After many years working closely with Zimbabwean artists, we are the UK’s experts in the care and repair of Zimbabwean sculpture.
Every piece we sell is absolutely pristine, without a scratch or chip and with a perfect shine. If you have a sculpture in need of some beauty treatment, we are the best people to help.
This guide to sculpture care and repair shows the stages involved in repairing damaged sculpture and rejuvenating a tired finish. If you want to repair the sculpture yourself, this will give you all the information you need. If you are wary of undertaking such specialist work, we also offer a repair service.
We also undertake repair work for damaged pieces on behalf of insurers. Some home contents insurance policies cover sculpture for the repair of accidental damage, but they may struggle to find anyone with the expertise to carry out the necessary work. If your piece has been damaged, discuss the terms of your cover with your insurance company and forward our details to them so they can speak to us directly.
If you represent an insurance company, please contact us for more details.
Don’t use spray polish on the sculpture as it ruins the wax coating and will quickly leave the sculpture needing a repolish. Sculpture kept indoors should only ever need a dust – and the more often you stroke it, the less often you’ll need to dust it!
Sculpture displayed outdoors will gradually lose its shine. The elements affect the stone at a ‘geological’ rate, but they act more swiftly on the wax finish.
To rejuvenate a dulled finish, you need to apply a new coat of wax and polish it up. We use the same clear wax as the Zimbabwean artists do, but you can substitute it with beeswax or clear furniture wax. On a hot sunny day, put the sculpture in the sunshine so that it heats up – and put the wax in the sun too so that it’s not completely hard. Use a clean rag and rub a small amount of wax onto the surface of the sculpture. Then get a clean, soft cloth and rub the waxed area vigorously until it buffs up. The trick here is to avoid the wax drying up before you have buffed it, resulting in a streaky finish.
TIP Wax and polish up a small area at a time, rather than the whole sculpture.
Repairing a damaged sculpture
Repairing scratches and chips
If your sculpture is scratched, more radical treatment is required. You need to use wet and dry sandpaper to remove a scratch. Use a fairly coarse grade first, followed by a less coarse one, and finish with a very fine grade. We use 320, 600 and 1200, but some Zimbabwean artists go as far as 3000; some British sculptors are content with just 320! Dip the sandpaper in water, and then use a circular action, pressing gently. Remove the mark with 320, and remove the scratches from the 320 with the 600, and get a smooth finish with the 1200.
TIP Wash the sculpture well and let it dry between each grade so that you can see the progress more clearly and see if you’ve missed anywhere.
Some chips can be removed with a file or rasp; others can only be remedied with sandpaper. This mainly depends on where the damage is i.e. whether it allows access for the file. If you use a file, follow the line of the sculpture to get a sympathetic repair. Once you’re happy with the new shape, sand as above. This is major repair and you might prefer to take advantage of our expertise.
Once the marks have been sanded away and the sculpture feels smooth, you need to apply a fresh coat of wax. This must be done when the stone is hot. There are a variety of methods of heating the stone, and it depends on the size of the sculpture and the type of stone as well as what you have to hand. You can put a small sculpture in the oven, but this is only advisable if you need to rewax the whole piece. If you have only repaired a small area, you are probably better off using our favoured method – using a hot air gun or a blowtorch. These enable you to heat a specific area.
Heat the stone until it is hot. How hot depends on the type of stone, but generally a hard serpentine e.g. springstone should be heated more than a soft one e.g. opal stone. Use a clean rag and rub clear wax onto the surface of the sculpture. Leave it to cool. Once it is cool, but before it is cold, use a clean soft cloth to buff it to a deep shine. The danger here is that some stones need more heat than others, some need more wax than others, and some shine up better when polished when cold whilst others become virtually impossible to polish once the wax has been left too long. This is where our expertise is invaluable.
If, after reading this, you feel the task would be better performed by us (particularly if the sculpture is valuable, either financially or sentimentally!) we offer a full care and repair service with a number of options. You can send the sculpture to us for repair, or bring it to us in person, or we can come to you to work on it in situ. The latter may be the only option if it’s a very big piece. We charge an hourly rate for the repair work, and a mileage rate if we have to travel. If you want to discuss the options, call us and if possible email us some pictures of the damaged piece so we can give a better-informed opinion.
Types of stone commonly used by the best Zimbabwean artists
Sculpture process – stages in the process from raw stone to sculpture