Volume 12, Number 3, Sept 1990, pp.23-25

Technical Exchange

Walter Henry, column editor

Free Water Analysis

Two companies that sell water purification equipment offer free Water analysis. Each will send you a sample bottle and instructions and will recommend a configuration of their equipment designed to meet your particular circumstances. For information, write:

Corning Inc. Science Products Division
Department WW-C124
P.O. Box 7740
Corning, NY 14830


Barnstead / Thermolyne
2555 Kerper Blvd.
P.O. Box 797
Dubuque, IO 52001


Mini Fume Extractor

Nederman, Inc. offers a rather promising looking benchtop fume extractor, designed to remove chemical and solder fumes. Looking like a cross between an elephant trunk and a drawing table lamp, the Mini Extractor yields an air velocity of 1575 feet per minute. There is also an optional charcoal filter for removing odors.

Nederman, Inc.
6100 Hix Road
Westland, MI 48185


Studio Notes: Adapting Materials

This spring our studio took in a Korean scroll of the 17th- century (attrib.) measuring approximately 107 x 90 in., with a roller bar (jiku) 2-5/8 inches in diameter and 96-7/8 inches long. The piece immediately posed that age-old problem for conservators: "not enough space; my studio is too small!!" Cleaning would be painstakingly slow work, and the need to have easy access to every inch of the object without reaching over large areas was obvious. The condition of the mounting silks dictated the simple rule that the fewer times the object was unrolled and rolled, the better. Unfortunately, the space I had available was about 3 feet too short to allow completely unrolling the scroll. I had short-term space available offsite that would be large enough to handle the entire unrolled scroll but felt it should be reserved for the final stages of conservation.

Collaborating with 5 Star Box, a small business in Seattle known for building exhibition equipment, shipping crates, and artist's furniture, I designed a table to fit the needs of this project. The table was built to break down into six 48 x 36 inch sections, for easy transport and storage. The sections are connected with bolts and wing nuts. When assembled, the total surface is 96 x 108 inches. While in my studio, I put together only the top and bottom sections of the center panel for a work surface of 36 inches.

A system of controlling the size of the scroll itself was the most important facet of adapting treatment to the confines of a small studio space. Working with Carolina Veenstra, another Seattle-area conservator, I modified a large cardboard carpet roll so the body of the scroll could be rolled around it as the piece was cleaned. This idea was based on the Japanese futomaki, or "fat roller."

The cardboard roll was cut to a length of 100 inches. A 90 x 2 inch wide slit was cut into it, and the roll and slit lined with ethafoam. As the top bar and the top 6 inches or so of the verso silks were cleaned, the top bar was gently but securely set into the slit and the scroll was unwound onto the new support roll as we continued to work on the verso.

Alice Bear Conservator of Works of Art on Paper P. 0. Box 24262 Seattle, WA 98124 (206)323-5219

Datalogger for Macintosh

Macintosh users who felt slighted by the last issue's focus on dataloggers for IBM pc compatibles will be pleased to learn that Langan Products, Inc. makes an instrument for them that is, as Mac peripherals go, moderately priced. The DataBear Measurer is a small (5" x 3.6" x 1.5") battery powered data acquisition instrument with a built in temperature sensor and room for one additional sensor (e.g., a humidity sensor). Sampling intervals can be programmed and the instrument can store up to 7680 readings, gathered over a period up to one year (installations longer than a few months will require an AC outlet). Like the Rustrak Ranger and other dataloggers, the DataBear can also be used as a real-time monitor, replacing ordinary hygrometers. The software, called Sense-Your-World, provides scalable graphs and elementary descriptive statistics. Data can be exported to ASCII files for use with your spreadsheet, database manager, etc. The program, which is multifinder compatible, requires a Mac Plus, SE or II (with at least 1 Megram), System 4.1 (Finder 5.5) or higher.

One marvelous feature of the DataBear is that, although it is designed to work with the Macintosh, it can be used with any computer with an RS-232 port (even via modem) and software for use with IBM compatibles is available from a third party for $40. This makes the DataBear an ideal tool for mixed computing environments or for remote sensing applications.

The Databear, complete with Hygrometrix Xeritron 1-100% Humidity Sensor and software, sells for $870 and is available from:

Langan Products, Inc.
2660 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94115
(415) 567-8089


Seismic Protection in Museum Storage: Affordable Solutions

The Seattle Art Museum has recently embarked on an earthquake preparedness project involving objects on exhibit and in storage. Several low-budget techniques and devices have been found useful in storage areas, including variations on methods trial-tested by our California colleagues, all of whom we would like to thank for their help and suggestions.

The design of the project was based on the principle of progressive security. We started with an evaluation of the building, then the storage units, then the objects within or on the units. The building, while meeting current codes, presented challenging problems of diverse materials used in walls and floors which made attachment of free-standing storage cabinets difficult. The storage cabinets themselves were frequently somewhat top-heavy; few had a sufficiently low center of gravity to stand without restraint and, as with many institutions, we needed to stabilize cabinets. We found, in fact, that from one storage area to the next, new variations on previous solutions were required to meet changing conditions.

In attaching cabinets to the building, we found two situations. In the first, walls and floors were concrete and drilling would have caused too much dust and vibration. In the second, walls were non-structural and not considered sound enough for seismic- strength anchor bolts. A system was therefore devised to yoke cabinets together across their tops with L-shaped extruded aluminum. These lipped frames fit around the perimeter of the cabinets and do not require alteration of the cabinet itself. This yoked cabinet system was then braced by wedging steel-bracketed 2 x 4's between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling.

Artifacts in the secured cabinets can be protected by snake-like sandbags wrapped to conform to the contours of objects. For many small objects stored together, several trial-and-error attempts eventually resulted in a foam grid system which was quick and easy to execute. Strips of 2 pound polyester foam were cut with an electric carving knife, then adhered with hot-melt glue to ethafoam shelf liners or to polyester foam bases in a grid pattern. Some objects required "cavity packs," form-fitting recesses carved in foam blocks. Handle-less laminated steel Japanese knives and electric knives were used for carving. Recesses and grid can be lined with the strong and very supple Archivart unbuffered tissue (check the pH first--it is not always neutral as claimed).

On open shelving where objects are stored until closed units can be purchased, we spanned the shelf openings with strapping restraints. Flat tubular webbing was permanently attached to the metal sides of each shelf with aluminum pop rivets (steel ones are too hard to work with). The two pieces of webbing are connected in the middle with a plastic quick release clasp like those found on backpacks. Large bungee cords can also be used selectively; they are inexpensive to custom-make if hooks and elastic are purchased separately. While good for temporarily restraining objects on carts or during vehicular transport, we were cautious about using the elastic cords on storage shelves because of "slap-backs" and people's tendency to stretch rather than detach the cord when removing or replacing objects on shelves. The seat-belt design of the webbing and clasp allows easy access without endangering stored artifacts.

For flat storage shelves, war on gravity can be waged by tilting shelves or drawers so that they slant slightly backwards. This can prevent them from sliding open violently. A safer alternative is to bolt restraint bars to the face of non-locking cabinet drawers, as shown:

A supplier of tubular webbing, clasps, cords, hooks, and a myriad of other wrapping and fastening devices is:

Ralston Cunningham Associates
P.O. Box 3507
Bellevue, WA 98004
(206) 455-0316

Other intriguing and adaptable hardware (such as "Roto-lock", a butt-joint fastener for secure fastening and quick demounting of components, also used for right-angle joints) and other unique fasteners are available from:

2630 Shannon Street
Santa Ana, CA 92704
(714) 432-6630

Ask for catalogues Case Component Network and Simmons Fasteners.

Julie Creahan Seattle Art Museum Lori van Handel Queen's University Conservation Training Program

Magazine Seeks Tips About Protecting Art During Earthquakes

"If you have innovative methods for protecting artwork from earthquakes or other hard knocks, we'd like to hear about them." Send ideas to:

Protecting Artwork
Sunset Magazine
80 Willow Rd.
Menlo Park, CA 94025.


Magnet Source

People looking for magnetic materials for use as closures in exotic storage applications, as aids in photo-documentation, and the like will be interested in the line offered by Bunting Magnetics Co. In addition to a wide variety of flexible magnets, bars, rods, discs, plugs, and ceramic magnetic blocks, Bunting will custom cut magnets to your specifications.

Bunting Magnetics Co.
500 South Spencer Avenue
P.O. Box 468
Newton, KS 67114-0468
(316) 284-2020


Cheap pH Tester

At S139, The Cardy pH meter is not quite the cheapest such device available, but it is certainly in the running. With a flat sensor pad, it can measure small samples (including paper) and reads from pH 2-12 with a repeatability of plus or minus 0.1. It is also one of the smallest units around, measuring 2.2 x 3.7 x 0.4 inches and weighing 40 grams. Available from:

StineWays, Inc.
Sci. Specialties
P.O. Box 6599
Beaverton, OR 97007-0599


Even Cheaper Microscopes

Tasco Sales, Inc. makes a 30X pocket microscope that is surprisingly useful, has quite decent optics and is very cheap. Suitable for identifying photographic processes, etc., it compares very favorably with similar units selling in the $100- 200 range. It runs on two penlight batteries, and has an illuminator condenser to get the most out of the tiny lamp. It is sold in upscale toy stores (Imaginarium carries it) for $10 (yes, that's ten). Look for Tasco 30X Precision Pocket Microscope (9700 RTC). Highly recommended as a stocking stuffer for favored interns.

Tasco Sales, Inc.
Miami, Florida 33122

If you have money to burn, you might want to blow $24.95 and upgrade to the StineWays Miniscope, a 60X table model made in the USSR. Although this is more like a table model than the Tasco, at 1 pound it is portable enough to take to site visits. Available from:

StineWays, Inc. Sci. Specialties
P.O. Box 6599
Beaverton, OR 97007-0599


The Featured Catalogue: Edmund Scientific

Edmund's Annual Reference Catalog for Optics, Science and Education has been around awhile, at least since the days when I was wont to read Boys' Life, where their ad always hinted of wondrous raptures of scientific discovery to be had for the cost of a stamp. These days, the catalogue is a little slicker and offers a much wider selection of toys. It's a great place to look for odd (and usually low priced) hand tools, magnets, lenses, filters and even things like microscope illuminators and laboratory balances. Quality ranges from--well let's be honest--junk to middling industrial quality, and prices are attractive. The catalogue is a fun read and a nice thing to thumb through while waiting for your client to decide whether your treatment proposal will leave enough in the family budget for junior's orthodonture. In thumb mode, you are likely to run across at least 4 odd things that spark a clever idea for treatment. True, you are unlikely ever to use the idea, but ideas are satisfying in their own right, and it doesn't hurt to charge up the remoter areas of the brain now and again. More practically, if you have ever considered experimenting with optical techniques but have been put off by the astronomical costs (an appropriate trope, if you have ever priced telescopes), Edmund's may have what you need at an entry-level cost. For example, if you have ever considered playing around with laser holography, Edmund's offers a starter kit at $135 (not including lasers, which start at $200). I haven't heard of anyone in conservation exploring the possibility of using holography for 3-D documentary photography, but in England dentists have been doing just that. To obtain a catalogue:

Edmund Scientific Co.
1101 E. Gloucester Pike
Barrington, NJ 08007-1380


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