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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Uncleaned Ancient Coins  |  Uncleaned Ancient Coin Discussion (Moderator: bruce61813)  |  Topic: Electrolysis cleaning? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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aragon6
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« on: March 05, 2002, 09:08:57 am »

As I was thinking about trying this on my "uncleanables" what is the problem with doing it this way?  Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2003, 10:11:17 am »

A tip for the impatient cleaner (aka something that I wish I had known when I first started zapping...)

If you know that you are going to be stripping the coin down to the bare metal anyways, try to get as much of the crud off manually before zapping the coin.

I thought that electrolysis was going to be a quick and easy cure, but the more junk there is on the coin, the longer it will take to zap (and we're talking hours in some cases).

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« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2003, 02:38:39 pm »

If a coin is so encased in patina that you cannot see the details, removing the patina will only leave you an ugly pitted mess.  

Electrolysis is not for ancient coins, no matter how hard they are to clean.   Never.  On these boards I have seen proudly displayed pictures of coins cleaned with electrolysis - the supposed amazing detail that was once covered with rock hard deposits.  I am not amazed.  I see that these coins are worthless junk, stripped and pitted.  

Leave them for someone willing to take the time to clean them the right way.
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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2003, 09:16:21 pm »

Then what is the "right way" to clean these hopelessly encrusted coins that seem to resist all other methods?   Huh
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« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2003, 06:07:44 am »

Lye is the better option for fully encrusted coins, not for dirty patinated coins.  Of course for that kind of coins is plain dumb to use both electrolysis or lye.   Still if you use lye to remove the dirt, you dont get bare metal but a transformed patina, brown color, probably a copper oxide.

I am not very sure about the concentration, but from what I heard is around 1/4 (or less)solid lye and 3/4 water.  Time? Depends, soak the coins untill the cleaning is done. Might take minutes might take days.
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« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2003, 07:29:14 am »

Hi Folks,

It is interesting to see that the electrolysis issue can still push a few buttons with people's thoughts and opinions.  I suppose that is the purpose of an open forum - to discuss opinions and to have logical debates.  

As for my four cents worth (inflation has struck) on the topic, the only time I see most "cleaners" running for the electrolysis set up is for the incredibly difficult outer crustations.  Dirt, uneven toning, and even slight granules on the surface do not warrant the use of electolysis.  Now, for those really, really hard crusties - the kind of outer coating that seems to be made of steel - many people have very different and very solidified opinions.

Several American & British musuems have been openly criticized for their undying devotion to electrolysis  in restoring dug items.  Those who protest the elec. treatment feel that a longer mechanical or less dramatic treatment should be invoked instead.  I, myself, was watching a program where a British archeologoist proudly displayed beautiful EF sestertii that had been cleaned right down to the bare medal.  He looked at them as beautiful artifacts that could attest to his country's history; I looked at them and wondered what type of patina had been destroyed- it all comes down to personal opinion and preference.  

Personally, I have used electrolysis on a total of, I think, 14 coins in the past three years ("processed" around 1900 total?).  These 14 candidates were, quite honestly, ones I lost patience with.  Of the 14, I later regretted using the process on half of them as their detail was magnificent, the other half were junkers  Smiley.  Why did I use electrolysis in the first place?  Well - these coins all had a few things in common: they had been boiled, cooled, olive oil soaked, distilled water soaked, picked at under a microscope, and brushed for 12+ months without any avail.  I suppose, had these coins been handed over to another person for a few more months, his/her "new" patience would have created better results, but that's the name of the game - how far and long is a cleaner willing to go for a restored coin.  

Coin collecting and coin cleaning are two areas where devout opinions on likes/dislikes are incredibly forged in one's mind.  Some folk collect only EF early Republican denarii, whereas I would rather have a gorgeous EF AE4 from the 5th century.  Cleaning is the same way, some folks are manual/mechanical devotees, some zap everything that comes their way, while some, Hi, Rugser  Grin, leave the coin in its totally as found condition (cool idea, just wish I could follow through withthat one   Smiley).

I suppose my point in this entirely too long message is to quell the waters a bit... we all have our opinions on how ancient coins should be cleaned, and we all have viewpoints on the importance of patinated/non-patinated coins. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference.  If we are to discuss cleaning treatments, let's do it from a logical standpoint - not just simple "you're wrong, I'm right" tactics.  Let's keep this forum and our minds open to possibilities, not closed doors.  

There is a reason why people, myself included, prefer this discussion list over others, for the most part, personal egos very rarely come into play on this forum.  People just like talking about coins.  Let's keep it at that.

Take care,

Ken

ps- fritta, sorry this stuff came up on your thread.

pps- I would like to discuss the lye treament on another thread too.
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« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2003, 10:30:30 am »

I knew my post would prompt disagreement, but I stand by it.  The best way to clean a fully encrusted coin is to chip away at the encrustation with a needle under magnification.  I realize that is far too much work for almost anyone.  But, someday (maybe 100 years from now) when uncleaned are very difficult to come by, a collector will be happy to take the time to do it.  Put the coin away and leave it for a future generation.  We are all just short term custodians for these coins.   If we don't destroy them, they will still be here when we are dust.  
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« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2003, 06:06:07 pm »

Forget electrolysis, take Phosphoric acid!!!!!!
It's the best (and the last) method to clean coins with rock hard deposits and crusts!!!
try it!!!!
K.

PS: be aware, take a 50/50 solution and DO NOT PUT YOUR FINGERS IN IT! otherwise your skin will disappear and the finger nails get very soft...
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« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2003, 03:19:13 am »

Please tell us more. All I know so far is that its harmful if swallowed or in contact with skin, and the vapour is just as bad. So only use it somewhere well-ventilated.
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« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2003, 07:06:04 am »

Phosphoric acid completely removes everything from the coin that is not metal.
it eats the patina, the dirt and everything else if you leave the coin in it too long.
I will scan 2 coins from my collection, then you'll see....

K.
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« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2003, 05:49:10 am »

How do I do it right?

K.
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« Reply #11 on: November 11, 2003, 07:23:44 pm »

As I've said numerous times, in my opinion, electrolysis should only be used as last resort... Save the patina!!
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« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2003, 09:21:46 am »

"The coins one should never use electrolysis on are those high-grade coins that are only dirt coated. These are often gray in color and show detail in the uncleaned state. Use manual cleaning on them as Joe has stated many times."

Soaking in hot water with a liquid soap or use something like Gringgotts Wizard mix, which is a soap mix design for this [see the thread in the sales area http://www.forumancientcoins.com/board/index.php?board=10;action=display;threadid=4605, the last entry]. Oil does not work as well with harden clay and hard died mud, as hot water and soap. All you need after after 24 - 48 hours of soaking is gentle picking - the use of a bamboo skewer is great foe small places. If the clat is really hard, soak again.

Bruce
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« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2003, 06:33:34 pm »

I have read this post in the hope that I would find out how people have set up an electrolysis cleaning system, and I guess that it is so controversial, that no one will.  On the other hand, I have a few coins that I would like to try it on, and I still want to know how to do it the "right" way, if there is one.  I understand the problem, and I promise not to use it on anything that has any, no matter how remote alternative.  On the other hand, I have a few coins that appear to be slugs, or or are so damaged, holed etc, that I can't imagine that anything else could be more damaging.  But if there is something there, it might be nice to see it.   I also collect firearms, and I know the value of originality, so I'm not going to "zap" something I shouldn't.  I have used electrolysis to remove copper from a gun bore, and I guess the same thing would work here, after reversing the current.   I keep hearing that "instructions are available on the internet," but so far I have not found them.   Any practical knowledge would be helpful, and if you don't want to post it, please send it to me directly.  I promise not to abuse the information, or abuse any coins that I can see anything of.
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« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2003, 06:49:20 pm »

I would honestly give lye a try before electrocution, but it is up to the individual.  I have tested both techniques with a number of junky/crusty coins and lye leaves a better looking coin in the end, IMO.  Lye is more dangerous to handle, but if you pay attention it's hard to get hurt.  Lye is available in the USA under the brand name 'Red Devil' in the Drano section of most supermarkets.  There are instructions on how to use it here on the Forum in the uncleaned board.

Electrolysis tends to leave a coin as bare copperish, even when being careful, which you then have to live with or artificially darken.  Lye leaves some patinas intact when careful, or at worst a dull brown.  The dull brown is somewhat pleasing really, though easy to spot once you've done a few.  You can pass through EBay and point out all the Lye users pretty easily. Smiley

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« Reply #15 on: December 14, 2003, 10:00:31 am »

I've tried both, and prefer lye. I just keep electrolysis in reserve for anything the lye doesn't cut through.
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« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2003, 07:14:57 am »

I feel like the village idiot.  I've never had an even remotely positive experience with lye.
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« Reply #17 on: January 19, 2005, 07:40:04 pm »

I can honestly say that I have had great success in cleaning objects using electrolysis.  However these objects are usually made of steel or cast iron.  I have had little success cleaning anything with detail, especially coins.  I tried two badly pitted and encrusted Romans and wish I had tried something else instead.  The rough lifeless finish that resulted is unacceptable to me.  I left each coin in the solution for less than 1/2 hour total time.  

Now I have to admit that the Mel Fisher labs in Key West, FL use electrolsis to clean the silver coins recivered from Spanish ship wrecks and has great success.  I believe that the viltage or amperage used is very low, as ther is no noticible reaction taking place in the large vats used to clean dozens of coins at a time.  I am sure that the electrolyte used in the water is also special and formulated for the silver coinage.   So far I have been unable to find out all of the details involved in the Fisher process.  I guess that the bottom line is that electrolysis does work under very controlled conditions and should probably not be attempted by a store-bought battery charger.  My 2 cents on the subject.
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« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2005, 07:53:29 pm »

The pirate museum in Provincetown, Massachusetts (on cape cod) uses the same technique to clean their coins from the pirate ship Whydah.  As far as I could tell, and from what the plaque above the tank said, it was just plain seawater that they had the coins undergoing electrolysis in. However, like Scott101 said, there was no visible reaction, so there had to be something more to it.
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« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2005, 03:32:33 am »


1) Amps are far more important than volts as a variable.
2) When calculating the amount of amps 0.5 milliamps per square millimeter is the accepted rule of thumb. Read current density in ‘Experimental Variables” for background to this figure.
3) When calculating the surface area, for a coin it would be both sides and the edge.

Personally I use 0.1-0.2 milliamps per square millimeter because I think this lessens the risk of damage to the
coin. This is discussed in ‘Experimental Variables’

4) Milliamps can be easily controlled be soldering a resistor inline and then you can check it with a multimeter.

I use a lab standard power supply built from a kit. Current is automatically control by the voltage being cut or increased. Monitoring of the voltage is important to understanding what is happening in the process.

5) Never use salt as an electrolyte
6) Electrolysis is favoured for finds from the sea. I have seen land fines which are remarkable when treated with electrolysis, but this was performed by an expert.
7) The greater the control you have over the process the more successful you will be. Some conservation laboratories are now using pulse electrolysis, this is something that I think has crossed over from electroplating.
Cool Electrolyte, 5% sodium carbonate is a good starting point.
9) Read experimental variables at the bottom this piece
10) Rinsing, drying and after care are very important.


Conservation

Laboratory manual for conservation
http://nautarch.tamu.edu/class/anth605/File0.htm

Electrolysis

Metal conservation
Use this link as original is broken http://minelabowners.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=46752#46752
https://osiris.cso.uiuc.edu/denix/Public/ES-Programs/Conservation/Underwater/3-IRON-1.html


Conservation of non ferrous metals
 Use this link as original is broken http://minelabowners.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=46753#46753
https://osiris.cso.uiuc.edu/denix/Public/ES-Programs/Conservation/Underwater/5-CU-AG.html#1


Metal Corrosion
http://amol.org.au/recollections/2/pdf/metals.pdf


Bronze Disease A Review by David A Scott
http://aic.stanford.edu/jaic/articles/jaic29-02-007_1.html


Using electrolysis (car battery charger modifications missing in this paper)
http://www.digbible.org/restoration.html


Electrolysis Experimental Variables
Use this link as original is brokenhttp://minelabowners.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8711
https://osiris.cso.uiuc.edu/denix/Public/ES-Programs/Conservation/Underwater/4-IRON-2.html#1


History of Electrolysis and Copper Alloys
http://aic.stanford.edu/jaic/articles/jaic33-02-006_2.html


Metal Conservation Working Group
http://icom-cc.icom.museum/WG/Metals/


Resource for Conservation Professionals
http://palimpsest.stanford.edu



Chemistry


Element fact sheets via periodic table index
http://www.speclab.com/elements/


Atoms and moles, in plain English
http://dl.clackamas.cc.or.us/ch104-03/tableof.htm


Atomic Weights of elements 2001
http://www.chem.qmw.ac.uk/iupac/AtWt/


Electrochemical Tutorial
http://chem.ch.huji.ac.il/~eugeniik/electrochemical_tutorials.htm


Metals Scientific Principles
http://matse1.mse.uiuc.edu/~tw/metals/prin.html



Chlorine Monitoring
http://www.gvrd.bc.ca/water/chlorin/hndbkchlormonit.pdf


Chloride measurement methods comparison
http://icom-cc.icom.museum/Documents/WorkingGroup/Metals/Bromec4.pdf


Chemistry Resource
http://www.an.psu.edu/rxg1/links.html


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« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2005, 10:48:01 am »

Just  a couple of points on how I treat coins

Coins I'm currently treating are bronze which have been in an alkaline solution for more than one year. Before this long soak as much soil as possible was removed.

The electrolysis treatment  for a coin of 18mm diameter is approximately 70 milliamps for no more than one hour. Thats actual treatment time, not the time it takes for good contact to occur. Rolling a damp cotton bud across the coins should remove about 20% of the culprite covering, this is the point at which I start mechanical cleaning. 30 minutes should remove 80% of the culprite, the rest takes at least another 30 minutes to arrive at something acceptable. For outstanding detail how long have you got?
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« Reply #21 on: January 24, 2005, 04:24:56 pm »

I haven't really used electrolysis that much, since it's mainly a last resort, but some of my coins are at that stage now. The only coin that I've used electolysis on was a crusty that I got in my first batch. I used a transformer from a model train set so I could controll the voltage, and salt water (slap). I took it out every couple of minutes and scrubed it, but the total time it was in there was about 20 minutes. All of the crud came off, and the detail was good (but no patina). However, the coin had some silver on it, which made it go faster. Unfortunatley, the silvering also came off. The odd thing was that it was a common Gloriaromanorv of valens and shouldn't of had any silvering anyway.
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« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2005, 03:28:48 pm »

We are all just short term custodians for these coins.   If we don't destroy them, they will still be here when we are dust.  

I was wandering how to explain this concept in English, but fear I cannot do better than Joe.
In any case, the imagine I have in my mind is something like this: don't think that you are helping a butterfly to fly... if you touch its wings with a too heavy hand, it will never fly again...

Federico
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« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2005, 03:55:08 pm »

I agree 100%. Electrolysis, if not done right, can ruin a piece of history that can never be replaced. As has been said on this board many times, ELECTROLYSIS IS A LAST RESORT!!!
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« Reply #24 on: April 26, 2005, 03:59:02 pm »

Phosphoric acid in an 80 percent solution works fine, but it eats everything off the flan, apart from unoxidised copper/bronze. Coins that contain a high percentage of tin (e.g. Nemausus coins) clean very well and a greyish layer of tinoxide is left, which is not at all displeasing.
NEVER forget to reverse the chemical reaction by puting the coin in a water-soda solution after cleaning! Then boil it for at least ten minutes in distilled water; don't put different coins together, nor use tap water as the totally stripped coins are very sensitive to other metals/minerals (like a fingerprint on a new cent).
Electrolysis on silvered coins like antoniniani, can result in utter disappoinment or extreme joy - I have experienced both!
If the silver is well attached to the bronze, you'll get splendid results, but if there is an oxide layer in between the silver and the bronze, the silver remnants will all come off and leave you with a pitted core of a coin.
Of course you know that stripped coins can be made silverplated again by reversing the poles and using a solution containing silveroxide. The results are quite astonishing, but come close to forgery. Yet I have seen examples on Ebay!! beautiful silvering, even on worn places! Beware.
If I were you, I'd stick to mechanical cleaning with a fine copper brush (by hand or by machine like a Dremel)

Frans
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