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My adventures in bison prep


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I was thinking I could keep a running update on my bison prep, discoveries in learning, general happenings. . . Maybe a bit like Ralph’s aka Nimravis’  “Sometimes You Have to Whack It”, only my bison prep style if it isn’t too dull and boring.

 

A recap. I found an almost complete, articulated bison with the skull in January 2019.

I have collected the majority of it. I’m working on processing stuff still and prepping it.

 

I’m totally new to vertebrate paleontology type stuff. So there is a big learning curve.

I still have bits sitting in bags or small plastic boxes that I haven’t processed and removed the dirt from. That stuff is still moist for the most part.

 

This post will be embarrassingly honest at times about how I messed up something out of sheer ignorance or how something didn’t work as planned. I’m not beating myself up over anything. Lesson learned and I move on all the wiser.

I’ll be sharing my trials and errors for 2 or 3 reasons.

1. So someone else will know what worked or didn’t.

2. Hopefully give others the courage or motivation to just try and not be afraid to make mistakes.

3. Show how blond I really am. Noooo! Not 

really.

4. So others with more experience can chip in and give me guidance and insight.

 

One thing I found out the wrong way is when you rinse the bones off with water and then let them dry, you’re not supposed to get them wet with water again. Never ever. I had no clue, but it makes sense.

These specific type of bones are still like very old bone with little to no mineralization. So they’re fragile.

When I rinsed the dirt and mud off I did a general, not a thorough cleaning where I got all the dirt out of the nooks and crannies. So I took one of the femurs that had thoroughly dried and went to rinse it again and clean the nitty gritty parts. After I was done I had it sitting next to me on the couch when I heard a very loud crack noise come from the bone! 

That was not good! I couldn’t find a crack, but clearly somewhere inside a crack had occurred. It was because the bone was dry. When wet it adsorbed the water, swelled and cracked. So no water. If I had known that I would have been more thorough on the initial cleaning.

 

 

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My first experience with Butvar 76

 

I decided I was going to do a test batch of consolidation with Butvar 76 (B76). I’ve never made a B76 solution before. I made a bit to use in the field to stabilize bones. I think I attempted to make a thick 50% solution that would act like glue to consolidate broken up fragile bones that I believed I would find on the 3rd excavation trip. Since the solution wasn’t intended to remain in place I just winged it on making the solution.

 

Last week I couldn’t find a protocol for making it or various strengths to make for different applications. I had 3 applications in mind.

1. To place on fragile bones to stabilize while trying to process it and remove dirt. 

2. To consolidate (stabilize) the bones once processed (cleaned up)

3. As an adhesive should I need to go that route to join two broken parts back together.

 

You’ll have to bare with me. I write protocols SOPs at work. So I go into a lot of details on how to do stuff.

 

So I decided to start by making  approximately a 10% solution. 10 grams B76 to 100 ml acetone kind of ratio. I had no clue what I was doing. At work I have all this equipment for making reagents. A stir plate may have been nice for this.

In the lab you add your solids to a graduated cylinder or beaker then add water or diluent to the volume needed. That did not work well with B76. 

I have a food scale at home. I didn’t have weigh boats. So I took a little paper bag from a prescription bag and cut the bottom off to serve as a weigh boat.

The little chemist that I am, out of habit, I tared my scale with it on there. LOL

I have to laugh at myself now, because I realize now this is soooo not an exact reagent kind of thing.

I spooned in the powder to my makeshift weigh boat. It’s a very fine power. It gets everywhere. I put the B76 powder in an old glass jar. Then I poured in acetone to the desired level to guesstimate a 10% solution. I put the lid on tight and swirled. Then shook because it wasn’t going into solution.

This is what I got with a 10% solution.

Some of it dissolved, but most didn’t. You can see a solid at the bottom of the jar, where all the bubbles are.

75EDC21B-09F5-458E-BE71-9B5C11BC3A39.thumb.jpeg.a872237d7300092fc9eb47df438914ae.jpeg

 

I had read a protocol for making paraloid b72. You make it and let it sit a while to dissolve and you come back and swirl it every now and then. So I decided I’d do that.

I kept walking by and swilled it for a couple days now and then. There wasn’t any change. So I decided it was over saturated.

 

I got a 2nd jar and poured the liquid contents into it. Labeled with reagent solution, date made and by whom. . . Just kidding. That’s s regulatory thing that doesn’t apply at home.:P

Then I filled the jar with the blob back up with acetone and repeated the cycle. It’s still a blob at the bottom of the jar, but less of one. So I’m thinking next time I will pour the acetone in first, then sprinkle in the B76 while swirling.

Last night I did a test batch of consolidation. More on that tomorrow.

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It will be nice to follow this thread, Kim.

Party for my own benefit, as i also have little to know experience with vertebrates and I have a possible hadrosaur pubis to prep at some time.

Looking forward to today's installment.:)

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With Butvar/Paraloid/Vinac, always add the plastic to the solvent. This allows a greater surface area contact. Adding solvent to the plastic creates a layer of gooey plastic that acts as a seal, keeping the solvent from reaching the rest of the plastic.

 

It will eventually dissolve but it will take weeks. :doh!:

 

I like to mix a bulk solution of 1 pint per gallon of solvent. This yields approximately a 12% solution (1:8 ratio). It takes a few days for it to totally dissolve. I use a large old laundry detergent jug for the mix. It is not affected by the solvent, provides plenty of space for shaking every day, and comes with a handy dispensing and measuring set up. I like the push button type. 

 

I then cut this with more solvent to reach my preferred 1:50 ratio for a consolidation solution in small batches.

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Harry Pristis

Don't simply "add" the resin to the acetone, sprinkle the granular resin into the acetone . . . the slower the better.  It helps if the acetone is agitated - as with a magnetic stirrer - during the process. 

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1 hour ago, Harry Pristis said:

Don't simply "add" the resin to the acetone, sprinkle the granular resin into the acetone . . . the slower the better.  It helps if the acetone is agitated - as with a magnetic stirrer - during the process. 

I just dump mine into the acetone and give it a shake every day for a few weeks. Of course, I don’t wait until I’m out of solution to make more so I don’t really care how long it takes to fully dissolve. I guess if it was holding up my work I would feel differently about it.

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9 hours ago, Ptychodus04 said:

With Butvar/Paraloid/Vinac, always add the plastic to the solvent. This allows a greater surface area contact. Adding solvent to the plastic creates a layer of gooey plastic that acts as a seal, keeping the solvent from reaching the rest of the plastic.

 

It will eventually dissolve but it will take weeks. :doh!:

 

I like to mix a bulk solution of 1 pint per gallon of solvent. This yields approximately a 12% solution (1:8 ratio). It takes a few days for it to totally dissolve. I use a large old laundry detergent jug for the mix. It is not affected by the solvent, provides plenty of space for shaking every day, and comes with a handy dispensing and measuring set up. I like the push button type. 

 

I then cut this with more solvent to reach my preferred 1:50 ratio for a consolidation solution in small batches.

Byt Thank you. That is very helpful to know regarding the final dilutions and your stock dilution. That is basically what I was asking for when I asked about concentrations to use. I didn’t have a frame of reference to know where to even start.

As soon as I poured the acetone in I realized I should have added the B76 to the acetone.

Since I don’t have a stir plate I was thinking glass beads might be helpful in preventing the large gelatinous clump from forming.

 

Something else of note. I used a pickled beet jar. It had a white plastic to rubber gasket on the interior. The acetone devolved it or the adhesive to the degree that part of the gasket has fallen into the mix.

 

5 hours ago, Harry Pristis said:

Don't simply "add" the resin to the acetone, sprinkle the granular resin into the acetone . . . the slower the better.  It helps if the acetone is agitated - as with a magnetic stirrer - during the process. 

Yes, that is why I said next time I will sprinkle and swirl. 

I think it must be a bit like making grits. For the record I won’t eat white grits. It’s yellow grits or none for me. Anyway, when you make grits you bring your water to a boil, turn down the heat and then start adding in the grits, sprinkling them as you stir. You have to do it just so or you end up with lumps in your grits. Only the lumps in grits don’t dissolve without intervention.

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Adventures and mishaps with cyanoacrylate

 

Before I move on to the next step with B76 I want to mention the issues I have been having with cyanoacrylate not bonding the bones together. It won’t glue them together.

 

I‘ve been using cyanoacrylate for years with great and often impressive success. Mostly with invertebrate fossils of rock composition. I first used it while excavating dinosaur bones in the Lance formation of Wyoming on a couple dino digs. We used it liberally on bones that were falling apart. It was to stabilize before putting the field cast on.

I have been using it on my Cretaceous invertebrate fossils to repair or to use in the field.

The last thing you want to do is find an amazing ammonite in the field, damage it in excavation, which is often inevitable. Then the little pieces go in a baggy and you try to piece it back together when you get home. If you glue it in the field you don’t have to figure out where and how things go when you get home.

 

My love fear relationship with cyanoacrylate.

Cyanoacrylate bonds in 15 seconds or less for most everything I’ve used it for. I use the thin prep that is a water consistency. Many times I’ve nearly glued myself to the fossil or me, but realized it before the bond was set. Once I kind of had to rip my skin a little to get loose. It hurt, but nothing dramatic.

One evening last year I didn’t realize I had it on my hand while I was waiting for something to set. By the time I realized it, it was too late. I had a brief moment of panic, but then remembered how to deal with it. I’m  I’m left handed and my left index finger was solidly glued to my thumb. A good cm of space. This stuff doesn’t wash off. If you want to get unstuck you have to wait 2-3 days, rip your skin off or cut yourself free, drawing blood. Thankfully I remembered that acetone wouldn’t dissolve it, but it will soften it ever so slightly. I put acetone on my fingers and worked to soften it. I finally got my fingers maybe 2 mm apart and sliced through the glue with a knife. Very close call. Too close for my taste.

 

My funniest cyanoacrylate story though was one night I was gluing a Graysonites ammonite together. I was wearing a tank top (critical factor in story). I had just put the glue on the bottom half of ammonite and then put the other half in place. I was holding it upright in front of my face to make sure it was properly aligned. It had been there maybe 3 seconds when my phone rang. I went to reach for my phone, but suddenly realized my fingers were gluing to the back side of the ammonite. I moved a bit too quickly and not smoothly to free my fingers, destabilizing the top half of the horned ammonite, which fell on my chest and stuck to the top of female anatomy. I quickly ripped it off only for it to stick to my other hand. I juggled both halves and finally dropped them onto a piece of cardboard. I missed answering my call, because I had fallen over in sheer relief at my narrow escape and laughing so hard at the hilarity of the scenario that had just played out. I imagined having to explain to the ER staff how an ammonite got stuck there as they attempted to remove it. Therefore the love fear relationship with cyanoacrylate.

 

Honestly, I feel like Lucy in an episode of I Love Lucy with the ridiculous situation I get myself into at times. Good thing I can laugh at myself.

 

All that to get to my point. Thought you might enjoy the story and warning of the dangers of cyanoacrylate. I’m sure wearing gloves would save many mishaps. Then I’d most certainly have a glove glued to my fossils.

 

So my bones are broken in places that need to be glued. With all my experience using cyanoacrylate and how well it works for everything else, it is NOT working to glue the bison bones back together.

 

I have done some reading trying to determine which adhesives and consolidants would be best for my bison. One good source of info has been the American Museum of Natural History and a lady named Amy Davidson. This link has lots of helpful info.

http://preparation.paleo.amnh.org/48/solution-reactive-adhesives

 

Then there is this.

http://nautarch.tamu.edu/CRL/conservationmanual/File2.htm

 

I watched this presentation bellow which Amy Davison gave on adhesives and consolidants. She gave different case studies where one kind works, but another doesn’t. 

In one case she was in the Gobi Desert and working with very soft and porous bones. She said cyanoacrylate did not work with the bones. It soaked in and hardened without any bonding happening. That is what is happening here with the bison.

 

This is the link to Amy Davidson’s talk on choosing the right adhesives and consolidants.

 

On day 2 of the excavations of the bison I brought my bottle of cyanoacrylate and used it liberally along cracks in the bone. Oddly enough it didn’t set and bond well at all. I attributed it to the bones being too damp.

Evidently that wasn’t really the case. The wet dirt bonded just fine. :shrug:

With the bones rinsed and dried the cyanoacrylate didn’t glue as expected. It didn’t exactly absorb into the bone, leave no glue on the surface. It soaked into the bone and pooled on the surface and hardened leaving a layer at the joining of bones that now prevented a tight join. I eventually clamped one of the bones and let it sit for 30-60 minutes and then it was bonded, but there was still a gap at the joining place.

Thd bad thing about cyanoacrylate is it isn’t really reversible since it is a reaction adhesive rather than solution adhesive.

 

So, take note that cyanoacrylate doesn’t work on everything. I’m trying to figure out the solution still. Other things will work, but they are much slower and would need to be clamped in place. I don’t have everything I’d need to clamp awkward shaped pieces. I need to figure out how to clamp and stabilize things so they can have time to set.

 

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Monday evening I decided to apply my B76 solution of a now unknown concentration to the bones of the pelvis. The broken edges were fragile, flaky and prone to little crumbles coming off. 

 

My equipment:

- Foil baking pan.

- 1.5 inch soft paintbrush 

- Respirator mask (vapor protection)

- Disposable gloves

- Butvar 76

 

I have a large pine box in my sunroom that I use as a prep table. I opened a window and turned on the ceiling fan to circulate the air.

I put on my mask and gloves and began brushing on the B76. It was the consistency of cough syrup or thin honey.

The B76 and bones were in the foil pan so I didn’t drip stuff everywhere. If the pieces were small enough I dipped them in the solution for a few seconds.

I dipped the brush in the solution and loaded it up for the broken edges and piled it on the edges trying to get it to run down inside the bone. Ultimately it seemed the B76 was too thick. The thickness combined with surface tension of the solution prevented it from flowing into the poreous broken edges of the bone. Kind of how soap bubbles cling to the little wand and don’t pass through so you can blow bubbles. That’s the kind of surface tension scenario I’m talking about. Only the B76 was thicker. The B76 at this point had to be less than 2%, yet it was still thick enough to not seep I to the bone like I wanted. I think most of it stayed on the surface and didn’t penetrate into the bone to help stabilize it internally.

Here is an example of what I mean by the solution was too thick and created surface tension so that the solution didn’t run down into the bones. This is a piece that has dried for 2 days. Look at the pores. Some look like they are covered with a glossy solution that is wet. It isn’t wet.

10707AA7-235E-432A-B01C-8E7D962E91CB.thumb.jpeg.146bd3eea32d1effc51a5c92874732dd.jpeg

The surface needed to be stabilized. There are some cracks here and there that feel more stable now. So it helped, but didn’t exactly accomplish my full intended purpose.

Also, it left a bit too glossy of a finish on almost everything. You can see it on this pelvis fragment.

783412FE-4268-496E-A6CA-28485ACD543C.thumb.jpeg.3976f793b6e0f358daf1dcf3dbf09ed0.jpeg

 

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I’ll try thinning out the B76 solution and try a few other pieces on Friday most likely.

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11 hours ago, KimTexan said:

The surface needed to be stabilized. There are some cracks here and there that feel more stable now. So it helped, but didn’t exactly accomplish my full intended purpose.

Also, it left a bit too glossy of a finish on almost everything. You can see it on this pelvis fragment.

The gloss is an artifact of the consolidation process. A solid layer of plastic is deposited on the surface of the bone and causes the sheen. If you fully consolidate the bone with a very thin mixture (think consistency of skim milk or even water) you can go back with straight acetone and wipe down the bones to remove this thin layer of plastic and reduce the sheen to a more desirable level without compromising the stability of the consolidated bone.

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You could try pre-soaking the bone in acetone, or acetone + alcohol, then adding the B76 solution to get better penetration.

 

I have not used B76, but with paraloid, I found that adding about 1/3rd ethanol to the mix, allows it to penetrate much deeper, without leaving any gloss on the surfaces. The alcohol makes the solution act like it's much thinner, so I had to increase the concentration 2-3 fold over what I used with straight acetone. The ethanol also may help the solution penetrate better into any damp areas. 

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10 hours ago, Ptychodus04 said:

The gloss is an artifact of the consolidation process. A solid layer of plastic is deposited on the surface of the bone and causes the sheen. If you fully consolidate the bone with a very thin mixture (think consistency of skim milk or even water) you can go back with straight acetone and wipe down the bones to remove this thin layer of plastic and reduce the sheen to a more desirable level without compromising the stability of the consolidated bone.

I do understand that the sheen is the plastic coating. I just got the feel that not much if any penitrated into the bone beyond the periosteum. Maybe it isn’t terribly important if not much gets into the compact bone and medullary cavity. But it would seem that it would give it greater long term stability.

 

9 hours ago, Paciphacops said:

You could try pre-soaking the bone in acetone, or acetone + alcohol, then adding the B76 solution to get better penetration.

 

I have not used B76, but with paraloid, I found that adding about 1/3rd ethanol to the mix, allows it to penetrate much deeper, without leaving any gloss on the surfaces. The alcohol makes the solution act like it's much thinner, so I had to increase the concentration 2-3 fold over what I used with straight acetone. The ethanol also may help the solution penetrate better into any damp areas. 

I have read something along that line in the AMNH paleo protocols of various case studies.

Thank you for sharing the ratio of the mix.

 

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27 minutes ago, KimTexan said:

I do understand that the sheen is the plastic coating. I just got the feel that not much if any penitrated into the bone beyond the periosteum. Maybe it isn’t terribly important if not much gets into the compact bone and medullary cavity. But it would seem that it would give it greater long term stability.

If you mixed up a 10% solution there’s no way it penetrated well. I would acetone it off and reapply a 1:50 solution. If you have exposed medullary bone, pour the solution directly into it.

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1 hour ago, Ptychodus04 said:

If you mixed up a 10% solution there’s no way it penetrated well. I would acetone it off and reapply a 1:50 solution. If you have exposed medullary bone, pour the solution directly into it.

Thank you.

 

That was the solution where the blob was in the bottom of the jar. I poured the supernatant off and that’s what I basted my bison with.:P My guess is it was less than a 5% solution, but whatever the case the same applies. I don’t think it soaked into the bone.

I attempted to pour it into the exposed porous bone. I will do that with the 1:50 solution.

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1 minute ago, KimTexan said:

Thank you.

 

That was the solution where the blob was in the bottom of the jar. I poured the supernatant off and that’s what I basted my bison with.:P My guess is it was less than a 5% solution, but whatever the case the same applies. I don’t think it soaked into the bone.

I attempted to pour it into the exposed porous bone. I will do that with the 1:50 solution.

If you still have some 5%, add an equal part of acetone to it and you should have a good consolidation solution of close to that 1:50 ratio. If you can soak any of the bones in the solution, that will ensure total penetration. Let the bone soak until the bubbles stop coming out. Then lay it on a cardboard flat to dry. 

 

This may may have been stated already but this is such an active thread that I can’t remember. :D

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No you had not stated that before. Thanks for the advice. I’ve been doing my B76 work in large aluminum food catering pans. I and a group of ladies catered an even for 300 a few weeks ago and when we were cleaning up I asked to keep the aluminum pans. They were perfectly clean and would work great for basting bison bones in B76.:P

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I opened another little box of bone fragments from day 2 of the extraction/excavation. This was among the items. It was completely covered in mud so I couldn’t tell what it was.

 

It’s a beautiful little vertebra. I think it is a caudal vertebrae due to the small size, but none of the caudal vertebrae that I found have neural foramen.  It is too small to be a cervical, thoracic or lumbar vertebra.

So this one has me stumped. Maybe someone can educate me a little on bovid vertebrae.

 

The thoracic vertebrae have 2 foramen on each side that form something of a Y shape that join into one opening within the spinal canal. Plus their transverse processes extend out from the vertebral body at close to a  45° angle. 

 

Lumbar vertebrae don’t have neural foramen. Their transverse process do protrude at a  90° angle.

 

This vertebrae was found up where the skull and thoracic vertebrae were. I’d say it was thoracic as well because of the neural foramen, but it’s is way too little. I think it has to be caudal vertebra due to size. It’s so cute!

 

Its upside down here, but this is the proximal (head end) view.

98C6004F-25BB-40BD-BCF1-2910003CF770.thumb.jpeg.88b1866fb51d2468820d2caa73910a3b.jpeg

 

Dorsal view

42BE52E2-2B57-4751-9066-F8AA73113F18.thumb.jpeg.71e5ca80e54cadc26c705eabd48178a3.jpeg

 

It’s updide down, but this is the distal/posterior view.

5B9A1FC2-3B1F-40E6-BB51-600D75939288.thumb.jpeg.51f43837871eacbf3a999c92d6a114d8.jpeg

 

This shot is interesting in that it isn’t symmetrical. There is no hole on the right side. They could vascular openings, but they open into the spinal canal space. So I’m not sure if they’re vascular or neural.

6CED29F7-DE04-4F2B-94A4-245554B8D766.thumb.jpeg.4a106f4e2b3e3617042be4cdc17482fc.jpeg

 

 

I also cleaned up some tendons I found on day 3 to the right (on posterior side) of the scapula. The longest one is about 43 mm.17ACB43A-0F75-4D5F-A525-609B8BBEBD34.thumb.jpeg.10d5f65c9ff901b2f7469690cd07cfa7.jpeg

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On 07/02/2019 at 4:17 PM, Paciphacops said:

You could try pre-soaking the bone in acetone, or acetone + alcohol, then adding the B76 solution to get better penetration.

 

I have not used B76, but with paraloid, I found that adding about 1/3rd ethanol to the mix, allows it to penetrate much deeper, without leaving any gloss on the surfaces. The alcohol makes the solution act like it's much thinner, so I had to increase the concentration 2-3 fold over what I used with straight acetone. The ethanol also may help the solution penetrate better into any damp areas. 

That's what I do too

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1 hour ago, JohnBrewer said:

That's what I do too

Love the avatar! :D

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Sagebrush Steve
18 minutes ago, KimTexan said:

LOL you two are funny. @JohnBrewer and @Tidgy's Dad Is one of you imitating the other or was this pure coincidence?

Two Englishmen who have been out too long in the noonday sun.

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2 minutes ago, Sagebrush Steve said:

Two Englishmen who have been out too long in the noonday sun.

I find it humorous nonetheless.

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12 hours ago, KimTexan said:

LOL you two are funny. @JohnBrewer and @Tidgy's Dad Is one of you imitating the other or was this pure coincidence?

 

12 hours ago, Sagebrush Steve said:

Two Englishmen who have been out too long in the noonday sun.

Yes, we're English.

This is what we do. :)

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