Philadelphia Museum of Art

phil12600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19130

A couple of hundred thousand feet later, we encountered a situation that would require yet another “node” in the wood refinishing decision tree. Most of the projects we’d done were light commercial or residential. We were removing loose and blistered urethane and taking every type of dirt off of the floors. Our bonding agent was working great, and the urethane was surpassing even our highest expectations.

We were contacted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art when they heard about the process. Bringing chemicals into the PMA is a tough deal. We submitted, not only Material Safety Data Sheets, but also reports of the chemical details of each product. It took 3 meetings, the approval of 3 chemists, and a lot of telephone calls, but the products were approved. When we went to the site, they explained how they would ventilate the space when we did the work, to remove the odors. We told them there wouldn’t be any odor. They discussed the tarps that we would use to protect the cases from dust. We explained there wouldn’t be any dust. They talked about how many days the gallery would be out of operation. We explained the process would take a day and after 24 hours the urethane would be 90% cured and the gallery would be useable. They blocked out 3 days.

After 3 months of preparation, we started the Medieval Gallery in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. We took up the “Wood Zamboni” , poured in the Phase 1 stripper, and started it up. That particular floor hadn’t been refinished in a decade, but there still was a finish.

museum-2So, after hundreds of thousands of feet of successful SandFree refinishing, what did we do? We switched products, of course. We were confident that we knew the strengths of the process and we saw an opportunity to again improve the process. We used a different bonding agent, and it worked beautifully. The condition of raw wood is completely different than adding urethane to urethane. It was an important change and one that has been incorporated in our technique.

Subsequent to PMA, we have combined the techniques as dictated by the floor. There are jobs which necessitate using both bonding agents. This close-up shows the finished product after our SandFree process, with our changed bonding agent.

As we watched, The “Wood Zamboni” was taking up all of the finish, and smoothing out the floor at the same time. There still was no dust. It took about 4 hours, but the finish had been completely removed. After Phases 1,2, and 3, the floor looked like this.

museum-3If you go back to our previous description of the process, the bonding agent was intended to bond urethane to urethane. In this case, it would be required to bond urethane to raw wood. But again, if you consider the analogy to super glue, you don’t want a thick layer of super glue and you also don’t want a thick layer of our bonding agent. If we were going to stay with a thin layer of our bonding agent, the surface area of the new urethane to the bonding agent was going to be greatly reduced because the raw wood would absorb the agent, and the small microscopic crevices would create ridges, which would become the bonding areas.

Subsequent to PMA, we have combined the techniques as dictated by the floor. There are jobs which necessitate using both bonding agents. This close-up shows the finished product after our SandFree process, with our changed bonding agent. The armor is really fantastic, but so is the floor. There was no dust, no odor, no downtime.


Winter 2005

It took 2 years, and more than 150,000 visitors, but we are going to re-SandFree a space. I have to add something, before PMA started with SandFree they would put plywood sheets on the floors in the rooms where catering events occurred. It cost them less to SandFree the space, than it did to provide the material and labor to install the wood, and remove it after each event. In addition to making the floors more beautiful, the cost effectiveness of the process has paid for itself more than 2 times over with reduced maintenance costs during the years.

Summer 2004

The Temporary Exhibit Space, where all of the visiting exhibitions are held, had not been sanded in 3 decades. There were a lot of gouges in the wood, which the Museum wanted removed, and so they asked us to sand this area to remove the gouges, with the intent that they will use SandFree in the future between shows. The museum has a tolerance of 30 microns of dust, measured. We brought in all kinds of vacuums, connected them to all of the sanding equipment, and were able to keep the dust level below their tolerance. This winter, we’ll sand the corridor and the gift shop area, and begin using SandFree in the main exhibit between shows. The floor should look great, and not need to be sanded for another 30 years.

Winter 2003

With the success of the Medieval Armor Gallery, we were asked to do the Degas Gallery. On this floor we used a different finish – absolute matte, which means there is no sheen. We did this gallery in 3 nights. The only problem we ran into here, was that the lights were timed to go out at 7:00 PM, because that is when the gallery was to close, and at exactly 7:00 PM, we were, literally, in the middle of the floor pulling the urethane. Pulling the urethane is the most critical phase of the process, because this is where air bubbles, puddles, and misses can occur. At 7:01, all of the lights went out. Fortunately, we had flashlights with us, for no particular reason. The guards helped by holding the flashlights, and the job was finished by flashlight.