Lime Putty – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Conservation and Restoration Glossary

I. What is Lime Putty?

Lime putty is a traditional material used in construction and art conservation. It is made by slaking quicklime with water to create a smooth, workable paste. This paste is then aged for several months to allow it to mature and develop its unique properties.

Lime putty is known for its versatility and compatibility with a wide range of materials. It has been used for centuries in various applications, including plastering, masonry, and as a binder in paint and mortar. Its natural properties make it an ideal choice for conservation work, as it is breathable, flexible, and durable.

II. History of Lime Putty in Art Conservation

The use of lime putty in art conservation dates back to ancient times. It was commonly used by the Romans and Greeks in their architectural and artistic endeavors. Lime putty was also popular during the Renaissance period, where it was used in fresco painting and sculpture.

In the 20th century, lime putty fell out of favor as modern materials became more readily available. However, in recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional materials and techniques, leading to a renewed appreciation for lime putty in art conservation.

III. Properties of Lime Putty

Lime putty has several unique properties that make it an excellent choice for art restoration. It is highly breathable, allowing moisture to pass through it without causing damage to the underlying materials. This makes it ideal for use in historic buildings and artworks.

Additionally, lime putty is flexible and self-healing, meaning it can accommodate movement and minor cracks without compromising its integrity. It also has a high pH level, which helps to deter pests and mold growth.

IV. Applications of Lime Putty in Art Restoration

Lime putty is used in a variety of applications in art restoration, including plastering, filling cracks and gaps, and creating custom molds. It can be mixed with pigments to create custom paints and finishes, making it a versatile material for conservators.

One of the most common uses of lime putty in art restoration is in the repair of historic plasterwork. Its compatibility with traditional materials and techniques makes it an ideal choice for preserving the integrity of historic buildings and artworks.

V. Techniques for Using Lime Putty in Conservation

When working with lime putty in conservation, it is important to follow proper techniques to ensure the best results. This includes preparing the surface properly, mixing the lime putty to the correct consistency, and applying it in thin layers to avoid cracking and shrinkage.

Conservators often use traditional tools such as wooden floats and trowels to work with lime putty, as they provide a smooth finish and allow for precise application. It is also important to allow the lime putty to cure properly before applying any finishes or coatings.

VI. Challenges and Considerations when Working with Lime Putty

While lime putty is a versatile and durable material, there are some challenges and considerations to keep in mind when working with it in conservation. One of the main challenges is the long curing time required for lime putty to fully harden, which can delay the completion of a project.

Another consideration is the potential for efflorescence, a white powdery residue that can form on the surface of lime putty as it cures. This can be mitigated by proper surface preparation and sealing techniques.

Overall, working with lime putty in art conservation requires patience, skill, and a thorough understanding of its properties and applications. When used correctly, lime putty can help to preserve and protect historic buildings and artworks for generations to come.