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Subject: Cleaning metal

Cleaning metal

From: Patrick Storme <patrick.storme>
Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Melissa Marsh Heaver <mmheaver [at] aol__com> writes

>In my spare time, I am on the Vestry of my local church. We have a
>nickel and silver alloy cross, c. 1957, that hangs from the ceiling.
> ...
>It has been taken down for Lent, and stored. We hope to have it
>cleaned and probably relacquered, as it hasn't been down in at least
>15 years. The local person the church wants to do the job is
>suggesting that it be cleaned via "sand-blasting", but with glass
>beads. Is this a wise idea, or will we be removing metal? If this
>method isn't a good idea, is there anything else we can use to clean
>it and get the grunge off?

A cleaning question is always very complex and not possible to be
answered from a distance.  Former answers on this list had strong
arguments from ethical and technical points of view, but still a
very large number of other important issues are not touched.  One
talks about nickel and silver, which is perhaps nickeled and
silvered copper alloy, or EPNS, or ....   Questions of present
tarnishing or corrosion, the desired finish, the original surface,
remaining strength of inner structure, protection layer for the
future, etc. must be taken into account.

>From a practical point of view, as I know churches often have not
much money and search therefore towards good-willing volunteers, it
can be considered to ask the opinion of a metal conservator which
guides the volunteers to work on a piece with handling instructions
and products, but only if he/she considers this a possibility.  This
keeps the costs down, while the object is not harmed.

It is however the judgement and the responsibility of the
conservator who has to decide towards the chosen options for a
certain object. At the same time, it has to be clear that the
execution of the work by a metal conservator is to be preferred and
perhaps the church can raise some special funding to make this
happen and to turn it into an event where the people who donate,
feel involved.

Patrick Storme
Metals Conservation Department
Royal Academy of Fine Arts
Antwerp, Belgium

                  Conservation DistList Instance 17:64
                  Distributed: Thursday, April 1, 2004
                       Message Id: cdl-17-64-002
Received on Wednesday, 31 March, 2004

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