Monday, June 9, 2014

From Bruce Silva at WWG

Cleanliness. It's not all bad~
A while ago there was some pretty heated debate about cleaning bottles.
The discussions took place on Western Bitters News, Peachridge, the WWG (here) as well as on another website which shall remain un-named. The anonymous website had some extremely harsh (bordering on fanatical) words to say about the morality or, (according to them), lack thereof, involved in cleaning bottles.

It seemed that everyone had their own slant on bottle cleaning; self included. By far and away though, most supported the procedure, assuming that, if and when the bottle was to change hands, both parties were aware of said cleaning.

I stated the following;
"Thanks to what I've recently learned, I think that it's a travesty to leave a good (but stained) bottle stuffed away when it can be restored to as new appearance and be proudly displayed for all to enjoy."

One of the bottles pictured in the WWG article of 10/28/12 was a badly stained open pontil Dr. Hooflands German Bitters. It was an Oregon dug gold rush era bottle, but such a dog that it sat in a box here, both before and after the article. (hint, if you click your mouse on the photos, they'll open in a separate and enlarged window for a real eye opener)
Recently, a good friend of mine got into the good stuff. The mailman arrived with a gift from him a couple of days after we chatted about the dig. It was a Rosedale OK "German connection" glop top. Neat bottle, I guessed, beneath an eighth of an inch of stain and crud. Odd, the stain was pretty much a dead ringer for the Hoofland's "case of leprosy".

To clean, or not to clean... I bit the bullet and took a chance. The stain had to go and the Hooflands would be the guinea pig. I was stunned after the "Ol Bottle Doc." had worked his magic on it.



With that dilema put to bed, I made the decision to take a chance on the German Rosie. Check out the before and the after.





And so I pose the question; Is the practice of cleaning deserving of tar and feathering, drawing and quartering or jail time as another author so pointedly espoused?

You be the judge. Amoral, immoral, or the right thing to do? Which would you rather have in your collection; the before or the after


  1. Cleaning bottles is ok by me. I have never understood the dirty stained look, the bottles certainly did not come from the glass factories all dirty and stained did they! Its all right to restore antique automobiles, but not antique bottles? antique steam engines and farm implements, but not bottles? Of course you don't want to overclean the glass and wear away the embossing, but I think that is an implied truth. Any ways just my two cents on the subject........Andy

  2. I personally believe that cleaning a bottle, like anything has it's place. If done with restoration in mind, and not spinning to death, a cleaned bottle is fine. On some bottles such as the Gold Rush soda's, I like them scummy as this preserves the true artifact mentality. On bottles such as the clear whiskey you posted, it is an obvious improvement. In the early days of cleaning...which is really tumbling in most cases, the bottles were so over "cleaned" that they ended up being shinier than they ever were when manufactured. This completely ruins the desirability to me. It would have been much better to have left it alone, and rubbed with some Scott's Liquid Gold furniture polish than destroy the glass. Some are so skilled at cleaning that it is almost impossible to tell. I look for the horizontal tooling lines in the top, and as much original glass surface as possible, leaving full glass texture. It is an art to clean properly. DM

  3. I'm with Dale & Andy, a properly cleaned bottle over a scummy one will always be much more appealing to me. I've also passed on bottles that were over-cleaned. The key is in knowing in advance if a bottle is beyond tumbling before attempting the process, otherwise the outcome can be disappointing. This all comes down to experience. I do understand and agree that there are limited situations where a bottle might be more historically significant if left in as-found condition. I have an olive Rosie that was found in a nearby mountain gold camp that is heavily stained. Since it also has some light damage, I enjoy it just the way it was found. As for the anonymous website...don't even give him the recognition of his trash talk being debatable. Dwayne

  4. One of the negatives voiced last year, in opposition to cleaning, was that large amounts of glass were cut off a bottle by the polishing compound in order to remove the stain.

    This intrigued me, and I wondered just how much glass was in reality "shaved" from a bottle in the process of cleaning. I used an expensive dial caliper on the Rosie prior to having it cleaned. I measured at the base, across the widest part of the reverse, and across the horizontal leg of the "A" in "Agents" on the obverse. It measured 3.223".

    The bottle was machine cleaned for a total of 120 hours. When I got the bottle back in my office and shot the photos after cleaning, I re-measured it. It measured 3.223".

  5. Restoration is acceptable & common place in all collectibles, bottles are no exception. It’s entirely possible to clean a bottle and not change or diminish its original surface. A properly cleaned bottle not only looks better & like it’s original condition but can also enhance its value. There’s an individual with a blog and his own agenda who doesn’t understand this possibility or technique and is misinforming other members of the hobby though his ignorance. If folks prefer to look at sick bottles altered by years of being buried in acidic soil then that’s their own personal choice. The problem is, there’s lots of cleaning being done by people who don’t know what their doing. I can’t even begin to tell you how many good bottles I’ve seen in recent years that were un- necessarily ruined by attempted cleaning. There are products readily available that can make anyone an instant bottle cleaner with no prior knowledge or skill. Using certain compounds being sold for bottle cleaning are more suited for rock tumbling rather than fine conservation of antique glass. When these compounds are applied they will remove glass striping a surface leaving an almost mirror like finish.

    I totally understand why some don’t like cleaning when so many bottles are being ruined.

  6. Too many people do not know about Wayne Lowry the Jar Doctor, who sells only compounds and cleaning materials that should be used on bottles. Instead they go to rock and lapidary supply shops and get the wrong stuff, You can visit his website, the jar doctor, and get all the info you will need, plus practice on non rare valuable bottles such as California fig syrups and 3 in one oil bottles. At least they are good for that purpose lol.........Andy