How to Repair a Vintage School Map

Thursday, February 28, 2013

I love maps! There's no denying it, I am a map geek. It's in my blood. I come from a long line of map loving nerds. I love the look of vintage school maps in home decor and have been looking for the perfect specimen for a while. But they were just all way too expensive for my taste! Ranging from $100 on Etsy to $500 in the high end vintage stores on Queen West in Toronto.

So I put my search on hold until after we purchased the house. And doesn't it always seem that when you aren't looking for something is when you end up finding it!? My mom and I were doing our ritual thrift/vintage shopping in my hometown, and low and behold, I spotted a tightly rolled wall map in the corner of Ken's antique store (he is the cutest little old man). I unrolled it on the floor of the store to find a beautiful vintage school room map. It was a Philips' School Room Map of the World dated 1950. But as I unrolled the whole map, I spotted the problem. The bottom of the map was peeling away from the canvas backing. Ah! Crap. I asked Ken how much he wanted for the map and he said...."How about $30 dollars"....(screaming in head "YES!!"), "I'll take it!". My mom assured me that we could fix it - and since she has worked in the art and frame industry for a while, I believed her.

The secret weapon to properly fix a vintage map like this is Pure Rice Starch. It's a neutral pH, museum quality adhesive, that dries without any indication that you smothered a wet glue-like substance all of your paper. I ordered the Lineco Inc. brand through a local picture framing wholesale supplier called CHOPS.

These are the materials you will need to repair the map:
  • Pure Rich Starch
  • Small Paint Brush
  • Microwaveable Bowl
  • Drop Cloth (or something to protect your floors)
  • Heavy books (or something to weigh down the map while the rice starch is drying)
  • Parchment paper (to prevent the map from sticking to your books after it dries)
The directions for using the Rice Starch are on the back of the bottle, but mix 1 Tsp starch and 5 Tsp distilled water (I just used tap water and it worked fine). Microwave on medium-high for 20-30 seconds, remove and stir, repeat for a total of 3 minutes. Or you can use a double boiler to heat. (TIP: use a medium size bowl - otherwise the starch will boil over and make a mess of your microwave!) The starch will get thick and gooey. Let it cool and then liberally spread the goo over the map canvas in small patches with the paint brush. Gently place the peeling map paper back onto the wet canvas and cover with parchment paper and something heavy. Heavy books - like your university text books from 10 years ago that you are keeping because you think you might need sometime...ya, I know you have those like I do!

It took about 3x the mixture quantity above to repair a 6ftx1ft section of my map. This map was very damaged though, so it is by no means perfect, but at least I can hang it on the wall and enjoy it.

To hang the map on the wall, I used simple wall hooks from Home Depot. I happened to find a hook that was just big enough for the wooden map roller to sit in. So I mounted two hooks on the wall and the map just sits on the hooks.

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  1. Thank you! I just paid $6.00 (USA dollars) for a huge, old Union Pacific Railroad map. It needs repair but I knew I could do it myself with the proper guidance! Now, if I could just buy some time...!

  2. bought mine from old new house. totally in love! It has a few small imperfections. I think I will leave them alone for now, but am happy to have this in the plans down the road!

  3. My map has broken at the very top, the white "paper" that rolls up onto the bar first. It tore all the way across so it is no longer connected to the roller. :( :( :( It happened while it was hanging on my wall and a chair got shoved into it. :( I am trying to figure out how to fix that part now because I miss it being on my wall! Excited for you to have found one at such a great price! Kelly

    1. Any luck with finding a solution?? The same thing has happened to me! It's so fragile and mine doesn't have a roller but rather a slim piece of wood at the top.


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