>After a great scuba find (several fin de siecle brass lamps + Telephones
>(ca 1900-1920) :-) )
Cool! Tell us more about where and how you found them?
>Telephones: The boxes consist of wood (walnut?) and are completely soaked
>(fresh water). - right now, I keep them in water filled buckets.
>If I just let it dry, it shrinks and crumbles (Ive tried this with
>worthless pieces of wood.
I've never tried preserving wood, but according to Gary Gentile's
"Advanced Wreck Diving Guide" (Cornell Maritime Press, 1988 ISBN:
0-87033-380-1), the first order of business is to not let the item
dry out (as you've done). If the wood came from the ocean, a several
month freshwater soak, regularly changing the water, is next. For
small items, the toilet tank is an excellent place for this as the
water is sure to get changed often (really!).
The reason wood shrinks and cracks as it dries is because the cells
(remember, wood is an organic substance) have absorbed water and
swollen while the object was submerged. When it dries, the cell walls
lose their elasticity, the cells shrink to even smaller than they
were originally, and this extra shrinkage causes the piece to crack.
Leather and paper are other organic materials which can also be
preserved using the following procedure.
The key to preserving wood, then, is to strengthen the cell walls so
that they retain their shape when the water is removed. Gary's
recommendation is to use polyethylene glycol (PEG), which is a
microcrystalline wax. PEG works by replacing the water in the cell
walls and adding stability by its molecular structure.
The object should be soaked a minimum of six months (and possibly longer,
even years). There will still be some shrinkage, but this should not
be enough to cause serious damage. After a freshwater rinse, hot water
is poured over the item to remove any unwanted wax on the surface, then
the wood may be left as is or coated with varnish, shellac, or spray
Gary points out that this is a long process which requires patience
on your part, but also that it is rewarding if done right: "Any
artifact worth taking is worth preserving".
Note: I have not attempted preservation of any wooden artifacts, so I
can't tell you anything from personal experience. You might also
consult archeological references for more info on preservation techniques.
*** NJ SCUBA Diving Info at http://www.panix.com/~tab/scuba.html ***
"Far beneath the sea, the past and the present come together as one, and we
have been allowed to touch them both." -- Brad Sheard, _Beyond Sportdiving_