Everybody has, at some point in his or her life accidentally had a treasured object broken. Whether it is the cat you adore who jumps up on a shelf where you safely placed your mother in law’s wedding vase, or whether the maid in all her devote cleaning knocked off a wooden toy that your adult son made when he was child. After your horrified feelings subside, your first reaction is to fix it by any means. You quickly look around and impulsively grab whatever glue is available, usually super glue or Elmer's. Somewhere deep inside we all think we are “fixers”, convincing yourself that you can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. When the dust settles, you are either supremely proud that you saved the day with a great glue job, or you’re even more horrified at the mess you’ve made. Now you start to wonder… “how am I ever going to undo this…is this piece even salvageable? What will my mother in law say next time she visits and sees her vase is missing?..”
You are now faced with three solutions: either you decide it’s not worth the trouble and discard the object, (unlikely), or you put it in a closet to deal with later, (years later often) or –and this is your best solution: find a local restorer who can undo the glue and restore your object to its former glory.
Restorers love broken objects, but they will tell you they are less keen on previously glued objects. A fresh break always gets the best results. If your piece needs to go through the process of unglueing and reglueing, it will lose its crisp edges. It is hard work and a great deal of time for the restorer to undo your seemingly harmless repair. As a result it is harder on your pocket book.
So if you only retain one thing from this article, don’t glue! Gather up all the pieces and put them in a box with tissue or bubble pack and drive on down to your local restorer!
For those who are interested in more technical details: the worst culprits are silicone glues, which are rubbery, thick and stay flexible. Equally bad are Polyurethane glues that expand when they dry. White glues tend to dry very slowly, therefore the pieces in position shift and eventually leave the edges off level. This is critical, because the slightest fraction of an inch off level is going to exponentially throw off the surrounding pieces. Cyanoacrylates: super or crazy glue, dry so fast that if the connection is not perfectly matched at moment of contact, it becomes impossible to adjust within a few short minutes. This is not to say that glues are bad, all glues have a purpose, it’s important to know what glue to use for what job. Glues are job-appropriate and the methods for gluing correctly involve some training.
It is rarely, if ever, possible to get a previously glued object back together with flush edges and perfectly matching walls. Glass is the only exception. Ceramics suffer, as do wooden objects and other porous materials, reversing the gluing process can be quite damaging to these materials. For some objects, it is impossible to submerge them in a solvent to remove the glue, as the liquid would change its appearance, or damage the overall surface. When using local solvent, one needs to be extremely careful to avoid any further damage to the surface and adjoining areas.
As you can see the cost of restoring your object could be unnecessarily high for repairing your Humpty Dumpty project.
In conclusion, if you break something you like, don’t try to fix it yourself. Like the stunts on TV, don’t try this at home leave it to the trained professionals. You will be happier, your object will look better and it will be financially lighter on your wallet!
If you can't fix it and are ready to part with your object, soon you'll be able to go to brokenobjects.com and sell it. Stay tuned to the upcoming website.