Thank you Craig and Rand.
Indeed, one more consideration!
Date: Tue, 5 Jul 2005 10:14:00 -0700 (PDT)
From: Rand African Art <rand@...
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Subject: Re: [African_Arts] Re: Cleaning of pieces
I also agree with what Craig says. Wood shrinks and cracks
for many different reasons, but the most common reason is
drying out which can come from age or climate changes. From
what I have read, it will usually take a piece of wood 2 to
3 years to adjust to climate and conditions. As a piece
moves from a humid climate to a drier climate you are more
likely to see newer cracks on the piece as the piece dries
out and the wood shrinks, no matter how old the piece is.
I have also seen many newer pieces that have been
represented as having “age cracks” when the piece has cracks
on it, and this is probably the result of a common
misconception that wood only cracks when it is old, or maybe
people don’t know what to call those cracks besides calling
them “age cracks”?
I think that cracks in the wood are an important factor in
guessing how old a piece may be if it is not documented. I
think you have to look at the overall cracks on a piece and
look inside them, look at the shrinking and use your
observations in making a determination. If all of the cracks
look like what you would expect from a piece of wood that
has recently cracked then it is most likely the piece is
newer, the opposite would also be true.
A lot of museums keep pieces in climate controlled
environments at a specific humidity, but a lot of galleries
and collectors don’t. I have bought pieces from generally
humid climates, and the pieces were generally old, but when
I get them back to dry Colorado I will notice that after a
period of time an old crack will sometimes start to open up
a little more revealing a fresher looking crack. In this
case, 98% of the cracks on the piece look old and have
appropriate shrinkage you would see on an older piece, but
then you have that one newer crack that was caused by a
I still don’t think you can use this as the only factor in
determining age, but I think it can be helpful in a lot of
instances. I haven’t been able to find any good resources on
this topic, but if I do I will be sure to post them.
Craig Lewis <craig_n_emma@...
you were right to be suspicious about the pieces you
It is something I always look at if there is a piece with a
it is an old crack then the dust,grime etc would also have
the crack and the wood would look drier and be a different
newly exposed wood.
In certain conditions old wood could split and reveal
wood in a crack, but most of the time it is a new crack in a
I have noticed that some sellers (both on the web and on e-
describe these cracks as "age cracks", giving the impression
have cracked because they are old. The truth is it can
brand new pieces.
Hope this is useful,