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Cleaning, Dusting

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Been searching around and haven’t really found an answer to my situation. I took my Enterprise down for its routine dusting and noticed that the dust on the wood decks and railings was more like a dirt film than just dust. Normally I use makeup brushes to dust the model since they are ultra soft, but they weren’t taking it up. I licked the tip of my finger and rubbed a small end of the railing which removed the dirt and brought out the wood. So it’s time to act before it builds into something nastier.

 

So my question would be, can I clean the wood with water and Q-tips? Is wiping the model down with water (distilled) a good idea; is it bad to add so much humidity? Is there another method I should consider? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

Also, I know that I need a display case, but it’s not in the budget right now. Those things plus shipping are crazy expensive and I also don’t have the equipment to cut plexiglass precisely or mill the wood base myself. A circular saw doesn’t make the best long, straight cuts, there’s always deviation somewhere.

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Be aware there are two kinds of Q-tips. The older ones where the central rod is made of some kind of pressed paper product and the newer ones where the rod is made of hollow plastic tubing. The latter will break apart if you exert any kind of pressure while the former will just bend. Using the plastic ones that constantly break is very frustrating! The picture shows the effect of Q-tips and water, sort of. Anyway, it made a big difference.

 

cleaning effect'.jpg

Edited by TBlack

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Continuing with the subject of cases, I've been making them cost-free from glass usually taken from discarded storm doors or old windows. It's fairly easy to remove the aluminum

or wood from around the glass, then just clean it and cut the pieces you need. I have to say, tho', that cutting glass can be pretty nerve-wracking at times! Once cut, I glue

the pieces together with E-6000 glue, then put art tape on the joints. Cutting plexiglass is a bit more problematic if you don't have access to a band or table saw but, in any case,

one secret is to cut close to the required line, then sand it down the rest of the way. Here is an example of a glass case I finished just the past week.

 

 

Vasa gun deck.jpg

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5 hours ago, druxey said:

Q-tips are good. A little moisture is also good, but not too much. Conservators - and I'm not making this up - use saliva on the Q-tip.

Doesn’t that give you cotton mouth? Ba-dump-bump...

And here I was afraid that the little lick I gave the railing would have some adverse affect.

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3 hours ago, Duncbe said:

https://www.acrylicjob.com/custom-order

 

I got a case from acrylicjob for only $150 CAD before shipping, I've had my Sherbourne in it for years now no dust or build up. I would recommend getting one after you do a thorough cleaning. It's most definitely affordable.  

Thanks for the link, but it’s the insane French import taxes that kill the deal for me. Recently, I had to pay a 35 euro import fee on a 25 dollar telescope part. No joke.

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For temporary and down and dirty way to avoid having to go thru the cleaning process in the future:

Make a wire frame - using wire that is at least as thick as what the old style wire clothes hangers were made from.

Cover it with clear plastic - 4 mil or 6 mil vapor barrier would be ideal, but clear plastic food wrap would work.

When you wish to show the model off, just remove the cage.  It may be ugly, but it seems to me that most anything is better than

having to do the conservator cleaning thing.

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I prefer to use my own shop-made cotton swabs because I can use a longer stick to get in where I need to get while minimizing inadvertent damage to the model. "Spit cleaning" was long the "industry standard" for museum curators, although in recent years they have gotten a lot more sophisticated. They now chemically analyze the dirt to be removed and use specifically formulated fluids to attack it, sometimes using several different formulations to remove successive layers of dirt and varnish and old paint. Our ship models don't require this level of care and saliva or very mild solutions of water and detergent are suitable. Human saliva an enzyme, amylase, which functions to break down food, which is why it also breaks down dirt on an art object.  Saliva has long been a pretty good cleaning solution for oil paintings and other items which were not coated with water-soluble materials. The drawback with saliva is that you have to keep working up spit and drinking lots of water, and, of course, you can only wet each swab once. You don't want to be putting what you've cleaned off back into your mouth! This isn't a problem with very mild solutions of water and detergents like Windex or Dove dish washing liquid. I happen to prefer a mild detergent solution over spit. I think it works better, but your mileage may vary.

 

The main problem, however, is that we have to be sure that the spit or cleaning solution used doesn't react poorly with what the model is made of and/or with whatever grunge is on it. I always start with a small spot that is not readily observable and see how whatever cleaning solution I'm using is working. Examining the swab will give some clue of how dirty the surface is and when it is completely clean, as well as whether any paint or other finish is being removed. You never know what kind of water-soluble materials might be lurking underneath the layers of grime on your object. Rule One is "First, do no harm." I'm always keeping an eye on the color of the material coming off on the swabs to make sure I'm not rubbing too hard  and removing varnish or paint. Sometimes I dip the swabs in the cleaning solution. Other times I mist the solution over small areas from an airbrush. This works particularly well for the "wide open spaces" of topsides and bottoms which can be wiped down with light, soft toweling instead of cotton swabs.

 

It pains me greatly to see how often folks will spend months, if not years, building a model and then not case it properly. Sometimes they will say, "Well, I'm going to be displaying it in my home, so it doesn't need the protection so much." when homes are the worst environments possible! I don't know why commercially made cases are so expensive. The prices amaze me. Probably, it's because they generally have to be custom made and given size and insurance costs, are expensive to ship.

 

I'm not a fan of plastic cases.  Professional curators report that the plastic off-gasses vapors than can be acidic and cause the model to deteriorate.  Plastic is also harder to clean than glass and more expensive.  Gluing "invisible" plastic corners takes lots of experience and is best left to the pros. I've found that the least expensive way to build your own case is to have your glass cut to size by a frame shop. They are used to cutting glass to exact sizes for picture frames. (The chain crafts stores that also do framing, like Michael's, are the least expensive.) Specify UV shielding glass, which will cost a bit more, but is far more protective. The frame can be easily made with a table saw, ripping grooves for the glass. The saw kerf is usually just the right size and, if not, the saw can be set up so that reversing the piece and taking a second cut will just leave a groove exactly the right size. I fasten the case joints with dowels set in carpenter's glue. 

 

 

 

Edited by Bob Cleek

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Thanks for your reply, Bob. Concerning the case, I totally agree with what you said. My father-in-law found a glass place not far from the farmhouse here so I’m going to go pay them a visit and see what they’re capable of. Might be a cheaper option for me. Going to start looking into a table saw too, everything keeps coming back to that machine.

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