Mylar Preservation Rollers for Storing East Asian Scrolls
Hanging scrolls and handscrolls are two of the most common formats for East Asian paintings. Their flexible structures are designed to be unrolled for viewing and rolled up for compact storage. Of great concern for preserving these formats is the damage caused by rolling the scroll around a rod with a small diameter. This problem typically results in severe creasing and pigment loss (Figures 1 and 2).
East Asian Painting Conservation Studio
Department of Conservation and Scientific Research
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Photo Credits: East Asian Painting Conservation Studio Freer|Sackler
A few methods have been devised to enlarge the diameter of scrolls when rolled to mitigate the problems caused by a small roller rod. The most common solution seen in the West is the wooden roller clamp. First created in Japan a century ago, it is usually known by its Japanese name of futomaki soejiku, or simply futomaki. The roller clamp is clamped around the roller rod (Figure 3) before the scroll is rolled up for storage (Figure 4). Ideally, this will at least double the diameter of the rolled scroll thereby reducing planar distortion and stress placed on the laminate structure.
The simple, functional solution of the roller clamp has the disadvantage of being made from paulownia wood, an acidic, off-gassing material. Also, it can be used incorrectly and is usually difficult and expensive to obtain in the West. With these functionality, material, and cost concerns in mind, East Asian painting conservators at the Freer and Sackler Galleries have devised two alternative preservation rollers, one made with Ethafoam and one made with Mylar. The Mylar preservation roller is described here.
Fig. 5 – These modern preservation rollers are made of acid-free materials (pictured on the left) or traditional wood (pictured on the right). From left are conservation rollers made of: Mylar; Ethafoam with Stockinette; neutral paper tube with Japanese paper sling and scavenger insert; paulownia wood from Japan with closed ends; paulownia wood with open ends; and locally harvested paulownia wood for a roller made in the United States.
To adapt useful features of traditional wooden roller clamps to modern, inert conservation materials, we have designed
a Mylar preservation roller. It is easily produced with inexpensive materials that are available in Western conservation
facilities, and is comparatively foolproof to use. In addition, it aids in handling hanging scrolls safely, and improves display
conditions for handscrolls (Figures 6 and 7).
The Mylar preservation roller is made with two thicknesses of Mylar (polyester sheeting) and acid-free double-sided tape. This Mylar preservation roller is most suitable for scrolls that measure up to three feet wide. For larger scrolls, the Ethafoam preservation roller is more stable and effective.
Materials, Tools & Supplies
- 2 thicknesses of Mylar
- Double-sided acid-free tape
- (1/4 inch width)
- Cutting mat
- Straight edge
- Mat knife
- Bone folder
Measuring the Scroll
Two measurements are necessary to fit the Mylar preservation roller to the scroll (Figures 9 and 10).
Calculating Measurements for the Two Mylar Sheets
Use two thicknesses of Mylar for one roller. Typically, a thinner and more flexible Mylar (5 or 7 mil) works well for the tube of the outer circumference of the roller. A thicker and stiffer Mylar (7 or 10 mil) is used to make the inner, folded channel that fits around the rod. Five and seven mil Mylar should be paired to make a roller for a smaller scroll ( up to approximately 18 inches in width). Seven and ten mil Mylar should be paired for a larger scroll (up to three feet in width) (Figures 11 and 12).
Measuring Mylar Sheets
To start, both Mylar sheets must be slightly longer than the width of the rolled scroll and wide enough to accommodate it.
For the inner channel, the width of the thicker Mylar sheet is calculated as four times the diameter of the roller rod minus 1/4 inch allowance. For example, for a roller rod with a 2-inch diameter: (2 inches X 4) – 1/4 inch = 7 3/4 inches (width of Mylar sheet)
For the outer tube, the width of the thinner Mylar sheet is approximately 1 3/4 times the width of the inner (smaller) piece. In this case, the measurement is: 7 3/4 inches X 1.75 = 15 1/2 inches (approximate width of Mylar sheet)
Marking the Mylar Sheet for the Inner Channel
The four-sided channel is measured and scored to fit around the roller rod. The two inner sections are the same width as the diameter of the roller rod (in this case, 2 inches). The two outer sections are the width of the rod minus 1/8 inch (to fit inside the overlapping edges of the Mylar tube sections). For these, the measurement is 1 7/8 inches (Figure 13). Using a straight edge, weight, and ruler, measure the first section of the inner channel (1 7/8 inches wide) (Figure 14).
With an awl, score the Mylar along the straight edge a few times. Score firmly to ensure a sharp edge when the Mylar is later folded (Figure 15).
Repeat this process two more times, making both sections 2 inches wide. Measure and score along both lines (Figure 16).
The final section will again be 1 7/8” wide. Trim off excess Mylar from the last section, if necessary (Figure 17).
Measuring the Mylar for the Outer Tube
For the thinner Mylar sheet that is 15 1/2 inches wide, measure and score a 2 inch section along the right side. Measure the middle section (11 1/2 inches) from there and score again (Figure 18).
The third section (along the opposite edge) will be 2 inches wide. Trim off any excess Mylar along the edge of the sheet (Figure 19).
After each piece of Mylar has been marked and trimmed, wipe both sides with a clean cloth to remove any dust that remains from scoring the Mylar (Figure 20).
The two pieces of Mylar should look like this. The blue lines indicate the scored lines in the larger thinner sheet. The pink lines indicate the scored lines in the smaller heavier sheet (Figure 21).
Applying Double-sided Tape to the Mylar
Place the larger piece of Mylar on the table with the scored lines facing up. Align the ruler with the scored line. The ruler holds the Mylar sheet in place and provides a guide line for applying the double-sided tape (Figure 22).
While unrolling the tape, adhesive-side down, align the edge of the tape along the edge of the Mylar with one hand while smoothing the tape into place with the other hand (Figure 23).
It is important to recess the edge of the adhesive tape inside the edge of the Mylar approximately 1/16 to 1/32 of an inch. This prevents the adhesive from bleeding when the second sheet of Mylar is applied over it. Repeat this process to adhere a second piece of double-sided tape along the opposite edge of the larger Mylar sheet (Figure 24).
Joining the Two Sheets of Mylar
Again, align the straight edge along the scored line of the larger (thinner) Mylar sheet with the adhesive side of the tape facing up. Secure both ends of the straight edge with a weight. Peel off the paper backing of the double-sided tape (Figure 25).
Hold the smaller (thicker) sheet of Mylar scored-side down. Using the straight edge as a guide, align the edge of the Mylar sheet along the straight edge over the double-sided tape. Press firmly along the joint to ensure secure adhesion (Figure 26).
Trimming the Length of the Mylar Preservation Roller to the Width of the Scroll Mounting
Using a square, trim one end of the preservation roller to be square with the long edge (Figure 27).
Using the measurement of the width of the scroll taken earlier, trim the length of the preservation roller to the width of the scroll mounting (Figure 28).
Confirming the Measurement
Compare the length of the joined Mylar sheet with the width of the scroll mounting to confirm they are the same (Figure 29).
Folding the Mylar Sheeting to Complete the Preservation Roller
Align the Mylar sheet with the thicker section (inner channel) facing toward you. Start folding the first narrow section along the scored line by using your fingers, Press along the fold with the heel of your hands (Figure 30).
Next, run a bone folder along the fold to make a deep, sharp crease (Figure 31).
The numbered arrows in the photos indicate the direction and order for folding. Repeat this process for the third fold (Figure 32).
The numbered arrows in the photos indicate the direction and order for folding. Repeat this process for the third fold (Figure 33).
Folding the Mylar at the Seam of the Two Sheets
The next fold is at the seam between the two sheets of Mylar. This fold is made in the opposite direction of the previous folds. The direction and order of the folds are indicated by the numbered arrows in the photo (Figure 34).
As before, run the bone folder along the fold to ensure a sharp crease (Figure 35).
Spin the Mylar sheet around. Fold along the remaining scored line of the Mylar sheet (Figure 36).
Sharply crease the fold. This will make it much easier to complete the preservation roller (Figure 37).
When folding is complete, the Mylar sheet should look like Figure 38.
Completing the Shape of the Preservation Roller
Align the Mylar sheet along the edge of the table. The edge with paper covered double-sided tape should be closest to you and face up. Place a ruler on top of the Mylar and align its edge with the fold next to the double-sided tape. Place weights on both ends of the ruler for stability. Peel off the paper covering the double-sided tape (Figure 39).
Curl the Mylar sheet over itself and overlap the two folded edges completely. Check that the joint overlaps evenly as you work your way along the seam. Press firmly with your fingers. Run over the seam again with the bone folder to ensure secure adhesion (Figure 40).
Figure 41 shows an end view of how the completed preservation roller should look. Note that the inside channel forms a diamond shape with an opening along the top.
Using the completed Mylar Preservation Roller
When placing the preservation roller over the roller rod at the bottom of the mounting, make certain that the preservation roller is centered on the mounting (Figures 42 and 43).
Once the scroll is completely rolled up, secure it with the tying cord (Figures 44 and 45).
For more information about safe handling procedures and instructions to make the blue board storage box shown in Figure 46 and the Ethafoam Preservation Roller, please see the STASHc articles, Making East Asian Scroll Storage Boxes and Making Ethafoam Preservation Rollers for Storing East Asian Scrolls or visit the Freer|Sackler Online Resources.
Hanging scroll, Handscroll, Futomaki, Mylar Preservation Roller