The Silver Swan
Day 11 - 15th September 
On Saturday the actor and radio presenter Nicholas Parsons, who is giving a series of talks in the area, took up an invitation to visit The Bowes Museum with his wife. He was particularly fascinated to view the mechanisms of The Silver Swan as he has an interest in restoring grandfather clocks. 

Today we welcome conservator Karen Barker to work alongside specialist horologist Matthew Read. Karen will be keeping detailed records of the project, beginning with a look at the 113 rings which make up the Swan's neck feathers. She will conduct a detailed inventory of them before commencing a condition report on each. This will identify those in need of repair and strengthening.

We have previously reaped the benefit of Karen's skills at the Museum. Her earlier work on the collections has included the restoration of Art Deco chandeliers, a model lead mine and some Chelsea paste porcelain. 

Karen also hopes to take a look at the 'bath tub' in which the Swan originally sat. Again she will prepare a condition report, looking in particular at the corrosion on the copper structure.


Day 12 - 16th September 
Yesterday we welcomed Karen Barker, a metals specialist, to the team.

After an initial examination Karen has already begun proposing and carrying out treatment on the 113 silver rings which make up the Swan's neck. Following tests carried out she has started to clean off the old lacquer and the 40 year build up of oil with acetone, more familiarly known as a constituent of nail polish remover.

The neck rings are showing signs of stress fractures - some much worse than others - which will have to be addressed if the Swan is to continue to operate on a regular basis. The question of how to impede tarnishing without re-lacquering will also be up for debate.

Today Karen will begin transferring the findings to computer spreadsheets, as keeping the documentation up to date is an extremely important part of the project.

This morning Matthew will finish working on the water driving mechanism. Later today he hopes to start on the mechanism which throws the fish forward. It has been assembled incorrectly in the past and he will need to figure out how it should be put back in its intended place.


Day 13 - 17th September 
Matthew has removed the fish cam and lever - the mechanism which operates the motion of the fish as they 'swim' on the rotating glass rods forming the water effect.

Although relatively small they play a large role in the overall running of the Swan by acting as a shock absorber. Matthew will investigate the repositioning of these with a view to reinstating them to allow the fish to begin their performance by swimming forwards rather than backwards, as happens at present.

Documentation relating to the glass rods, and the silver rings which make up the Swan's neck, continues today. This accurate recording is a necessary and vital part of the project. Work is ongoing to remove old lacquer from the neck rings. At the moment the lacquer is very patchy, which is triggering corrosion on the exposed parts.

Once the lacquer has been removed Karen will wash the rings clean. Rather than renewing the lacquer, which would have the effect of restricting the neck movement of the Swan when the rings are replaced, she will treat them with a special wax.

This process is not as long lasting as lacquering and will need repeating every five to ten years, but will be a fairly straightforward job as the neck rings can be removed without dismantling the whole Swan.


Day 14 - 18th September 
Yesterday saw the taking apart and documenting of the fish mechanism, which is now ready for cleaning.

Today work continues on the silver rings which make up the Swan's neck. Karen has resumed her task of removing the old lacquer from each seperate ring, and now she is able to look at them in fine detail, they are showing serious wear and corrosion.

Once the lacquer has been removed from the 113 rings - a painstaking and time consuming process - Karen will need to decide a course of treatment to prevent further wear and tear.


Day 15 - 19 September

Yesterday Karen managed to clean 31 of the 113 silver rings which make up the Swan's neck. A painstaking and time consuming process.

Lacquer needs to be removed from the rings. Today, Karen is working on a solution that will speed the normal 2 hour process up.

Alongside this work she will carry on with documenting the whole project, which is now in its third week. Keeping an accurate record of the conservation, which includes the labelling of over 1,000 pieces, is vital.