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Coating Materials The scope of materials used to form finishes on furniture and wooden objects is a broad one encompassing ingredients from several categories.
The most general distinction delineating coatings is whether they are transparent (varnishes), opaque (paint or polychromy) or metallic (leaf).
Drying mechanisms are separated into two broad categories; solvent release and polymerization.
In solvent release or "spirit varnish" systems the coating film is a residue remaining after the evaporation of the volatile solvent from a solution containing the solvent and the involatile film former.
In many cases this intrusion must take place, but the ideal is to intercede minimally and to leave the surface as undisturbed as possible while assuring stability for, and preservation of the artifact.
Preserving finishes and treating degraded coatings requires a broad base of knowledge and diverse skills, including the knowledge of coating materials and their deterioration, as well as craft skills necessary to manipulate the films, whether in preserving existing films or applying new coatings.
The manifestation of coating deterioration depends en toto on the kind of film forming materials used, additives used to modify that material, and the various environment conditions to which the coating has been subjected.
A beginning point in the treating and preserving of coatings is the most specific description of the coating system possible.
Here, the information about the coatings is loosely grouped according to the respective material's functionality as a coating on wood.It must also be noted that many, if not most formulations of coatings for wooden objects contain components from several of the groupings.Reviews of coating materials by chemical constituency can be found in several of the references listed after the conclusion.Any of the areas of discussion here, coating materials and techniques, coating deterioration, and treatment of degraded coatings, could and have filled volumes.In addition to existing literature, dozens of conservators and other scholars are continuing to prepare articles, monographs and books on the subject of furniture coatings.
Finally coatings provide scholars, including conservators and historians, information regarding the practices and technologies of the past.