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Re: Solvents

Hey All,

Sara Burch wrote,
>what solvent works best to remove a fossil from it's matrix? I have heard of
>different kinds of acids being used, but does any body know of any others?
>perferably on that doesn't destroy the fossil.

If you are dealing with a dinosaur bone, please don't use an acid of any
kind. There will be damage to the specimen no matter the care exercised.
Sure, you can coat the exposed portions with a protective substance and
resubmerse the bone in the solution, remove, dry, and repeat for as long as
it takes. Think about this, the time lag between etching and protection
leaves the specimen in contact with a corrosive also eating away at the
bone. The risk of irreversible damage is too great to use this method.
While this MAY work well enough for some small soft bodied non-dinosaurian
specimens I would never recommend a dinosaur bone be prepared in this
manner. ( I know there are references to using this method, but there are
better solutions, pun intended).

Either buy the equipment needed to remove the matrix, such as an air scribe
or a micro abrasive blaster, or leave the specimen as is. Better yet,
donate the specimen to an institution capable of professional preparation.
As a last resort, if you MUST see the specimen freed of matrix, seek a
commercial service that specializes in such work. More specimens are ruined
in the hands of the inexperienced than are made presentable, and this is
the sad part.

There are no more dinosaur fossils being made and these objects are not
replaceable. One simple error in prep work renders such an object useless
to science and the collector. The specimen has survived millions of years
without human intervention, please don't ruin it in the haste to see it
"look" right.

I speak from both sides of the issue. I was once a private collector and am
now employed as a professional. The urge to free a fossil from the matrix
that preserved it has to be tempered with the knowledge that your treasure
will become trash if treated improperly.
Roger A. Stephenson
Assistant Director
The Grand River Museum
Lemmon, South Dakota
"Put the bunny, back in the box!"