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Subject: Bird skin

Bird skin

From: Simon Moore <simon.moore<-at->
Date: Thursday, April 16, 2009
Anna-Isabel Frank <anna-isabel_frank [at] web__de> writes

>I am looking for information (personal experience or bibliography)
>about methods for the repair of severely insect-damaged feathered
>bird skins. Due to the insect attack, on the object that I am
>working on, almost the entire skin is lost. It is important to find
>a treatment to prevent further loss of feathers. Could anyone give
>me some ideas or suggestions?

Repairing bird skins (and feathers) can be carried out using fine
grade Japanese tissue (I use Gampi tissue 8gsm grade).  This is fine
enough yet strong (breaking strain c. 2Kg) and can be coated with
neutral pH PVA as both a liner and adhesive to form a pseudo-skin
and to conjoin remaining areas of skin together into a stronger
framework. The detached feathers will need to be sorted into body
areas and then sub-graded into sizes before re-feathering can
commence by adhering one at a time and leaving one hour to dry
between layers.  A repetitive and somewhat tedious task but very

Layering of down feathers can be more difficult and requires some
experience to achieve an even surface.  Pests will usually have
shredded these to tiny 'floaty' components and it can be advisable
to omit these unless the bird is rare or important enough and to
compensate with tissue layers to maintain an even plumage surface.
Using a textile steamer can help to straighten out bent,
distorted/twisted feathers and can be useful to 'calm down'
down-feather layers but beware of wetting the (actual) skin surface
as this could rehydrate it, giving rise to distortion and eventual
mould growth.

Feather insertion is simply carried out by lifting the feather layer
above using a spatula and inserting the glued feather shaft tip
inside and then aligning the feather by finger preening. Where the
shaft has been partly or totally eaten away but the feather barbs
are still interlocked, mount the feather onto a pseudo-shaft of
about 25gsm Kozo or Gampi strip folded over.  For smaller/more
delicate feathers use an unfolded strip of tissue.

Pest prevention is always complex these days with so many useful
products on the 'forbidden list'.

Bob Child's Constrain product <URL:>
contains permethrin and this will give some lasting preventive
effect against re-infestation (up to approximately 1 year, sometimes
longer in my experience). I used to use a Bayer product called Eulan
W or Edolan to great and longer-lasting effect and it could be
applied as a 5% solution in propan 2-ol (iso-propyl alcohol which
will not rehydrate the skin).  However, this product is now
regulated and will need checking out before it can be used and the
specimen will need to be labelled as having been treated this way,
if regulations permit.

Simon Moore, MIScT, FLS, ACR,
Senior Conservator of Natural Sciences.
Hampshire County Council
Recreation and Heritage Department
Museums and Archives Service
Chilcomb House, Chilcomb Lane
Winchester SO23 8RD, UK
+44 1962 826737

                  Conservation DistList Instance 22:60
                 Distributed: Saturday, April 18, 2009
                       Message Id: cdl-22-60-002
Received on Thursday, 16 April, 2009

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