Conservation Treatment of Tracing Paper Survey
Amy (Krzeminski) Lubick
National Park Service Post-graduate Paper Conservation Intern
A total of sixty-two surveys were mailed to paper conservators in
the United States, Canada and Europe. The conservation literature
on tracing paper was used to create the survey mailing list.
Thirty-five responses were received as of December 28, 1998. The
following results are reported as interpreted by the survey author.
If conducted again, the survey would include questions for
respondents to differentiate exact types of tracing paper treated
(prepared, natural, etc.). The original survey questionnaire may be viewed at the end of this
Question 1: Have You Performed Conservation
Treatment on Tracing Paper?
Thirty-two conservators had treated tracing paper.
Three had not treated tracing paper.
Question 2: Approximate Number of Tracing
Paper Artifacts You Have Treated:
Number of tracing paper artifacts treated
Question 3: Approximate Date(s) of the Tracing
The earliest tracing paper treated by a respondent dated to the
18th-century. The majority of respondents (21) stated
treatment experience encompassed tracing papers from both the
19th and 20th-century. One respondent has
exclusively treated 19th-century tracing papers and 10
respondents have dealt exclusively with 20th-century
Question 4: What Material(s) and Method(s) Do
You Use for Surface Cleaning?
Most respondents listed several different materials or
combinations of materials used for surface cleaning.
|Grated vinyl eraser crumbs
|Grated eraser crumbs (types not
|Whole vinyl erasers
|Other erasers (including crepe and
|Absorene (followed by grated vinyl
eraser and whole block vinyl cleaning)
|Rubber sponges (Gonzo Smoke-off; AKA
|Swabs/cotton dampened with
water/solvent or saliva
|Mechanical cleaning with scalpel
|Did not surface clean
Question 5: What Method of Humidification Do
|Many respondents listed several
different methods of humidification.
|Chamber (two respondents specified use
of hot water)..
|(one respondent specifically uses
Gore-Tex for oiled mid-19th-century tracing paper)
|Gore-Tex/Sympatex combined with
|Ultrasonic mist (overall)
|Ultrasonic mist (local)
|Spraying with water
|Local application of moisture with
brush over folds/creases.
Question 6: Have You Washed Tracing
Percentage of respondants who have washed tracing
Question 7: When Do You Consider Washing a
The following comments were made by respondents who have
not washed tracing paper:
- Washing would be considered if the media and paper could handle
- Washing is hardly ever an option.
- Washing is an option only in extreme cases.
- I have concern regarding the success in flattening paper
afterward, but washing is an option if the paper is severely
discolored and deteriorated.
The following comments were made by respondents who have
washed tracing paper:
- I have washed tracing paper but seldom think washing is an
- Washing is an option prior to lining tracing paper (3
- Washing is an option when the tracing paper will benefit from
washing (4 respondents).
- Washing is an option when the tracing paper possesses severe
soluble discoloration, acidity and soil, adhesive residues.
- Washing is an option in the presence of stains, planar
distortions, discoloration from exposure and prior to bleaching
- Washing is an option after flood damage.
- Washing is an option when discoloration is a problem for
- Washing is an option when it is certain the media is safe.
- Washing is an option with all cotton tracing paper that is
calendared, but otherwise not treated.
Question 8: Do You Line Tracing Paper
Percentage of respondants who line tracing paper
Question 9: What Adhesives Are Used for
Six respondents listed more than one adhesive used, depending on
the lining technique employed.
|Wheat starch paste
|Wheat starch paste/methyl cellulose
|Klucel/methyl cellulose mixture
|Beva 371 (recommended for oiled
tracing paper by one respondent)
Question 10: What Papers Are Used for Lining
Two respondents listed more than one type of paper used for
|Various weight Japanese papers (type
|Japanese Kozo (two respondents
specified Tengujo and Kizukishi)
|Machine-made Japanese paper available
by the roll (one respondent specified Paper Nao RK-2)
|Cerex spunbonded nylon gossamer web
(used in conjunction with PVA AYAF applied to lining support
only--technique used by T. Jirat-Wasiutynski described
JAIC 19 (1980)
Question 11: What Lining Technique Is
Several respondents listed more than one type of technique used
|Wet method of pasting out lining paper
(three respondents specified the use of various Japanese methods)
Tracing paper artifacts were dried by various methods -see question 12
|Dry paste method (artifact is not
humidified prior to lining and lining paper is blotted after pasting
to reduce moisture)
|Remoistenable (one respondent
specified use of solvent to reactivate Klucel G on the suction
|Dacron or modified Dacron
|Vacuum suction table
|Heat (used in conjunction with acrylic
heat-set, Beva 371 and PVA AYAF; three respondents specified use of
a heated press; one respondent specified use of a heated
Question 12: When
Humidifying, Washing Or Lining Tracing Paper, How Is the Tracing
Several respondents listed more than one technique used for
drying and flattening.
|Air drying (one respondent proceeds
with an additional humidification and flattening technique)
|Under felts (three respondents
subsequently follow this initial drying with additional
humidification and direct pressure or tension drying to
|Under blotters (one respondent
specified use of Japanese paper as interleaving)
|Between polyester film sheets (air
excluded with a smoothing block)
|Edges restrained (one respondent uses
a hair dryer on cockled area)
|Under glass and weight (eight
respondents use blotters; four respondents use felts; three
respondents use polyester web; one respondent uses Japanese paper
interleaving; one respondent uses Gore-Tex)
|Karibari or other method of
tension/friction drying including Dacron technique. 11
|In a press
|Vacuum suction table
|Vacuum hot table (100°F) with
felts, blotters and glass sheets
Question 13: What Adhesive(s) Do You Use for
Several respondents listed more than one adhesive used for
|Wheat starch paste
|Wheat starch paste and methyl
|Cellulose ethers (type not
|Wheat starch and Elvace
|Heat set (one respondent specified use
of Crompton's tissue)
Question 14: at What Strength/Consistency Do
You Use the Adhesive(s?
|Among the other responses
for vegetable adhesives were: 50:50 wheat starch paste and methyl
cellulose mixture;1:12 wheat starch paste to water; "medium
dilution"; "cream"; "smooth"; 1% methyl cellulose; slightly thicker
methyl cellulose than 35g/L|
|BEVA 371 (1:3 petroleum spirit
|Standard United States Library of
Congress heat-set recipe
|Depends on paper type/varies
Question 15: What Is Your Method of Mend
|Apply paste to mending paper, blot or
allow moisture to wick out of mending paper and weight (two
respondents specified use of desiccated blotters)
|Apply paste to mending paper, blot,
lay down and iron with a heated spatula or tacking iron until dry to
touch (one respondent temperature used 78° C)
|Apply paste or methyl cellulose to
tear edges before laying down mend (one respondent uses individual
and small groupings of fibers to bridge tear)
|Solvent reactivation of adhesive
|Tacking iron/heated spatula
Question 16: What Type of Mending Paper Is
Several respondents listed more than one type of paper used for
|Japanese paper (type not
|Japanese Kozo (five respondents
specified Tengujo; two respondents specified Usumino one respondent
specified Kizukishi; one respondent specified Paper Nao RK-01 and
|Gampi (specified for fills and tear
|Western papers for fills.
Question 17: Have You Removed Tape From
Percentage of respondants who have removed tape
from tracing paper
Question 18: Were Solvents Used for Tape
Removal Or Adhesive Reduction?
Number of respondants who have used solvents
during tape removal from tracing paper
Question 19: Please Specify Solvent(S) and
Briefly Explain Method in Which Solvents Were Applied.
|methyl ethyl ketone
|United States Library of Congress
prepared solvent solutions
|Method of solvent
|Suction table/disk and fritted
|Poultices (cotton filter pulp and
Question 20: Problems Encountered During
Treatment of Tracing Papers:
- Cockling of humidified areas and difficulty in reducing planar
distortions (echoed by eleven respondents); difficulty in removing
creases from paper.
- The tracing paper expands too much with the application of wet
mends and hinges, resulting in areas that were difficult to flatten.
- Difficult to retain original surface quality of tracing paper
- Tracing papers dry out quickly and unevenly during treatment
which can make treatment difficult, especially lining.
- Fractured and brittle papers become very fragile during wet
treatments and are difficult to handle (mentioned by two
- Some local treatments can cause physical tensions in the sheet
that are difficult to reverse.
Impregnated Tracing Papers:
- Impregnated tracing papers are difficult to treat and usually
brittle and weak (stated by four respondents).
- Impregnated papers cannot be lined with water-base adhesives.
Wheat starch paste mends on oiled paper were not satisfactory.
- Some solvents can cause changes in the translucency and color of
the impregnated papers (stated by two respondents).
- Dry transfer/loss of media (mentioned by four respondents)
because media often sits on the surface of the paper and is
susceptible to abrasion and smudging during treatment. Architectural
drawings can often have media on both sides of the paper which must
be taken into consideration when determining treatment.
- Media problems with solvent treatments (mentioned by three
respondents). Prolonged humidification can lead to aqueous media
- Lifting of lined drawing during drying/flattening; loss of
adhesion (mentioned by three respondents). Stretching, often caused
by previous folding, can make flattening problematic.
- Discreet repair can be difficult to achieve, due to reduced
translucency in repaired areas (mentioned by two respondents).
- Reattachment of fragments.
- Heat-set mending had several drawbacks: hard-finished, soiled
or heavily fingered papers had inadequate adhesive bond with
heat-set (mends fell off or did not stick at all). Also, it is
difficult to shape heat set tissue for mends. It is easier to
shape long-fibered papers.
- Mending tissue and hinges falling off because paste was too
- Curling of tracing paper after lining. Curl from previous wheat
starch paste hinges return after removal and local overall
- Tears in encapsulated tracing paper artifacts tend to increase
in length with handling.
Question 21: Helpful Hints for the Treatment
of Tracing Paper:
- Keep intervention to a minimum (stated by four respondents).
- Treat each sheet differently and especially differentiate
between natural, prepared and parchment papers.
- Not all treatments are appropriate to all forms of tracing
- Set-up for working large number of pieces: blotter with Cerex
secured with double-sided tape. Silicon release paper over Cerex
during surface-cleaning (removed for mending) and a sheet of Mylar
on hand for wet work on gummed tape, etc.
- Treat locally whenever possible.
Impregnated tracing papers:
- Watch for resinous impregnating agents if solvents will be used.
- Resin impregnated papers are more difficult to treat than
natural tracing papers. You may end up with two or more entirely
different approaches depending on the paper and its component parts.
- Flattening between blotters and glass under weight works well
for oil impregnated tracing papers.
- Complete a water test. If the tracing paper cockles, treat dry.
If the tracing paper does not cockle, treat like regular cotton
paper. Good tracing paper is cotton.
- Complete lots of testing and mock-ups.
- Scum-x for preliminary once-over followed by Mars Staedtler
grated erasers for surface-cleaning.
- Reduce grime off of edges by de-greasing with ethanol, if paper
can take it.
- Surface dirt is reduced effectively using swabs after
humidification over Gore-tex.
- The density of color needed for toned repairs can be achieved
using acrylic paints.
- If mending, use very thin Japanese paper. Cut the stripes when
the paper is so thin – water tearing is difficult and
- United States Library of Congress mending tissue doesn't stick
well, or for long.
- Barrett strips and wheat starch paste work well for mending
large volumes of drawings on tracing paper. Change blotters
frequently while mending to hasten drying process.
- Black board or black book cloth make good substitutes for a
light table when tracing a bridge mend on a tracing paper object.
The black board provides enough contrast to follow the variegations
of the tear.
- Laminated thicknesses of Japanese paper worked well for fills
for a compatible thickness.
- Wheat starch paste/methyl cellulose mixture works well for
mending cotton tracing paper.
- Heat-set mending tissue works well for oiled and resin
impregnated tracing paper (mentioned by three respondents).
- Heat-set mends were never satisfactory for acid treated and
highly beaten tracing papers.
- For a stronger mend, extend the mending strip an inch and wrap
around front of paper.
- Mending is more successful visually when one is able to mat the
work and choose a mat color which will reduce the visibility of the
mends-given the translucency of the paper.
- Dry mends with a tacking iron.
- Fill losses with relevant weight of tracing paper or Japanese
- Cut the mending strips when the Japanese paper is very thin
– water tearing is difficult and unnecessary,
- In preference to many small repairs, we will line a drawing to
reduce impact of repair.
- Gampi repairs are easier to lay after the lined drawing has been
- It can be easier to line a small drawing by dropping the object
onto the lining (rather than the lining onto the object). This is
also a good technique to use if the inks are fugitive.
- The lining technique Penny Jenkins described for pith paper
(Institute of Paper Conservation – Paper Conservation News,
March 1995, Number 73) is very useful for tracing paper.
- Limit lining to absolute necessity, store in Mylar encapsulation
to allow for minimal structural work.
- Don't line unless necessary, but sometimes lining looks better
if mends will be plainly visible from the front.
- Don't humidify too long (mentioned by two respondents).
- Flattening is difficult, do it gradually with repeated light
humidification and pressing. Friction drying rarely helps.
- Tracing papers do not hold moisture well so one has to work very
quickly e.g., to go from humidification to pressing.
- Do not spray ever to humidify – use chamber – test
all before humidification.
- Use of heat-set tissue applied to release creases, then removed.
- I have had good results using a Gore-tex sandwich for the final
flattening/straightening process. This requires that the object be
sprayed with deionized water first.
- Creases on medium weight, vellum-type tracing paper can be
flattened with a heated spatula. A small amount of moisture may be
introduced with a small brush along fold line if necessary.
- Use solvents sparingly and locally if possible (mentioned by two
- Remove pressure-sensitive tape carriers before remainder of
solvent work (mentioned by two respondents).
- A crepe sponge will remove some tape adhesives very efficiently.
- Suggested by a respondent working with a very large collection
of drawings on tracing paper: A heating plate (like those used for
a coffee mug) is wrapped with a blotter to provide a work surface
and reduce heat. A small glass bowl is inverted over the area to
confine heat and hasten softening of adhesive mass. After lifting
carrier, erasers, cellulose powder, and a square-edged spatula
remove the adhesive residues. If necessary, ethanol usually cleans
up last traces. In few cases, sheets of silicone release paper have
been inserted into folders as permanent housing to isolate objects
which cannot be cleaned up satisfactorily.
- Using a wide-diameter tube while working aids in shifting long
rolled drawings from work table to work bench. Unroll as much of
the drawing as needed.
- Housing is important to prevent damage from handling.
Encapsulate tracing papers mended with heat-set tissue since
mends are not very strong.
Please print name:
Conservation Treatment of Tracing Paper
National Park Service Post-graduate Paper
*Please use the designated area on the reverse side of this
survey for any diagrams you wish to include.
Have you performed conservation treatment on tracing paper? YES
If you have not performed conservation treatment on tracing
paper, please fold, staple and return the survey.
Approximate number of tracing paper artifacts you have treated:
26-50 51 or more
Approximate date(s) of the tracing paper?
What material(s) and method(s) do you use for surface
What method of humidification do you use?
Have you washed tracing paper? YES NO
When do you consider washing a treatment option?
Do you line tracing paper artifacts? YES NO
What adhesives are used for lining?
What papers are used for lining supports?
What lining technique is used?
When humidifying, washing or lining tracing paper, how is the
tracing paper dried/flattened?
What adhesive(s) do you use for mending?
At what strength/consistency do you use the adhesive(s)?
What is your method of mend application?
What type of mending paper is used?
Have you removed tape from tracing paper? YES NO
Were solvents used for tape removal or adhesive reduction? YES
Please specify solvent(s) and briefly explain method in which
solvents were applied
Problems encountered during treatment of tracing papers:
Helpful hints for the treatment of tracing papers: