JAIC 1998, Volume 37, Number 2, Article 1 (pp. 149 to 172)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1998, Volume 37, Number 2, Article 1 (pp. 149 to 172)

THE CARE AND CONSERVATION OF GLASS CHANDELIERS

JULIE A. REILLY, & MARTIN MORTIMER



5 HANDLING AND DISMANTLING GLASS CHANDELIERS

When working on a chandelier in situ, clear adequate space beneath the object for ladder movement and for laying out parts that need to be removed. A moving blanket or other soft, firm padding should be placed on the floor. Several long work tables, also padded, can be useful. Other items that may be needed include a camera, a hand-held tape recorder, a variety of pliers, scissors, wire snips, chandelier pins, string, Ziploc polyethylene bags, paper hang tags for temporary labeling, a whisk brush, a notepad, pencils, and an assortment of hand tools. A sturdy ladder of appropriate height or scaffolding, securely assembled, is essential.

Side-cutting, needle-nosed pliers or rosary pliers can be specially altered for chandelier pinning by shortening the needle tips on a grinder to increase the angle of the jaw cones. One may also prefer to grind the outer face of the side-cutter flat so that a flush cut can be made on the blank pins. Wearing gloves is not recommended. Fabric or plastic gloves will catch on protruding pins and other exposed metal fittings and may cause damage to the object.

Working with a ladder or scaffolding or with an object as large as a chandelier always requires the presence of more than one person. Only staff that feel secure and comfortable working on a ladder or scaffolding should be asked to participate. If the object is suspended over an open area or stairwell, the area beneath the object should be cordoned off to keep staff and visitors from walking beneath the work area. Again, provide a pad beneath for the security of falling drops. The greatest threat to the hanging chandelier is contact with the stepladder. When carrying a ladder, be careful not to strike the chandelier stem or any pendant elements or drops. If you can, ignore what is on the floor and focus attention on the top of the ladder.

To dismantle a chandelier that has glass stem-pieces, arms, and chains of drops, first remove all the chains. As a rough guide, work from the outside inward and from the bottom upward. Take note as you go where each set of drops belongs, and keep the sets separated and labeled. Paper string tags are useful for temporarily labeling chains of drops. Ziploc polyethylene bags can also be used to label and separate parts and groups of parts. The pins holding the drops may be decayed, so be prepared for links to break. If the condition is particularly poor, be prepared for drops to fall as the dressings are removed. Groupings should be removed and kept in their specific arrangements (see sections 7.5 and 7.6).

If the chandelier to be dismantled has detachable nozzles, remove them next after the dressings. The nozzles may be in threaded mounts or in socket mounts that can be removed without much twisting. Remove the drip-pans after the nozzles.

Next remove the glass arms. Glass has a greater tensile strength than its reputation might suggest, but it will only stand so much torque or stress. Take great care when dealing with glass arms. To remove an arm from its socket, first feel its degree of movement by moving the outer end. See if it will swing sideways at all. Gently raise it to check if it is loose in its socket or a tight fit. If loose, hold the outer end in one hand and draw it out of the arm plate with the other hand, grasping it tightly and bearing the weight near the arm plate, using the outer hand only to gauge the degree of mobility and movement. Likewise, when adding load to a glass arm, always support the outer end of the arm as the load is transferred. It is dangerous to put a lamp bulb into an electrified fixture—particularly one with a bayonet fitting that requires combined downward pressure and a simultaneous twist. One can counteract the dangerous downward pressure needed by supporting the arm while the pressure is applied. Fortunately, this manner of fitting is not normally used in the United States.

Early glass arms had square mounts that allowed virtually no lateral movement. Turned round mounts were an improvement. To ensure that the arms were inserted in the correct alignment equidistant one from another and in line across the arm plate, the fabricator attached a locating pin at the back of the mount. An answering notch was cut in the lip of the socket. On assembly, the arm mount should thus be pressed down so that the pin locates in the notch.

If the chandelier shaft is in good condition, it should be possible to remove all the parts below the arm plate, one by one, before removing the shaft from the hanging apparatus. This is not always the case, however, and sometimes the entire shaft has to be lifted down and laid horizontally on suitable supports to be dismantled. Make sure that no weight is allowed to bear on the borders of the canopies, which are likely to be the stem pieces with the greatest diameter. After the chandelier is dismantled below the arm plate the shaft can be taken down and the parts above the arm plate can be removed, if needed. A specially designed chandelier cart with an A-frame on a rolling base can be extremely useful for moving and storing the assembled shaft of a chandelier. Better still, a chandelier destined for storage should be suitably labeled, completely disassembled, and properly packed.


Copyright 1998 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works