Numismatic and History Discussions > Uncleaned Ancient Coin Discussion

Andre's pencils, any opinions?

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Virgil H:
Hopefully this is an OK topic for the board. I looked and the Forum shop does not carry these or any coin cleaning "pencils." If they did, I would buy from there. I just acquired some Macedonian bronze coins that need cleaning and a friend recommended cleaning pencils, in addition to other tools. Does anyone use this brand (Andre's set of four pencils with various tips) or another brand? I would appreciate any input on the usefulness of these and how they are best used. I have normally used bamboo skewers, scalpel, toothbrush, rifle cleaning brush (not metal bore cleaner, but stiffer than a regular toothbrush), and a dental pic. Seems like these pencils could be quite useful.


Joe Sermarini:
I have not used them, so no opinion.


I've been using Andre's pencils for several years now and have found them to be excellent tools for cleaning ancient coins.
Andre has now adjusted the tips of the hardened steel wool pencils to a higher and better grade. (2nd photo)

The variety of shapes are self-explanatory, but here are a few of my observations:

 1) I have found that the two steel-wool tips work fine on either wet or dry soft dirt-covered coins, although we found that wet is better.
    Like normal, we use them in tiny circular motions whenever possible. Apply a dab of your saliva to the surface to keep the dirt in suspension so you can see what is being removed. Rinse in water, spit and repeat.
    Similar to diamond-dusted dental picks, the grit takes a bit of practice, but not much, in this case. After a few minutes with each tool, you'll figure them out. The grit is quite fine but hard. There is no need to bare down
    with these, trust me. A very light and gentle pressure is all you need.
    You can use either the tips or the sides as the case dictates.
    As seen in the first photo, they are fantastic on silvered coins. The top coin in the photo, a silvered Carinus antoninianus, took me about a half hour. Minimal to zero pressure and lots of spit as a lubricant. The lower
    coin, a silvered Constans Æ2, arrived semi-cleaned with those pesky concrete-hard, and a bitch to remove, encrustations that pretty-much covered all of the reverse details other than the inscriptions. In this case I used
    the sides of the pencils, spit and medium pressure, again in circular motions (this may not be necessary, but that's the way I roll). After 45 minutes, with lots of rinsing and repetitions and turning to the pencil tips for
    detail work, nearly all the concretions were safely removed, with zero harm to the underlying patina/silvering. The sharp pointed tools work swell on coins with Desert Patina.
    One thing you will notice as you progress is that the sharp-tipped tools will, when used judiciously, actually begin to polish the patina once the dirt/concretions are finally removed. To refresh the fibers, simply use a dull-
    bladed scalpel (blade down) and lightly scrape upwards from the base to the tip.

2) The use of brass chisel is again, self-explanatory, although I do not use it. Other tools work better.

3) The duel ended 0.00 grit steel-wool pencil is not suggested to be used as a 'duster', but rather as a final buffer/polisher once you're happy with the final cleaning. DO NOT get the ends wet! Whoops, we found out the
    hard way...they will rust! During use, the fibers tend to wear away quickly, but no problem. Just grasp the end fibers, turn to the right and pull for more. Note the open fields on the work-in-progress sestertius.

I highly suggest this cleaning pencil set. Easy to use and master by beginners or 'old-timers', if you follow our observations as noted above, these tools will soon become necessities in your coin-cleaning tool kit. Just my thoughts for what they're worth.

Virgil H:
Thanks so much for this detailed review. I did buy a set and have only used them once. I used the steel wool tool with a coin with hard accretions on it and I was impressed, I will be hitting the other coins soon. I like the look and feel of them and I appreciate your comments on how to use them.


Ken W2:
Thanks Virgil and Kevin.  In your experience/opinion are these more forgiving than diamond encrusted dental drill tips in terms of scratching the patina?  I still use them in tight spots but my primary tool now is a no. 11 exacto blade. Always looking for a better tool though.  Thanks again.


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