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Spider Crabs can just f*ck off
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I found an almost completely intact clay pipe yesterday, with some raised writing down the stem.

It's got the usual crud on it from having been underwater - is there any way I can safely clean it so I can read the writing?

If not, I'll have to do a 'brass rubbing' like Turbs suggested.

Thanks :)
 

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Cake Monitor
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Good luck getting it clean. :)

I'm sure you already know this, but do be aware that that whatever you do, they are very very brittle. When I used to smoke, I resorted to smoking a short stemmed clay pipe at living history events, and you only have to put it down a little too firmly for a chunk to break off.
 

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Spider Crabs can just f*ck off
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Discussion Starter #3
Good luck getting it clean. :)

I'm sure you already know this, but do be aware that that whatever you do, they are very very brittle. When I used to smoke, I resorted to smoking a short stemmed clay pipe at living history events, and you only have to put it down a little too firmly for a chunk to break off.

The pipe stem is very, very thin so I'm reluctant to scrub at it with a soft toothbrush - I just wondered if there was something relatively gentle I could soak it in. It seems more stained than anything - would diluted household bleach harm it, do you think?
 

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Cake Monitor
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The pipe stem is very, very thin so I'm reluctant to scrub at it with a soft toothbrush - I just wondered if there was something relatively gentle I could soak it in. It seems more stained than anything - would diluted household bleach harm it, do you think?
I do know that conservationists first soak their finds in changes of fresh water to draw the salt out, but I wonder whether bleach would damage the clay; if it's mineral staining it's doubtful whether you'd get it back to white. Hopefully there will be someone here who knows about this, you must be delighted at such a find. :)
 

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I found an almost completely intact clay pipe yesterday, with some raised writing down the stem.

It's got the usual crud on it from having been underwater - is there any way I can safely clean it so I can read the writing?

If not, I'll have to do a 'brass rubbing' like Turbs suggested.

Thanks :)
Hey Kirstie, I have an academic paper called 'Conservation of Cultural Material from Underwater Sites' which covers ceramics, can email you the whole paper or just summarise the bit about clay if you want.

EDIT: The bit about Ceramics is actually quite interesting and almost everything they discuss can be done in the kitchen - would be worth getting the whole paper.
 

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Spider Crabs can just f*ck off
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Discussion Starter #6
I do know that conservationists first soak their finds in changes of fresh water to draw the salt out, but I wonder whether bleach would damage the clay; if it's mineral staining it's doubtful whether you'd get it back to white. Hopefully there will be someone here who knows about this, you must be delighted at such a find. :)
I've got it soaking in fresh water at the moment. I don't mind too much if I can't clean it - it does look quite nice as it's a pale yellow colour with darker purple marine growth on it in random patches.
 

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Spider Crabs can just f*ck off
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Discussion Starter #7
Hey Kirstie, I have an academic paper called 'Conservation of Cultural Material from Underwater Sites' which covers ceramics, can email you the whole paper or just summarise the bit about clay if you want.

EDIT: The bit about Ceramics is actually quite interesting and almost everything they discuss can be done in the kitchen - would be worth getting the whole paper.

Thanks, pm sent!
 

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No worries, email sent.

EDIT: Pipe is probably earthenware so best follow the guidelines for that, toilet cistern idea mentioned in the article is pretty clever too. Looks like hydrogen peroxide (hair bleach) in low concentrations for stain removal.
When you work out what the writing says, let me know and I'll see if I can dig up information on the company/timeframe for you.
 

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You are lucky to find an almost complete example, as they are very fragile. They are one of the most characteristic post-medieval artefacts you can find in an excavation. Produced in their thousands and often by very localised cottage type industries, so if you can identify the writing you should be able to pinpoint the exact area from which it originated.

With pipe remains from terrestrial sites we just used to use warm water and an old very warn down soft toothbrush. However with added marine concretions it may need more specialised care. We used to use the Wiltshire Conservation Service The Conservation Service, they will offer advice, or you could try Wessex Archaeology Specialist Services | Wessex Archaeology, as they have a marine archaeology dept and if anyone should know its them.

I found an almost completely intact clay pipe yesterday, with some raised writing down the stem.

It's got the usual crud on it from having been underwater - is there any way I can safely clean it so I can read the writing?

If not, I'll have to do a 'brass rubbing' like Turbs suggested.

Thanks :)
 

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"Are we human, or are we diver?"
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an ultrasonic cleaner like the ones we all bought from Aldi recently?
 
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I found an almost completely intact clay pipe yesterday, with some raised writing down the stem.

It's got the usual crud on it from having been underwater - is there any way I can safely clean it so I can read the writing?

If not, I'll have to do a 'brass rubbing' like Turbs suggested.

Thanks :)
I'm sure it should be dishwasher safe Kirstie. :)

Oh, and if that filthy wretch tries any bra rubbing, just you wallop him in the unmentionables.:angry:
 

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Spider Crabs can just f*ck off
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Discussion Starter #14
Well, I've soaked the pipe in fresh water and managed to scrape most of the crud off with my fingernail (a lot of it was just seaweed that was welded to the clay).

I can make out the name 'J Rowe' along one side of the stem and the letters '.....MOUTH' along the other. The preceding letters have worn away but I'm almost certain I can see the vague outline of a 'PLY' in front of them (which would make sense :))
 

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There was a Rowe family that made clay pipes in Plymouth, they had a kiln at Dung Quay in the early 19th Century. Details of the excavation can be found in this report:

Stead, Peter 2004
Excavation of the medieval and later waterfront at Dung Quay, Plymouth. Devon Archaeol Soc Proc, 61, 2003(2004), 21–133.

Well, I've soaked the pipe in fresh water and managed to scrape most of the crud off with my fingernail (a lot of it was just seaweed that was welded to the clay).

I can make out the name 'J Rowe' along one side of the stem and the letters '.....MOUTH' along the other. The preceding letters have worn away but I'm almost certain I can see the vague outline of a 'PLY' in front of them (which would make sense :))
 

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Spider Crabs can just f*ck off
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Discussion Starter #18
What about a picture ;)
I'll try to take one but the pipe/light will have to be at exactly the right angle as the writing has almost worn away.

I'll give it a go tonight if I get the chance :)
 
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