Rieth Creations Nautical Restoration
Should you ever find yourself in Houston’s Restaurant on St Charles Avenue, take a look at the ship model before heading for your table. The model is of the Emanuele Morasso and was built in Italy in 1956. It was recently restored by Mike Rieth of Rieth Creations.
Mike said that when he got the model the paint was peeling, the deck was discolored, some parts were warped and others were splitting open. He had to strip the paint from the affected areas, prime and repaint, meticulously matching the original colors. Hearing his story got me to thinking: How does one approach restoring a 60 year old plus model. I posed that question to Mike and here’s what he had to say:
“I approach a model restoration project with a certain amount of trepidation. I don’t want to “mess up” a model built 50, 75, 100 years or older. There is historical significance in a model built years ago that I don’t want to destroy, especially for a client with a model that is “priceless”, meaning expensive, or irreplaceable.
Before: Overall paint peeling and deteriorated catwalk
There is a give and take with how much to change through restoration and repair and how much to keep as original. The older the subject, the more this is important. And the older the model, the more difficult it is to match materials and techniques. Sure, I could make a replacement part with a 3D printer, but that ruins the historical value. It is also harder to find materials to match the original, such as, linen thread for a sailing ship, as opposed to the polyester thread of today. It is a strange paradox that there is some destruction that goes into a restoration. I always hesitate before I take the plunge, because there is no going back.
And then if the model is really old, I have to take into account that possible hazardous materials might have been used, taking precautions in regards to exposure and disposal. There may be lead-based paints or lead in the metal castings and parts. There could also be fungus or mold that may grow on the model and have to be dealt with using fungicide chemicals. Many glues used in older model construction were “animal glues” made from hoofs or hooves of horses and cows, fish bones, hides of animals, or rabbit skin. These glues were susceptible to the growth of microorganisms. I really don’t want to inhale the dust of these glues.
After: looks brand new
A model restoration is a delicate balance between keeping the original, old, historical components of the model with the need for a pristine or presentable model for exhibit or display, whether in a museum, restaurant, business or private collection. I try to do my best through extensive research and reverence for the model in its historical context.”
The photos accompanying this story were taken by Mike showing the ‘before’ and ‘after’ appearances of the forward section of the ship. More photos of this project – and others -can be found at https://www.riethcreations.com/ under the Restoration tab.