The idiom “a horse of a different color” is often used to describe something unexpected. In this case our project involved what might be more aptly described as a horse of many colors.
We were contacted by Victoria from Dallas to help with her Carousel Horse. You might think a carousel horse would be an unexpected item for a furniture restorer. But, we have had carousel horses in the shop for restoration in the past. Most are similar in that they are made of wood. Built in sections, with the limbs attached, they are carved by hand and painted in various detail to fit the theme of the carousel they will inhabit. The most recent example was different.
Victoria’s horse was made for her as a graduation gift from her mother. Although full size, this horse is not wood. It is resin cast with a urethane foam interior. Made in the 1990’s, it is hand painted and signed by the artist. Victoria has moved with her horse several times and always provided it with a good home. However, accidents happen and it is due to a simple accident that this horse came to us. Children playing nearby somehow turned over this family heirloom. The result was a broken neck.

Looking a little closer, you can see the crack running all the way around the neck.

Our goal is to repair the neck, recolor the damaged areas, and send it home with no visible evidence of the accident. To do this, the break had to be realigned perfectly. As it was, the upper part of the neck and head was shifted to one side. Anytime expandable foam is used inside an object there is a fine line between enough and too much. As the foam expands it puts pressure on the container. Too much pressure and it breaks, just right pressure and it forms a solid mass. In our case the resin shell and foam interior were a solid mass. When the accident happened the shell cracked and the foam, under pressure, shifted to one side. This made realignment impossible. This fact determined our first step — we had to remove the head. Here you see the head and body separated. You can see the thickness of the resin shell and the foam inside.

Following separation the lower body portion is masked to protect the finish as we prepare to attach the head. We carefully carved away a small amount of the foam interior so the two pieces could be realigned. This also provided a cavity for the resin mixture that would hold the head in place.

To reattach the head we mixed an epoxy resin and “painted” it on all the surfaces that would be bonded. An additive is then mixed into the resin to thicken it. The thickened resin mixture is then poured into the cavity and the joint of the head and body. All parts are then aligned and secured in place. The resin was allowed to cure for three days to reach its maximum strength.

After the curing process, all the clamps are removed. We are now left with an irregular line around the horse’s neck. Next small voids and paint chips are filled and sanded smooth in preparation for color matching and finish. Here you see the areas ready for color.

Vivian did a superb job of matching the colors using acrylics from Golden Artist Colors. Our friend Starr, an accomplished artist, calls these the “Maserati of acrylics” and she is right. Five different colors were needed to match the ivory body, the brown mane, the blue – gold – and red of the saddle. Glazes were then used to blend with the original glazed surfaces. Finally, a clear finish is used to protect the colors. Take a look at the final results.

We love restoration projects like this that challenge us. Your comments are always welcome.

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  1. Starr Perry says:

    Your carousel beauty is spectacular, so appreciate the share! You and Vivian are a fabulous team – hope to see photos here of King as he oversees all the activity there at your restoration location – cheers!

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