Treasure Talk

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Tips on cleaning Civil War relics

October 18, 2012 03:40pm

David Keith
David Keith - Dixie Metal Detectors

Far too many times I've seen great civil war finds over cleaned by a novice relic hunter. In a word, don’t! Less is best when it comes to cleaning and preserving relics. I recommend doing nothing until you gain experience on how to clean and care for your civil war finds. This could also apply to coins and stone artifacts, but in this article, I'll cover civil war relics.

First, I recommend you get your finds kit ready before you ever leave home. I always take water with me, mostly to keep hydrated even during cold weather, but there are times when you might, and I say might, want to rinse a little dirt off a relic, especially if it contains a lot of sand. Just a gentle rinse, NO RUBBING! I've seen many buttons crumble by over anxious diggers dying to see what the button face was stamped with.

Aside from water, I carry empty medicine bottles (amber plastic with snap off caps) filled with 6-10 cotton balls. All buttons, coins and delicate, small relics should be stored in between cotton balls so no rubbing or contact can be made. Other times you might need to store several tiny pieces of broken relics. This is a great way to keep from losing them before you get home.

Another good item is clear fingernail polish. If you dig a relic (buttons especially) that appears to be about to fall apart, brush a thin coat of polish over the button; dirt and all. It will hold the pieces together and if it happens to be a rare example, the polish can be dissolved later with acetone. Keeping in possession of all the tiny parts will make restoration much easier if required. Once the polish dries, place it in your medicine bottle.

Bubble wrap and some tape is a great way to keep belt plates and other important finds protected until you get home. Wrap and tape each piece instead of leaving them bouncing around in your pouch. I've know of several plates that never made it to the car because of careless handling.

When home, use only a soft tooth brush (not your spouse’s either... lol) and water to carefully remove dirt. If there is a heavy patina or "egg shell" bonded dirt, leave it. Better to let in remain than ruin your relic. Never shine, buff, polish or add any type of coating to a relic. You can devalue your find in a hurry.

Good finds, and good hunting,

L. David Keith - Dixie Metal Detectors


I have bought an excalibur, an underwater metal detector because I dive. I want to metal detect on land too, I have the funds to purchase an all sing / dancing metal detector for land metal detecting. Should I make do with my excalibur , or buy a perpose built land metal detector ? I AM LOOKING FOR EXPERIENCED INPUT, idea's , thoughts. Thanks.
Posted By: mthat21 on November 12, 2012 09:27am
Although your Excalibur can be used to land hunt, I recommend a model that gives you more control options in varying scenario's. As a long time relic hunter, I need a model that gives me the option of both discrimination and all metal features, plus the ability to search not only in mineralized soil but penetrate deep and scan through intense iron (ferrous) targets. I find several models of Minelab detectors suitable for this: The E-TRAC, Explorer SE, Safari, Sovereign GT and X-TERRA 705. As a side note, any of these models are excellent for coin and jewelry hunting as well as gold prospecting for the Sovereign GT and X-TERRA 705. Talk to your dealer of choice and tell them your requirements. They should be able to suggest the best model for your needs. Good hunting, David
Posted By: DavidK on November 13, 2012 01:25am
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