Lead garden statue repair

lead garden statueI was asked if I could repair a lead garden statue. I have experience in leaded glass window work and blacksmithing, so was confident I could help.

If it isn’t obvious, this picture is of the repaired statue. Read on to see how I got there.

The first problem I faced was that stressed lead crumbles. It literally falls apart in your fingers and is impossible to solder or melt. But let’s start at the beginning, with what it looked like when I collected it.

 

 

To be honest I am not surprised it failed at the ankles. The statue is¬†about 2 foot tall and, given it is made of lead, is obviously heavy. All that weight and leverage going through a relatively thin wall at the ankle is never going to last the distance. The break wasn’t clean, it had twisted and ripped apart, distorting the base in the process.

The first job was therefore to bend the base roughly back into shape. This I did with my fingers, such was the poor state of the lead. I then drilled though the base to give an anchor for 2 rods, one to go right through to the head and one into the second ankle. These would provide the ‘bones’ of the support the statue should always have had:

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lead statue repair 2I was now ready to begin to refit the statue. A lot of jiggling around, cleaning back of flaking lead bits,  bending of lead, and I had a pretty good fit.

Using high grade metal based filler I then packed the inside of the base and ankles. This gave the base back its strength of form and anchored the statue to the core steel rods I had inserted.

2 hours later and it had set solid. It was now a statue standing proud, but it needed lead work to close the join.

 

This is where my leaded glass experience (and tools) came in. Below you can see the process of rubbing back the damaged lead to some form of clean lead base, adding pure lead solder and finally rubbing back to a smooth surface. This was repeated around the foot and base in layers.

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The final stage was to add a blackening compound. It is used in leaded glass work to darken new lead to match it to existing oxidized leading.

And so it is finished.

Look closely and you can see the join, but given how fragile and damaged the lead was, I am pleased with the final result.

 

 

lead statue