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Old 02/05/10, 02:57 PM
Cabin Fever's Avatar
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Location: Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
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How can I separate cards?

At last night's auction, I became the proud owner of 3 decks of World War II vintage flashcards. The cards were made for outpost observation staff to recognize planes and ships. One deck is for US ship & plane recognition, another deck for Japanese ship & plane recognition and the third deck for learning the meaning of the various Naval signal flags and semaphore code.

At any rate, some of the cards are stuck together, presumbably due to high humidty or rain. I'm afraid to peel the cards apart as this might damage the face of the card.

Do you know of any tricks or methods to "unstick" the cards without damaging them?

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Old 02/05/10, 03:00 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
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Great buy- I bet those are really cool cards. I don't know if it will work for paper, but I read that you can put a watch or cell phone that has gotten wet in a sealed bag with rice for a few days and the rice will dry up the excess moisture/ humidity. ( It did work for a cell phone)

If you try this, then you might be able to gently unstick the cards. Guess, you dont have anything to lose by trying. Good Luck!
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Old 02/05/10, 03:25 PM
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You are probably correct about trying to peel them. Have you searched for some WWII collector websites or forums? Or even baseball card collectors. Surely this is a fairly common problem with old paper goods. Give the local historic society or museum a call. Here's the phone number for the Pratt Museum at Ft Campbell, (270) 798-4986 If they don't know how to help you surely they could point you in the right direction.

If you don't get any better advice here's what I'd try first. Put one pack in the deep freeze over night, pack it in dry ice for a few hours (over night?) then see if the cards would pull apart with very, very gentle pressure.

IIRC, they actually soak some things in liquid to unstick stuff like this. I don't know if they use water or something else. I'd think carbon tet would work (if it didn't dissolve the ink) but I think its now listed as a hazmat and hard to get a hold of. Either also pops to mind but its not something you find at your local hardware store either and it likes to go **BOOM** if you aren't very careful.
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Old 02/05/10, 03:28 PM
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CF, those cards are so neat. My grandmother was a volunteer spotter in Milwaukee during WW2. I even have her pin!

I believe a talcum powder can be used when playing cards get a little oily from the hands - talc absorbs the oil, cards slide better.

On a flip side, I used to salvage postage stamps from envelopes by putting a few drops of water on the back side of the stamp, then microwave for6-10 seconds or so.

But I doubt you'll want to add water to the flashcards.

Have you googled "paper conservators?" University museums may have someone who can steer you in the right direction.
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Old 02/05/10, 03:29 PM
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I don't know specifically for cards, but I have been told that to draw moisture out of something, put it in a covered container filled with dry rice. After a few days, the rice supposedly will draw excess moisture out of the object. If you have some rice you could try it - at least I don't see how it could hurt the cards.
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Old 02/05/10, 03:58 PM
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Location: Northeastern Oklahoma
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How about old-fashioned steaming? You know, if you need to get a sealed envelope unstuck you hold it over steam until it loosens and then you can open it without tearing anything. Then you'd need to lay them on something they wouldn't stick to again until they dry out, maybe something like waxed paper or the shiny side of butcher paper??

I've done this to separate cookbook pages that were stuck together, and it worked for pages that were stuck in a few spots, but I've never found anything that was 100% foolproof for two pages completely stuck together. Good luck, they sound really cool!
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Old 02/05/10, 04:14 PM
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How cool! My mother & aunts were spotters. They didn't save the cards, tho.
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Old 02/05/10, 05:36 PM
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Here are some ideas.
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Old 02/05/10, 06:00 PM
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Id put them in the freezer (or on your freezing cold porch...) got nothing to lose, and it has worked for me with pages and envelopes
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Old 02/05/10, 07:35 PM
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First and foremost, I am not an expert in paper preservation or restoration, but I will share this about an experience I had last winter.

Parts of our town suffered a severe flash flood after getting 13 inches of rain in a few hours, on top of ground that was already saturated and with overflowing creeks and rivers.

A friend of mine gave me her husband's post war American Flyer set after their house was completely flooded. If you've never seen an item from a flood, you understand the muck, mud, and whatever else that coats every square inch of it. The mud was caked on these trains, which was a shame. They had been in stunningly nice condition.

I showed these trains to several train guys, and most of them said "They are probably trashed. Throw away those boxes. They can't be saved. The train cars might be able to be saved, but definately not the boxes."

I took the original boxes, you know how important they are to train guys, and stuck them both under water to soak, and also under a running faucet of warm water. You would think that they would disintegrate, but they don't.

Most of the boxes were very warped, and all of them were bent, dented, and severely out of shape.

Just for clarification, these are cardboard boxes made from chipboard, similar to a cereal box, and not corregated boxes with paper fluting sandwiched between two papers.

After allowing the water to rinse all the mud off of them, and making sure they were perfectly clean, I laid them flat on a stack of newspapers, and then stacked books on top for weight. I used unprinted newspaper stock between them to avoid transfer of the ink from the printed newspapers.

I changed out the wet newspapers several times a day. This promoted slower drying, but speeded up the process, if that makes any sense.

I still haven't reglued any seams that came apart, but took them to a train show. Let me just say that those empty boxes...still laying flat after being pressed dry...created quite alot of interest from very willing buyers. One guy even pulled out a stack of cash, and insisted I price them. They really do look great. (I promised the gifter that I would not resell the trains.)

In a nut shell, I think I would consider soaking those observation cards in a sink of water overnight, and let them come apart naturally. You'll have to get up before Mrs. CF and fix her a Pop Tart. Take it from me, wives, at least in general terms, are not real happy when both kitchen sinks are full of antique paper items soaking in water, and they have to make breakfast for the little one, and you are still sleeping in bed. Trust me on that one, CF.

The difficult part is going to be how to press those cards out, and with what. Letting them air dry is a mistake, IMO. They will want to curl; remember that paper has a natural memory from the fibers in the paper stock. Paper generally has a short grain and a long grain, depending on which way the fibers run in the paper.

I didn't have much to lose with these boxes. This restoration practice worked well for me. Don't forget that stamp collectors remove stamps from envelopes by soaking them in water until they fall off the paper.

I am here to say that old post war train boxes can be saved, and still look great when you are done.


Last edited by clovis; 02/05/10 at 09:38 PM.
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Old 02/05/10, 08:18 PM
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I am guessing too that these cards are made of plain paper or cardstock without a finish or lamination, right?

I've seen several sets of observation cards of WWII vintage, and all of them were plain cardstock, but I am not an expert.
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Old 02/05/10, 09:21 PM
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Well I am no expert but when we buy stamps that are stuck to an envelope we soak them in water. They come off the envelope and we take them apart with tweezers. Another trick is steam. Test it on some of the same paper so your stuff won,t get torn up.
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Old 02/05/10, 11:17 PM
In Remembrance
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
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If it were me I would contact a quality museum to seek out the advice of their conservator who should be versed in the procedure or be able to find it out for you.

Perhaps these folks can get you headed in the right direction.

If I remember correctly PBS did a show on museum conservator work showing some of the restorations being done. Removing ball point pen ink was one feature and it just literally faded from view almost instantly with each stroke of a chemical laden cotton swab. Pretty the program said the ladies featured gave advice and work for a facility in Nebraska. Thought I had booked a link but on the spur of the moment I don't find it.

Best wishes for preserving that treasure.
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Old 02/06/10, 04:38 AM
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Location: Kentucky
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Call the Smithsonian and ask their conservator.... I would think steam, but you don't want to damage the card itself! Good find -
Be a fountain, not a drain!

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