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Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

Article about: I agree, well done. Sprucing a badge up is one thing; saving it from destruction is another. This badge would have fallen apart in a few years.

  1. #1

    Default Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    Hello All,
    Never clean a badge I am told as it will wipe away the years of patina.
    Well I thought in this case rather than resign the badge to a dark inglorious end in one of my junk boxes I would (Clean one)
    If you are a purist and prefer to see badges kept the way they are found then please stop reading now.
    If you would like to see my 1st attempt at restoring a rotten zinc badge then read on.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    The badge is a 1stWW U Boat qualification badge produced during the Third Reich period. (My research leads me to believe that it was made either by Steinhauer & Luck or Schwerin)
    It is made from zinc and had been given a gilt wash that had absorbed leaving a coppery tone to the un pestered area.
    Zinc pest had made a massive attack on the badge and it was wearing quite a cosy fur jacket of zinc oxide.
    Obviously there was no way I was ever going to achieve a pristine finish but I thought I would give it a go.

    Attachment 533050

  4. #3

    Default Re: Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    I soaked the badge as recommended by the ‘experts’ in a bath of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) and left it cooking for 5 days.
    I removed it from the Vaseline bath only to be very disappointed with the outcome.
    The Vaseline had done virtually nothing except getting rid of the feathery jacket.
    The zinc pest was still there and hardened in places to make hard little pale coloured nodules.
    The badge although saved (I assume from further deterioration) which I felt could have been better achieved by WD40 or some other similar moisture displacing liquid.
    I tried a mil spec oil which helped clean off the residual Vaseline and dried the badge off.
    Attachment 533058

  5. #4

    Default Re: Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    So my next avenue was to gently with some home made cotton buds and some phosphoric acid was to gently dab at the remaining zinc oxide which fizzled away for a few seconds, quickly followed by a cold water wash (to neutralise the acid) a dry off and a check with a loupe to see how I was doing. I used a match stick and thorn to tease away the hard set zinc pest.
    The results were quite pleasing but the zinc pest had done the damage.
    The tail end of the sub was pitted but I achieved in getting most of the rot off the wreath with not too much loss of detail.
    What was left was a reasonable looking badge and I could have left it at that. I still thought it did not look like a good display piece so I tentatively tried using a paraffin based gilding powder and applied it over the surface and buffed away to achieve the following result. Picture below.
    (I used the paraffin based powder which is available in a multitude of colours under the trade name treasure gold (I think) so that at any time in the future it can be removed using acetone to return the badge to it’s stage two state.)
    Attachment 533061

    - - Updated - -

    Good or evil I am pleased with the result and hope that I have salvaged a bit of history

  6. #5

    Default Re: Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    As you say Doug, the normal advice is to leave things as they are and to preserve them, not to try and restore them. The zinc pest needed addressing and that was achieved with the vaseline and you did a good job in removing it. You have to differentiate between simply cleaning patina away or, in this case removing the fungus that threatens to consume it.

    You obviously know what you're doing and had the correct chemicals to do it. Repainting is not something I like to see personally, especially when it doesn't need doing but in this instance it looks good. It is easy to see the repaint because the gilding has gone to the bottom of the pitted areas, something that wouldn't happen on a badge that was in original condition.

    You did a good job and it does look a whole lot better now than in the first pic. Good job!

    I would say that unless you know what you're doing and have the correct tools to hand, please don't attempt a restoration.
    Best Regards,

    Looking for LDO marked EK2s and items relating to U-406.....

  7. #6

    Default Re: Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    Thanks Adrian, I do feel the badge is better for it but the gilding would come off with a swipe of acetone so I don't think there is any harm done.
    This was a very cheap badge and I would NEVER and stress never try it on anything of any value. (I know even cheap badges have a historical value)

    All the best

  8. #7

    Default Re: Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    Sometimes it has to be done, despite other collectors fears, and is this case it has restored a valuable badge and saved it from certain further damage, like Adrian states, you have to know what you are doing ! not only how various chemicals work and can do, but the safety side to. Saladin you have brought this badge back to life ! a grand job well done !
    Prost ! Steve.
    "The German Army is the perfectly adapted, perfectly running Machine. The difference is that the Germans are organised with a view to War...with the cold, hard, practical and business-like purpose of winning victories."
    G.W. Steevens - The Daily Mail (1897)

  9. #8

    Default Re: Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    I think you did really well actually mate. I am of the same school as Adrian; don't mess with stuff as a rule, but this one was a good candidate and you did it properly, well done.

  10. #9

    Default Re: Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    Thank you both for your comments.
    Having done this badge and knowing that it is near reversible to state number 2 it may be a candidate for further work to try and rectify the pitting on the sub.
    All the best

  11. #10

    Default Re: Attempting the Forbidden…Restoring an old U Boat badge

    Well done Doug!
    I also do not believe in restoring unless there is no other option. I also believe that if something has been "messed with" before, either by human hands or by the ravages of time, there is no harm in making it a little more pleasing to the eye as long as it can be undone.
    Searching for anything relating to, Anton Boos, 934 Stamm. Kp. Pz. Erz. Abt. 7, 3 Kompanie, Panzer-Regiment 2, 16th Panzer-Division (My father)

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