Translate This Website
New Zealand Society of Gunsmiths Inc.
Promoting Excellence in Gunsmithing
PO Box 52, Kaitaia, 0441, New Zealand. Tel/Fax + 64 9 409 3835
Contact Us
Home arrow Conservation & Restoration
Conservation & Restoration Print E-mail


 Developed by John Osborne AA, FSI, ACRA, FSG.   &   Wayne Nelson AA, FSI, ACRA, FSG.

These Guidelines are approved by the New Zealand Society of Gunsmiths Inc. Introduced November 1998, last reviewed October 2006


The term Conservation-Restoration Plan as used here is a generic term used in the professional conservation field to denote a document setting out what is significant in a place or object of cultural heritage significance and, therefore, what policies or specifications are appropriate to enable that significance to be retained in future use and development. The term applies equally to both conservation, or the stabilisation of the existing state of a heritage item from further deterioration, and restoration, or a process which involves the reassembly and reinstatement of missing items for the purpose of revealing the cultural heritage, aesthetic and functional value of an object. The term does not apply to refurbishment which involves returning an item to an as original condition, and which may, in the process, remove or destroy evidences of historical/cultural value.

 An arm is a technological functional object which is built to perform a function by moving parts. An arm’s technology and history is reflected in its design, parts, materials, metallurgy, manufacture and use. The ideal condition of a technological functional object such as an arm, is as it was when last in use and in optimum working order. It should therefore be the proper aim of all conservation and restoration to preserve and return an arm to this condition provided there is clear evidence as to what this condition was. This may also involve restoring or revealing cultural, aesthetic and functional features which were not otherwise obvious or present when the arm was last in use, provided such restoration does not interfere with the integrity of other known historical features of the arm.

 Use of this Plan.

In the interests of permanence and legibility, written information in this conservation/restoration plan should be printed using a black ink pen, or typed. If more information is available for a section than space will allow, place a number in the Appendix box and expand on a separate sheet of paper marked with the relevant section title and Appendix number.


1. Self explanatory.

2. This should indicate what the customer asked for.

3. This section should show that either the gunsmith/conservator has agreed to what the customer wants without further modification, or that the gunsmith/conservator has modified the customer’s request, with the latter’s agreement, in accordance with professionally defined conservation and gunsmithing methodologies.

4. Self explanatory. The gunsmith/conservator may wish to record these details, as appropriate, on a separate sheet, particularly with regard to “other features”.

5. The aesthetic and functional condition of an arm as received may be identified in the following terms:

Factory New – all original parts; 100% original finish; in perfect condition in every respect, inside and out.

Excellent – all original parts; over 80% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; unmarred wood; fine bore.

Fine – all original parts; over 30% original finish; sharp lettering, numerals and design on metal and wood; minor marks in wood; good bore.

Very Good – all original parts; none to 30% original finish; original metal surfaces smooth with all edges sharp; clear lettering, numerals and design on metal; wood slightly scratched or bruised; bore disregarded for collectors firearms.

Good – some minor replacement parts; metal smoothly rusted or lightly pitted in places, cleaned or reblued; principal letters, numerals and design on metal legible; wood refinished, scratched, bruised or minor cracks repaired; in good working order.

Fair – some major parts replaced; minor replacement parts may be required; metal rusted, may be lightly pitted all over, vigorously cleaned or reblued; rounded edges of metal and wood; principle lettering, numerals and design on metal partly obliterated; wood scratched, bruised, cracked or repaired where broken; in fair working order or can be easily repaired and placed in working order.

Poor – major and minor parts replaced; major replacement parts required and extensive restoration needed; metal deeply pitted; principal lettering, numerals and design obliterated, wood badly scratched, bruised, cracked or broken; mechanically inoperative; generally undesirable as a collector’s firearm.

Acknowledgement: National Rifle Association of America, National Firearms Museum for these internationally recognised Condition Standards for

Antique Firearms.  For more information and NRA Condition Standards for Modern Firearms please visit

 Warning: Do not rate an arm as Factory New, Excellent, Fine, Very Good or Fair, unless it has tested mechanically sound and safe to use. Add a rider specifying the type of ammunition it was designed for. This section should also contain details identifying any parts of arms rated Good, Fair, or Poor, that are damaged, broken, missing, modified, altered, replacements or additions. This information ties in with Heritage ratings under Section 8, specifically Aesthetic and Functional values.

 6. Photographs (electronic digital imaging) should be taken before and after conservation/restoration treatment. These become a valuable historical record. Photographs (images) may also be taken of the conservation/restoration processes employed, and of the arm in its fully dismantled state. For practical purposes it should be sufficient to use an electronic digital camera or a  conventional 35mm camera and flash with a suitable background behind the arm. Electronic imagining is the latest technology and can be stored electronically and on backup discs. Black and white photographs have a longer archival life than colour prints, however since colour-finish treatments of an arm are important, colour prints may be more relevant.

7. State the facts regarding the history of the arm’s technology and manufacture, and the history of its ownership and use. Conjecture should be avoided. It is acceptable to simply list published books that deal with the arm’s technology and manufacture. The history of the ownership and use of an arm is normally available from the present owner, or (as in the case of museum arms) from the museum inventory record.

8. Heritage ratings are intended to assess the relative degree of significance of an arm and its component parts. The ratings in an arms conservation/restoration context are therefore intended to act as a project management tool in (1) guiding the gunsmith/conservator in revealing the cultural heritage value of an arm through conservation and restoration, and (2) establishing an objective heritage standard for an arm in relation to its collection status and future maintenance and interpretation. Objectivity and allocation of ratings in the context of this section will depend on the gunsmith/conservator’s contextual and comparative knowledge of the subject and period of the arm being assessed.

Three values are identified; Historic Value, Aesthetic Value, and Functional Value. Within each value the arm is given a rating on a scale of 0 to 3.

Historic Value (HV). Historic Value is assessed in terms of the integrity of the design of the arm in question, and the extent to which that integrity is still evident. It deals with such questions as the quality of work produced by a known gunmaker, and how an arm may be ranked in significance as an example of the gunmaker’s art. Historic Value can also include all markings on an arm, including proof markings and marks or signs of ownership. The latter relates also to the known historical associations of the arm.

Aesthetic Value (AV). Aesthetic Value is assessed in terms of the scale, form, materials, textures and design of individual component parts in relation to the overall design, finish, and appearance of an arm as it was intended to be by the maker or manufacturer. Aesthetic considerations also apply to the functional relationship of parts to the whole (see under Functional Value) and the extent to which the original form and function of an arm represents a pleasing design. On this basis an overall rating of outstanding significance could, for example, be given to an arm even though an inlay, or a trigger guard, or forend tip or similar part is either missing or damaged in some way.

 Functional Value (FV). Functional Value is closely related to Aesthetic Value in terms of design relationships, and is similarly assessed in terms of the importance of individual parts to the construction, design, and proper operation of an arm as originally intended by the maker. Functional Value can also consider the purpose for which an arm was designed, and take into account any technological innovations incorporated into its design. As with Aesthetic Value a rating of, for example, outstanding significance could be applied to an arm even where parts of it have been lost or damaged.


A value of 3 represents Outstanding Significance.

A value of 2 represents Considerable Significance.

A value of 1 represents Some Significance.

A value of 0 represents No Significance.

9. The kind of ethical questions that should be considered in this section are whether or not the conservation/restoration processes being proposed are going to be in the best interests of interpreting the arm in question. Conservation/restoration may be carried out only if the aim is to preserve and reveal the historical, aesthetic, and functional value of an arm. The processes and methods used should be based upon respect for remaining original material and clear evidence of an earlier state.

10. Cultural considerations should be based on the ability of an arm to demonstrate or represent the continuity or distinctive characteristics of a way of life, custom or practice in New Zealand, or a community or group in new Zealand. Various themes may be identified here such as, for example, the preference of the Maori during the New Zealand Wars period for the Tupara, or double-barreled gun, and for a particular way of decorating the Tupara with inlays and incised and relief carving in a particular style. Other themes will be apparent in terms of military history ( and military culture), Police history (and Police culture), the hunting culture in New Zealand; the competitive target shooting culture (New Zealand’s first organised national sport introduced in 1861); duelling (Maori and Pakeha); arms of the goldfields; arms of the whalers, sealers and traders; and arms design experimentation and development in New Zealand. The same cultural and thematic considerations should apply to arms in New Zealand which are representative of the history of other countries and cultures.

11. Legislative considerations will apply in cases of special classes of firearms and ammunition. See relevant legislation for details, i.e., Arms Act 1983; Arms Amendment, 1985, 1987, 1992; Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 and Regulations dealing with the handling of explosives; and any subsequent amendments. It is necessary to indicate in this section that the legislation has been complied with, where appropriate, for the type of arm or related object being conserved or restored.

12. Security considerations tie in with legislative considerations. See relevant legislation as listed above for Section 11 for details. It is necessary to indicate in this section, as for Section 11, that the appropriate legislation has been complied with.

13. This section should detail the practical workshop conservation treatment, work processes and safety that will be adopted in the Conservation-Restoration Plan of an arm.

14. This section should set out the various technical specifications that will be employed in the restoration work required. Specifications that can be given here may include such things as chemical treatments and formulas that are specifically concerned with stabilising the condition of an arm, such as cleaning with solvents followed by wax emersion.

15. This section requires the signatures of the customer and the gunsmith/conservator to make a legal contract agreement.


NZSG Copyright The New Zealand Society of Gunsmiths Inc.