Scaffolding covers the Cleopatra's Needle monument in Central Park. Courtesy: Popular Mechanics

Forest Park art conservationists Andrej and Bartosz Dajnowski are working in Central Park this month, cleaning the oldest man-made structure in New York City: a 3,500-year-old Egyptian obelisk known as “Cleopatra’s Needle.”

Their special hand-held laser cleaner, designed by Bartosz Dajnowski, is featured in this month’s Popular Mechanics magazine. He calls it the GC1 for “Game Changer 1.”

“My son designed the laser to be carried on scaffolding,” Andrej said. “It’s a very productive machine.”

The 69-foot-high obelisk was carved with “good quality red granite,” said Andrej Dajnowski. Carved about 3,500 years ago in Egypt and toppled during the reign of Julius Caesar, the obelisk spent about 2,000 years face down in the Alexandrian sand, which helped preserve the many hieroglyphics carved on its sides.

The 224-ton needle was transported to New York in 1881. Since then, the surface and hieroglyphic markings have been exposed to soot and pollution. The three-person team can clean about 10 square feet of surface per hour with the laser cleaners. They hope to have the first cleaning phase of the project finished in about two months.

Marie Walsh, spokeswoman for the Central Park Conservancy, told Popular Mechanics they decided to go with lasers as opposed to chemical cleaning or micro-abrasive cleaners.

The Dajnowski’s Forest Park company, Conservation of Sculpture and Objects Studio, has been a leader among conservation firms in the United States working with lasers to clean sculptures and public monuments. They restored the Dreihaus Museum (housed in the Nickerson mansion at 40 E. Erie St. in Chicago) in 2005 and since then have worked on the George Washington monument on Wall Street in New York City, as well as the Philadelphia City Hall tower and sculptures. The Central Park Conservancy is paying a total of $500,000 to have the monument restored, which involves cleaning, repairing cracks and then applying a protective coating.

“The laser technology has been used for 30 years in Europe,” said Bartosz, “We invested in it early and have learned how to repair and adapt lasers for conservation.

“I built the system myself from scratch just for this project,” he said.

Read the Popular Mechanics article online here: https://tinyurl.com/oggh35h

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Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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