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Tools Of The Trade!!
Here is a list of the tool and supplies that I use:
Distilled Water. As discussed earlier, I prefer distilled water to the other choices for soaking coins. It is a slow process, but yields good results with minimum effort, and mess. It is also less expensive than olive oil, or other solvents. When purchasing distilled water, make sure that it is distilled. Often drinking water is sold in the same are as the distilled water. Drinking water is not as pure as the distilled.
Dawn Dish Soap. Why Dawn? Because it is what my wife buys!! When I first receive a batch of uncleaned coins, I soak them in some soapy water for a day or two, (longer if I run short of time, or just plain forget about them!) Sometimes after this first soak, some coins come clean enough to suit my taste.
Lamp With Magnifying Lens.
Above is a brass brush from my golf bag. It works good for scrubbing the first layers of crud, well before you reach the surface of the coin. Don't use it once you reach patina, as it quickly rubs it away. The nylon brush on the other side comes in handy for clearing away the debris that the brass brush generates while scrubbing.
Above is a softer brass brush. It works well once you get to the surface of the coin. It can still rub through to bare metal if your not careful. As with most things, practice makes perfect. Often this brush will leave a brass "glaze" on the coin. A brief soak in distilled water will usually remove it in short order. This brush has become one of my favorite tools to use during the final touch up phase of cleaning. I purchased this brush from Bill Roth, or cricket_44 on e-bay. Bill has become one of my favorite sources for supplies and coins. Stop by and check out his online store, www.timelesshistory.com.
This is the old stand-by, the lowly tooth brush. I buy the firm bristle variety and trim the bristles down to make them a little more stiff. This is the brush I use most of the time. This is the safest brush to use, and will not harm MOST coins. As with every cleaning technique, if used with out caution, even the lowly toothbrush is capable of damaging a coin with a weak or fragile patina.
This is a pine vise, with a short piece of brass rod. This is by far my favorite and most used tool. You can pick up a pin vise at most any hardware store for around $10. I also have several lengths of solid brass rods of various diameters, also available at most hardware stores. These rods are usually 12" when they are purchased. I cut them into 3" pieces, and sharpen the end using a small file and then I hone them with a pocket sized whetstone. The beauty of this set up is that the brass rods can be shaped and sharpened into any shape that might be required. Brass is softer than the bronze coins and is less likely to scratch the coin. Sometimes the brass leaves marks on the coin, a brief soak in distilled water will clean these off.
My friends at commonbronze.com sell pin vises and pre-cut and shaped pins of different metals. They have brass, aluminum, silver, and tungsten pins. I have recently started using their tungsten pin quite a lot. Even though the tungsten is much harder than the coin, it work surprisingly well, and, with a light touch, doesn't damage the coin. Of course practice makes perfect, but this tool is one that I wish I had found sooner!
In addition to the above picks, i use toothpicks, bamboo skewers, needles, and just about anything else I think will work. Experiment, you might be surprised at what works for you. What works for me, might not work for you. everybody's has a different style. After a few coins you will start to develop techniques that work for you.
This is a Dremel MultiPro Model 770 cordless rotary tool. It can be purchased at better hardware establishments for around $30.00. It is a very useful tool to have around the house. As far as cleaning coins, I use it primarily for buffing the coins once they are cleaned and waxed. On extremely crusty coins I have used it to gnaw through the first layers of crud. Wear eye protection, and hang on tight if you try this. Sooner or later you will be on your hands and knees searching for a coin that escaped your grasp, trying to figure out which wall your heard it careen off!!
I use the soft felt buffing wheels, pictured, to buff the coin. Dremel has several bits that are good for grinding through dirt. I prefer the diamond dusted ones. They are easiest to control, at least for me. However, in my opinion, once you see the surface of the coin, it's time to put the diamond bit away. All it takes is one slip to ruin an otherwise promising coin.
When using the Dremel, WEAR EYE PROTECTION!!! Coin dirt, brush bristle, and diamond dust in the eyes can ruin the whole coin cleaning experience!!