Saturday, October 6, 2012

10/6/12 Report - Preserving Finds

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of

Sprayed Pot Shard Showing Original Glaze

As you know old items deteriorate over time. Items that were on a beach or in the salt water of the ocean will often deteriorate very rapidly. Iron, wood, ceramics as well as many other materials can all deteriorate rapidly after being found and that it is why it is important to properly clean and preserve your finds.

You might be surprised to learn that even fossils can deteriorate rapidly, which can be very disappointing. You would think that something that lasted a hundreds, thousand or even a million years, like fossils, would be very stable, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Treatment is recommended, otherwise you might be disappointed to see your prized find fall apart.

Before I go any further, let me point you to the “right” way to preserve important materials. Here is a link where you can find the best methods for preserving almost anything.

You will find very detailed instructions on how to treat shipwreck materials on the TAMU web site. However, for less important items that do not need to be professionally preserved, there are some ways that you can help keep items in good shape for a long while without a professional laboratory.

By the way, some of the museums and labs associated with large salvage efforts professionally clean coins and other items for you for a small fee. You might want to look into that for your most prized finds.

One thing that I have been experimenting with is clear coat spray paints. There are quite a variety now, including lacquers, enamels, and brand names such as Rustoleum, which come in clear as well as a variety of colors.

I recently noticed that one ceramic shard was becoming very chalky. Unlike most of the large orange olive jar shards that seem to be very stable, this one small piece of fine-grained beige ceramics was drying up and becoming very chalky. I decided to try a simple solution to seal the piece. What I used on it was clear enamel.

Before spray painting, clean your items thoroughly and make sure that the item is completely dry.

When spray painting, keep the spray can moving and apply multiple thin coats. If you are too close to the item or hold the spray on one spot too long, the paint will run. That spoils the surface and look of the item. Also be sure the nozzle is clear. Watch your fingers, or you can end up with drops and spots. If you’ve done some spray painting in the past, you’ll know all of that.

Above is the small beige piece that I experimented with. You can see how the spray enamel dried. I didn’t do a perfect job on this one, but at least the piece is no longer drying up and blowing away.

You can still see the original glaze in the protected area near the inside corner or the rim.

Olive jars and other ceramics will often have a glaze on the inside when they were used for storing liquids. Some were glazed one the inside or the outside or both.

The glaze will rub off of the high spots while the shard is being tumbled in the ocean but remain on more protected areas.

Uncommon Shaped Shard
Here is a shard that is a different shape than most. Unlike the beige piece above, it has a rim on both the top and bottom. The top and bottom look the same. And both the top and bottom of the shard were glazed. I wonder if it might be a lid. I don’t have any idea. It does not appear to be part of a jar. Any ideas? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

As you can see in the photo, it would have been about three inches in diameter, nearly the same size as the bottom of the coffee cup shown in the photo.

To estimate the size of the original, I placed the shard on a the paper, drew the outline of the piece, then moved it half way over, continued tracing, and repeated that process until the full outline was completed.

You could also use a protractor if you happen to have one around.

Even fossils can deteriorate. I noticed that the surface on this Dugong rib was starting to deteriorate. I sprayed it with a clear lacquer spray. It looks a little more shiny than originally. You might choose to use a flat rather than glossy finish. It is a little over a foot long. I’ve read of other treatments for fossils using substances such as Butvar, but I really think this clear spray will do the job. I’ll see how it holds up over time.
Sprayed Fossil Dugong Rib

Of course iron is one of the more difficult items to preserve. If you’ve ever seen the badly deteriorated cannons up at the park in Fort Pierce, they are very badly deteriorated.

The key to preserving iron is soaking it in clean water until the salt leaches out. That can take a very long time if the object is large. You might want to read more about that in the TAMU web site, because preserving iron is very time consuming and important. If it has been in salt water, it can completely fall apart very quickly if not treated properly.

I haven't talked about coins today.  That is entirely different matter.
I’m experimenting with these clear coatings on objects that are not valuable. On some objects, like common pot shards, there is little danger and I think good results can be easily achieved. Just know that many items need to be treated and even some easy methods can provide good results.

Treasure Coast Treasure Beach Detecting Forecast and Conditions.

Conditions for finding shipwreck cobs and treasure coins on the Treasure Coast remain poor.

Seas are running 2 -3 feet today, down a little more tomorrow.

Low tide today will be near 7 PM.

Not much to talk about here today.

Happy hunting and preserving,