Reproducing neoclassical Federal period architectural ornament using paint evidence

At Wharton Place, Mappsville, Virginia, I recently had the rare opportunity of reproducing 210 year old missing architectural ornament using paint evidence. There are often cases where ghost images of missing architectural fragments are found under paint layers in the original, or near period paint layer(s). More often, this information isn’t complete enough to establish an accurate representation of the form.


During early phases of the Wharton project, three mantel pieces showed evidence of missing fragments of ornament in the earliest paint layers, but this time there was a bit more. The missing fragments in question were patterns of gouge work, or dentils in the mantel millwork. As the dentils are located above the frieze in an inside corner below the top shelf, with returns around the end trusses, the paint evidence was not only located front facing, but also the top corner and the left/right inside corners next to the end trusses. These three pieces of information represent ‘x,y,z’ outline in paint, where the locations of the missing ornament are bare wood surface. With a ‘x,y,z’ representation, careful dimensions can be recorded and shop drawings created. The original ornament was carved mahogany, made with an unbelievable 0.0156”(0.3969mm) level of accuracy. To match the paint ghost images exactly, the recreated ornament was 3D printed to an accuracy of .005”(.15 mm). Once all the ornament is straightened out again, the surfaces will be painted to match the paint layer from 1810.


-Stephen Z. Marder

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