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Japanese Woodblock Prints – Free Japanese Print Appraisal

Japanese Print Restoration - Repair and Cleaning

Japanese print restoration - Cleaning, repair, care and conservation advice.


Japanese prints are exceedingly difficult to conserve and restore. Academically trained paper restorers needs many extra years of specialized training and practice to master the art of Japanese print restoration.

We can help you with assessing the initial restoration and conservation need. Sometimes we can also help you with an approximate estimate of the restoration and conservation cost.

First some warnings on Japanese print restoration!


Warning 1
There are many DIY, selfmades and charlatans who claims to be restorers, these are generally better avoided.  They are more likely to destroy the visual appeal as well as the value of your artwork, rather than enhance your print.

Warning 2
Especially damaging are the websites who are giving "DIY-tips" and "How-To" on Japanese print restoration, repair and cleaning.
They recommend glues which are irreversible and give permanent severe damage to the prints. Instruct in bleaching methods which in the way they recommend will permanently damage the prints visual value and destroy the value. And also a plethora of other very damaging procedures.
If you are not a professional the best advice is "to leave it alone" or let the professionals do their work.
We have seen countless of prints which have been bought from on-line dealers and web auctions which have had "DIY" restoration and have hopelessly and permanently lost their monetary and esthetical value, the damage caused is usually irreversible. Also the print many times have started a path to self-destruction due to harsh chemicals and faulty restoration.  Further avoid any site giving restoration instruction, especially if they recommend using ready-made Japanese glue. This glue is made for office and school use, many contains pvc and similar and will cause irreversible harm to your artwork. Never use this glue to apply hinges for mounting your prints. These above refered too sites are neither professional responsible or ethical and should be shunned. There are many well educated and professional dealers who can sell you well preserved prints and give you very good advice, please use their services.

Warning 3
Also a warning for various internet advertisements by "restorers" for cleaning and reparing Japanese woodblock prints. We have seen numerous examples of prints with hydrogen-peroxide burns, over bleached with permanently damaged chalk white dead paper. Prints which have lost all visual and monetary value and many times entered a path to self-destruction.

Three general advices on good Japanese print preservation


You don't want your prints to loose in value?
Follow the below advices to keep your woodblock prints in good condition.

  • Keep the prints in archival material.
  • Keep the prints in a no humid atmosphere.
  • Keep the prints away from light.

Bonus tip: Keep the prints out of reach of insects.

Typical treatments in professional Japanese print restoration


Below is a shortened list of a few of the typical steps in the conservation and restoration of a typical Japanenese woodblock print (ukiyo-e)

 Japanese print cleaning

  • Dusting with specially made brushes.
  • Molecular trapping of surface dust and and dirt as well as "ingrained" dirt.
  • Vacuum table cleaning with cold steam from "soft water" for removal of stains and toning.

Japanese print repair

  • Cleaning, disinfecting and removal of mold infestations including "foxmarks".
  • Cleaning and beveling of edges of holes.
  • Filling with paper fibers in fluid or matching, if possible, period paper.
  • Reconditioning of fibers.

Final treatment in the Japanese woodblock print restoration / conservation process

  • Stretching or pressing of the print.
  • Finding a suitable enclosure.
The above are some of the basic steps in Japanese print restoration, there is a further multitude of different specialized treatments, not described above, which may be applied in Japanese print restoration and conservation.

Japanese Print Conservation

Conservation is the goal of the restoration as described above – to preserve the print for future generations to enjoy.

In addition to above treatments Japanese print conservation also includes the right way of keeping the prints to protect them from further harm. In the future we will try to write a special article about conservation enclosures (mats, folders and similar), environment and boxes for your prints.

Once again we have to point out that nearly all the advices you find on the internet are seriously flawed. Some of the advices, if followed, will do significant damage to your prints and thereby also incur a loss of value. These advices are generally written by ignoramuses, amateurs, uninformed or sometimes even unethical dealers.

List of Japanese Print Conservators and Restorers

  • Takako Kawano, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan.  Expert on ukiyoe restoration and conservation with minimal intrusion; Restoration and conservation mainly by sustainable traditional Japanese methods. Ms. Kawano has a MA in Japanese Art History and holds a Japanese Museum Curator License, she is professionally trained in paper conservation in Japan. She is a master restorer of Ukiyo-e, Shinhanga and Sosakuhanga, Drawings, Ehon and Paintings. Also western prints on various Japanese paper. You can get the contact details to Ms. Kawano via us. Please use email form Japanese prints: Contact - Restoration.
  • Shirley Oliver, New York, USA.  Trained in Japan. Ukiyo-e, Shinhanga and Sosakuhanga.
  • Ferry Bertholet, Amsterdam, Holland. Allround restorer.
All above are good, very experienced, responsible and well educated Japanese print restorers with whom we have experience.

There are also a sprinkling of a few other good professional and well educated expert restorers around the world, please contact us for details. All in all the are less than 10 people worldwide who are really qualified Japanese print restorers. There are many "self educated" restorers, including some japanese, who profess knowledge, these are better avoided.
You can contact us for advise before you restore your Japanese prints.

Future planned articles:
Ukiyo-e restoration and Ukiyo-e conservation — What is the Difference. 
Conservation of Japanese Woodblock Prints: General Preservation Measures for Japanese prints.
The conservation and restoration of Shin Hanga and Sosaku Hanga.
If you want to destroy your Japanese prints and loose the value, follow the DIY restoration advice on the internet. 

by Anders Rikardson
Anders Rikardson's Google Author Profile

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