Conservation of a Benin bell

The double bell MDMB 12201, from Benin, is made up of two bells joined by a cylindrical handle covered with pieces of white and red cotton cloth. The instrument is made entirely of iron, with the mouth of the bells having an almond-shaped profile and a clapper. The cloth on the handle of the bells probably has a practical function (to absorb sweat from the hands and for a better grip), and its colors could correspond to the specific symbolism of a voodoo or its community.

From the organoleptic examination we can see that there is dust and dirt on the surface and accumulations on the inside. There is rust on the iron of the bells, the handle and the strikers. The handle is covered with a yellowish-red fiber cloth that is weakened and full of dust.

The restoration process has been carried out as follows:

  • Superficial cleaning of the dust and dirt deposited on the metal and the cloth, with a trowel and hoover.
  • Mechanical cleaning of the oxidation of the metal with a steel micro abrasive lathe.
  • Degreasing with White Spirit to remove any grease residue on the piece due to handling, applied with a synthetic brush.
  • Application of a 3% tannic acid metal inhibitor in alcohol, with a synthetic brush on the entire bell.
  • Application of a protective layer of microcrystalline wax with a synthetic brush and a cotton cloth to remove the excess, over the entire bell.
  • Sealing with Paraloid with 20% Xylene and white wash, with a protective layer of Paraloid and Xylen on top.

You can see the results with these before and after pictures that show the conservation work that slows down the oxidation process.