Restore Old Cannon Ball

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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.

HOOfan 1,
‘Civil War’? 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, I’m 99% sure it is a cannon ball.

I’m really glad I posted this question here and I’m 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 ‘to do list’).

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

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.
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.
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.
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.
"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. :)
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.
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.
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.,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.
Don't become the last casualty of the War Between the States. Weigh the thing and make sure it is solid.
#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
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.

The National Park Service has expertise in this area. Suggest you contact their nearest Civil War restoration specialist for advice.
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
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.
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 -


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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
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.
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.
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