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Electrolosys System for Treating Artifact Finds!


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Anyone that has ever detected beaches knows how often the items you dig up are an unrecognizable heap

of oxidized rust. Ship spikes, nails, coins ext.  are often found fused together in clumps of rust and sand.

The Archaeological excepted  method to investigate these without hurting the fragile items inside is by using electricity

to reverse the oxidation. This will make the artifact more stable and insure that it survives further preservation.

When someone breaks up the chunk of rust they are losing a lot of the surface material especially on old Iron objects.

When these objects are found it is best to keep them wet while transporting to the treatment tank. Any oxygen that comes

in contact with the metal once removed from the water is destructive too the artifact.

Labs that provide this service are few and far between and quite costly.

So I thought it might interest some to know how to build or make their own tank.

To make a treatment tank, you merely need a plastic container or tub large enough to submerge the object in.  Two Jumper cable clamps and

a copper bolt or dowel about three inches long. The only other item you need is an old working cellphone charger that has an

output of anywhere between 3 to six volts DC. the ( DC) stands for direct current and this is important because (AC) or

Alternating Current will not work.) Chargers below 3 volts are to slow and chargers above six volts are too aggressive.

These chargers  are found at thrift stores for around two bucks.

Fill you tank with Distilled fresh water or fresh well water (not city tap water as it contains additives).

Cut the end or phone plug off of the old charger and you will see two separate wires inside.

solder one wire to one of the cable clamps and another wire too the other clam.

(note - it helps to add additional wire as these clamps need to reach several feet apart from one another).

Attach the coper bolt or dowel too the edge of the tank so that it is half in and out of the water.

Clip one of the clams to the top of the copper bolt or dowel. 

Clip the other clam to the submerged artifact. 

Then you plug in the charger part to the wall. Next watch the artifact for several minutes and you will see small bubbles

forming on the artifact  and eventually floating to the surface. If no bubbles appear then you have the polarity reversed so simply

swap the clamps. 

The charger part that plugs into the wall is 110 volts so that must be kept away from the water. The wire coming out of the

charger is low voltage and DC so it is safe to submerge. I/E if your using an extension cord keep it high and dry. For safety -

always plug into (ONLY)  a GFCI protected outlet since you are working with water. 

How long you treat an object depends on how long it was exposed to the elements. You will see a change in the amount of bubbles

and many times the clump will start to fall apart freeing the artifact. One Clump of Iron and sand I treated contained a 1790 silver coin

and when the clump came apart you could see the revers image of the coin on the remainder of the clump or Iron. This method

of preservation on a iron gun can take six months but makes the difference between reading the serial number and not reading the serial 

number. Most con-creations I treat turn out to be nails or spikes but several have yielded amazing items. One large one yielded 

a folding knife, silver needles, silver pins, iron pins, an iron marlin spike, a silver thimble and two iron tools used for mending sails.

We where able to conclude with out a doubt that the whole con-creation was the inside of the boatswain's kit from the early to mid 1800.

It is just that simple and you get pro results, 

I just moved cross country so my tank was discarded. If there is enough interest in this topic  as I build my new tank I will film it and post.!








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  • 2 weeks later...

I would definitely like to see your electrolysis tank build. 


I think there could be many uses for it.  Think of all the rusty tools found at garage sales and auctions that could be rejuvenated. Maybe even your own that were lost in the yard and not found till the next summer or so. 


Excellent idea. 

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 Grabowski uwcsi:  I also would look forward to seeing the described build process. 

CyHawkGold: There are many variations and options that may be considered in the building of an electrolysis tank, including size and type of the tank, current, power source, anode or electrode selection, and positioning, just to name a few. The internet has numerous sites that explain the process in great detail along with photographs, pitfalls to avoid, and handy tips and techniques that I found most useful when I built my first electrolysis tank. You Tube also has several videos of the build process, as well.

Here are a few sites that you might find helpful to consult.

Cast Iron Cleaning With Electrolysis:

 1) wwcastironcollector.com

2) Electrolysis of Coins - Tutorial)

3)Introduction to Electrolysis of Iron - Tutorial

http://www.metaldetectingworld.com/make_electrolysis_machine   and  http://www.metaldetectingworld.com/control_voltage_current

and  www.metaldetectingworld.com/electrolysis_rust_removal.

https://www.practicalmachinist.com/ http:// 

6) Electrolytic Rust Removal Taking off rust, grease and paint with a battery charger By Orrin Iseminger. 

Note: If you do decide to use a battery charger for your power source, it may be necessary to use a manual charger, as opposed to an automatic charger, which is said to drop current once a certain voltage in your tank has been reached.

Good Luck!



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  • 4 weeks later...

I'm interested also.  BTW, can a similar process be built to attract and collect colloidal gold on a plate?  If so and if you are willing to share I'd be interested in that. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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