Tag Archives: plaster

11/13/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 22)

This is the day!  The day it finally happens!  We’re flipping the mammoth!!!

Flipping The Mammoth Photo

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I worked on the unknown and had no idea what I would find.  I knew that there was the plastic barrier that existed on (what is now) the bottom.  But what the tusk looked like remained a mystery.  I was able to observe the surface through the plastic, to an extent.  I quickly noticed an area that would need swift attention…

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I prepare you for a partial unveiling since it’s not pretty…

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Okay, okay….THIS is where I’m starting.  I don’t want to expose much of this to air without treating  So, I use acrysol at 10% and this percentage seems to work.  I will be back in a week’s time, where I hope to assess my plan of attack.  Stay tuned!

Tools used: 10% acrysol, sandbags, the cleaning solution of 50% alcohol & 50% distilled water, synthetic brushes, metal tools, wooden tools, 5cm arrow for size reference, and aspirator.

Time spent in the lab was about 3 hours.


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11/5/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 21)

Brought in some assistance from the Foothill Anthropology’s Osteology Club, as well as from my colleague, Dan Cearley to help with the prepping and plastering today.  Inside the cardboard box on the table, there sits the mammoth tusk just like you’ve seen in previous posts.  We are prepping to line the walls and the top (for now) surface of the tusk with tinfoil.  Creating a seal will keep the plaster from making contact with the tusk directly.

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I have anticipated this day for sooooooooooooooo long.  I never thought I’d have so many wonderful assistants to make this happen with me!

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Sure, we had the option to wear gloves, but WHY!?  Just wait till you scroll further & realize that it just LOOKS LIKE they’re wearing gloves!

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I have a sneaking suspicion we’re going to be needing a weeee bit more than just that.  But this is a great start!

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Okay….One layer down….NEXT!…. (notice we laugh at the use of gloves now)

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I have a sneaking suspicion that this again…will still not be enough plaster….

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Sooooo…..Apparently playing in plaster brings back child-like joy.  Not a bad side-effect!

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But back to work!  (bwahahahahahaha!)

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And there was much rejoicing….

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Ta da!  Inception meets fruition!

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Successful day!  We’ll revisit this in a week, giving it time to set.

Tools used: 12 gallons of water, 30 pounds of plaster, the assistance of 3 students, 1 lab director, 1 lab researcher (me), 1 professor (aka, “adult supervision”…cough cough cough!), the mammoth tusk in its little plaster house, LOTS of tape (painters & duct), cardboard, plastic drop cloth, plastic containers and a good sense of humor.

Time in lab was about 3 hours.

*Pssssst!!!!….Next week, WE FLIP THE MAMMOTH!

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10/30/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 20)

You know what this is?…This is a plan…A plan that became a reality!  What does this look like to you?…Looks like the plan to house & flip over the tusk to me!!!!!!!


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When we toss a couple boards together, we can almost convince ourselves that this could happen!  🙂  I worked on the Paraloid application today.  And it treated I 60/40 all the way across.

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After some not-so-difficult convincing, I had a colleague assist me in the 3D rough draft of what this would look like.  Brainstorming session!!

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My colleague, Dan is helping to build a more stable house for it to live in while we rope together plaster, plastic wrap, tin foil….and before you know it, it sounds like we’re MacGyver!

The methodology behind this is the give what right now is the top of this a big plaster hug so that there’s a perfect fit to what will be the base (once we flip it).  Yep, what’s top will be bottom & what’s bottom will be top!!  Having a form-fitting soon-to-be-base will make excavating & preserving this easier.  Cross our fingers & toes, shall we!

tools used…duct tape…archival boards…brainstorming…and sheer determination with that model on the whiteboard!  🙂

2 hours in lab today.


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9/29/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 19)

Still playing catch-up in my posts, but we’re almost there!

I’m flattered as I walk into the lab & I see this!!!  That’s my stuff!  That’s my work!  That’s my…….wow.  I’m a little beside myself, it’s so awesome.

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I marveled at this for a while, but I had to get back to the tusk!!  The other fractured monstrosity under glass on the right is the mammoth rib that I worked on for a couple years.  That was a nightmare, but it gave me learning tools to get to where I am today on the tusk.

Since I am still cutting plaster back, I am once again using the acrysol/water solution as my water-based preservative since I can clean & preserve at the same time…with others in the room as well.  Since acrysol is a water-based archival element, it doesn’t have the same toxic chemicals that the Paraloid mix does.

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I’ll get back to the Paraloid, I swear!  Just not quite yet.

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I have started to seal the cracks and open spaces where there’s missing pieces.  It’s painful for me to see, but it’s something that kinda comes with the territory of working on something about 20-thousand years old!  Let’s see how you look!  😉

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Tools used: glass pipettes, acetone, Paraloid B-72, mason jars, cheesecloth, respirator, gloves, goggles, sandbags, 5cm arrow for size reference, natural brushes, plastic bags.  Continued using the cleaning solution of 50% alcohol & 50% distilled water. Tools used to clean the ivory tusk are synthetic brushes, metal tools, wooden tools, aspirator and acrysol of varying percentages.  Hmmm…I suppose the heavy duty shears I use to cut back the plaster are tools too.  :p

7 hours in lab


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7/21/2014 The Columbia Mammoth (Day 18)

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This may not look like a lot of work to you, but I had blisters after cutting the plaster back.  Took me a long time.  PHEW!  And in case you think this looks a little different than last time, you’d be right.  I turned this around so that I can work on it better.

Cutting the plaster back means I had to clean & treat the surface.  I still use 50/50 alcohol/water to clean the tusk in the newly exposed sections.  Since I’m not comfortable in using the Paraloid completely yet, I still use acrysol to do the initial preserving.  I’ll come back & put the Paraloid on next time.

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Taking a look at this from a different perspective also allows me to see what’s been going on with this tusk that I may not have noticed from the other side.  As I’ve cut back plaster, I see that there are cracks I didn’t know about.  And there are small surface pieces missing as well.  I’ll soon be at a place where I’m flipping this over.  And when I get to that point, I can only imagine what’s been going on the opposite side of this tusk after all these years.

Tools used: glass pipettes, acetone, Paraloid B-72, mason jars, cheesecloth, respirator, gloves, goggles, sandbags, 5cm arrow for size reference, natural brushes, plastic bags.  Continued using the cleaning solution of 50% alcohol & 50% distilled water. Tools used to clean the ivory tusk are synthetic brushes, metal tools, wooden tools, aspirator and acrysol of varying percentages.

8 hours in lab


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More Mammoth-ing Coming Soon!

Just me in the lab working on the tusk.

Just me in the lab working on the tusk.


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3/17/2014 The Columbia Mammoth Tusk (Day 11)

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This tusk has been through a lot.  I’m happy with where we are considering where we were not too long ago.  Did you see the drama?  It was scary!  I think we’re in a good place now though, especially with new techniques in play.

Used 5cm arrow for size reference. Continued using the cleaning solution of 50% alcohol & 50% distilled water. Tools used to clean the ivory tusk are synthetic brushes, metal tools, wooden tools, aspirator and acrysol of varying percentages.

Sections & their percentage of Acrysol used:

Section 1 – 4: 5% Acrysol

Section 5 & 6 : 10% Acrysol

Section 7: 5% Acrysol

NEW Section 8 has been cleaned!: 10% Acrysol

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Thought I’d give you another perspective on what the scale of CRAZY is that I’m working with.  I can’t see the whole thing all the time, so often I pray that what I’m doing on one side isn’t going to horribly effect the other.

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Remember these in the box in the previous post?…Sure, I wouldn’t be holding these with my bare hands if it was something that I was truly trying to preserve.  No worries!  I wear gloves all the time.  But I had to touch these piece of ivory that we tested this new archival bonding agent on.  So far, so good.

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Ever wonder what’s in my magic bag when I’m in the lab?…….

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Ta Da!!!


(7 hours in lab)

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Posted by on 03/21/2014 in Mammoth, Tusk


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