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|Well, the coins have been soaking, and I have been scrubbing. Finally
there comes a day when the coin is to the point where it just needs some
detail work to be attributed, and added to my collection. Often times
the coin is clean enough except for some crud in the legend or on some
of the details needed to be seen for a full attribution. At this point
it's time for some mechanical cleaning. Personally, I don't worry about
picking every bit of dirt off a coin, just enough to attribute it. I
actually don't mind a little dirt stuck to the coins. To me it helps
bring home the fact that these coins are not just old, they're ancient.
Sometimes the dirt is preferable to what is actually under it, and I
have seen some coins where it helps bring out the detail.
There are many different items that are used to pick out the remaining dirt. My best advice is to experiment, and find the items that work best for you, You will soon develop a kit of preferred tools. Many people use dental picks, Exacto knives, needles, and a host of other sharp and pointy things. I have tried many of them and found that my prior mentioned lack of patience wasn't a match for these sharp steel tools. Steel is much harder than the coins and it is very easy to slip and damage an otherwise promising coin. I prefer tools I fashion out of brass rods, seen here, and the diamond dusted dental pick, seen here. I do really like using the Tungsten pins sold by commonbronze.com. I also use toothpicks, bamboo skewers, linguine noodles, and the little plastic swords used to spear olives for martinis. I'll try just about anything!
To get started, I use my magnifying lamp to get a better view of the work surface. I also keep the coin wet. The water serves two purposes, it lubricates the coin while I clean it, and it lifts the dirt away as it is worked from the coin. Then I start with the tools, gentle rubbing motions on the wet surface of the coin seem to work most of the time. The dirt will be lifted off the coin by the water, and I rinse often. Another favorite tool is the diamond dusted dental pick. It seems to works best on dry coins. It is great for detailing around letters and portrait details. With a light touch it will not damage the patina of the coin. It works on the harder encrustations too, just apply more pressure, checking you progress often to make sure you aren't damaging the coin. If the dirt is still too stubborn to pick off easily, toss the coin back into the water, and grab another. Every coin will be handled a little differently, and you'll soon develop the techniques that work best for you. I usually stop cleaning when the coin reveals enough detail to be attributable. This is for two reasons, first, it minimizes the chances my impatience will damage the coin, and, as stated before, I like it. After all, it is my coin and it should make me happy! I rarely finish a coin in one sitting, preferring to work on it in several sessions. When I'm satisfied with my efforts, I put the coin in a fresh distilled water bath for a final soak. All that's left is to get it ready to put into my collection