Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Paste III

Well, my fascination with the various pastes suitable for this specialty paper has faded. In fact, I am a little disappointed with the way the paper and paste worked.

The dining room walls had three sections – a bottom, a middle, and a top, all seperated by dark woodwork molding, like plate rails.

The bottom section took “Bird & Anemone” pattern, in a gold color.  (B&B calls this “Aesthetic Green.” Sure looked gold to me. Go figure.)

B&B paper is not pretrimmed; this means it has the unprinted selvedge edge still attached, like fabric. It needs to be hand-trimmed. The strips for this section were about 5′ long, which meant double cutting (splicing) on the wall. This technique involves overlapping the sides of each strip, then using a very sharp razor blade to cut through both strips, being careful not to score the wall surface beneath. Then the unprinted selvedge ends of each strip are peeled away, the seam edges butted together and smoothed down, and excess paste wiped away.

The only thing is, the clay paste did not wipe away cleanly. It left smeary streaks on the paper. Now, this is the sort of thing that I see, and many other people do not see. Still, I was not happy with the way it was looking. To make matters worse, some of the seams had come loose (not due to lack of paste, but due to the clay paste not holding).

Worse yet, there was a noticeable dark line down the length of every seam. “Dark seams,” as the manufacturer calls them.

The finished walls didn’t look awful, but they didn’t look as good as I thought they should.

For the middle section, which took strips only 34″ long, I hand cut the paper dry, before pasting and taking it to the wall. This pattern was “Claire’s Willow” in the same colorway. Trimming the edges before taking it to the wall eliminated the scenario where the paper is overlapped, so no paste got on the surface.

But still a dark line showed up along the length of each seam. Not “real” noticeable, but still noticeable, especially since this pattern is very plain and doesn’t have much pattern to hide flaws. In addition, more smeary clay paste marred the surface, impossible to wash completely off.

I tore off this first section, and retried, this time double cutting the seams. Same dark seams. I ripped it off again. In despiration, I got my trusty Romans 880 paste, which a zillion paperhangers across the nation use for the majority of the goods they install – and got even worse dark seams.

Again, I stripped off the paper and scrubbed the wall clean. Now I got my Shur Stik C-11, the ultra clear paste used for delicate fibers like silk and grasscloth. I pre-trimmed each strip, and treated them like grasscloth – taking great pains to get no paste on the surface or edges of the paper. This is tricky, because you have to get enough paste on the edges to hold the paper, but not enough to squish out when you butt and seal the seam. (Standard pasting method is to brush or roll your paste way past the edge of each strip, to ensure you get enough paste on the edges.)

This paste is very “wet” and will leave splotches all over the paper, which eventually disappear as the paper dries. Takes a little faith, but it inevitabely dries and looks just fine. Usually. But not this time. Still dark seams! Even worse, there were a few blotches that never disappeared when the paper dried.

I came to work the next day, expecting to hang the final, upper section. But I could not. The paper I had done the previous day just looked horrible.

Time for a call to the manufacturer. I phoned B&B and asked for Tech Support. The lady sounded puzzled. Turns out they don’t have an official tech support department – because anyone there can answer any question about their paper. Gotta love a company like that!

So I talked to Beverly, who is the person most knowledgeable about the paper composition and pastes. She was a wealth of knowledge. Turns out, their paper always results in dark seams when pasted with Romans 880 or the clear grasscloth paste. But there was no explanation for the dark seams when using the clay-based paste they recommended. The Sure Stik brand I used is one they recommend. As for the smears of paste left on the surface of the paper, Beverly recommended scrubbing the paper well, and following that with a dry micro fiber cloth. None of this worked, BTW.

I had to redo the section I had hung the day before, and still had the upper third of the room, plus a border to hang. The border, if you remember from a previous post, required a special dry wheat paste that is mixed with water on-site. I asked if it were possible to use this paste with the Claire’s Willow pattern. (Whenever I have hung B&B paper in the past, this type paste was always recommended, and I have never before had problems with dark seams or paste smears or poor adhesion.) Beverly said yes.

What?! When I had called B&B months before, in preparation for this job, to get their recommendations for pastes and any other special instructions, I was specifically told NOT to use this clear wheat paste. We even debated abit about it on the phone. “But I have always used wheat paste on your paper in the past.” “No, we recommend clay paste, as it is the only paste that works with our paper.” Back and forth several times, and I was specifically told not to use the wheat paste.

Now it turns out that information was incorrect. Apparently, it is possible to use this paste on any of their papers. The main reason they don’t push it is that it’s a very wet paste that leaves scary blotches until it dries, and because it’s the weakest paste used in the industry, and they want to be sure their paper stays on the wall!

OK, so I stripped off all the paper I had done the day before, scrubbed the walls, and then reprimed, to be sure no paste residue remained that could get into the new paper. I dry trimmed the strips, got out my immersion blender and mixed up the box of paste sent from B&B, and carefully pasted and hung the paper.  Much better.

But still not great. There were still dark seams – not horribly dark, but still noticable, plus occasional blotches that did not disappear as the paper dried. This was very disappointing, to say the least. We had used an immense amount of very expensive paper, taken more days than we should have, and the room didn’t look as it should.

My clients could see this, but they happen to be about the sweetest people in Texas, so they didn’t complain. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stomach the look of it, and ended up ripping off the worst wall.

By this time, we had run out of paper. (Redoing a wall FOUR times, and redoing the entire middle section twice does eat up a lot of paper!) The clients had to order more paper, in order to have enough to do the top section, and had to pay outrageous postage to have it arrive 2nd day air. Unfortunately, I was booked with other jobs, and couldn’t get back any time soon to finish the room. The poor lady was considering cancelling their Dec 23 Christmas party.
But, I live something of a charmed life.  As luck would have it, I was able to juggle around two other clients, and this made it possible to go back to finish this job the day after the new paper arrived.

For the final section, the top, the Claire’s Willow pattern went at the bottom, and the Prairie frieze went at the top. The section was narrow enough that I was able to “railroad” the paper – meaning, run it horizontally instead of vertically. This meant one long horizontal strip for each wall, instead of many many short vertical strips – I was dead set on eliminating seams, so as to prevent any more of those awful dark seams.

I used the wheat paste for both the fill and the border, and it looked just fine. At least, when I finished cleaning my brushes and packing up my table and walked out the door at 10:30 p.m. that night, all looked well. I have every confidence that it looked as good when it dried and the clients took their first peek the next morning.

Once the furniture is back in, the original 1907 chandeliere is hung, and the room decorated for Christmas, the final effect will be stunning.  I hope to have a photo to post on my website, wallpaperladyhouston.com.  In the meantime, you can get a preview by going to Bradbury.com and looking up the pattern names.

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