28 November 2016

Relic Hunting Post #146 - Preserved Hotchkiss Shell

A couple of years ago, I and a friend recovered an unexploded Hotchkiss shell from a river in the Southeastern United States. (Yes, we did so legally with permits.) Since that time I've wanted to preserve it but had not found the time to do so. I did finally find some time over the Thanksgiving holiday.

One of the joys of recovering old relics from our Nation's past is the satisfaction one gets in preserving these artifacts for future generations. Below are the results - before and after.




11 comments:

Brian Lee said...

Richard, how did you ensure the shell wasn't live? And did you do the preservation work yourself, or did you have someone else do it? In any case, it looks amazing!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Brian. The shell was in several feet of water for 150 years. The fuze plug was long gone allowing water to thoroughly soak the inside of the shell, making the gunpowder useless, assuming there's any left.

I did the restoration myself. It's actually quite a simple process. While there are several processes one can use to remove rust from iron relics (and I've tried them all), the one that works best for me is simply soaking the artifact in apple cider vinegar for several days (sometimes weeks) until most of the rust is gone. I then use a wire brush and/or Dremel to remove the more stubborn rust. Then I rub in 2-3 applications of 3 in 1 oil, allow that to "dry" for a day, then spray on 2-3 coats of satin polyurethane.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Correction - the "fuze plug" is brass and remains. I should have said the actual paper fuze is long gone.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

See: http://relicman.com/artillery/zLibraryArt.341.Hotchkiss.3inch.html

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

The oil keeps the rust from returning, the poly protects and finishes.

Jine said...

Rick, should you recover the very similar looking but differently constructed case shot projectile (third example down on the link you provided),take heed. The separator bolt (or pusher plate) mentioned seals off the bursting charge from the shot and matrix. Per Pete George this can prevent submersion or other contamination entering the fuze hole from rendering the shell inert. You can see the drill hole is low on the nose section's body, where the bursting charge resides. The case shot round is identifiable by its rounder nose.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Doug - yes, I noticed that. It caused me to do a double take on this one. One thing I did NOT do with this piece is "bake" it. I typically put iron pieces in the over for an hour at around 250 degrees. This insures all moisture is removed from the artifact. Even though it was probably ok with this shell, I just did not want to take the chance. ;-)

Thanks for the heads up, nonetheless.

Mark Snell said...

Richard,

As a retired US Army Ordnance officer, I can assure you that once that black powder dries out, it is still volatile. But the only thing that would explode it is heat. I have a loaded Read shell in my collection that I found at VMI some 30 years ago, so I am being a bit hypocritical! I guess as long as your house doesn't catch fire, there will be no problems.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Mark, thanks for the warning. I'll handle with care, but I would have to assume after 150 years in the river, there's not enough gun powder left to be concerned about. Thoughts?

Mark Snell said...

Even if there is a trace, it is still volatile. As I said, the only thing you don't want to do is expose it to extreme heat. Even dropping it wouldn't be a problem. Nice find, BTW. We still need to go digging!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Mark. Yes, we do. I'll keep you in mind when I come across my next "sure" location.