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Oiling Your Helmets & Other Helmet Preservation Misconceptions


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Recently had this discussion with someone again and thought it would be a good time to bring this one back to the top.

"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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You can't make a motor home out of a schoolbus. As I suggested in the year of our Lord 2011, store them properly and leave 'em alone.

 

In many cases that "damage" was honestly earned. Discriminating collectors recognize a repaired helmet from an original.

 

Not hard and fast; say a great helmet had subsequent fire or flood damage 30 years after WW2. A certain amount of chipping mud and hosing off fire retardant makes perfect sense, right ? But stay on the conservative side.

 

Original period condition always has more value than the ones we repair with snake oil. I screwed up my share in the early

days, and learned the lesson the hard way. Please avoid my mistakes.

 

JMHO.

 

Best regards,

 

Paul Walker

Klamath Falls, Oregon

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You can't make a motor home out of a schoolbus. As I suggested in the year of our Lord 2011, store them properly and leave 'em alone.

 

In many cases that "damage" was honestly earned. Discriminating collectors recognize a repaired helmet from an original.

 

Not hard and fast; say a great helmet had subsequent fire or flood damage 30 years after WW2. A certain amount of chipping mud and hosing off fire retardant makes perfect sense, right ? But stay on the conservative side.

 

Original period condition always has more value than the ones we repair with snake oil. I screwed up my share in the early

days, and learned the lesson the hard way. Please avoid my mistakes.

 

JMHO.

 

Best regards,

 

Paul Walker

Klamath Falls, Oregon

 

Amen brother

 

less is more.

In Memoriam:
Lieutenant J.Kostelec 1-3 First Special Service Force MIA/PD 4 March 1944 Italy
I HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY AND IT IS DAYLIGHT
Forget about the tips..We'll get hell to pay (AC/DC)
"If you cant get out and run with the big dogs then sit on the porch and bark at the cars going by.."

Have you Hugged a Clown Today?

You Cant Get A Sun Tan On The Moon..





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Less is more is right, I agree 100%. Though I just entered the Helmet arena, I've collected several German combat badges over the years and only once did I ever clean one. I found what I suspected was a highly desirable Panzer Assault Badge on a vendor's website that specializes in guns. Due to some weird stuff coating the badge, he sold it cheaply as a common late war zinc badge. It was the badge I was hoping for so I used some gentle cleaning to remove the unknown grime to reveal the nickel-silver finish. None of the natural patina was removed, just whatever coated the badge. Other than an extreme circumstance like that, no need to touch 'em.

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Less is more is right, I agree 100%. Though I just entered the Helmet arena, I've collected several German combat badges over the years and only once did I ever clean one. I found what I suspected was a highly desirable Panzer Assault Badge on a vendor's website that specializes in guns. Due to some weird stuff coating the badge, he sold it cheaply as a common late war zinc badge. It was the badge I was hoping for so I used some gentle cleaning to remove the unknown grime to reveal the nickel-silver finish. None of the natural patina was removed, just whatever coated the badge. Other than an extreme circumstance like that, no need to touch 'em.

Howdy jmd62,

 

German stuff was always tougher years ago since in general, it had more cash value much sooner most U.S.

memorabilia. German "fakes" started showing up as soon as enterprising GI's became occupation troops,

but it started with the high end stuff and worked it's way down. So that was a good way to develop

instincts to apply to U.S. items a few decades later when the cash incentive to fake and enhance became greater.

 

Sounds like you've developed a good instinct. I would only caution that knowing the source of something, is real important. If you get something directly from a vet or estate thereof that doesn't look right, give it the benefit of the doubt so as to make an opinion based on it POSSIBLY being original.

 

Off a website or 5th party with a story, not so much of a chance. There's other fish in the sea.

 

Best regards,

Paul

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Howdy jmd62,

 

German stuff was always tougher years ago since in general, it had more cash value much sooner most U.S.

memorabilia. German "fakes" started showing up as soon as enterprising GI's became occupation troops,

but it started with the high end stuff and worked it's way down. So that was a good way to develop

instincts to apply to U.S. items a few decades later when the cash incentive to fake and enhance became greater.

 

Sounds like you've developed a good instinct. I would only caution that knowing the source of something, is real important. If you get something directly from a vet or estate thereof that doesn't look right, give it the benefit of the doubt so as to make an opinion based on it POSSIBLY being original.

 

Off a website or 5th party with a story, not so much of a chance. There's other fish in the sea.

 

Best regards,

Paul

 

Hello Paul,

 

Great advice! When I first started collecting I wasn't as cautious but man did that change as I discovered the world of fakes. I pretty much focused on Panzer Assault Badges and it's amazing how good the fakes have become on many of them, so I know what you're saying. The earlier fakes are sloppy, but some of the newer ones are pretty dang close, but not perfect.. yet. I agree, the source is extremely important and outside of a couple of lucky finds, I've stuck to solid sources. I hope to do the same with helmets : )

 

Thanks!

James

 

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I have a couple german helmets that were vet bring backs but bought by another collector back in the early 70s.he decided to sell his collection and I bought some items when I was a young collector.Each helmet he had the liner was dark and some what stiff.I later figured out it was in vogue back then to grease up your liners with vaseline....bad mistake.seems it was a common practice in the german helmet collector circles in the 1960s and early 1970s.

In Memoriam:
Lieutenant J.Kostelec 1-3 First Special Service Force MIA/PD 4 March 1944 Italy
I HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY AND IT IS DAYLIGHT
Forget about the tips..We'll get hell to pay (AC/DC)
"If you cant get out and run with the big dogs then sit on the porch and bark at the cars going by.."

Have you Hugged a Clown Today?

You Cant Get A Sun Tan On The Moon..





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I have a couple german helmets that were vet bring backs but bought by another collector back in the early 70s.he decided to sell his collection and I bought some items when I was a young collector.Each helmet he had the liner was dark and some what stiff.I later figured out it was in vogue back then to grease up your liners with vaseline....bad mistake.seems it was a common practice in the german helmet collector circles in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Yeah petroleum jelly... the name just screams at you to not use it.

"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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One suggestion to combat rust is a solution of distilled water and oxalic acid. It sounds extreme but it works. However i only recommend it on the shell only, it can bleach out fabric so dont use it if your chinstraps are attached.

 

The acid will completely eat all the rust. Ive used it numerous times on old chrome bmx frames and it works amazing. Formulas vary its usually 5/1 water to acid.

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One suggestion to combat rust is a solution of distilled water and oxalic acid. It sounds extreme but it works. However i only recommend it on the shell only, it can bleach out fabric so dont use it if your chinstraps are attached.

 

The acid will completely eat all the rust. Ive used it numerous times on old chrome bmx frames and it works amazing. Formulas vary its usually 5/1 water to acid.

Nice idea but, what keeps the rust from returning once it is eaten away? Oxidation is a natural process and this process will begin immediately after the patina is removed. Also, most collectors like natural patina so, when we mess with a helmet like this, we need to realize that we could lose value by doing so. A great many coin collectors have learned this the hard way after "cleaning" their coins.

 

"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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I can't imagine needing or wanting to remove 70 years of patina/oxidation from a period helmet if it is stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment. It will hardly rust out sitting on the shelf in one's collection room.

 

One note of interest on helmet preservation - in the Canadian War Museum, all of the helmets in the storage vault are stored upside down, in specially prepared ethofoam bases (so that they don't roll around on the shelving). This saves the liner suspensions from being pulled inside out by gravity - especially important for helmets with leather suspensions, or fragile synthetic materials (a real problem on Mk II Cdn helmets for example). Helmets also would never be stored upright on foam heads or other such mounts, as it places undue stress on the suspensions over the long term.

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It wont damage the paint. It only eats the rust. If you have one of the nice rusted patinas then i wouldn't use it. But if you have a good painted or camo helmet that has rusted area's or loose rust then it may work well for you.

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It wont damage the paint. It only eats the rust. If you have one of the nice rusted patinas then i wouldn't use it. But if you have a good painted or camo helmet that has rusted area's or loose rust then it may work well for you.

 

Doing that to your helmet will damage the paint. For a WWI or WWII helmet all that the paint is in general is pigment mixed with an oil in most cases linseed oil. Oil paints don't dry but rather oxidize, the fact that you said it eats rust is exactly WHY it damages the paint. It destroys the natural oxidation of the paint and it if its a true 100-70 year old paint job will have started to break down, you will destroy the paint.

 

If you are doing this to a BMX frame the type of paint used on a modern production line product would not be an oil based paint and saying that process works for something from say the 70s is like comparing apples to oranges.

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I used Alvin York's M1917 doughboy lid as a hanging pot to plant gazanias in this spring. I'm thinking of drilling holes in the bottom because my poor flowers are retaining too much water. Advice?

 

Sent from my LG-LS995 using Tapatalk

 

 

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I have had some experience in art restoration. The use of cotton gloves, as Bugme suggested, is a very good idea. The oil on your hands can do amazing damage over time because of the acidity. Keeping artifacts out of the light is another a good idea, but not such an issue with helmets as they were likely painted with iron oxide pigments, which are light fast.

 

As for varnishing, this is not a good idea. Matching the coefficient of thermal expansion for varnish to metal can be tricky. And as is the case with a painting, the varnish needs to be easily removable without disturbing the underlying paint. That means no lacquer. Beva makes an archival varnish that is easily removable with a stoddard solvent, which is relatively weak, but I still wouldn't use it on a helmet.

 

Best advice was given earlier in this post - to leave it alone and keep it in a dry dark place.

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My main collecting focus at this time is German Steel Helmets. As previously stated, I have been using cotton gloves when handling any of my helmets. I don't understand why more folks don't do this. I don't even transport a helmet that intends to be handled at some point with out gloves being available. I've seen some helmets that look like they were "dipped in butter" that have so much finger oil on them.

 

Bruce

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  • 2 years later...

Well, I am in need of a little guidance from y'all...I need to do some conservation on a relic M1 shell that is starting to show small hints of surface rust.....

 

I would think that a process exists for preventing and curtailing oxidation, especially in the case of battlefield relics. Many high-level museums should have a process in place to conserve and maintain a level of condition that's manageable.

 

I have a relic shell that most likely was dug up from a battlefield where it was cast off.....once retrieved, the shell would be cleaned/preserved as best as could be managed.....meaning, it looked like hell when it came out of the ground/foxhole and then made presentable.

 

So I am moving toward action that will neutralize and/or remove what rust is there and preserve what is there once cleaned.....thoughts and opinions are welcome, even if they've been presented before....thanks :)

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You say relic but, then state small hints of rust. Relic is a broad term with different meaning among those using the term. Generally, when stating something is a relic helmet we would assume that it is past the half way point of remaining paint vesus the amount of corrosion. Are there holes rusted through? Is it heavily pitted? Only specks of paint remaining? Then this would be a true relic and there are things that "MAY" be done but, these are only a temporary bandaid.

 

Now, if you are saying relic but, there is only some light rust beginning, then I refer you back to the beginning of this thread since your helmet managed only this little bit of rust in 70+ years, then the odds are that in your house, it will not get worse over the next 70 years. So, the recommendation is: leave it alone.

"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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You say relic but, then state small hints of rust. Relic is a broad term with different meaning among those using the term. Generally, when stating something is a relic helmet we would assume that it is past the half way point of remaining paint vesus the amount of corrosion. Are there holes rusted through? Is it heavily pitted? Only specks of paint remaining? Then this would be a true relic and there are things that "MAY" be done but, these are only a temporary bandaid.

 

Now, if you are saying relic but, there is only some light rust beginning, then I refer you back to the beginning of this thread since your helmet managed only this little bit of rust in 70+ years, then the odds are that in your house, it will not get worse over the next 70 years. So, the recommendation is: leave it alone.

Points taken. My version of relic in this thread is a bit broad in scope to what you have described, so:

 

To be more concise, it is a FB Shell, loops intact, no chin straps, SS FS rim, 1-2% original finish remaining, remnants of unit-applied markings remain and are sharp enough to easily recognize....outside of shell exhibits the re-appearance in places of surface rust (from prior preservation attempts before it was in my collection....). The inside of the shell shows varying degrees of pitting and surface rust, not bad but enough to get me thinking about the overall situation.

 

My house has central A/C, currently at 47% humidity..... usually 35-40% in the winter months.

 

What I am seeing on the shell after owning it for about 18 months leads me to believe that its in the early stages of getting worse, very small changes but changes nonetheless. Thanks for replying Scott.

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You mention "prior preservation attempts". What kind of preservation was done previously?

"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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You mention "prior preservation attempts". What kind of preservation was done previously?

Dunno.....To accurately say what exactly was done would only be speculation on my part, since I wasnt the one that did it...... its my opinion that this piece was reclaimed from the ground and conserved, as a comparison, possibly in the same fashion as Yannick Creach has done in the past with all of the helmets he has dug outside of Saint Lo in France.....but the condition my helmet it is in now is essentially how I purchased it, the only exception being is that (to my eye) the overall corrosion is slightly worse than what it was in Jan.-Feb. 2018.

 

IMHO it is a great example of a been there helmet shell, Im quite pleased with it......I just wish to take care of it as best I can. If you wish to see it, Ill be happy to email you a pic or two. :)

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How about a few pics?.....mike

 

+1...

In Memoriam:
Lieutenant J.Kostelec 1-3 First Special Service Force MIA/PD 4 March 1944 Italy
I HAVE SEEN THE ENEMY AND IT IS DAYLIGHT
Forget about the tips..We'll get hell to pay (AC/DC)
"If you cant get out and run with the big dogs then sit on the porch and bark at the cars going by.."

Have you Hugged a Clown Today?

You Cant Get A Sun Tan On The Moon..





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Okay....pics by request. It is 29th Division, as by now you dont have to guess that its what Ive posted about more or less for the past 10 years or so..

 

The pics of the shell with the white background were taken by the seller, the other pics of the shell next to an IDd 116th Infantry helmet were taken by me last year when making comparisons between the two concerning size and placement of the emblems. As you can see the interior of the shell has a good bit of pitting and surface rust, while the exterior has little or no finish left. Like I said earlier I believe that my helmet shell was dug and then conserved/preserved as best as it could be. I just want to keep it at a level of conservation that I can be satisfied with.

 

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