Filling the Turret Tank: an epic saga in six parts

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The outside auxiliary tanks can hold the turret’s solution while we work or be used to build up new water. The middle “small” tank is where the skeg beam and hull plates are housed.

Turret Season is officially over! Last week we changed the solution in the turret tank and hooked it back up to its electrolytic reduction (ER) system. This is a long and exhausting process which takes about a week to complete. Let’s look at the steps involved in readying the turret for the off-season.

Thursday, A week out:   Read more

Wooden Gun Carriage Sides

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Newly constructed stainless steel mesh anode waiting to be installed.
Newly constructed stainless steel mesh anode waiting to be installed.

Some of you may remember that in the fall we spent some time doing maintenance on the wooden gun carriage sides from the disassembled gun carriage. Last week while Will was away at the annual AIC conference, Mike and I changed the solutions in these tanks, installed an anode and wired the carriage sides so that the iron bolts still inside the wood would be protected by impressed current. This is the same method being used to protect the metal components on the still assembled gun carriage, which can be viewed via the wet lab web cam here.

Check back soon to see updates about ongoing work in the lab.   Read more

Into the Condenser Tank – Final Week

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Condenser with support

Following a break in the action that included Will going off to the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) annual conference to give a great presentation on the Worthington Pump casting project, we were back in the condenser tank for one final week of excitement. Will finished up the injection pump supports and they were installed after some minor de-concretion work. Our shiny new anode rig went into place without any trouble at all. We spent half a day up and down ladders, placing new reference electrodes and ensuring that all of the wiring was as it should be. The tank was also thoroughly scrubbed.

Then came the morning we had been waiting for. Everything was in place inside the tank, it was time to add the new sodium hydroxide solution. This action proved once again that the scale of the Monitor project is bit different than anything I have previously encountered, as we added thirteen 50lbs bags of sodium hydroxide pellets to the purified water pumped into the condenser tank. Yes, 650lbs is a lot and a greater quantity of chemical than I have ever previously handled at one time. The filling of the tank marked the end of our work on the condenser for now, and caused a great feeling of satisfaction within the lab.   Read more

Into the Condenser Tank – Week 2

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The second week in the condenser tank was no less exciting than the first, but involved a very different set of activities. It is important to understand that while the cleaning and disassembly of artifacts is a big part of what we do, there is a lot more that goes into the care and keeping of our large tanks.

Most of Will’s week was dedicated to constructing new supports that will go under the injection pumps on the forward and aft sides of the condenser. These supports will keep the injection pumps in place and assist in removing the pumps the next time we are in the condenser tank.   Read more

Engine Anodes and Electrolytic Reduction

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After two weeks of intense work on the Monitor’s vibrating side lever steam engine, we shifted efforts towards preparing it for electrolytic reduction treatment over the next three months. 

 Electrolytic reduction is a conservation treatment for metal artifacts in which the object is connected to the negative side of an electric circuit, called the ‘cathode’.  Modern metal ‘anodes’ are placed close to, but not touching, the artifact and are connected to the positive side of the electric circuit.  Once the tank has been filled with water containing a chemical called an electrolyte that allows electricity to pass through it easily, low-voltage DC power is turned on and the rust and corrosion on the engine begin to be chemically reduced by the flow of electrons.  This makes the corrosion and concretion easier to remove and will help make the engine easier to take apart.   Electrolytic reduction also has the effect of speeding up the release of chloride salts which have built up over the 140 years the engine spent in the Atlantic Ocean, definitely a good thing!  Click here for an animation of the electrolytic reduction process:   Read more