Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back to Taking off the Surface Coating

If you've been following the story of our Bounty cannon conservation project, you'll know that last week we had great success removing the surface coatings. The coatings were applied by the Western Australian Maritime Museum in the 1980s when the cannon received treatment in WA. The coatings are Kephos primer, F & T Imerite 390 and polyurethane which our Conservation Officer Janelle Blucher, removed with Kwik Strip.

Late last week Janelle and Sue Brian (our wonder volunteer) began the process of removing surface corrosion and applying rusticide. This involved several days of working with a magnifying glass, wire brush and scalpel, slowly working their way away across the entire surface. The good news at that point was that the level of corrosion was less than anticipated, and with advice from Karina Acton from International Conservation Services, there would be no need to immerse the cannon in a solution tank.

However our good progress was interrupted early this morning. With a strong light, Janelle could see that there were still microscopic spots of the surface coating still intact. This means that we will have to go back to the  process of applying Kwik Strip then brushing and washing it off and carefully picking away at every inch of the surface. This is extremely detailed work and will require many hours of work. But it is necessary to make sure that all the old coatings have been removed before new ones are applied. This really just re-inforces for us the point that conservation work is usually detailed, hardly ever straight forward and a process of determining an action, gently seeing how it goes and moving on one step at a time from there. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Progress of Conservation of the Bounty Cannon

Final removal of Kwik Strip from the touch hole

Over the last few weeks we’ve been following the story of our Bounty Cannon Conservation Project, funded by the National Library of Australia through the Community Heritage Grants Program. The first step was the making of the replica cannon and now that that is complete we have begun the conservation work. Janelle Blucher has been heading this work with phone advice from Karina Acton from International Conservation Services.

Janelle has been assisted by our wonderful volunteer Sue Brian who has been there each day to help with the work. The first step they had to undertake was the removal of the surface coatings. Until they began applying the Kwik Strip, which is then brushed and washed off, it was not clear how much time this would take but we had set aside a week to do the job. However progress was so good that they had removed all the coatings by Wednesday afternoon. And when the coating was removed we discovered that the surface corrosion activity was not as bad as we had thought it could be. The top side of the cannon has more corrosion than the bottom side, which you would expect as it is more exposed. The heavier areas of corrosion are being treated with citric acid thiourea poultices, before a rust converter is applied and finally the whole cannon will be sealed with Senson Ferroguard to protect it against future corrosion.

The bore of the gun was trickier to assess. We knew that this was the area with the most corrosion and was going to be the most difficult to work with. As the bore goes right up to the touch-hole region which is 1.5 metres long, it presents us firstly with the difficultly of being able to see all the way up, and secondly with how to get to the top area to clear the corrosion. Using a long arm torch Janelle and Sue were able to see up to the top area and asses the corrosion. Once again we were very pleased to discover that it appears the corrosion does not go deep into the cannon.
Tlting the cannon to get to corrosion in the bore

With the help of Lee Irvine the cannon was tilted so that the iron corrosion could be removed with a wire brush mounted onto a 2 metre extension arm and also an air gun on an extension. A few objects that we weren’t expecting to see came out of the bore during the brushing – a beer top, an Anticol wrapper, a piece of paper and a nail - not quite from 1790! A series of sprayings with rust converter and dewatering then occurred.

Finally,  Senson Vapour Guard Pads will be inserted, which are corrosion inhibitors, together with silica gel and then a tampion will be inserted into the end to seal the bore. All these treatments have been recommended by the Western Australian Maritime Museum and Karina Acton.
Wire brushing
Kel Adams came into the Museum with an article from Pix Magazine, August 19, 1950 (reproduced here). It has a photo of the cannon in the New Military Barracks compound being inspected by Johnnie Young, Pastor Pat Adams, Ben Christain and Carty Christian. A fabulous image and amazing to see the cannon where it stood for so many years before being restored in Western Australia – many thanks Kel for bringing it in. If anyone has any other images of the cannon, particularly when it was used in the Compound on Bounty Days, I would really appreciate being able to see them. Please give me a call on 23788.
Using the air gun to remove debris
Unexpected finds from the bore of the cannon!

It has been fascinating to watch the progress of this Project. One of the most inspiring aspects has been that the solutions to all of problems posed with handling the cannon have been resolved by our local people. We should not underestimate the skill of our local Administration and Museum workers – it is solid indeed.
From PIX Magazine, 19 August 1950

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Very Good Start

Janelle Blucher and Sue Brian had a fantastic day yesterday beginning the removal of the surface coatings on our Bounty cannon. The cannon is undergoing conservation treatment and the first step was to use Kwik Strip to remove Kephos primer, F & T Imperite 390 and polyurethane which were applied in the 1980s at the Western Australian Maritime Museum.

Until they began applying the Kwik Strip and then brushing and washing of the coating, it was not clear how long this would take but we had set aside a week to do the job. However progress was so good yesterday that Janelle is confident they will have the coating off by this afternoon. After the coating has been removed she will begin removing surface corrosion. The barrel of the gun is the most difficult to assess. As the barrel goes to the touch-hole region which is 1.5 metres from the opening, it is pretty difficult being able to see all the way up. Images of what they find will be sent to Karina Acton at International Conservation Services and she will provide advice on the best way to progress.

Our photos show the cannon with the Kwik Strip applied and progressively being scraped and washed off.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Conservation Work Begins

What a fantastic two weeks we had with Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland, over here to make a replica of our Bounty cannon before conservation work begins today. Phillip, his wife Claudia and son Lennox left us on Saturday returning home to Townsville. We were so lucky to have had Phillip over to do this work, not only is he an expert in this area but he fitted in to the Norfolk way so easily. We really look forward to a lasting relationship with Phillip and the Museum of Tropical Queensland.
The final product - a perfect replica of the Bounty cannon

So the replica is now on display in the Pitcairn Norfolk Gallery at the Pier Store Museum. Lee Irvine finished off the painting - and except for the label, visitors would not know the difference! The story now moves to the conservation work to be carried out. Janelle Blucher leads this for us with specialist advice available by phone from Karina Acton from International Conservation Services.

Janelle will begin her work by taking off the surface coatings which were applied in the 1980s by the Western Australian Museum. The cannon went to WA along with items from HMS Sirius, including anchors and carronades, which had been recovered during official expeditions on the Sirius's wreck site. During this treatment the cannon was immersed in a treatment tank then wire brushed, chipped to remove scale and given Dimet Rust Treatment. The surface coating that Janelle is now removing is Kephos primer and F & T Imperite 390 and a layer of polyurethane. During Karina Acton's last visit in March this year, she took a sample of the coating away with her to test for the best removal method. The results of her testing determined that applying Kwik Strip in small sections and washing off to be the best option.

Inspecting the barrel
Barrel corrosion
 We estimate that it will most likely take the best part of a week to remove the coatings. Janelle is being helped with this task by volunteer Sue Brian. Sue and Janelle donned their protective masks and got stuck into the job first thing this morning. We will  keep you posted on their progress.

Janelle and Sue ready for action
Applying Kwik Strip

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Cast is Made

If you've been following our blog over the past two weeks, you'll have seen how progress has been made on the making of a replica mould and cast of our Bounty cannon. The cannon came from Pitcairn Island in 1856 along with the entire Pitcairn population when they relocated to Norfolk Island. The cannon was, of course, on board the Bounty during the infamous mutiny and the sailing of the mutineers and their Tahitian wives to find isolated Pitcairn Island. Once on Pitcairn, Matthew Quintal stole away and set fire to the Bounty, sealing the fate of the mutineers and the Tahitians to that tiny island. If only that cannon could talk...

The cannon is now due for conservation work and thanks to a grant from the National Library's Community Heritage Grants program, we are able to begin. The first step has been to make a replica mould and cast and Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland has been on the island for the last few weeks undertaking that work. Phillip has been assisted by Lee Irvine from the Works Department. Our last blog entry showed the completion of the mould and the last few days have seen a cast being made.

Unfortunately the first attempt at making the cast failed as the MEKP - the catalyst for setting polyester resin, failed to fix. Phillip and Lee had tried to make the cast by setting both sides together which results in a cleaner join line, however with the failure of the MEKP, this meant that when the top came off we found a gooey mess of resin and only about a third of the cast intact.
The result of the MEKP not fixing
This was only a small set back however and Phillip and Lee set about making another cast yesterday, this time increasing the recipe for the MEKP and making the cast in two separate sections. This morning they came out of their moulds and were joined together. All that is now left is for the join to be worked on to seal some gaps and hide the join mark, and for the whole cast to be painted up.

Only a third set properly
Starting again

A public viewing of the making of the mould and cast will be held today at 1.00pm at the Works Depot. Phillip will give an overview of the work he and Lee have undertaken as well as giving us an insight into his work at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. It's been a fascinating fortnight watching Phillip at work.

The second successful cast

The strongman lifts a cannon with one hand!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Mould is Made!

Work progressed pretty rapidly this morning with the mould of our Bounty cannon completed. Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland has been working away with local Lee Irvine to make the mould, and will now move on to making a cast. The cast will then be painted up and used on our display while the original undergoes conservation treatment. All this work has been funded by the National Library through the Community Heritage Grants Program.

On Friday afternoon Phillip and Lee shook hands after finishing off all the fibre-glassing - they are working ahead of schedule. That meant that this morning they could begin trimming the edges off the fibreglass and pop off the fibre-glass shell. They then peeled back the silcone cover, turned the cannon over and the same procedure was repeated. The result is two perfect moulds ready for casting. The cannon was put back up onto a table ready for conservation work to begin after the cast has been made. 

Our photos tell the story - exciting progress!

Covered in fibre-glass with toggles on the top side

Prising off the fibre-glass

The fibre-glass comes off
The silicon gets peeled off

The silicon gets laid in the fibre-glass mould

The cannon gets turned over
The fibre-glass is removed

Two moulds ready for casting

The cannon gets put back on the table ready for conservation work

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to turn over a half tonne cannon

Our Bounty cannon has been transformed! One half of it has a layer of silicon topped with fibre glass and it has been turned over for the other side to now receive the same treatment. These are the steps in making a replica cast of the cannon.

With its silicon cover
Boxed up ready for turning
The work is being carried out by Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland as the first step in a conservation project on the cannon. The project has been funded by the National Libary through the Community Heritage Grants Program and after the replica has been made the cannon will have its coating removed, surface corrosion removed and may then be immersed into a tank of solution for a number of months.

Phillip is making a two part mould of our cannon from silicon and fibre glass. He started off work by making a timber cut out around the cannon which provided the barrier for making the two parts of the mould. A layer of silicon was then applied and then a layer of fibre glass. After all that had dried – the cannon was turned over for the other half to undergo the same process. Phillip is being assisted with his work by local Lee Irvine. As you can imagine plenty of thought needs to go into how to turn over a half tonne cannon. As you can see in the photos, Phillip and Lee managed the manouvere perfectly!

A public viewing of Phillip's work on the cannon will be held on Wednesday 18th August at 1.00pm at the Works Depot. Phillip will explain the moulding and casting procedure and also give an overview of the work he carries out for the Museum of Tropical Queensland. If you would like to attend this free event please register with the Museum on 23788.

Step one - lift the cannon
Step two - place it one the floor
Step three - roll it over

Step four - landed gently!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Making of a Replica Bounty Cannon

The first stage of our Bounty cannon conservation project kicked off this morning! Phillip Smith from the Museum of Tropical Queensland arrived on the island on the weekend for a two week visit, during which he will make a mould and cast of the cannon. We are very fortunate to have Phillip undertake this work; he brings with him a wealth of experience in casting and moulding. And this is the second Bounty cannon he has worked on – he also made a cast of the cannon which underwent conservation treatment and was returned to Pitcairn Island last year.

Phillip is a Preparator, or Exhibitions Officer and has one of the most interesting jobs. Generally, he oversees and directs all exhibition design, production and maintenance jobs, but he also does skeletal reconstructions of dinosaurs including moulding, casting and assembly of bones. Other jobs include moulding and casting of biological specimens, fossil materials, historic artefacts and even human bodies.

Phillip’s moulding and casting skills have seen him being invited to work for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington USA. In 2002 the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History undertook major restoration work on its large dinosaur exhibits in an attempt to address damage caused by outdated and structurally weak steel armatures. A decision was made to mould and cast the dinosaur bones and re-exhibit the casts instead of the original bones. This was a grand undertaking as these exhibits are a dynamic part of the overall collection housed at the NMNH and therefore it was of great importance that they not be off display any longer than necessary. Phillip was invited to be part of the team charged with carrying out the work required regarding moulding, casting, mounting and modelling of missing parts of a Stegosaurus. In addition to this project he was also charged with replicating the scull from only one example of Saratosaurus.

Phillip will be making a two part mould of our cannon from silicon and fibre glass. He started off work by making a timber cut out around the cannon which sits half way down. Eventually a clay barrier will be made which will used to hold the mould. In about a week’s time the cannon will be turned upside down and the bottom half will be worked on. Assisting Phillip during this work is Lee Irvine – our thanks to Poppa and the Works team for lending us Lee for the fortnight!