Replacing model gratings - a delicate operation

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detail of ship model deck with missing part Detail of hatchway, showing the missing grating.

Ship and historic models conservator David Parsons has news of a very delicate piece  of conservation work that he has been working on:

"Oceanic 2 was built for the White Star Line by Harland & Wolff in 1899, it was commissioned as a merchant-cruiser in the First World War but sank soon after.

I’ve been working on the conservation of the builder’s model of Oceanic 2 for some time now and I’m getting towards finishing it. One of the early decisions I made was to leave the most complicated parts until last, and one of the most complicated things was replacing missing gratings.

detail of very fine lengths of wood being glued together to form a tiny grid After being cut to the right size and carefully lined up the lengths of wood were glued together to form a grid.

There should have been three hatchways with gratings, one in each of the three well-decks, but two hatchways each had one grating missing and the third hatchway was missing altogether.

The model was made to 1/64 scale so the gratings were made to this scale – the wood used was 1mm wide and so were the holes. The makers would have used box-wood or something similar because it has a very fine and tight grain. I used ‘Degama’ which is an African version of box-wood.

To make the gratings I prepared lengths of wood in two sizes: 1mm x 1mm and 1mm x 2mm. The 1mm x 2mm pieces were held in a cutting guide and cuts were made at 1mm intervals using a tenon saw with a 1mm wide blade, being careful to only cut down by about 1mm.

detail of conserved hatchway on the deck of the model ship The finished grating in place in the hatchway. To give an idea of the size, the black and white scale at the bottom is of centimeters.

The slotted 1mm x 2mm pieces were spaced apart by 1mm with pieces of the 1mm x 1mm wood, taking care to line up all of the slots, 1mm x 1mm lengths were then glued into the slots. The lattices formed were cut to size and their tops were flattened using a chisel and glasspaper. The grating panels were stained to match and varnished before being glued in place."