Tuesday, July 10, 2012

From old to renewed

I wrote about the sad state of affairs of my nibs a little while ago.  I had lots of suggestions that really the rusty nibs were beautiful in and of themselves and that perhaps Barry could re-use them; or they might make little sculptures on their own somehow.  All great options!

However, I had a couple of other thoughts in mind to pursue, so with the idea of possibly resurrecting them I set off to discover how to remove rust from metal.  Funny how you can go so far down one rabbit burrow you lose sight of the path you have just been journeying on.  I went this way and that, searched here and there, found some whiz bang brush for car rust and the like and Barry just looked at me quizzically and asked "why don't you just try tea?"

I. Was. Floored.

Of course! I have been using tea to remove rust from chains and the like, transferring the marks to paper for the last few weeks - so why didn't I think of it?  So off I went, to see if it was possible to use the tea to remove the rust.

I made up a strong brew and popped the nibs in. Straight away the rust started to drop off in small bits and into the water - changing it to a lovely dark colour (mixed with some ink I think).  I left them in for a few hours, then dragged them out, painted some paper with the rusty inky water and placed the nibs onto paper to see what marks they might make. Added more tea as I went along.



I popped them into a new brew of tea for a bit longer, and they came out pretty well - the tannic acid did its gentle thing and removed much of the rust.

So far so good.


 Not sure why this middle one below didn't work so well - perhaps it was stuck inside another one.


Then I sat for an hour or so and gently rubbed them all with fine steel wool to remove the last bits I could see.

Barry asked me how much nibs cost.  I said they weren't that expensive, but I get mine from the US or the UK now so there is a transport cost factor as well as a time delay, so I wanted to see if I could retrieve this set and have them as back ups in case of emergency. The likelihood of a calligraphic emergency is probably not all that high, but you know...

I think the tea worked quite well, and am pretty sure these nibs have legs for a bit longer yet.




They are now safely stored, in a box, resting on some absorbent paper. If the whole experiment ends up failing and they go totally rusty again - then it's off to the sculpture, jewellery or assemblage department for them for sure.

30 comments:

  1. Love that you used the tea and it worked - with a little extra help from the steel wool. Also really love the way you have photographed the nibs ..... bet there are many more photos than the ones you shared!

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    1. it was quite the excitement Susan to see that it did work! And I loved arranging the nibs; they looked so architectural in their own sweet way - and yes, way too many photos again!

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  2. I'm stunned as well at the use of tea...what a delightful use you out it to...especially when combined with paper!

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    1. Amazing what tea can do isn't it J? fancy it being actually useful as well as creative and fun!?!? Double bonus. Oh and of course, nice to drink as well.

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    1. Me too N! Form and function and flavour!

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  4. Tea! who'd a thunk it? brilliant solution!

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    1. Very cool huh Ronnie? Someone had also told me that soaking in molasses for a week or so is a good option as well, so I'm pleased there are non-toxic ways to do it.

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  5. oh my these are so gorgeous, art in itself...

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    1. I think so too C - I love taking photos of them!

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  6. Wonderful rusty-nib drawings, kind of amoebic.... and tea, what a good idea! I've been away for two weeks, so just spent a bit of time scrolling back through your posts, its good to be back, thanks for all the good ponderings and inspiration!

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    1. Hi V - hope you had a good time away. It was such fun to discover the tea did actually work.

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  7. I'm glad you found such a surprising method to clean your nibs. And whatever their destiny, you have a nice collection of conceptual photographs of them :)

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    1. So true Ersi- they will always just be lovely in their own right even if they don't work or make art pieces.

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  8. That's incredible! ..... but I can still see them in their rusty state hanging from my ears. I really don't have quite enough ears.

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    1. I laughed Jo at you not having enough ears! It's true tho - I suddenly saw them as jewellery as well, and thought how did I not see that before?

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  9. The paper created by the rusty nib water is divine and the others are right about the wonderful photographs of all those nibs.... but you have to wonder what all the tea I drink is doing to me! If it can have that sort of effect on rust what is it doing to my internal organs! Still, after all these years I can't give it up so why worry?

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    1. I think as long as you don't have rust inside you, all shall be well Lesley! Nonetheless an intriguing experiment with some good results.

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  10. Thanks Fiona, you learn something new every day! I didn't know tea could clean rust off nibs - and I've got lots of them as I use them on odd occasions and tend to leave them lying around. The nibs look wonderful as does the paper. I wonder if the rusty water has any effect on its stability and acid free-ness for use in artwork?

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    1. Hi Helen - it was quite the discovery, care of Alice. Whenever I use rust on paper I figure that as a process it will continue, maybe ever so so slowly, but I am pretty sure you can't fully arrest arrest it, so I wouldn't think that they were ever truly archival works in that 100s of years type way. Would be fun to do some acid-free type tests as well,

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  11. Well, F, once again there is magic worked in your household! I can't believe the solution - literal and figurative - to your rusty nib problem was right there all along, talk about keeping it simple instead of searching far afield for the answer! I love the marks these objects leave on paper, and what delicate irony that the thing used to make marks becomes the mark itself! I also love how they photograph, like strange weapons or tools or ritualistic staffs from another civilization. What a lovely odyssey of creativity born from a simple need to have clean nibs!

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    1. Ah alchemy indeed! I was floored by Barry's suggestion as it seemed so obvious yet had been far away in my logical mind. The look he gave me was pure quizzicalness! The photographs of them are wonderful as well - they paper to have so many stories to tell - which again I guess they do as writing implements. Glad you enjoyed! Go well.

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  12. such an amazing adventure with your nibs
    i can only imagine that you know each one much better now
    thank you for sharing about tea, that is grand to know
    and Yes, each one is a artful treasure to see

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    1. Hello Tammie-Lee - indeed I feel as if I do know them each better now! It was a fun experiment and I will keep checking on them and seeing how long-lasting the results are.

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  13. Wow....tea, the magical elixir! Those drawings made by the nibs are quite stunning in and of themselves! Aren't you just so resourceful....the nine lives of Fiona's nibs!! Enjoy!

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    1. I love that this story has so many good parts to it Patti - the magic of tea; resurrection and renewal; unexpected wonders...all good!

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  14. Thank you Alice - without your investigation as to why tea makes such lovely rusty marks, I would never have ended up down this path...and what a fabulous discovery!

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  15. Tea? Clever! Thank you, Fiona - Thank you, Barry! for a wonderful and informative post.

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  16. Jane I am sure your nibs would nevr look like mine did, but the tea would work well on any tiny little bits you found!

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I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.