Plaster Crucifix Repair

I never cease to be amazed at the wonders of Ebay. I bet I can find anything under the sun there for sale.  Some of the more bizzarre things I’ve seen on Ebay have included a wooden bedouin camel saddle, various haunted dolls, genies in bottles (100% guaranteed to be authentic and very powerful) acres and acres of worthless land in Costa Rica and fetish pictures of women’s feet. However, recently I came across something that I thought was even weirder. It was my old Mexican plaster crucifix that I had above my bed during my entire childhood up until the time I moved out and got married. What are the odds of that?  Finding my crucifix on Ebay. Ok to be honest, I can’t be 100 percent sure it’s MY crucifix but I like to think that it is.  When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, we would frequently go across the border to Mexico for vacation. It was less than a two hour drive and it was like stepping into a different world. Mexican candies, sweet breads and spicy soft pork tacos were only a few of the mouthwatering treats that beckoned to us just beyond San Diego, not to mention the  shops full of embroidered goods and the stylish leather belts and purses that were every teenager’s dream back in the day. This particular crucifix was purchased for me by my mother on one of these trips. It was large and made of plaster and painted in a faux bronze finish with black peeping through certain areas of the “wood”. It hung above my bed during most of my childhood and teen years and remained there for some time after I moved out. My mother finally gave it away to the Salvation Army (or Goodwill) over 25 years ago. By coincidence, the seller I bought it from on Ebay told me that he bought it at the Salvation Army or the Goodwill over 25 years ago. In California of all places. So of course I had to buy it back! Once I had it in my hands I felt waves of nostalgia washing over me. It sure looked like it was my crucifix although it was showing signs of wear and tear after so many years. Since I am not a fan of the  “beat up” vintage look, and I confess that I am not too fond of shabby chic, I thought that it would look much better if I restored it to look like new. Just the way it looked when I owned it. There were several nicks and chips in the plaster in various areas and what the seller had called a “wonderful aged patina” on the INRI sign looked to me like moldy green stains.

The INRI sign had greenish stains on it

There were nicks and chips all over it

The crown of thorns had a very large chip right in the front

The crucifix showed alot of wear and tear

The first thing I bought was a small jar of spackle. Just the ordinary putty that they sell at any hardware store, the kind that is used to fill in holes in walls. It’s perfect for repairing plaster because it’s made of the same material. I  used one of my ceramic sculpture tools to apply it to the chips and then I smoothed it out with a wet finger, reapplying as necessary until the nicks were filled in. Then I let it dry.

Regular hardware store spackle or putty for walls will usually do nicely for repairing plaster objects

After the spackle was completely dry it was time to paint the repaired areas. Just ordinary acrylic paints work nicely on plaster.  I tried to match the bronze paint as closely as possible and for this, I had to mix gold and brown to get a close enough shade.

I mixed gold and brown acrylic paints to obtain a dark shade of bronze and I used black to repaint the repaired areas in the “wood”

I applied the paint with a thin brush and then wiped quickly with a damp paper towel so that it would not look too thick. I wanted some of the dark paint underneath the bronze to show through as this was how I remembered that it looked before, so as I painted I immediately wiped. It’s amazing how fast acrylic paint dries, I had to be quick because once it’s dry it’s there to stay and there’s no wiping it off.

Crown of thorns repair

The scrapes and nicks on the knees and shins are gone

After I finished applying the acrylic paint I let the crucifix dry for an hour or so. Once it was dry I noticed that although the repairs were virtually inivisible, it was very opaque and dull. I remembered that my crucifix had been bright and shimmery. Or maybe that’s just how it looked through a child’s eyes. Either way, I wasn’t happy with  the opaque look so I gave it a quick coat of clear spray varnish and that did the trick. Now it looks as new as the day my mom bought it in Mexico. Which made me remember  those old traditional Mexican/Spanish walls of crosses that were very common in Mexican colonial times. You know, the ones  where they’d hang many different sizes of crosses and fill an entire wall with them. I think this is the beggining of a whole new decorating idea for me. Of course, now I will be on the lookout for old vintage crosses on Ebay. Can’t wait to try a wall of crosses…..

No nicks or chips in sight

Side view

Front View


2 thoughts on “Plaster Crucifix Repair

  1. Well, here is an interesting bit of serendipity! This afternoon I found an identical plaster crucifix next to a dumpster in my apartment complex. It didn’t seem right to just leave it there, so I brought it inside, and then googled “Large plaster crucifix from Mexico” to see if I could learn anything about it. What I got was a link to this blog post. My, I say my because I have decided to keep it, my crucifix also has a few nicks and scrapes, and you have told me how to restore it. I live in a little town in the mountains where shopping is dismal to nonexistent, but next month after my Social Security check comes, I will drive an hour or two to a bigger city and get the spackle, acrylic paints, and spray varnish you suggested. You just made this old woman’s day! Thank you so much!
    Jade Coyote

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