BPG Materials, Equipment, and Tools

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Book and Paper Group Wiki > BPG Materials, Equipment, and Tools

This page is designed to be a list of materials, tools, and equipment used in paper and book conservation. For clearly defined (and Google-able) terms like "Scharf-Fix" a word or phrase may suffice, but images are particularly welcome for:

  • modified tools
  • innovative solutions to problems
  • common materials that have been re-purposed for conservation (Gore-tex, trash cans made into humidification chambers)

Also welcome are images that distinguish between similar materials (like Reemay and Hollytex) or link together different names for the same material (soot sponge and dry cleaning sponge).

Captions should be short, ideally less than 25 words. They can include a references link to more reading - either on the wiki or elsewhere. When you click on the photo, it will take you to the file page for that image which can include more detailed description, information about the photo creator, product information, etc.

Related pages: Hand Tools (OSG Wiki), Objects Conservation Equipment, Setting up a Conservation Lab, Conservation Supply Sources

Wiki Contributors: Melina Avery, Nora Bloch, Beth Doyle, Jennifer Evers, Tessa Gadomski, Eliza Gilligan, Katherine Kelly, Evan Knight, Kimberly Kwan, Debora D. Mayer, Denise Stockman, Emily Williams, Roger S. Williams, please add your name here

Copyright 2024. The AIC Wiki is a publication of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC). It is published as a convenience for the members of AIC. Publication does not endorse nor recommend any treatments, methods, or techniques described herein. Information on researching with and citing the wiki can be found on the Reference and Bibliography Protocols page.

Cite this page:

American Institute for Conservation (AIC). "BPG Materials, Equipment, and Tools." AIC Wiki. June 14, 2024. https://www.conservation-wiki.com/wiki/BPG_Materials,_Equipment,_and_Tools.

Videos about materials and tools
used in book and paper conservation.

Materials[edit | edit source]

Adhesives, Consolidants, etc.[edit | edit source]

Gels[edit | edit source]

Solvents[edit | edit source]

Papers, Tissues, Fabrics, etc[edit | edit source]

  • aerocotton and aerolinen
  • blotter
  • Evolon: polyester micofiber absorbent fabric
  • Tek-wipe used as a replacement for blotter or as a support for lining (Stockman 2014)
  • Poster comparing Tek-wipe, blotter and Evolon. (Molina and Hughes 2016)
  • Gore-Tex
  • SympaTex
  • Paraprint OL 60 can be used for washing via capillary action
  • non-woven polyester: Reemay, Hollytex, Bondina
  • Tyvek
  • paper-drying felts
  • toning tissue by dipping in a bath
  • toning tissue with a mouth aspirator

Repair Materials for Leather and Parchment[edit | edit source]

  • goldbeaters' skin (bovine intestine) for parchment repair
  • alum-tawed goldbeaters' skin for parchment repair
  • fish swim bladders
  • repair tissues coated with textured acrylic (Owen and Reidell 2010)

Mounting, Storage and Display Materials[edit | edit source]

  • clam shell boxes with velcro strapping designed to compress splayed bindings (Di Gennaro)
  • Plexiglass dissolved in acetone and toluene used to weld book cradles (Stockman 2014)
  • For more information see Matting and Framing

Tools[edit | edit source]

Examination and Documentation[edit | edit source]

  • methods of testing the surface pH of paper
  • lightbox
  • pocket microscope with light
  • UV flashlight
  • jewelry loupe magnifier
  • flexible light sheet
  • cloth measuring tape
  • micrometer
  • digital micrometer recommendation: Mitutoyo 293-340-30 (0 to 1" / 0 to 25.4 mm)

Testing and Analytic Tools[edit | edit source]

Video from the Getty on calibrating pH and Conductivity meters.

  • pH testing with a probe
  • pH testing with strips

Adhesive and Stain Removal[edit | edit source]

  • vinyl block eraser or electric eraser for reducing adhesive
  • preservation pencil with a thin spatula to remove tape carriers
  • suction platen or suction table to reduce stains and adhesive

Paper Cleaning and Repair[edit | edit source]

  • brush
  • soot sponge (also called a vulcanized rubber sponge)
  • additive-free cosmetic sponge (also called a polyurethane sponge)
  • dental tools
  • heated spatula
  • microspatulas
  • mirrors
Used to see and align the recto while mending the verso
  • lightbox
Used to trace repair tissues and infills, as well as for aligning infills
  • non-stick Teflon sheet or baking mat
Used as a working surface for heat-set mending
  • preservation pencil
  • scalpels
  • small plexiglass mending boards, with and without felt bottoms
  • syringe
Used to inject adhesive into difficult areas
  • refillable water brush pens
Used for reactivating adhesive on pre-coated repair papers
  • tweezers
  • wooden block (e.g. cedar or ginko)
Used for pasting repair tissues on, this is more durable than pasting on blotter and the tissue lifts more easily
  • suction pad
Can be used to deliver solvents or reduce moisture for in-situ treatments where a suction table cannot be used (e.g. bound text block)
  • Blog post on creative tools used in conservation, including an extra soft brush attachment for a book-cleaning vacuum (Jennifer 2016)
  • Paper Perforating Pen
Conservators routinely cut and shape paper with needles and scalpels when filling losses in artifacts. This is often tedious and hard on the hands. A poster presented at the 2014 AIC Annual Conference described in detail how to convert a nose hair trimmer into a paper perforating pen using readily available materials. The pen, when paired with a cushioned cutting base, can be used to effortlessly draw a series of small holes in a fluid motion. The perforated line is then pulled apart to create a feathered edge. Recent changes in the design of the trimmer by the manufacturer made the assembly outlined in the poster no longer possible.
Instructions for making the second generation perforator

Media Consolidation[edit | edit source]

  • stereo microscope
  • ultrasonic mister (Weidner 1993) (Quandt 1996)
  • silicone color shaper
  • cup warmer and double boiler beakers

Humidification and Flattening[edit | edit source]

  • humidification chamber in trash can
  • humidification chamber in photo tray
  • humidification chamber in a cedar wood tray
  • humidification using a damp blotter pack
  • humidification using a Gore-Tex pack
  • humidification in a closed container with Art-Sorb beads

Binding[edit | edit source]

  • book corner rebuilt with delaminated scraps of binders board
  • book press boards with metal lip for creating a groove
  • The Guard-o-Matic (Brooks 1984)
  • long, square-cross section metal jigs for setting various sizes of joint in boxmaking and case-making
  • Velcro boards for securing spine while drying (Minter 1986)
  • floss threaders for sewing or pulling thread through areas that are fragile or difficult to access

Visual Compensation[edit | edit source]

  • brush
  • Crayola Cutter
  • modified nose-hair trimmer for shaping fills (Owen 2014)
  • For more information see Inpainting

Equipment and Lab Furniture[edit | edit source]

Exhibition, Handling, and Support[edit | edit source]

This topic is covered in more detail in Exhibition, Supports, and Transport, but a brief list is added below

For weight ideas, see Weights.

Adaptable Conservation Book Support[edit | edit source]

An ACBS can hold books of different sizes in various positions.

An adaptable conservation book support (ACBS) provides support for books that need to be held open during treatment, scientific analysis, and digitization. It can be adjusted to hold books of various sizes at any desired angle. This is especially useful for tight or fragile volumes that cannot be safely opened beyond 90 degrees.

The ACBS project is intended to be a D.I.Y. and open-design collaboration. Use the following supplies list and assembly instructions to construct your own. If you have suggestions for alternative parts or design changes, please contact Roger Williams.

ACBS Supplies List
ACBS Assembly Instructions & Contribution History
Latest update: November 4, 2021.

3D printing: In summer 2020, a team at the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira (Auckland, New Zealand) designed a set of 3D-printed parts for the ACBS. Their design improves the clamping system and allows the clamping rods to change angles. The rods can then be used to secure materials resting on the lower board. Here is a blog post about their work on the project.

The Auckland Museum has made the designs available in several file formats to make them compatible with most 3D printers. Click here to access the printing files and assembly instructions.

Vendors[edit | edit source]

The AIC Wiki maintains a list of Conservation Supply Sources with vendors. Please add your suggestions there.

How to Contribute[edit | edit source]

If you are a registered user of this site, you are welcome to make changes and additions to this page. The BPG Wiki Contributors Toolbox is a great orientation to the Book and Paper sections of the AIC Wiki, including all you need to know about getting registered, making edits, and collaborating with others. If you do not wish to register or are uncertain if your contribution belongs, please contact the BPG Wiki Coordinators.

A word on copyright: When you upload a photo to this wiki, it must be your own photograph or copied with permission from the creator. Once you have added it to the wiki, the creator retains copyright of his or her work, but AIC can re-publish the image in various media and formats, including other wiki pages. More on the AIC-CC User Guidelines page.

References[edit | edit source]

"Board Reattachment." AIC Conservation Wiki.
Brooks, Connie. 1984. "The Guard-O-Matic." Book and Paper Group Annual 3. Accessed March 30, 2020.
Di Gennaro, Lou, et. al. "Drop Spine Box." AIC Conservation Wiki.
Doyle, Beth and Marylyn Doyle. 2019. “Book Futon Sewing Instructions.” Handout.
The authors give instructions for making, using, and caring for book futons. Book futons are cloth book supports designed for use in rare book reading rooms. They are also described in Duke University's "How To Use A Book Futon" YouTube video and "A Fleet of Futons–Yours for the Making" blog post.
"Encapsulation." AIC Conservation Wiki.
Futernick, Robert. 1982. "Leaf Casting on a Suction Table." The Book and Paper Group Annual 1.
Gilligan, Eliza and Nora Bloch. 2017. "Instructions for Making Weighted Bags for Special Collections Reading Room (PDF)."
Gneisinger, Walter and David Watkinson. 2000. “Innovative Uses for Aqueous Foams in Conservation Practice.” Studies in Conservation 45(Sup 1): 77-81
This paper looks at the use of foams in cleaning and consolidating textiles. The use of foams in conservation has been regarded with suspicion, as not enough analysis has been done on the use and efficiency of using foam instead of water or an adhesive. The advantage of foam is that it they minimize surface tension effects, limiting the amount of water in aqueous treatments, making it a useful tool when cleaning or consolidating fragile porous materials. One of the limitations of cleaning with foam is that the material has to be rinsed after the foam/detergent has been applied.
The authors describe the composition of foam and its benefits, as well as an experiment they conducted where they compared different detergents and methods of cleaning textiles. They did a number of experiments, washing the textiles in water with Synperonic N, Marlipal 013/89, NP 10 and Brij 56 at room temperature, 30oC, 45oC and 90oC, and then using 1000cm3 of foam (with the same detergents) at room temperature. It was concluded that washing textiles with the various detergents at 30oC was still more effective than using 1000cm3 of foam. The authors increased the volume of foam to 3000cm3, and this achieved a similar level of cleaning as a 30 minute wash in water at 30oC.
Though the washing of materials with foam seems like it might not be as effective or practical as aqueous washing, the application of a foam consolidant is a very interesting idea. This could be a good method for consolidating, when a ultrasonic mister cannot be used, for example with very large fragile objects or freshly excavated objects on an archaeological dig.
Hanscom, Bill. 2011. ""Harvard’s Chinese Rare Book Digitization Project." Discussion from the Archives Conservation Discussion Group. Book and Paper Group Annual 30.
Jennifer, Noémie. Aug 30, 2016. "When Regular Tools Don’t Cut It, Make 'Em Yourself: Conservation Lab." Blog post: The Creator's Project. Accessed March 19, 2020.
Joanne Fabric Needle Pullers. Accessed March 30, 2020.
Kemp Weidner, Marilyn. 1993. "Treatment of Water Sensitive and Friable Media Using Suction and Ultrasonic Mist." The Book and Paper Group Annual 12. Accessed March 18, 2020.
In 1972, the author invented the suction table and later went on to develop the moisture chamber/suction table/ultrasonic humidifier/air filter system during the 1980's. Kemp’s chamber fits on to a suction table so that an object can be humidified with ultrasonic mist or solvent fumes can be extracted through the air filter system. In the past, other tools had been used to consolidate flaking paint, such as airbrushes, spray guns and the Preservation Pencil. The limitations of these tools are that they are either too strong or that they have a large nozzle so the area covered by the consolidant is too large. The ultrasonic mister in conjunction with the suction table allows for control over the air pressure of the compressor, the amount of ultrasonic mist released by the humidifier, and the force of the suction. This article gives many examples of works of art, with different mediums, that were consolidated under the dome with this method.
Maheux, Anne and Wanda McWilliams. 1995. "The Use of the Ultrasonic Mister for the Consolidation of a Flaking Gouache Painting on Paper." The Book and Paper Group Annual 14.
In 1990, the Canadian Conservation Institute developed the use of the ultrasonic mister for the treatment of flaking pigment on ethnographic objects, and modified for use in paper conservation. The paper provides a brief overview of the equipment, set-up and application of this technique using the consolidation of a flaking gouache painting Black Sun by Michael Snow as a case study. The technique was successful in treating the flaking gouache paint on paper. CCI's original design consisted of modifying a ultrasonic humidifier so it could create a mist of a dilute consolidant, stored within a bottle. The mister also has a local extraction system incorporated in the hand-piece, which collects excess mist that may otherwise build up on areas adjacent to the treated area. In order to use the CCI’s ultrasonic mister in paper conservation, the design had to be modified. The extractor component of the hand-piece was removed, making it smaller and easy to manipulate. A smaller nozzle replaces the original, directing a very narrow stream of mist. The mister is normally used in conjunction with the suction table, helping to reduce the possibility of a build-up of overspray on the work. The table also helps in the penetration and drying of the solution, reducing the risk of an accumulation of adhesive during treatment.
Mayer, Debora and Alan Puglia. 2016. "The Challenge of Scale: Treatment of 160 Illuminated Manuscripts for Exhibition." The Book and Paper Group Annual 35: 61-69.
Minter, Bill. 1986. "Helpful Ideas for Conservation." Book and Paper Group Annual 5. Accessed March 30, 2020.
Molina, Marina Ruiz and Amy Hughes. 2016. "A Comparative Study of Cotton Blotter, Evolon and Tek-Wipe as Absorbent Supports for Paper Conservation Treatment." Poster Session at the 2016 AIC Annual Meeting.
Owen, Grace and Sarah Reidell. 2010. "Cast Composites: A System for Texturing Repair Materials in Book Conservation (PDF)." Discussion and handout from Library Collections Conservation Discussion Group. Book and Paper Group Annual 29.
Owen-Weiss, Grace. 2014. "Transformation of Personal Grooming Tools into Paper Perforating Pens ."' Poster presented at AIC Annual Meeting.
Pataki, Andrea. 2009. "Remoistenable Tissue Preparation and its Practical Aspects." Restaurator. 51-69.
This article looks at the adhesives used to prepare remoistenable tissues for repairs. The successful adhesives for light-weight tissue repairs were: Gelatin, isinglass, cellulose ethers, starch paste and synthetic adhesives such as Aquazol® and Paraloid B72. Funori and JunFunori® were tested and showed to be unsuitable to make remoistenable tissues. A successful adhesive was judged based on its ability to form an adhesive film, by the concentration it must be made to, by the flexibility of the tissue-adhesive, by the transparency of the adhesive tissue and by the adhesive’s swelling ability, which enables re-activation. The article also looks at the types of tissues used for repair and their characteristics, as well as looing at the different adhesives in their various concentrations, and how these have an effect on their flexibility and what solvents are needed to reactivate the tissues. These qualities are very important when choosing an adhesive and tissue to make your repairs with. The results are reported in a very clear and easy to read table. Images are used to explain some of the tests that were done, which are also useful to understand the issues or advantages of using certain materials.
Quandt, Abigail. 1996. "Recent Developments in the Conservation of Parchment Manuscripts." The Book and Paper Group Annual 15. Accessed March 30, 2020.
Roberts, Matt T, and Don Etherington. 1982. "Bookbinding and the Conservation of books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology." Accessed March 20, 2020.
Ross, Suzanne and Alan Phenix. 2005. “Vulpex spirit soap as a cleaning agent for painted surfaces.” WAAC Newsletter 27(1):15-22.
This is an article that discusses the benefits and limitations of using Vulpex soap. The manufacturer (Picreator Enterprises Ltd. of London) describes the detergent as“a safe cleaner for practically everything from paper to stone.” It can be diluted in either water or white spirit and is often called a spirit soap, also known as a potassium methylcyclohexyl oleate. Vulpex has a pH of 13, meaning it is strongly alkaline.
The authors explain that they are still unsure what the ingredients of the soap are which is always a problem for conservators because it is important to know what we are applying to the surface of an object. They are also concerned about the detergent possibly leaving a residue on the painting’s surface. GC-MS and XRF analysis resulted with a higher level of potassium residue on the surface of the pigments. Though Vulpex is an effective agent to clean painted surfaces, the detergent can swell oil paint, so conservators are advised to use the detergent with caution as it could lead to undesired effects. By lowering the Vulpex solution, the risks to the oil paint layer are decreased. The solution is usually used at a 1:10 dilution, but it would be recommended to use an even more dilute solution.
Stavroudis, Chris and Sharon Blank. 1989. “Solvents & Sensibility.” WAAC Newsletter 11(2): 2-10. Accessed March 13, 2020.
An online article that describes the use of polar and non-polar solvents when applied to cleaning, aqueous and solvent gels, detergents and surfactants.
Stiber, Linda and Elissa O'Loughlin. Hinge, Tape, and Adhesive Removal. AIC Conservation Wiki.
Stockman, Denise. 2014. "42nd Annual Meeting: BPG Tips Session." Blog post about Gwenanne Edwards' presentation on Tek Wipe and Cher Schneider's presentation on "Plexi Paste," AIC Annual Meeting. Accessed March 30, 2020.
Stone, Janet L. and Elizabeth A. Morse. 1989. "A Method for Storing Additive-Free Wheat Starch Paste." Abbey Newsletter 13(8). Accessed March 19, 2020.
Verheyen, Peter D. 2001. "Vellum Over Boards." Presentation at 21st Standards of Excellence Seminar. Guild of Book Workers Journal 39(1). 6-20.
Warda, Jeffrey, Irene Brückle, Anikó Bezúr, and Dan Kushel. 2007. "Analysis of Agarose, Carbopol, and Laponite Gel Poultices in Paper Conservation." Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 46(3): 263-279.
Agarose, Carbopol and Laponite gels were evaluated as alternatives to cellulose ether poultices on paper artifacts. It was concluded that Carbopol and Laponite RD leave residues on paper which lead to discolouration upon ageing. Agarose did not discolour the paper after artificial ageing. A gampi usouyo barrier tissue was used when applying the gels, and showed to not leave any staining upon artificial ageing of the paper. Methylcellulose A4M still shows good ageing properties and should still be used as a poultice. Agarose may leave agaropectin, a non-gelling polysaccharide, on the surface of the paper, which is not ideal as it can be seen as a food source for pests.
Watkins, Stephanie et. al. AIC Wiki page on Studio Weights.
Weidner, Marilyn. 1984. “The Suction Table: Ten Year Review of Its Development.” AIC Preprints. American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works: Preprints of the 12th Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, California. Washington, D.C. : AIC. 94-101.
Weidner, Marilyn Kemp. 1993. "Treatment of Water Sensitive and Friable Media Using Suction and Ultrasonic Mist." The Book and Paper Group Annual 12. Accessed March 30, 2020.
Book and Paper Group Wiki
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Materials and Tips

Annual Meeting Tips Sessions · Materials, Equipment, and Tools · Adhesives · Adhesive Recipes and Tips · Leather Research · Conservation Supply Sources (AIC) · Gels, Thickeners, and Viscosity Modifiers (ECPN)

Examination, Documentation, and Analysis

Glossary of Terms · Visual Examination · Written Documentation · Documentation of Books · Watermarks · Fiber Identification · Spot Tests · Analytical Techniques (PSG) · Non-destructive Testing and Instrumental Analysis (PMG) · Oddy Tests (R&A) · Microchemical Testing (R&A)


Selection for Preservation · Exhibition, Supports, and Transport · Choosing Materials for Storage, Exhibition & Transport (AIC) · Imaging and Digitization · Housings · Matting and Framing · Encapsulation · Collection Care (AIC) · Integrated Pest Management (AIC) · Environmental Guidelines (AIC) · Environmental Monitoring (AIC) · Agents of Deterioration (AIC) · Light (AIC) · Pollutants (AIC)

Disaster Recovery

Emergency Preparedness & Response (AIC) · Stabilizing Wet Paper (AIC) · Stabilizing Wet Books (AIC) · Stabilizing Wet Skin and Leather (AIC) · Mold

Conservation History and Ethics

AIC Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice · Culturally Sensitive Treatment · Conservation Ethics (AIC) · Sustainable Practices (AIC) · History of Conservation and Conservators (AIC) · History of the BPG Wiki

Book Conservation Topics
Structural Elements of the Book

Endpapers · Endbands · Sewing and Leaf Attachment · Book Boards · Board Attachment · Book Decoration · Fastenings and Furniture

Covering Materials

Animal Skin and Leather · Cloth Bookbinding · Paper Bookbinding · Parchment Bookbinding

Treatment Techniques

Washing of Books · Alkalinization of Books · Leaf Attachment and Sewing Repair · Board Reattachment · Use of Leather in Book Conservation

Bookbinding Traditions

Bookbinding Traditions by Region or Culture · East Asian Book Formats · Ethiopian Bindings · Greek-Style Bindings · Western African Books and Manuscripts

Specialized Formats

Scrapbooks · Atlases, Foldouts, and Guarded Structures· Artists' Books

Circulating Collections

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