September 2000 Volume 22 Number 3

Technical Exchange

Richard Moll, Column Editor

As new editor for this column I welcome any and all submissions from previous or new contributors. I can be reached at rmoll@autry-museum.org

For my first column I thought that I would submit some low-tech tips that have proved useful over the years.


While the standard mini-vacuum cleaner is well-suited for removing dust from your keyboard, it is rather indiscriminate when it comes to removing dust, mold, and other small particles from the interstices of objects, book bindings, and other tiny, hard-to-get to places. What is needed is a small mouth opening at the end of a flexible tube attached to a portable source of suction: ergo, a hypodermic syringe attached to medical tubing connected to an aquarium aerator.

The aerator is converted to a suction device by reversing the flange inside the housing, a simple task as this is a part that is replaceable in most aerators. Once the suction is set up, medical tubing (IV drip-line - available at medical supply stores) is attached to the aerator. The needle portion of the syringe is then fitted to the other end of the tube.

I like to keep three sizes of needles on hand: the standard size used for vaccinations and such; the slightly larger opening used when you donate blood; and the scary size used for extracting bone marrow. Purchasing these can prove difficult. If you have a good relationship with your doctor you may be able to procure them that way. Another method is to go to your local needle exchange clinic for the smallest size; be on a first name basis with your local blood donor clinic (I suggest 15+ donations) for the medium size; and enrolling in the Unrelated Bone Marrow Registry (and then asking nicely) for the large size. These last two methods are good things to do in their own right.

An additional, but important step is to have a tubulated Erlenmeyer flask hooked up to the tubing so that particulates are trapped and not sucked into the aerator.

Granulated Erasers

Never a fan of pre-granulated eraser bits for the surface cleaning of paper objects, I had been on the look-out for an appropriate alternative. I'm not fond of the standard cheese grater because there is little control over where the granules fly - not to mention the rubber aftertaste on my pasta. In a Japanese food market I came upon a selection of ginger graters that struck me as having possibilities.

The first is shaped like a fish with a slightly concave bowl. It fits comfortably in the hand and the back fins allow for a secure grip while grating. The design allows you to either grate the eraser onto a specific area or to keep the granules in the shallow bowl. The rasps are large (as ginger graters go) and create granules that are large enough so there is little chance of tiny pieces of eraser being lodged in the paper fibres. The grater is stainless steel and the rasps are solid and unlikely to break off. I recommend however that the conservator always check the grater for missing rasps that may break off and end up on the paper surface.

The other two ginger graters are small bowls ( 3 to 4 in. deep sides) with rasps at the bottom. The bowl keeps the granules from flying around and you can pick them up with balled cotton. There are various styles of these and the quality of the rasps range from poor (likely to break) to sturdy. The rasps are also smaller than those on the fish-shape grater and so discretion should be used when deciding if the size of the granules is suitable to the paper.

Rissverklebung tools

The following is a list of the tools needed for the tear mending technique described in the conference review on page 21 of this issue.

hot needle with custom diagonal tip, and control unit (to use at 35 - 40¼ C). Used to bond threads.

ERSA Minor Welding Needle ($65)

Custom Tip #8 ($39). An essential tool.

There are three models of control units offered by the supplier. All are sufficient for the tear mending technique; the fancier models have the capacity to power other types of tools. Other brands of units will probably work as well, although the custom tip listed above is made to fit this needle/unit.

Control Unit WZII ($290) with Regulator VS I ($114)

or Control Unit WZIII ($385). WZIII does not require the Regulator and will accomodate a radient heat tool ($93)

or Control Unit WZIV ($500). WZIV does not require the Regulator and accomodates both heat tool and a dremel-like tool ($181 with misc. tips)

All of the above are available from:
Kolner. LCC
23 Grant Avenue
New Providence, NJ 07974
(718) 802-1659

The following are tools used to manipulate threads. Aside from the dental probes/explorers, specific brands or types are not important.

dental explorers with corkscrew ends, others might work but these are the ones preferred by Prof. Heiber. It's useful to have two.

Type CH-2 dental explorer (~$10).

available from:
Goldman Products
379 Hollow Hill Road
Wauconda, IL 60084
phone (847) 526-1166
fax (847) 526-1363

cuticle scissors from drug store or beauty supply, iris scissors, etc.
(look for good quality)

fine tweezers with curved tips

self closing or self locking tweezers

pin vise
Pin vices are available from many sources. Be sure to get one that closes completely, otherwise described as capacity starting at 0, so that it will securely hold the insect needle (~$5).

insect needle
Elefant brand entomology pins, made in Austria, stainless steel pins with nylon heads, size 00. You must have this brand because of the nylon bead which is used as the adhesive dispenser, pkg. of 100 (~$7). These are available from BioQuip, which has a $20 minimum order. However, they also are a good source for the other tools.

BioQuip Products
17803 LaSalle Ave.
Gardena, CA 90248-3602
(310) 324-0620

other sources for tools :

340 Snyder Avenue
Berkeley Heights, NJ
(800) 225-1066

Conservation Support Services
P.O. Box 91746
Santa Barbara, CA 93190
(800) 482-6299

4 to 6 ml glass vials with poly snap tops - need two or three. These are used for the adhesives. You cut a very small hole in the poly top (just large enough to dip the insect needle) to reduce evaporation, since the vial sits on the hot plate while you are working. Conservation Support Systems will carry these.

small hot plate for adhesive
Coffee cup warmer from grocery store or kitchen store with plug-in dimmer switch from hardware store to regulate heat. You can also use a small water bath to regulate heat.

two bar weights 3/4" x 3/4" iron bar 5" long with 45 degree or less bevel at one end so as not to intrude on work area. (Don't know a source, will welcome ideas.)

sturgeon glue
wheat starch paste (zin shofu)
fine brush
scalpel with #11 blade
two finishing nails, med. size

Carolyn Tallent

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