Double Down on a Torn Spine

When playing Blackjack, the simplest forms of card counting usually involves keeping a plus or minus running total.  One system, which assigns Aces, face cards and 10’s a minus one, and all others a plus one, can give the player an idea of how many aces, 10’s and face cards are left in the deck, or decks.  If the plus count gets fairly high, you should increase the size of your bets, if it is negative, decrease the size.  Card counting is legal, but Casinos will ask you to leave if they suspect you are counting.

I was intrigued to find the patent application from 2005, titled  “System and Method for Classifying Restoration of Paper Collectables.”  The abstract describes this patent as “A method of assigning a score to a restored paper collectable based on the quantity and quality of restoration procedures.”  

In many respects this system is similar to card counting– a running count is assigned to various common paper treatments, such as surface cleaning, washing, bleaching, tape removal, etc….  These treatments subtract points from the total. The extent of work and evidence of work subtract points as well. Using “benificial materials (1)”, written and photo documentation will add points.  The score starts at 100 and generally gets lower. The higher the total score the better restored (more valuable?) your artifact is. Should I hit on an eighteen?

One troubling aspect of this system is that bonus points are awarded for repairs that are so visually indistinguishable that a “device [is] needed” to detect them!  Repairs that are visually apparent at 12″ or less are given a neutral score of “0”.

Another troubling aspect of this is that it enters a gray area in the AIC Code of Ethics, especially  Commentary 2- Disclosure.  Of course, it is up to individual conservators if they join AIC (2) and if they choose to abide by the Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice or not. I have chosen to do so in writing. One advantage of adhering to the Code and Guidelines is that it offers a conservator protection against lawsuits, since the treatment  follows the current accepted practice by the professional organization that represents conservators. 

The commentary recommends disclosure the formula of a patented item, but patenting a system of classification?  It seems to limit the use of this new methodology (3), except by the assignees, and does not further the professionalism in the field by demystifying conservation procedures.  Instead, does this dumb down the field by simply giving the client a quantifiable number, like a movie or restaurant review?  Maybe we should just give thumbs-up or thumbs-down when examining an artifact.   Does the attempt to quantify our examination make it seem less subjective and more scientific?    

What would Linnaeus think?




1. I wonder how this would be determined.

2.  There are many advantages to joining AIC and a speciality group, such as the Book and Paper Group (BPG) or Conservators in Private Practice (CIPP).  First, they hopefully lead to an exchange of information intended to raise the level of treatments, exchange information and increase professionalism within our field.

3.  Although from the patent description, this system seems intended more for collectors rather than conservators.  I seriously doubt that it will become widespread, but the point is if it were to become a standard means of describing an object, anyone other than the assignees would have to pay or get permission to use the system.



Tool Holder


About three years ago, I got tired of never being able to find the basic tools that I used the most.  I kept them in a couple of cans at my workbench, and they ended up all over the place by the end of the day.  I decided to first analyze which tools I actually used the most, which turned out to be a tiny fraction of the tools I had, and devise some kind of storage so that I could easily reach and immediately put back when I was finished.  Although it took a bit of time to do this, I estimate it saves about 5-10 hours a year in time spent looking for tools, which is significant. I constructed this holder out of two pieces of eight quarter cherry. I also made a travel box for working on-site that has a similar system built in.

In case anyone is interested, below is a list of the tools that I use to accomplish about 90% of my normal tasks, and a few comments.  Not pictured are brushes and larger rulers.


-Needle nose pliers

-6″ Mundial embroidery scissors (small, yet the tips can cut through a double layer of aero linen)

-Osborne “E-Z Cut” scissors (these can cut through binders board)

-Medium lifting knife

-Covering knife

-Small lifting knife

-Large lifting knife

-Large teflon folder

-Olfa knife (the ones with a knob are less likely to pull out when cutting something thick)

-Bench Knife

-Two large bone folders

-Two small dividers (less than 4″, leatherworkers ones that operate by friction are easy to adjust)


-Starret pin vice (the octagonal plastic handle keeps it from rolling off the bench)

-Four Dumont & Fils tweezers, #2a, #10-00 and 2 #5’s  ( #5 is a sharp point, #2a a wide thin point for tissue, and #10-00 a convex / concave points for gripping)

-Insertion tool

-Small awl

-Japanese  awl

-Rigid scalpel (good for scraping)

-Italian microspatula

-Two plastic handle scalpels,  #11 and #15 blades (plastic is slightly flexible and more comfortable than steel)

-Rigid scalpel 

-Japanese brush pen, 50/50 ethyl alcohol and water

-Two small bones

-Hacksaw english style paring knife

-.5mm mechanical pencil


-Four rulers (one thin cork backed for tearing tissue and trimming endsheets, two thicker steel often used as spacers and to tear tissue more ragged, 7/8″ wide aluminum which is turn-in thickness)

BEHIND THE STAND, mounted in a recessed area

-A brass 4 inch triangle







Ligatus was launched last night in the UK, and should grow in the next few months.  The site contains a lot of information on the St. Catherine’s Project, and was put together by Nicholas Pickwoad.  The detail of the recording forms is admirable, and the project important.  If you can understand what XML is, please let me know.