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Old 11-08-2010, 05:34 PM   #1
Kirby
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Wink The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Over the last week Iíve had multiple people ask me how I clean my abalone shells. I know that everyone has their own way to clean their shells, but my way is bestÖ This is what I do.

First, if you can wait and donít absolutely need that shell hanging on your wall immediately, leave the shell outside in indirect light until it stops smelling. This might take a month or so.

Dried shells:



Dried shell Iím going to focus on:



Things youíll need:



After the shell has stopped stinking, pull it out and get it wet.



Take the wire brush and scrub with the grain (grooves), knocking off all of the sandy tube worms, algae and sponge.



Hose off.



If you want to get the hard shelled animals such as barnacles and tube worms, youíll need something like a small screw driver. Use the screw driver like a chisel and scrape off the epizoans. Use water as a lubricant. In the case of this shell, it is a gift for a friendís son and I donít care to make it perfectÖthe barnacles will stay.
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Old 11-08-2010, 05:36 PM   #2
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Next I apply muriatic acid (aka Hydrochloric acid). I apply it straight out of the bottle at full strength (31.45% is how it usually comes). This will etch your concrete and kill your grass. Do it somewhere with proper ventilation and you might want to wear gloves and goggles.

HCl eats through all of the calcium based (hard stuff) shell material. I use it here to remove only a thin layer of the outer red material that has been oxidized and faded. This exposes new material that has never before exposed to the environment.

The acid will also etch the pearl inside the shell. To prevent this, some people will plug the shellís siphon holes with modeling clay or coat the entire inside with Vaseline. I donít care that much and donít do either.



I let this sit until it stops fizzing.



Then I hose it off.



Sometimes I repeat the muriatic application two more times to get the shell how I like it. Thinner smaller shells might need a lower concentration HCl cleaning. Here, I am going to stop at one wash.

This acid wash has removed the abalone shellís calcium carbonate and left proteinacious film. I do one more wet scrub with the wire brush to remove it. I marked with black arrows the brown protein stuff. If you donít knock this off with the brush, youíll end up getting flakey brown stuff dulling the shell when it dries.



Next, pick with tweezers and a probe at the remaining organisms within the shell, such as boring clams and worms.

Clam:





Worm:

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Old 11-08-2010, 05:37 PM   #3
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Often on the inside of the shell, the boring clams (genus Penitella) leave what some people call blister pearls. If the abalone could keep up with the clams digging, the blister would be nacreous, if not, the blister will be thin and black or brown. When the blister is black or brown it is often soft. I like to break through these soft blisters and cleanly remove the clam.



To do this I generally use a quarter. Just push the quarter into the blister and twist.



Pull out the clam and voila…nice and clean.



Finally, I look closer at the inside. Often on the nacreous areas, you’ll notice dull areas. These areas will be pearlescent, but will be duller than others.

Sometimes these dull patches don’t look good:



Sometimes they add a nice contrast to the shell (see black arrows):



If you want to get rid of these dull patches, take a wet abrasive dish sponge and scrub in a circular motion.



You can see here how much better the inside looks after scrubbing with the sponge. I scrubbed in the area between the black lines.



All seven shells took less than 10 minutes to clean…(and this thread took me 30 minutes to write! )



Oil or lacquer? I don’t use either. I believe that lacquer and mineral oil leave the shells artificially shiny (like many fish mounts). I think that a dried and cleaned abalone shell looks the best. I am however uncertain how oil and lacquer prolong the shell’s shelf life. It is possible that untreated shells will become more brittle over many years…but like I said, I’m not sure.

Finally, store the shell indoors, out of direct sunlight. Over time, sunlight will bleach out the inside and outside of the shell and the colors will be lost.

Time to get back to the school work!
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Old 11-08-2010, 05:44 PM   #4
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

great post and nice photographs mate.
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Old 11-08-2010, 05:45 PM   #5
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

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Old 11-08-2010, 05:53 PM   #6
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Yet another great post, Kirby. Thanks for taking the time. I think you've inspired me to go buy some muriatic acid and give this a go (I've been meaning to do it for a long time).

Oh, and I like that you left the barnacles- I think they add character.
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Old 11-08-2010, 06:02 PM   #7
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Superb tutorial, I'm going to ask the pool guy for some acid tommorrow!
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Old 11-08-2010, 06:48 PM   #8
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Nice post.

I would absolutely recommend wearing full covering clothing, glasses and pvc gloves when handling muriatic acid.

You should also neutralize the acid you spill with baking soda or similar to minimize the impact on the environment and humans and pets.
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Old 11-08-2010, 07:03 PM   #9
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Niceley wrote ! I do baiscally the same thing but I use the mineral oil and non yellowing clear lacquer gives it a wet finsh look to it which I like. here is a pic of my PB 11.25 that I did up I used the tips on Erick Anderson abalone ten diver web page link http://sites.google.com/site/abalone...nabaloneshells
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Old 11-08-2010, 07:27 PM   #10
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Thanks Kirby! Very informative! Great post!
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Old 11-08-2010, 07:57 PM   #11
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

I've done a few and they all turn out really nice with a few blasts of muriatic acid and the wire brush. Then a nice coat of spray on laquer at the end and you get this...

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Old 11-08-2010, 08:13 PM   #12
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

super post man! thanks for sharing.

It'll take me 10x more time to clean them and 5x more to write a post like this.
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Old 11-08-2010, 08:35 PM   #13
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

One tool that I find super helpful when cleaning abalone is a pressure washer. It will shoot the barnacles right off.
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:02 PM   #14
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Great post Kirby; about the lacquering: you can get a satin finish lacquer. This will give the shell a little wet look, and not be grossly glossy. The biggest bonus is the shell will be equally shiny after several years. For a really intense contrast, use satin ont he outside, and high gloss on the inside.

The shells really pop with the colors like that.
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Old 11-08-2010, 09:08 PM   #15
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Re: The Only Way to Clean an Abalone Shell

Quote:
Originally Posted by jackyd View Post
One tool that I find super helpful when cleaning abalone is a pressure washer. It will shoot the barnacles right off.
Now that's a pretty shell....with the different shades or red. Nice!
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