Papier-Mache and Carton Pierre.

Manufacturer and builder 4, 1871

Time use of paper for various constructional purposes has occupied the attention of savants, in many forms. We have seen boots, shoes, paneling for coaches and other purposes, coffins, and even guns, made of this material; but the, exceptional and speculative adaptations of the material we have not now to deal, the subject of the present notice being simply the use of paper in its various forms for architectural decorative purposes. It probably does not strike the unpractical or unprofessional mind, when assisting at the opening of some new theatre, and admiring the decorations of the house, and the enrichments of the front of the stalls, the proscenium, and the ceiling, that these are for the most part hollow, and made of that moat homely of all materials, brown paper. Such, however, is, in the great majority of casts, the simple fact, and we propose to give a short account of the manipulation of the material, and the method of its adaptation.

The sweepings and waste of the factories are the materials used, moistened with water with a glue, and pressed in a brass mould — this is papier-máché, (pressed paper) while the cuttings of card-board, stewed to is pulp and ground to an oven consistency by steam-rollers, and cast in a plaster mould, are the constituents of carton pierre, (stone made of card;) and we may quote Her Majesty's Theatre, the Gaiety, most of the new theatres in the provinces, and private mansions in numbers throughout both town and country, as instances of its use. The brown paper for the papier-máché is softened in water sufficiently to allow it to be forced into the sharpest angles of a brass mould previously coated with a light skin of paper pulp which has been cast for the purpose, and lias the inside carefully chased. The sharpest carves and angles of delicate foliage are thus reproduced; and for all the lighter portions of time work, enriched mouldings, beads, and foliage, this is the material adopted, light strips of wood glued to the back keeping the work in its place, and being available for its fixing, which is simply a matter of nails and screws. For the heavier portions of work, such as sofa or table-legs, largo coffers for ceilings, trusses, figures, and the more solif features, carton pierre is used. A mould is prepared in plaster, which takes to pieces in the ordinary way. This is, in the majority of cases, not filled up solid, but only carefully lined by hand pressure with a thickness varying from one fourth inch to one half inch, or, perhaps, a little more, with the carton pierre in a state of pulp. It is allowed to dry for a certain time; and when sufficiently consilidated for the mould to be removed, it is heated in a drying-roon until perfectly hard, and the process is then complete. A similar process of drying is applied to the papier-máché; in fact, they are dried in the same room. As compared with ordinary plaster, upon the question of cost, plane surfaces, or work involving a large amount of repetition, can be more cheaply executed in plaster; while the most elaborate and expensuve enrichments can be executed to better advantage in papier-máché, which has the great advantage of being much more manageable in fixing. It can be prepared to any pattern, and put together ire the workshop; and its fixing is either by glue, nails, or screws. The mess invariably attending the working of plaster is also avoided — a most important element in buildings finished, as is now so much the fashion, with the wood stained in its native color, and not painted; and the use of water is avoided — a great advantage in new buildings, where it is of importance that the seasoned joiners,' work should be kept as dry as possible.

We had an opportunity last week of inspecting a somewhat novel application of the material at Messrs. Jackson's, Rathbone Place, to whom we are indebted for some of the above details. For the Marquis of Westminster, at Grosvenor House, under Mr. Clutton, the entire ceiling of a largo room, 50 feet long and 30 feet wide, is being made entirely of these materials, and is hung up independent of the walls by the wood framing, which forms, as it were, the core upon which the ceiling is built; it is highly decorated; and there are largo octagonal coffers, some of them four feet to five feet across, with trusses and enriched bands; but the great peculiarity is this, that, by means of special machinery provided for the purpose, the whole ceiling, which forms one piece, can be raised or lowered at will to a height of about four feet, according to the various requirements for which the room is being occupied. It is needless to say that, with as plaster ceiling, this would be quite impracticable.

Before dismissing tile subject, we may just allude to a material which, though neither papier-máché nor carton pierre, is used for some of the same purposes. This is Desachy's latent fibrous plaster. There is nothing new in the materials employed; it is a combination of ordinary fine or common plaster and canvas. The plaster is cast very thin, less than one fourth inch, in a mould, and then upon the back of it is laid the canvas which becomes incorporated with it as it sets; the shape is supported by light strips of wood, laid on at the same time; and for plain mouldings and large paneling, this system gives all the usual effect, combined with extreme lightness and facility for fixing. As an instance, we saw as large circular moulding, more than seven feet diameter, for surrounding a light, made in one piece, ready for fixing, no portion of the face of which was more than a quarter of an inch in thickness. We may mention the ceiling of the library of the new Record Office as an instance of its use, the apparently massive Gothic ribs, forming the groins between the skylight, being of this material, screwed to wrought-iron girders inside, which really do the work. The method combines great lightness with absolute security from fire; and its cost is not such as to preclude its being adopted in any case where it is desirable to attain a similar result. In addition to the advantages alluded to above, as gained by the introduction of thew variants materials, the demand for which is increasing, we may notice the question of rapidity of completion as most important. Time, especially in connection with theatrical matters, is of the first importance; the delay of a few months in the completion of a building makes a difference of a whole season; and it would have been impossible to complete any of the theatres recently opened within some months, of the time actually occupied, had it not been for the facility afforded for their decoration by the use of carton pierre and papier-máché.

— The London Architect.

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