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Old 6th December 2016, 01:47 AM   #1
ariel
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Default Sword conservation

I got myself a 7-9 century Khazar saber/palash.
Very rusty, of course, but with a lot of "meat" under the rust/mineral accretions.

I would like to conserve it. Got in touch with conservation departments of a couple of local archeological museums, private conservators etc, but nobody is willing to help. Maximum that I heard from them was " Put it in a plastic bag with silica".

I decided to educate myself and went to the Internet. What is obvious (to me) is that tannic acid should be the final step.
But what should I start with?

Dry removal of accretions? Soaking it in distilled water?

Would be extremely grateful for an educated advice.

Folks, I need help!
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Old 6th December 2016, 02:16 AM   #2
A. G. Maisey
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On three occasions I have attempted to remove heavy corrosion from ferric material.

The first was some sort of fitting from an 19th century sailing ship. I wanted it back to clean iron to use as a part of the material for a knife blade --- forge weld with 01 and maybe a little bit of mild steel. I started with something that looked like half a loaf of bread, I finished with something that looked like a knitting needle.

The second and third tries were with ancient Javanese tools that had been found in a rice field. Again I lost about 95% of the object and what I had left after cleaning had completely lost its original form.

If this sword belonged to me I think I'd be taking the professionals' advice and leaving as is.
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Old 6th December 2016, 03:32 AM   #3
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Thanks Alan.
My problem is not so much with rust: that's what tannic acid is for. At the most I might consider removing a little bit of loose scales. Rust converters ( tannic acid + polymer) convert soft rust into very hard tannate of iron. I have a 15 century Bauernwehr that was preserved that way: black is beautiful!:-)

In your attempts you actually REMOVED rust, but tannic acid NEEDS rust to form hard substance.


My main problem is lime and some other mineral crud. This will not be affected by the tannic acid and may actually leave untreated, unhardened spots.

Any experience using vinegar? It removes lime stains like magic: I used it on tea kettle, shower glass doors etc with great results.
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Old 6th December 2016, 03:40 AM   #4
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Thanks for that Ariel, I've learnt something.

I've never used tannic acid know nothing about it.

As for vinegar, been using that stuff since I was little kid, like maybe 6 years old. True.It was one of my jobs as kid:- clean the saucepans.

In fact what I use to clean keris blades these days is vinegar, since pineapple juice went bad in this country.
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Old 6th December 2016, 08:54 AM   #5
Martin Lubojacky
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Hi Ariel,

I would suggest, in the case of such old (archeological/field) find, to cooperate with proffesional (museum) conversator. I am of the opinion, that in this (field) case we cannot speak about cleaning, but only about conservation.

If it is my sword, I would slightly mechanically clean the surface to make it smoother. Than, as you wrote, it may be (aspecially in this old case) important to dissolve the ferrous chlorides in destilled water (i have never done it, but I saw conservators - they did it routinely. Re. tannin - I like to use it, because you can like unify various spots to one colour, if you do not clean it after (not only black - but in this case it would be black). Nevertheless I am afraid, that tannin would go only to certain deep, not to the healthy iron kernel in this concrete case - and I do not know how it can influence overal conservation result from long time period point of view(till know I only treated objects with thin layer of rust, with tanin - with good results.) After then it would be important to allow the tanin layer to "season" in colder and wet atmosphere for a few days ..., to become hard, compact.

But I think there are more sofisticated chemical methods, which I donīt know- for treatment of field finds
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Old 6th December 2016, 01:02 PM   #6
Jens Nordlunde
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Ariel,
I would try to ask Ann Feuerbach, as I think she may know something about it. See the memberlist.
She participated in an excavation at Merv, where they excavated a sword from the 9th century, amongst other things.
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Old 6th December 2016, 05:07 PM   #7
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Hello Ariel, You will recall the interesting thread http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthrea...on+conservation where there was an almost eaten away sword that to a large extent was resuscitated...That used a similar technique using tannin and a kiln... The results were not finally posted as I recall...
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Old 6th December 2016, 06:24 PM   #8
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Ariel, look at this thread:

http://vikingsword.com/vb/showthrea...ighlight=tannin

If I were you I would start by soaking the blade in distilled water for as long as necessary (could take weeks and many gallons) to make sure you get rid of any salt particles that will otherwise eventually destroy the blade.

Regards,
Teodor
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Old 7th December 2016, 09:03 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey
Thanks for that Ariel, I've learnt something.

I've never used tannic acid know nothing about it.




Hello Alan,

watch out with tannic, it is not as harmless as many people claim.

If you have massive corrosion with deep pitting, tannic is almost useless and it also can ruin the surface of the blade.

Two years ago I tried out tannic on a japanese sword stick. The first attempt was very good, the hamon was very strong and clear. I gave it another try and the second result was horrible, the surface was ruined and the hamon was lost. I still don't know why.

Tannic is a good choice for WW2-pieces with relatively recent corrosion but imho nothing for your sword.

You also should know, that such a deeply corroded sword often looks gruesome after rust removal.

Tannic will be used with water and the water goes everywhere, into the smallest cavities and could make the blade more worse.

My suggestion is simple, use a creeping oil on the surface for at least one year or so and check the surface every two or four weeks. After one or two years of oil-treatment I would use sandpaper or steelwool to finish the surface.

Have you think about elektrolysis? All you need is a car battery charger a bucket and a little bit of baking soda. I already made it and I'm totally satisfied with the result. The heavily corroded japanese arrows in the picture had an electrolysis treatment. The lower part of the shaft is untreated. All you need to do is cleaning the object from time to time during the treatment. Very easy and safe. No acid, no salt and no toxic gases, just a little bit of hydrogen.

Museums often use elektrolysis for restoration.


Roland
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Old 7th December 2016, 11:52 AM   #10
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Thanks folks!
Please keep going: aside from practical suggestions that becomes a valuable topic for general discussion and use.
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Old 7th December 2016, 01:11 PM   #11
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I will see if I can find the instructions that I used to stabilize a Viking sword that was seriously flaking away. I suspect it is on the extracted hard drive of my dead computer.

I remember that I had to alkalinize distilled water using Sodium Hydroxide to a certain pH (11 by memory) and would then would soak the sword for a few days until pH fell towards neutral. This needed to be repeated several times for over a month. Finally, the pH drop stopped occurring. At this point I dehydrated in a series of anhydrous isopropyl alcohol baths (just like tissue in the path lab!) and then finally into acetone and then finally coated with paraloid B-72 dissolved in acetone.

This does not give a great display surface and leaves much of the rust, but it does have the advantage that it removes the inherent vice of the salts. The coating can be removed later with acetone if needed.
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Old 7th December 2016, 04:04 PM   #12
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Lee,
That would be great!
Many thanks in advance!
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Old 7th December 2016, 07:35 PM   #13
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I am no expert but I was going to suggest Electrolysis as suggested by Roland. Since I read estrch`s post I have used it with great success although not on such heavily corroded items. As Roland says it is much used by Archaeologists and can be controlled so that you can remove as much or as little as you wish within reason there is plenty of info on the web for you to peruse.
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Old 7th December 2016, 08:16 PM   #14
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I am very much interested in this topic as I have a very rusted axe head that I want to at least stabilize. It is flaking apart and I think if I did the electrolysis thing I would not have much left.

I have thought about the distilled water soak followed by baking and then wax but I am learning from this thread first.

Does the paraloid B-72 provide much structural stability for a fragile item?
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Old 7th December 2016, 11:16 PM   #15
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I have shown this 15 cen excavated Bauernwehr before, but think it might be useful here.
Stabilized with tannic acid.
There are commercial Rust Converters: tannin, polymer and a bit of phosphoric acid
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Old 9th December 2016, 03:13 AM   #16
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I would have carefully cleaned the rough soil of with destilled water and a cottonstick and dried it very fast.
The clay sized soil in the moulds i would have left since it would be very hard to remove without damaging the surface.

Storage: I would have used hydrophil silicon beads combined with a food safe bag.


Ps: I am no metal expert
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Old 10th December 2016, 06:07 PM   #17
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Red face Sorry

It will be a bit longer before I find those detailed instructions.

The second motherboard of the machine I have been using for years gave out last year and I switched to another old machine I had brought home from the office. While I have found 9 of 10 years of e-mails, those for the year I need are backed up on media that the current machine cannot read.

I will see if the source of the material can be of help...
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Old 26th December 2016, 10:28 PM   #18
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OK guys,

Having read tons of contradictory recommendations on the net, appealing for help to professional conservators in several university-based archeological museums ( standard answer: put it in a plastic bag with some dessicator, close the bag and never open it again) and even buying a book of practical pearls of wisdom by a renown restorer ( useless junk), I decided to take the problem into my own hands.

Alan, you should always listen to your parents: lime is removable with vinegar.

Recipe: buy a plastic bin with the bottom longer that the sword. Put the sword in and pour distilled vinegar 5% to cover it. Close the lid ( I did it in the laundry room and my wife refused to go in because of vinegary smell).
Keep it there for a couple of hours. Scour the sword with a nylon brush. Clean narrow spaces ( rivets, crossguard) with a medium tooth brush.
Having worked on it for 15 minutes, take it out, pour the vinegar into the sink, wash the sword and the bin with water several times.
Put the sword back, cover with water, add shitload of soda, let it sit for another 15 min ( scour missed areas meanwhile).

Wash again, dry . Finita la commedia!

Lime is gone, loose rust is gone. Now I can even see the remnants of the wooden handle, the tunkou and the terminal double-edged diamond-shaped segment of the blade. A classic Khazar!
Now the question: should I cover it with Renaissance Wax or with Rust Converter ( tannate + polymer) to make it look black like the Bauernwehr I showed earlier?
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Old 27th December 2016, 12:19 AM   #19
A. G. Maisey
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Ariel, my father was born in 1912, and I did listen to his advice before he was promoted to another realm, however, I cannot recall that either he, or my mother ever advised me to use vinegar to remove lime, had they done so, and had I needed to do so, I very probably would have used it.

The process you describe is pretty much a scaled down version of what I do to clean any corroded old blade.
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Old 27th December 2016, 02:12 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. G. Maisey

As for vinegar, been using that stuff since I was little kid, like maybe 6 years old. True.It was one of my jobs as kid:- clean the saucepans.




I am glad you remembered the lessons of your youth:-) BTW, your remark was one of the highest inspirations for my attempt of "archeological conservation" . Many thanks!


So: what do you think of my final result?
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Old 27th December 2016, 03:50 AM   #21
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Actually, if I look at the botom pic, it seems as if there is good solid metal under all that rust. If this is representative of the rest of the blade, I feel that I might be brave enough to do a little bit of mechanical cleaning by picking off pieces of rust flakes. Maybe you might be able to get it back to solid metal --- but don't blame if you finish up with a fragile web of holes.

If you took it very slowly by picking and brushing with vinegar and washing, you might finish up with something.
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