Many thanks to Orbis Conservation for the information and images featured in today’s post

Sybille is one of the Royal Naval figureheads that’s been undergoing analysis and restoration at Orbis Conservation in London.

As she wasn’t covered in fibre glass resin, when the Orbis team first looked at her they found her to be in a generally stable condition with no major decay or active rot.

Sybille, one of the Royal Naval figureheads

What did become apparent is that she had shrunk along a series of joint lines that had been filled in in the past. Many of these fills had failed and the open joints were stepped and out of alignment.

Open joints on the Sybille figurehead

On one of Sybille’s sides an area had previously been repaired using a combination of small pieces of timber that had been screwed together with a woodchip and glue mixture fill material.

Woodchip and glue repair on the Sybille figurehead

A similar area of loss on the other side had been filled in with paint.

Paint filler on the Sybille figurehead

Following analysis of Sybille, some carved elements that had been added to the back of the figure were removed. Fills were also remade, using balsa wood fillets and epoxy bulked with micro-balloons to ensure that the fills were able to compress on shrinkage.

In more simple terms, balsa wood is an ideal material for this because it’s light and low-density whilst also being extremely strong. Epoxy resin is used as an adhesive or bonding agent while the micro-balloons (also known as glass microspheres or glass bubbles) are used to bulk out or thicken the resin. Together, they make a lightweight yet really robust filler – just what Sybille needs.

Now this repair work has been carried out, Sybille has been repainted in a subtle yet effective colour scheme and glazed with a UV resistant varnish.

The Sybille figurehead after being repaired

One of the next decisions to be made is how she will be mounted, but hopefully you can see from the image above and the one below how great she looks now this repair work has taken place and she has a new paint scheme.

The Sybille figurehead with her new paint treatment