Conservation of knife handles from the Elizabethan warship Makeshift

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Abstract

Knife handles from an Elizabethan Warship, probably the Makeshift (1592), have been conserved by a new technique, supercritical drying. Many of the knife handles are complex composites containing wood, cloth, leather, iron and copper alloys, and the technique has allowed these to be conserved as single units, where alternative techniques would have damaged or destroyed one or more of the component parts. A further advantage for using supercritical drying is that it is a minimum of four times faster than freeze-drying. A total of eleven knife handles have been conserved by the technique, with minimal loss of surface detail. The results compare favourably with those of waterlogged wood samples conserved by freeze-drying.

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