Restore Old Cannon Ball


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MtnCreek
September 21, 2011, 08:39 AM
Anyone here have suggestions on restoring a old cannon ball? Itís in pretty bad condition, presumably because itís be laying around in the weather for the last 147 years. Itís a small ball, probably 4 or 5Ē, so I guess itís safe to assume itís a solid ball. I would like to clean it up and make a small wooden block for it to sit on (it would look pretty cool in my barn). Anyone know the preferred method for cleaning these up? Any thoughts?

Thanks!
MtnCreek

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68wj
September 21, 2011, 08:42 AM
Just throw it in a tumbler and let it go for an hour.:D

Kidding. Personally, I would leave the "patina" and display it as-is.

LJ-MosinFreak-Buck
September 21, 2011, 08:57 AM
I would follow what 68wj said and leave the patina as is.

JohnBT
September 21, 2011, 09:26 AM
Please don't assume.

An area man died in 2008 when a 9" naval cannonball he was restoring blew up. He'd probably restored 1600 cannonballs. It put shrapnel through a house a 1/4 of a mile away.

www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,353998,00.html

Horsemany
September 21, 2011, 09:31 AM
Display as is. You have a piece of history. As with most things old, the more you modify it the less genuine it becomes. It being old and weathered is part of it's history.

MtnCreek
September 21, 2011, 09:54 AM
I'll try to post a picture this evening. It has some soil or rock embedded into the surface in a couple of spots. The ball was excavated at a construction site near Kennesaw Mountain (less than a mile from Cheatham Hill).

If I don’t restore, should I just clean it with a mild wire brush and water, then dry and oil?

Thanks!

hawkeye10
September 21, 2011, 10:02 AM
:) I think those cannon balls are made to explode on contact. What would be the point in shooting a solid cannon ball? Better do some more research. Don

HOOfan_1
September 21, 2011, 10:26 AM
:) I think those cannon balls are made to explode on contact. What would be the point in shooting a solid cannon ball? Better do some more research. Don

They fired all kinds during the Civil War. Some had impact fuses, some had air burst fuses, some were round shot. They used grape shot and cannister as well. If they were firing at a massed infantry formation that was a long way off, they would sometimes use solid shot. The solid shot would roll and bounce along the ground and could go right through an infantry formation.

The impact fuse shells had a very limited damage radius because the ground would absorb much of the shrapnel and explosion. Timing of the fuses for air burst shells was very difficult. Sometimes they would explode short of the target, sometimes they would explode too high, sometimes they would explode behind the target.

There were all types of artillery used during the war. Small smooth bore cannon, small smooth bore howitzers, larger smooth bore cannon, large rifled guns. HUGE smoothbore columbiads, HUGE rifled cannon. Each of them had multiple different projectiles they could fire.

MtnCreek
September 21, 2011, 10:33 AM
Good info. In your opinion, would a 4 or 5" round ball be solid?
Thanks.

HOOfan_1
September 21, 2011, 10:39 AM
Not necessarily. The case shot (air burst round) for smooth bore cannon were round. You would be able to find a hole for the fuse on it most likely if it was case shot. If you see any sort of symmetrical hole on the ball...then it is most likely a shell and may be filled with gun powder. Better to have an expert look at it before you try doing anything rough to it.

JohnD13
September 21, 2011, 10:44 AM
If it's a solid shot and 4 inches in diameter, it came from a 9 pounder. could well be a civil war round, or possibly earlier. As long as you don't see a fuse hole anywhere, I would just brush off any loose surface dirt with a paint brush and put it on the shelf. My wife would say "The start of another collection."

Panzercat
September 21, 2011, 10:51 AM
Next week on Top Shot...

offthepaper
September 21, 2011, 10:58 AM
I would have someone check it before doing anythingto it.
Older explosives can become very unstable.
very cool item though.

GreyCoupe
September 21, 2011, 11:14 AM
Sure would be bad to discover it's "hot" by throwing it in a tumbler and having it go off...just like your pistol, you need to confirm it is unloaded.

JohnM
September 21, 2011, 11:22 AM
Yeah, a cool find, but I think you ought to try and find out if it's a fused one.

BCRider
September 21, 2011, 12:50 PM
Once it's proved to be inert or has been made to be inert you'll want to remove the dirt and scaled rust. But to keep it looking properly old you do not want to use any steel wire brushes or anything abrasive that will remove the black age patina.

Instead I'd suggest you wash it down with something like Ed's Red mix to basically loosen any scale'y rust and brush the loose flakey stuff away with a stiff brislte fiber or plastic scrub brush. That'll leave the black oxide patina and the light oil in the mixture will darken it and avoid future rusting.

USAF_Vet
September 21, 2011, 01:05 PM
If it were me, I'd make sure it wasn't likely to blow up, then mount it as is. The age and patina make it a part of history, and history is what adds value. Otherwise, it's just a ball of iron. I can get iron scrap from the yard at cost. 9 pounds of scrap iron isn't worth much, but as a civil war cannon ball, 9 pounds of scrap iron can be worth significantly more.

rcmodel
September 21, 2011, 01:26 PM
4" to 5"?
Maybe it's a Shot Put ball? :D

The men’s shot weighs 7.26 kg (16 pounds) and is 110–130 mm (4.3–5.1 inches) in diameter.

If it's a iron cannon ball it should weigh in that general range.
Unless it is hollow and filled with explosive.

rc

Cornhusker77
September 21, 2011, 01:30 PM
I've got one that my great grandmother's uncle brought back from the Civil War, it sits on my shelf, and for years it was under Mom and Dad's bed.
My stepson is a Marine EOD and he about had a stroke when he saw it.:D
He is pretty certain it's "live" :confused:

Andrew Wyatt
September 21, 2011, 01:38 PM
Take it to an industrial X ray place and ask real nice for them to Xray it.

sixgunner455
September 21, 2011, 01:48 PM
Andrew's got an idea, there.

Naval guns used to shoot grape at the decks and rigging, and solid heated shot at the hull. Like, the ball would be red hot and glowing when it was loaded, and it would be fired as soon as the barrel was run out the firing port. When it drove deep into the hull, it didn't explode, unless it hit the powder magazine. It was intended to start a fire.

So, it sure could be solid, whether it was fired from a land-based gun or a naval gun. Where did you get it?

HOOfan_1
September 21, 2011, 01:57 PM
Andrew's got an idea, there.

Naval guns used to shoot grape at the decks and rigging, and solid heated shot at the hull. Like, the ball would be red hot and glowing when it was loaded, and it would be fired as soon as the barrel was run out the firing port. When it drove deep into the hull, it didn't explode, unless it hit the powder magazine. It was intended to start a fire.

So, it sure could be solid, whether it was fired from a land-based gun or a naval gun. Where did you get it?

He said near Kennesaw...which is just Northwest of Atlanta....huge series of Civil War battles took place there.

alde
September 21, 2011, 02:25 PM
I read an article several years ago about the restoration of the USS Constellation in Baltamore Harbor. They found the hold full of hundreds of cannon balls used as ballast. They hauled them off and sold them as scrap. They could have sold them to help pay for the restoration. I would have given more than scrap value for one.

JohnM
September 21, 2011, 02:41 PM
They hauled them off and sold them as scrap

Man, you would have thought when doing a restoration someone would have known those cannon balls had more value than just scrap iron price!

bigedp51
September 21, 2011, 02:51 PM
A conservator at a museum will clean metal using olive oil and a soft bristle tooth brush. The olive oil is allowed to soak overnight on the object to loosen surface corrosion and then cleaned with the tooth brush.

After the metal has been cleaned a neutral PH wax is applied to keep oxygen and moisture from getting to the surface of the metal.

Any wooden parts or gun stocks would be cleaned with a 50/50 mixture of raw linseed oil and turpentine and a heat lamp to bring contaminates to the surface. A lint free cloth would be used to apply and remove the linseed oil mixture.

Be careful and read below

Civil War cannonball kills relic collector

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24441427/ns/us_news-life/t/civil-war-cannonball-kills-relic-collector/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_artillery_in_the_American_Civil_War

Owen Sparks
September 21, 2011, 02:55 PM
You can determine if it is solid or not by weighing it. From the size it sounds like it might be a youth size shot put. I have one and will measure and weigh it when I get home if you would like. There was a news story a few years back about some Civil War collector who was cleaning off an old cannon ball that exploded and killed him.

BE CAREFULL!

MtnCreek
September 21, 2011, 03:26 PM
HOOfan 1,
ĎCivil Warí? I would have assumed a proper Son of Virginia would refer to it differently.:)

Yes, the ball was found near Kennesaw Mtn (approx. 15 miles NNW of Atlanta). It was basically the last stand of the Confederacy prior to the fall of Atlanta and a shameful defeat due to the incompetence of General Johnston of TN (he was no Stonewall Jackson). Due to where it was found, Iím 99% sure it is a cannon ball.

Iím really glad I posted this question here and Iím grateful for the comments. My first thought was to use reverse electrolysis to remove any corrosion. Based on the comments above, I see this would have been the wrong thing to do for a couple of reasons (drilling a hole and applying electricity to a potentially charged explosive is not on my Ďto do listí).

If this thing was charged, would there be some kind of plug in it (brass, bronze, wood..)?

Thanks!
MtnCreek

HOOfan_1
September 21, 2011, 03:37 PM
HOOfan 1,
‘Civil War’? I would have assumed a proper Son of Virginia would refer to it differently.:)


Of course I meant War of Northern Agression

The actual battle called Kennesaw Mountain was a Confederate victory. It was the battles after that that lost Atlanta. Joe Johnston was outnumbered 2 to 1. Joe Johnston was born in Farmville Virginia, not 20 miles from the place of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.

Vern Humphrey
September 21, 2011, 04:52 PM
Try weighing it. Get the density of iron from the internet and see if it is significantly different in weight from a solid iron ball of that diameter.

oldbear
September 21, 2011, 05:24 PM
PLEASE contact your local P.D. or S.O. and have an EOD trained officer inspect it before you do anything else. You are siting on a potential unstable bomb.

Hossfly68
September 21, 2011, 05:39 PM
I didn't read every post, but I figured I'd throw in my $.02..
a restored artifact is worthless as far as value goes. Once it's restored, it becomes just another old iron ball. Leave it as it is and pass it down to your children's children along with a story of what happened where it was found.
I have an old Navy Colt revolver that my Great Great Grand father captured from a yankee at Island #10 in the Mississippi River , at least that's what is engraved on the butt. It could use a good polishing but I would never do that because it would kill the value. Not that I would ever sell it. and not to sound "sappy", but you can feel the history in it when you pick it up. If restored, it would just be a pretty hunk of metal.

PowerG
September 21, 2011, 06:05 PM
To mirror what some others have said, if it is a shell (with an explosive charge) it is extremely dangerous, the old fuse and powder can be very unstable. Several very knowledgable people have gotten killed by these things. Let somebody that knows what they're doing make sure it's safe.

JohnBT
September 21, 2011, 06:33 PM
"I would have assumed a proper Son of Virginia would refer to it differently."

It's easier to say Civil War. I got tired of trying to explain W of NA to Yankees a long time ago. :)

Gunnerboy
September 21, 2011, 06:37 PM
Best way to determine if its solid or explosive is give your mother in law a hammer and ask her to go hit the metal ball in the back yard several times.

wleoff
September 21, 2011, 07:12 PM
Even the hammer doesn't always work. When I was a teenager in Pascagoula, MS, one of our neighbors used a Civil War cannon ball in their back yard to crack pecans on. The Union, I think under Adm. Farragut, had a naval engagement at Pascagoula, which left a few cannon balls laying around. I noticed that our neighbor's ball had a fuse or loading port on it. They decided to call someone at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, who sent over several demolition experts. Turns out the ball was live and loaded with black powder, just as potent as the day first loaded. It could have gone of with any nut cracked over all those years.The experts took the ball, unloaded it at their facility and returned it to our neighbors. The AF put a stamp into the fuse plate, which indicated that the ball had been deactivated.

MtnCreek
September 21, 2011, 07:32 PM
Here's a link to a couple of photos if anyone is interested. Due to the size of the ball, I doubt it's loaded with anything, but I will confirm (and not by letting my mother-in-law bang on it w/ a hammer; I kinda like her).

Hoofan 1, I stand corrected.


http://s1190.photobucket.com/albums/z441/MtnCreek/

Gunnerboy
September 21, 2011, 08:13 PM
that photo looks just like the one my grandpa has that he found in the carolinas as a kid.

T Bran
September 21, 2011, 08:41 PM
Very cool if it isnt an explosive.
Once you are sure put it in a croaker sack with about 20 lbs of rice wire shut toss in cloyhes dryer you might find it neccesary to tape the door shut. Also dont let wifey catch you HA.
Thanks for sharing pics it looks pretty good as is just mount it and enjoy.
T

Toforo
September 21, 2011, 11:29 PM
Please don't assume.

An area man died in 2008 when a 9" naval cannonball he was restoring blew up. He'd probably restored 1600 cannonballs. It put shrapnel through a house a 1/4 of a mile away.

www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,353998,00.html
Yup - lots of these have "exploded" over the years in Virginia - and I don't even think the cited story is the most recent.

It is NOT a rare occurence.

Owen Sparks
September 21, 2011, 11:38 PM
Don't become the last casualty of the War Between the States. Weigh the thing and make sure it is solid.

rori
September 22, 2011, 12:08 AM
#1. Don't call the police if you want to keep it!!! They will undoubtably find a reason to confiscate it or charge you with a crime!! The Civil War was black powder days and black powder doesn't do anything but remain black powder. Don't remove the dirt or do anything until you check with an expert in weapons in the War of Aggression. You don't want to wreck its value and you don't want it blowing up on you. It could be loaded with a couple pounds of holy black. Frank

Murphy4570
September 22, 2011, 03:20 AM
You could probably get it sonic tested, to see the thickness of the iron. If it's hollow, that's a dead giveaway that there's powder inside.

twofifty
September 22, 2011, 04:38 AM
The National Park Service has expertise in this area. Suggest you contact their nearest Civil War restoration specialist for advice.

scrat
September 22, 2011, 02:31 PM
Looking at the ball you have I would have it checked just to be on the safe side. After that i wouldnt clean it all. Get a nice piece of wood make a mounting surface and put it on the wood. Dont clean it or anything. Maybe have a brass plate engraved the size weight year of use and what it would have been shot out of

brickeyee
September 22, 2011, 02:44 PM
Any wooden parts or gun stocks would be cleaned with a 50/50 mixture of raw linseed oil and turpentine

No wonder all the wood ends up black.

Neither raw nor boiled linseed oil is a good preserving type finish.

The raw takes almost forever to harden, the boiled hardens faster, and both turn black as they cure.

ofitg
September 22, 2011, 03:17 PM
If this thing was charged, would there be some kind of plug in it (brass, bronze, wood..)?


Yes, if this cannonball was the exploding type, the fuse should be clearly visible on the outside.

Couple of examples here -

Millwright
September 22, 2011, 10:08 PM
What level of "restoration" are you contemplating ? Keep in mind anything you do to remove the "patina of age" is bad archeology and often expensive, to boot ! Its also remotely possible you have a "shell" not a "ball round" . One quick way to determine this would be to weigh it and compare that value to a baseline weight of an equal mass of solid iron. A hollow round would weigh considerably less than solid shot. Solid shot was often employed in defilade as it would inflict massive casualities skipping its way through files of troops. >MW

col.lemat
September 22, 2011, 11:01 PM
give it to someone you dont like very much

Billll
September 22, 2011, 11:09 PM
Measure the ball as accurately as you can. The formula is 1.333 * Pi * R^3 * .3, or 1.255 * the radius cubed. This will give you the proper weight of a solid iron ball.

the density of iron being .3 lb/in^3.

If your ball weighs within 5% of what you calculate, it's solid. If the ball weighs very much less than what you calculate, find an EOD person who can disarm it.

CZguy
September 23, 2011, 12:29 AM
Take it to an industrial X ray place and ask real nice for them to Xray it.

You beat me to it. That's the best bet, and be prepared to donate to their coffee fund.

Owen Sparks
September 23, 2011, 12:42 AM
I would not involve the government. Nothing good can come from it.

MtnCreek
September 23, 2011, 08:18 AM
Good advice everyone. I have a friend that is a soils engineer; I think I’ll take it to him to get an accurate weight and a second opinion on its mass.

Thanks,
MtnCreek

Vern Humphrey
September 23, 2011, 10:09 AM
Solid shot was often employed in defilade as it would inflict massive casualities skipping its way through files of troops. >MW
Defilade means "covered from direct fire." You mean enfilade -- fire parallel to the long axis of the target.

06
September 23, 2011, 11:18 AM
Also have a 4-5" cannon ball that I found while removing a chimney from a house to be moved. Have stumped my toe on the thing a couple of times. Appreciate the tips on cleaning and mounting it sounds like a good idea. Have a bronze plate (12"X18") that would make a great background for it.

Owen Sparks
September 23, 2011, 08:56 PM
I just weighed and measured a similar object. I have a 4 KG junior size shot put. It is not a cannon ball but is practically identical as iron balls are all pretty much alike.

It is 4" wide and weighs just under 9 pounds. If yours is much lighter than that it could be hollow and filled with black powder.

ofitg
September 23, 2011, 09:20 PM
Gee, if there are no openings in the outer surface, I wonder how the black powder got inside......????

Owen Sparks
September 23, 2011, 09:44 PM
It should be rather obvious.

brickeyee
September 23, 2011, 09:51 PM
The last one that made the news around here for blowing up was being emptied of the powder.

ofitg
September 23, 2011, 09:55 PM
It should be rather obvious.

Well obviously, the foundry cast molten iron (2000 degrees F) around several ounces of blackpowder (which ignites at 600 degrees F).

Did I get it right?

bigedp51
September 24, 2011, 01:33 AM
Quote:
Any wooden parts or gun stocks would be cleaned with a 50/50 mixture of raw linseed oil and turpentine

brickeyee

No wonder all the wood ends up black.

Neither raw nor boiled linseed oil is a good preserving type finish.

The raw takes almost forever to harden, the boiled hardens faster, and both turn black as they cure.

The 03 Springfield, the M1 Garand, and the British Enfield rifles all had raw linseed oil applied to them, in fact they were hot dipped in a tank of raw linseed oil before they left the factory.

The mixture of 1/3 raw linseed oil, 1/3 bees wax and 1/3 turpentine was used as a pre-petroleum age cosmoline during the American Civil War. On top of this the Ladies of the house during this same period used this same triple mixture as furniture polish.

Does the Enfield stock below look "black" to any of you? The stock below is on an Enfield rifle overhauled in 1953.

http://i122.photobucket.com/albums/o254/bigedp51/IMGP7183.jpg

http://i122.photobucket.com/albums/o254/bigedp51/IMGP7182.jpg

http://i122.photobucket.com/albums/o254/bigedp51/IMGP6633.jpg

Below on the left a 1950 Enfield rifle with real actual boiled linseed oil on it and raw linseed oil on the butt stock on the right. None of which are "black" and Lin-speed stock oil is boiled linseed oil. ;)

http://i122.photobucket.com/albums/o254/bigedp51/IMGP2270.jpg

The Porter beer is almost black my Enfield stock is light brown. :rolleyes:

http://i122.photobucket.com/albums/o254/bigedp51/IMGP2800-1.jpg

ofitg
September 24, 2011, 11:13 AM
MtnCreek, here are a few websites which provide ACCURATE information about the old round cannonballs - how they were constructed, what types of fuses they used, etc.

(Here's a tip - spherical cannonballs did not utilize "impact" fuses)

http://www.cwartillery.com/FA/FA.html
http://www.campsiteartifacts.com/artillery.html
http://www.thompsons-battery-c.org/EqipmentGunsAmmo2.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Field_artillery_in_the_American_Civil_War
http://bulletandshell.com/Items/artillery/item.php?id=00101
http://greystarcannontech.homestead.com/star.html

brickeyee
September 24, 2011, 11:21 AM
Does the Enfield stock below look "black" to any of you? The stock below is on an Enfield rifle overhauled in 1953.

Linseed oil was nut used in its raw satate4, and even BLO (boiled linseed oil) had metallic driers added.

Repeated application of linseed oil result in a black object as the linseed oil slowly polymerizes.

jcwit
September 24, 2011, 02:14 PM
None of which are "black" and Lin-speed stock oil is boiled linseed oil.

Partly true, "Lin-Speed" is a wood finish consisting of linseed oil and dryers.

I've got a gal. can of both raw linseed oil and boiled linseed oil 30 plus years oil with excess oil around the spout on top. Both are as black as midnight on a stormey night. Further more, today there are wood finishes applied by hand a drop or two at a time that give a much better, and waterproof finish than any straight linseed oil, raw, boiled or otherwise.

Now back to the cannon balls.

Acera
September 24, 2011, 05:05 PM
One idea would be to remove the rust, then preserve it with either paint of a light coat of CLP.

Below are some links to ways you can to that easily with electrolysis.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Electrolytic-Rust-Removal-aka-Magic/
http://antique-engines.com/electrol.asp

You can use this method for even bigger projects if one comes along.
http://antique-engines.com/trailer-electrolysis.htm

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