age, history, and its utilitarian past.

With all the unique pieces of artwork and objects that come through our door, it was an amazing opportunity to work on a piece of local history. We are confident that after this process of restoration, the family will be able to enjoy this family heirloom for generations to come.

*Stabilization: Addressing the work of art/object so that its present condition does not cause further decline. Creating a stable and secure environment.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating to learn about! It has been beautifully restored!