How to Restore Antique Plaster Picture Frames

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Ornate antique frames are not usually made of carved wood. Instead, the frames have a wooden base with an ornate plaster veneer added to the top of the wood. The finish is then added to the entire frame so it appears to be a single carved piece. These frames can be quite valuable if they are antique. If the plaster gets chipped or if segments are missing, the frame is worth the effort needed to restore it to its original condition.

Things You'll Need

  • Damaged plaster frame
  • Children's plastic clay
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Artist's paint brush
  • Gesso
  • Glue
  • Paint or gilding to match the original finish
Ornate plaster frames are worth repairing.
Ornate plaster frames are worth repairing.

Step 1

Press children's plastic clay onto an undamaged section of the frame that matches the damaged section. Carefully peel the clay off the frame and roll the edges so that it will hold liquid plaster. The purpose of this step is to make a mold.

Pressing the clay onto the frame makes a mold of the undamaged detail you want to duplicate.
Pressing the clay onto the frame makes a mold of the undamaged detail you want to duplicate.

Step 2

Mix the plaster and pour it into the mold carefully trying to avoid air bubbles. Let it dry thoroughly and then remove it from the mold. You now have a duplicate of the detail that was damaged.

This plaster piece will replace what was damaged.
This plaster piece will replace what was damaged.

Step 3

Sand the rough edges and the excess of the casting until the piece fits into the spot that was damaged.

Fine sandpaper will clean up the plaster's edges.
Fine sandpaper will clean up the plaster's edges.

Step 4

Paint the entire piece of plaster with gesso. This will seal it and prepare it for the final finish.

A coat of gesso seals the plaster.
A coat of gesso seals the plaster.

Step 5

Glue your plaster segment into place.

The frame is now whole again.
The frame is now whole again.

Step 6

Paint or gild your final finish so that the new segment matches the original color and finish. Your frame is now finished and ready to be rehung.

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