Auntique & Uncle Tony

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          Electroformed Bronze Bookends

Electroformed / “Galvano” Bookend Castings

 

The beginning of commercially produced electroformed art metal in the United States is generally attributed to the firm of P. Mori and Sons of New York City in the late 1880s.  They coined the term “Galvano Bronze” to describe the process.  The company catered to the growing market in search of high-quality but relatively inexpensive bronze castings of ancient and contemporary sculpture.  Also, a large amount of religious statuary used in churches and homes at the turn of the century were made of Galvano Bronze.

 

Companies using the Galvano process during the 1920s and 1930s included P. Mori and Sons’ Galvano Bronze, Pompeian Bronze, Armor Bronze, Marion Bronze, Kathodion Bronze Works and LaFrance Bronze Arts.

 

The tell-tale identifier of old original bronze-clad bookends is the indentation or de-pression on the underside of each bookend showing where the hanging wire was cut off.

 

Electroformed castings were actually products of a plating process.  Although the metal is applied to a plaster casting by electrolysis, instead of being poured into a mold in a molten state, the end result is the appearance of a metal casting.

 

The process of producing electroformed bookends was expensive and time-consuming.

It went something like this:  First, a metal mold had to be created, then a plaster cast was made from the mold.  The cast was removed from the mold, tiny air bubbles and blemishes were patched and smoothed, then the cast was allowed to dry thoroughly.

 

Next, the cast was dipped in hot wax for several hours to seal the surface and harden the density of the plaster.  After drying, the cast was sprayed with an electrically conductive coating such as graphite.

 

The cast was then attached to the cathode by a wire cast in its base and suspended in the plating solution tank.  The plaster casting would remain in the tank for anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days, building up a coating of metallic copper.  The amount of electric current had to be carefully controlled.  Low, steady amperage produced the best results.

 

After the plating process, the finishing techniques would vary from company to company.  These included:  additional plating stages, using other metals to give a brighter appearance; buffing and polishing between plating stages; a coating of lacquer or hand painting; a coat of transparent glaze or clear lacquer; an antiquing effect of wiping on burnt umber and turpentine, and wiping off the excess.

 

Because of the time and labor involved in the manufacturing process, manufacturers of electroformed bookends are all but extinct.

 

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