If anyone were to ask me what question I hear the most with regard to artifacts, it would have to be "how do I get this danged glue off the back of these arrowheads?" Before people started using the glass and foam style black cardboard riker mounts and wood frames, arrowheads were either tied onto a board using wire, or glued on using elmers glue. Once in a while I come across points glued on with some other higher strength type bonding material, but more often than not, it is white elmers type glue. I remember when I first bought a frame of arrowheads at auction that had the points glued to a cardboard sheet, and I carefully peeled them off, having no clue how to get the glue off the backs of the pieces. One day my friend Bob Bright (a long time local collector and one of my first artifact mentors) was visiting and as he looked at the points with the hard clumps of glue and pieces of cardboard paper stuck to them, he said "these sure would look better with all that crap off them". He chuckled when I told him I would love too, but had no clue what type solvent to use that would'nt damage the relic. "Why not just stick em in some hot water?" was his reply ... no way it could be that simple I thought. Well, Yep - it really is. I thought about that yesterday as I sat in the kitchen with a couple hundred points from an old artifact collection I recently bought that were glued on. So, I got the camera out and figured since I hear this question so often, I might as well put this tried and true complicated process down in text for anyone else wanting to remove glue from the backs of their artifacts. here is the entire process, step by step: heat water, soak point, peel off glue. Yes, it really is quite that simple. The hard part is when your thumbnail gets soft from being in too much hot water - but other than that, usually the glue begins to disolve in the hot water, gets tacky, and comes right off in clumps as you peel it with your nail. Every arrowhead collector seems to develop his favorite little method to apply this process for glue removal - mine has been developed over a 20+ year period around two important factors: 1.) do it as fast as possible as it is a boring job 2.) dont burn fingers because that hurts.
The water just needs to be good and hot - no, you do not need to boil it. I nuke a bowl for 2 or 3 minutes and then place a dozen or so points in a strainer and set the strainer in the bowl covering the points. Let them set for about 5 minutes, and the glue will begin to disolve. The hotter the water - the hotter the flint is going to be when you take it out. Call me a sissy, but I like tongs to pull the rocks out as I like to keep the water consistently hot so I can do several batches at a time. Once the glue is pliable, it will peel right off with your thumbnail. If there is glue residue still on the flint, give it another dunking in the hot water. When the glue is off, wipe the point with a soft damp cloth to remove the gluey water and let dry. Add salt, pepper and a little nutmeg and ... ok, not really
Thats it - fast, simple and effective. If you end up with artifacts that were glued on with a tougher non-waterbased adhesive, I have yet to find a simple and easy way for removal. Actually, before I buy a glued-on board of relics, I like to make certain that it is white glue that was used so that I know the points can easily be cleaned within an hours time without damaging the relic. The problem with other stronger adhesives is not just that the glue substance is much harder to remove - but there is more chance of breakage when prying the points off the board.
Hope this helps - nothing like some coffee, toast and a bowl full of warmed up arrowheads to start one's day