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Restore Old Cannon Ball

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by MtnCreek, Sep 21, 2011.

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  1. MtnCreek

    MtnCreek Member

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    Anyone here have suggestions on restoring a old cannon ball? It’s in pretty bad condition, presumably because it’s be laying around in the weather for the last 147 years. It’s a small ball, probably 4 or 5”, so I guess it’s safe to assume it’s 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
     
  2. 68wj

    68wj Member

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    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.
     
  3. LJ-MosinFreak-Buck

    LJ-MosinFreak-Buck Member

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    I would follow what 68wj said and leave the patina as is.
     
  4. JohnBT

    JohnBT Member

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    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
     
  5. Horsemany

    Horsemany Member

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    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.
     
  6. MtnCreek

    MtnCreek Member

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    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!
     
  7. hawkeye10

    hawkeye10 Member

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    :) 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
     
  8. HOOfan_1

    HOOfan_1 Member

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    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.
     
  9. MtnCreek

    MtnCreek Member

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    Good info. In your opinion, would a 4 or 5" round ball be solid?
    Thanks.
     
  10. HOOfan_1

    HOOfan_1 Member

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    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.
     
  11. JohnD13

    JohnD13 Member

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    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."
     
  12. Panzercat

    Panzercat Member

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    Next week on Top Shot...
     
  13. offthepaper

    offthepaper Member

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    I would have someone check it before doing anythingto it.
    Older explosives can become very unstable.
    very cool item though.
     
  14. GreyCoupe

    GreyCoupe Member

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    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.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2011
  15. JohnM

    JohnM Member

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    Yeah, a cool find, but I think you ought to try and find out if it's a fused one.
     
  16. BCRider

    BCRider Member

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    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.
     
  17. USAF_Vet

    USAF_Vet Member

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    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.
     
  18. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

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    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
     
  19. Cornhusker77

    Cornhusker77 Member

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    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:
     
  20. Andrew Wyatt

    Andrew Wyatt Member

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    Take it to an industrial X ray place and ask real nice for them to Xray it.
     
  21. sixgunner455

    sixgunner455 Member

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    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?
     
  22. HOOfan_1

    HOOfan_1 Member

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

    alde Member

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    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.
     
  24. JohnM

    JohnM Member

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    Man, you would have thought when doing a restoration someone would have known those cannon balls had more value than just scrap iron price!
     
  25. bigedp51

    bigedp51 member

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    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
     
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