Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bringing a well preserved antique fireplace back to perfection!

We create many fireplaces using our large inventory of moulds that have been created to reproduce antique tiles. New design are being added constantly, due to the many requests we have to help customers bring their antique fireplace back to it's original splendor. Following is a current project that highlights the steps that we take to "make it so".

Inquiries begin with either an e-mail through our website,  L'esperance Tile Works, or a phone conversation requesting information and pricing. If the pattern that needs to be reproduced isn't already in our catalogue, then we'll need a really good photograph with a straight on perspective, or most preferably, an actual tile. Cost ranges from $500.00 - $1200.00 to create a reproduction, depending on the depth of caving and intricacy of the pattern.

The reproduction that I'll highlight in this and the following posts, is a tile originally from the JG Low Art Tile Company, border # X23 on page 4. The fireplace in question needed only a few pieces of the border, but the process is the same whether it's a few pieces, or a full fireplace border.

The fireplace is situated in a bedroom in a condo in Portland, Maine.

All tiles are original from the JGLow Art Tile company, circa 1904.

Amazing how well preserved this gorgeous fireplace is!

You can see a full tour of the house here

The customer sent us some closeup photos of the tiles, along with a small fragment of one of the originals that had broken. The mission was to recreate the tile and match the glaze.

This photo is a clear, straight on view of the border tiles.

Original tile fragment

To match the glaze as closely as possible an original tile is needed. Images sent via e-mail or from the web aren't true enough due to the variations in monitors and camera settings.

Glaze library with some blues

After I receive the original tile I go to my glaze library which has accumulated tests over the last 35 years! I can usually find a very close match from there, however, that is just the starting point. I'll mix 2-3 small batches of the glaze formulas and test them on some decorative and field tiles - usually seconds that are warped or cracked. After confirming that the recipe is still in the range, I'll then mix a batch large enough to glaze the entire order. That batch also gets tested, and altered if need be.

Two of the closest glazes mixed

I'll then send my closest matches to the customer for approval. In this case I had 2 that were very close, but sometimes the tone of the glaze will change when set next to the originals on site. Since the glaze match usually happens while the carving is in process, I'll use another border to show how the glaze will sit on the details. My glaze flows away from the high points and settles darker in the recessed areas - very similar to the glazes I'm attempting to match.

We got and overwhelming approval of glaze "B" - the one on the bottom.

I'll show the carving process in the next post,  so stay tuned!

Thanks so much and please contact me directly at if you have any questions about the process, or if you have a tile you would like reproduced.

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