Civil War Lecture on Dry Ice Blasting this Saturday!

Laurie dry icing at the tank farm
Laurie dry icing at the tank farm

Do you love reading about the details of our conservation treatments? Are you dying to hear more about dry ice blasting? Are you going to be in the Hampton Roads area this weekend? If so you may want to consider your Saturday afternoon already booked!

Please join us this Saturday, September 10th from 2:30-3:30 for the Civil War Lecture:  Keeping it Cool! We will be discussing dry ice cleaning at the USS Monitor Center, explaining how dry ice cleaning works, including the details of our research and testing procedure. You’ll also hear about upcoming research being undertaken with dry ice, and how this new research will speed up the treatment of the USS Monitor objects.   Read more

Dry Ice Blasting: Yorktown Guns Addition

York Town Gun before Dry Ice Blasting
York Town Gun before Dry Ice Blasting

This week we’re taking a detour from your usual Turret updates for some Dry Ice Blasting! After quite a bit of research we figured out the best settings for Dry Ice Blasting on cast iron (previously we’ve only treated wrought iron with this method) and our first application is for the treatment of a pair of British guns from The Revolutionary War.  These guns were part of the armament on transport vessels supporting General Lord Cornwallis’s British army during the Yorktown Campaign. The guns were sunk when Cornwallis ordered the transport vessels to be sunk as obstructions, to prevent the nearby French fleet from coming to the aid of General George Washington’s troops.

The guns were raised from the York River in 1934 through a joint effort by The Mariners’ Museum, National Park Service, and Newport News Shipyard, and they’ve lived happily on and off display at both Yorktown and The Mariners’ Museum. But as you can see, they need a little TLC before they can be displayed again.   Read more

Dry Ice Blasting!

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Hello Everyone!  I know that lately the blog has been abounding with news about new additions to the conservation team, but prepare for a little Déjà vu, as I’m writing this post to introduce myself as the newest member. My name is Laurie King, and I joined the team at the beginning of April as an Assistant Conservator. My main focus will be researching techniques for using solid CO2 (or Dry Ice Blasting) to remove corrosion from USS Monitor objects. I am a recent graduate from Cardiff University, and prior to that I actually spent my free time as a conservation volunteer with the USS Monitor Center.  I am so thrilled to be back and to be working on the Monitor!

As long time readers will know, the removal of corrosion from metals can be a long process, involving a lot of detailed and time consuming work.  The removal of corrosion isn’t just so the object will look nice and to reveal surface details; if corrosion remains on the surface it can trap salts in the object and cause corrosion in the future! When it comes to USS Monitor objects, this corrosion can be inches thick in some areas, making it a very painstaking process to remove the corrosion with smaller tools, like scalpels, dental tools, or air scribes.  This is especially true when working on something as large as the turret or the gun carriages!   Read more

Dry Ice Blasting


This post is coming out a little later than I wanted it to, but we have had a very busy few weeks here in the lab. We had some outdoor projects to finish before the weather turned cold. Some of our activities in the last few weeks have included assembling and installing a new anode rig in the tank holding the pieces we used to test the dry ice blasting, winterizing the tank farm and having adventures in the skeg tank. The skeg tank adventures will get their own post after Thanksgiving, today I want to tell you about dry ice blasting.

We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to try out a SDI Select 60 dry ice blaster from Cold Jet. The set up for this machine is not overly complicated. You hook it up to an air compressor; load the hopper with either dry ice pellets or blocks, in our case we found that pellets worked better, the block or pellets are pressed into an auger that shaves them and then the shaved pieces are fired down a hose and out a nozzle held by an operator. The system set up is not so different from other abrasive cleaning methods, but the unique thing about dry ice blasting is that there is no aggregate left at the end to clean up. If you are doing abrasive cleaning using glass beads, sand, ground walnut shell or any other medium you will have to clean bits of that medium off of your object when you’re done. You get to skip this step with dry ice blasting since your medium just sublimates away.   Read more

A local story for Armistice Day

Prisoner-of-war armband worn by Henry R. Hendren. (Accession#: IB 156)

In honor of Armistice/Veterans day I thought I would tell one local man’s World War I story.  That man is Henry Redmond Hendren. Henry was born in Norfolk, Virginia on October 4, 1900 making him just 13 when the war started in Europe in July 1914.

For those of you who aren’t aware of Newport News history in World War I, here’s a little bit of backstory to help explain what happened to Henry. Just a few months after the start of World War I the British, who still relied heavily on the use of horses and mules to transport matériel and wounded on the battlefield, had exhausted Britain’s supply of animals. They looked to the United States to provide this necessary resource and established facilities to house and transport the animals—the largest in Missouri. Thank to our extensive railroad infrastructure and protected port, Newport News was chosen as an embarkation facility. Between late November 1914 and the end of the war Newport News became the biggest and most important shipper of horses and mules to the British army in Europe.   Read more