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Oak Wood In Display Cases - Damages Invert Fossils?


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Wendell Ricketts

Hello fellow Forumians: A few days ago I spouted wise to a colleague (the topic being the building of a fossil display case) that I was sure the use of oak wood was discouraged because it caused some unspecified damage to fossils.

Quite justifiably, he responded, "What damage?"

So I went on a searching rampage, convinced I had read this on the FF more than once. Only trouble is: now I can't find any trace of such a warning and am starting to think I made it all up in my head.

Has anyone heard this before? That oak wood is contraindicated as a material for display/storage cases for invert fossils (specifically excluding bone, in case that makes any difference)? Is there any actual reason to avoid oak?

Thanks for your help!

Wendell

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Xiphactinus

I can't think of any reason that oak would hurt any kind of fossil, vert or invert...

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It's real. Look at this: http://www.iaq.dk/ia...98/1998_05.html

I had always heard this was an issue with pyrite and other minerals. Silica and calcium carbonates (oops should have read a little further) maybe not so much. In the museum world there are many more materials for which this is a big issue.

There are plenty of other nice hardwoods to choose from. I like Poplar or hard Maple for trim.

Also looks like sealing the wood is a possibility but would need to be complete for all surfaces which would add a great deal of time and cost to the project.

Edited by erose
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Thanks for posting that erose. I am planning on building some cases for display and would never have thought about the affects of certain types of wood.

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Oak and Spruce were the two mentioned in the article as well as any sheet materials with formaldehyde. Lots of other choices and formaldehyde has been eliminated from a lot of products. Birch ply and poplar are my materials of choice with Maple trim.

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Yes, oak gives off some bad acidic gases, is the way I understand it. Bad for some fossils and minerals. I use Alder for my homemade display cabinets, which honestly, I don't know if it has any bad effects, but it was within my budget. (Oak was too, but I know too much about it).

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The discussion you are referring to was part of a thread on building display cases. It was in member news as I recall.

Brent Ashcraft

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The discussion is under "Riker cabinet plans" still on the first page, and it is a farily old thread.

Brent Ashcraft

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You might like to also be aware that a museum in Verona, Italy reported last year that some flint artefacts in its collection had begun to take on a bright blue tinge. The colour derived from three pigments in the triphenylmethane dye family. They ultimately tracked the source to an antioxidant additive in the synthetic rubber mats lining the storage cabinets and a general warning went out through the archaeological community. The chemical was somehow absorbed into the surface of the artefacts and turned to these blue pigments, possibly catalysed by traces of iron and/or bacterial action.

I expect the problem is not confined to artefacts and could well extend beyond flint.

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Xiphactinus

Wow. Learned something today. Thanks, guys!

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whoa, are my fossils in danger then. I was recently given a set of map drawers made from hardwood plywood. Theyre really great for storing my fossils but I dont want my collection to get ruined

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trilobiteruss

wow, had no idea but I know my museum friend uses all metal shelves, and metal/glass display cases! I had forgotten that is an issue. I wonder if the doors are not sealed, and opened alot to move, rearrange like in our personal collections whether our wood and glass cases (often laminate) are a problem?

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whoa, are my fossils in danger then. I was recently given a set of map drawers made from hardwood plywood. Theyre really great for storing my fossils but I dont want my collection to get ruined

Birch plywood should be fine; if it's old and might contain formaldehyde, air everything out occasionally.

...I wonder if the doors are not sealed, and opened alot to move, rearrange like in our personal collections whether our wood and glass cases (often laminate) are a problem?

The occasional airing should keep any accumulation of noxious gases to a low level.

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I would add/build in vents at the base and top of the cabinets. I would also go the extra mile and seal every surface. That means inside walls and surfaces. Sounds like the trapped air goes bad so keeping air flowing would be helpful.

I had some GA and NJ Cretaceous material sort of explode recently. Not sure if it just finally dried out too much in this Texas heat or if something else caused it. Some of it will be repairable and other stuff is now just dust.

The one thing I have never experienced is pyrite disease. The handful of pyritized specimens I have, both fossil and crystal, have never shown an iota of decomposition. Go figure.

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smokeriderdon

What I got from that was that while organic acids may well leach from some woods, its not a huge problem and is mainly a problem at higher temps. Of course use other types of wood or metal, but I dont think its an issue requiring anyone to trash all their storage devices that are oak.

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Well I have been thinking about storage cabinets more so storage in general, but mostly some cabinets. The map type cabinets are expensive, but then again so are the tool cabinets.

So I have been toying with the idea of making/having some cabinets made. If I do this it seems wood is the easiest route to go. The look of the cabinets are not as much a concern as practicality. Having said that is there any reason it has to be a hard wood?

Or let me ask it like this. If you were to make your own or have them made how would you make them? If made of wood, what type and would you add vents possibly even small fans?

Any ideas on making your own cabinets like this? Thanks in advance.

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Well I have been thinking about storage cabinets more so storage in general, but mostly some cabinets. The map type cabinets are expensive, but then again so are the tool cabinets.

So I have been toying with the idea of making/having some cabinets made. If I do this it seems wood is the easiest route to go. The look of the cabinets are not as much a concern as practicality. Having said that is there any reason it has to be a hard wood?

Or let me ask it like this. If you were to make your own or have them made how would you make them? If made of wood, what type and would you add vents possibly even small fans?

Any ideas on making your own cabinets like this? Thanks in advance.

I built mine from Baltic plywood. It has other names but basically it is the type that has many more layers than typical plywood. It usually has a Birch veneer. It is a bit more expensive than typical cabinet grade plywood but you can round over and sand the edges instead of capping them. It is also flatter and less prone to warp than other plywoods. It comes in standard thicknesses: 1/4, 1/2 & 3/4 inch thick.

Most cabinets use 3/4" for the carcass and drawer faces, and then 1/2" for the drawer sides with a 1/4" to 1/2" bottom depending on how big the drawer is. I've used masonite and Luan for drawer bottoms as well. I cut rabbits and slots on the table saw for assembly. I use poplar or clear pine for all the blocking. Face frames are Poplar.

You can get pretty decent Birch plywood from the big box stores sometimes. It takes paint or a stain well. But watch out for the cheap stuff. There is some extremely poorly made stuff being sold, both domestic and from China, and it will de-laminate, warp like a potato chip and chip when cut.

Also stay away from outdoor-grade materials. They don't rot & repel bugs for a reason: poison.

I use better quality ball bearing glides for my drawers but there are all sorts of good alternatives including making your own hardwood glides.

Use screws and glue to assemble.

Depending on where the cabinet would sit I would either leave the back open for ventilation or drill small holes in the base and sides where they would be out of site. Mine have open backs and are not "tight" to the wall.

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Wow thank you for the well written description.

I will have to use what you wrote and possibly have my wife (she draws stuff up buildings and whatnot for a living) then use her drawings/blue prints to make some.

I just have to remember Baltic plywood.

Thanks again.

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ok, thanks Auspex, that puts my mind at ease, I really love the map drawers and just got all my fossils organized into it , the last thing I wanted to hear was it was damaging my fossils. Think Ill seal everything up for good measure. Thanks to all for the information provided in this post, I had no idea how careful I had to be about what type of wood I stored my fossils in.;

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What is a good standard size for such cabinets? I mean I guess it really depends on what size I want. But what are the normal sizes others have?

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What is a good standard size for such cabinets? I mean I guess it really depends on what size I want. But what are the normal sizes others have?

I would suggest weighing (pun intended) what your typical specimens are going to be like against the practical size for your room or space. Lots of small Paleozoic inverts could easily go in a shallow, wide map file cabinet. But big heavy slabs or Mesozoic oysters and corals might need something a bit deeper AND sturdier. The drawer glides will have different load ratings and you want to match them to what you might store. The cabinet with drawers I built recently has a combination of mostly shallow drawers and several deeper ones.

post-1875-0-71173200-1344637401_thumb.jpg

Edited by erose
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Wow, that is a fantastic job. Most of my stuff is small with a few bigger pieces that could go on top as well as on the sides of something like yours.

Thanks for the photo and input.

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I made a unit out of maple and alder and finished it with I think Defthane, and now it emits a funny smell when I open up a drawer, I'm not sure why, but I hope it isn't detrimental to the fossils! None of the other units I built have that smell and I think I used Defthane there too - maybe I finished the first one with something else.. wish I could remember. Anyway I hope that the gaps between the drawers will be enough to vent any gases and with time the source will be 'spent' and stop emitting.

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