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World Trade Center Ship Mechanical Cleaning

After the documentation process is completed, the next stage in the conservation of the timbers is mechanically cleaning. Each timber is carefully inspected for gasket material, embedded rocks, shells, and corrosion from iron fasteners.

man inspecting the timbers carfully with large tweezers

The WTC ship was built with iron fasteners, and iron corrodes in the presence of seawater. This corrosion forms patches of mineral encrustation at the site of the fasteners, and needs to be removed prior to chelation.

mineral patches where iron fasteners were used

The CRL utilizes brushes, dental tools, and variable-speed pneumatic scribes to mechanically clean the timbers.

main using airscribe to clean out the timbers by hand

In some cases, the iron fasteners are too large to mechanically remove without damaging the wood. For these, we leave them be and let the timbers begin the chelation treatment. As the chelating chemicals begin to remove the iron from the wood, the large fasteners become loose and easier to remove.

large iron fastener allowed to loosen during chelating

After each timber is cleaned, the next stage is chemical chelation.


Conservation Stages

Stage 1: Documentation
Stage 2: Mechanical Cleaning
Stage 3: Chemical Chelation
Stage 4: Bulking
Stage 5: Freeze Drying
Stage 6: Final cleaning and assembly


Contract Services

The CRL works with a variety of academic institutions, museums, historical societies, government offices, and private individuals. Our goal is to create viable conservation strategies of the highest standard that can be accomplished at minimal cost. For more information, visit our services page.


Read about the faculty and conservators who run the Conservation Research Labratory. We are also aided by several individuals who volunteer their time to help conserve artifacts. If you are interested in joining the volunteers at the CRL, please contact our lab manager.



Monetary donations and volunteer workers are vital to the ongoing success of the Conservation Research Laboratory. If you would like to volunteer your time and expertise, please write us here. If you would like to become one of our donors, please click the link below and direct your gift to: Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation.