Thursday, 22 November 2012

Roundhouse Objects Conservation - Nov. 20, 2012

November 20, 2012

Glass Objects Cleaning

There were several bottles recovered from the railway roundhouse demolition that required cleaning to remove soil and sand deposits both inside and out.  I show an example in this post of what can be done to prepare these for storage and display.  The photograph below, on the left is of a Watkins bottle with the phrase "Container Made in USA" on the bottom underside and "Watkins" in raised letters vertically on one side.  There is a lot of soil and sand mostly on the inside in hard to reach places but also on the outside around the neck, bottom, and raised lettering.  The challenge was to clean up as much of that material as possible.  This prepares the bottle for storage so loose material will no longer fall off due to handling and makes it more presentable for display purposes since the raised lettering and any other embossed marks become more visible.  The following is a list of tools and materials used in the cleaning process:
  • several wooden toothpicks and a shish-kabob stick
  • one tooth brush with soft bristles
  • several Q-tips
  • two soft cloths, cotton
  • one nail file
  • 1/4 teaspoon Orvus soap paste
  • one cup distilled water
Watkins bottle before cleaning
Watkins bottle after cleaning
I used toothpicks to gently pry all the loose soil and sand around any crevices such as at the neck, the bottom and around the raised lettering.  Toothpicks are used because they will not scratch the surface of the glass and the sharp points can reach into very small crevices.  I used Orvus soap and distilled water (discussed in previous posts) with a soft cloth to wipe off the exterior followed by a rinse with distilled water and a different soft cloth.  To get the material from the inside I first used a wooden sish-kabob stick to get into as many of the interior cracks and corners to loosen up the soil and sand.  I then used q-tips attached to the end of the stick to reach the hard to reach sloped parts just inside the top.  The q-tips are cut in half in the middle, attached to the stick and bent back so that when you push them through the neck they will open up enough to rub around the inside loosening the material found there.  The loose material is dumped out of the bottle and then the inside is rinsed with distilled water.  The last step is to rub all around the interior with more q-tips to remove any sheen of dirt or other bits left behind.  I did not use a bottle brush for the simple reason that this is a square shaped bottle.  Bottle brushes are more effective with round bottles.  The photograph below shows the end result of the cleaning.

The photograph below illustrates the tools used in this example and the material removed.  You can see the brown stains on the Q-tips and the pile of sandy soil removed is in the middle.

Bottle cleaning tools, nail file at bottom.
Conservation Tips: I do not use metal tools or abrasive materials of any kind to clean glass objects.  There is a chance that the metal or abrasives could scratch the glass surface.  The wooden picks will not scratch the glass and the nail file is used to sharpen the ends of the wooden picks (they will get dull over time) to reach into crevices to dislodge dirt and to make them easier to fit the picks into the Q-tip ends. 

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