A tisket a tasket – I just finished a gasket!

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10 of 15 gaskets from the Starboard Worthington Pump before conservation treatment

This week I thought it might be fun to look at one of our more unusual types of artifacts that I’ve been treating. We have tons (literally) of iron and copper artifacts in the lab, but for every two pipe flanges bolted together, there is also one gasket keeping things tight. The humble gasket can be found throughout the Monitor’s engine room, sandwiched between the copper piping and iron machinery parts. Its job was to keep the fittings air tight and prevent leaks. Most gaskets are made from layers of rubber and textile pressed together, but we do have gaskets made entirely of rubber and a few that are actually leather.

In addition to the gaskets, rubberized fabric, buttons, and combs have also been recovered. Despite the evidence of wide use aboard the Monitor, modern rubber was a relatively new material in 1862. Natural rubber was used before the 1800’s, but due to its unstable nature, it wasn’t suitable for many applications. Thanks to a number of people experimenting with additives and curing processes, more stable forms of rubber became commercially available. For instance, Charles Goodyear (who’s patent is stamped on the Monitor buttons) is credited with patenting vulcanized rubber which is much harder and durable than natural rubber.

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A short time ago, in a laboratory quite nearby . . .

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Last weekend I finally went to see the new Star Wars movie, I know it’s been out since December I don’t always go to see movies when they’re brand new… Anyways, it was a good movie and I enjoyed it. But when I came back to work on Tuesday and started cleaning one of the gate valves from one of the Worthington pumps all I can think is how, if you turn it a certain way, it looks like a TIE fighter! It’s a very nice copper alloy valve and it’s going to look great when it’s finished. I’m not the only one making this parallel, you can see for yourself:

 

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Civil War Lecture this Saturday on Technology in the 1800s

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Join us this Saturday, January 14, for our monthly Civil War Lecture series!

This month we’re looking at the technological revolution of the 1800’s which gave birth to that marvelous ship the USS Monitor. But the Civil War “Battle of the Ironclads” is only a small part of the fascinating journey from sail to steam and wood to iron. From a revolving turret to rubber buttons, life aboard the Monitor was a reflection of changes occurring globally thanks to the civilian Industrial Revolution and the modernization of the world’s navies. We’ll examine the inventions in the decades leading up to the American Civil War and the evolution of technology as a result of that fateful day at Hampton Roads!

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Discovery in the lab!

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I believe it has been said before on this blog and I have no doubt that it will be said again. Conservation is not a career for those who desire instant gratification in the work place. Treatment times tend to be long, especially for marine archaeological material where desalination is perhaps the most important process. That being said, every now and then there are days where discovery and success happen in an instant. Last week I was lucky enough to have one of those days.

I’m currently working on a copper alloy bicock valve that was removed from the front of the condenser.

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Some special events from last week

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Well, we may be done in the tank farm but that doesn’t mean that life around the lab has slowed at all. We are now back to working on individual projects. There were, however a couple of special events last week.

Rich Carlstedt came to visit and brought along his model of the Monitor’s main steam engine. This incredible model was built to a 1/16th scale and we believe it to be the most accurate model of the engine in existence. Rich probably knows more about the engine than any man alive and was happy to share this knowledge with us during a special guest lecture. He also ran the model for us, a fascinating thing to see. If you would like to see what the Monitor’s main engine would have looked like while in action, you should go and check out this YouTube video.

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