Lamination and encapsulating tips

Jul 29th 2015 at 4:14 AM

We are a nation of antique lovers. For many amateur collectors who want to preserve priceless family heirlooms, autograph collections, or even ageing photographs of historical value, it may seem that laminating them is the natural choice. Lamination is after all the best way to protect documents, as it prevents them from being harmed by damp, atmospheric dirt and pollution, and the friction that over time can cause serious deterioration.

But antiques are one area where lamination needs to be used with caution. By covering the surface of the document with laminating film, you deny the access needed to authenticate it. This may then reduce the antique’s value. Nevertheless, given the enthusiasm for laminating UK antique collectors often demonstrate, it is inevitable that many will choose to continue protecting their antiques using this process. Recognising this, here are some helpful tips on how to laminate antique documents safely.

Avoiding heat

An important first consideration is never to use a heat laminator to laminate thermal paper, photographs, or any temperature sensitive surface. These surfaces react negatively to heat. Thermal paper, for example, turns black in the presence of heat, meaning that you will lose all the information it contains. Some documents that are created using thermal paper include concert tickets, airline passes and many types of photos. To laminate or encapsulate these, you should use a cold laminator.

For those antiques which are not heat sensitive, still be sure to use a modern, high-quality laminating machine that offers a choice of heat settings. This is because the ideal setting depends on the thickness of the paper. If the paper is thin and you use too high a setting, you may encounter wrinkles or folds in the surface of the lamination film. If the paper is thick and you use a temperature that is too cold, the paper may develop air pockets. If either of these faults occur, the best way to remove them is to laminate the paper again at the correct temperature for the document’s thickness.

Ideally, you should do a test run before laminating any valuable items, using a document that is similar in thickness and size. This way you can be confident that you have chosen the right type of film, and the right temperature..

Maximum protection

If maximum protection is your goal, consider encapsulating the item. Encapsulating is a type of lamination that provides all-round protection. It involves placing the document inside a transparent pouch and then sealing it using a laminating machine. As its name suggests, encapsulating covers all surfaces of the document, literally ‘encapsulating’ it in plastic film.  Carried out properly, encapsulation will provide a watertight, airtight seal that will protect the document indefinitely.

After the antique document has cooled, trim the excess border using a guillotine. But do this carefully, leaving an ample border around the document, to ensure you do not expose any of it to the atmosphere.

Lamination is a wonderful way to protect documents, but with antiques it should be done with care, using the right machine and settings for the particular document in hand.

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