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STARTING A COLLECTION
Extracting fossils from rocks After finding fossils embedded in rocks, there are many ways to get fossils out of the rocks; the fastest way is with heavy duty tools; however, there would be a high chance of the fossils getting broken. It is better to remove them slowly with paint brushes and water, for which you will need a lot of patience!
Professional (or home-made!) equipment Museums use air-scribes (also known as an air-abrasive) to cut a fossil from a rock. It was originally used as a dental tool. It works by shooting air out of a pen-shaped nib at high pressure. You have to be careful when using an air-scribe on delicate fossils, as they can get broken. The air-scribe in the picture below, cutting chalk, is home-made; it is a pen chassis on the end of a rubber tube; the other end is connected to a pressure cylinder. The pressure cylinder is powered by a hoover in reverse!
Cleaning fossils When fossils are found, they are usually covered in debris. Using heavy duty tools (hammers or chisels) might often break the fossil; using light tools or everyday items, such as paint brushes, cotton buds, kitchen roll, water and a lot of patience, you can carefully remove the debris without damaging the fossils.
Labeling your fossils It is important to label, and keep a record of your fossils, otherwise it's easy to forget important details about them and you might end up knowing nothing about them! Labels should state: - what they are (eg. Lipaceras, Ammonite), - how old they are (eg. Middle Jurassic, 170 MYA), - where they were found (eg. East Cliff, Lyme Regis, South Devon) - it may be helpful to make a note of the rock type in which they are preserved (eg. Blue Lias, Shale). Placing numbers on or next to fossils is a good idea, because it won't damage them. Do not stick or glue numbers on to your fossils! (If you have to, use paper glue to minimise damage to your fossil).
Displaying your fossils You can display your fossils on shelves, in display boxes, or nailed to the wall! But the best way is in a glass or plastic-covered display case. Cases come in many sizes; I strongly recomend getting sets of the same size cases; otherwise arranging a lot of different size cases would be like assembling a jigsaw! Some fossils don't need cases (if they are really big). Alternatively, you could fix a glass panel, or glass door, on to a cupboard or board (trace ripple-bed fossil nailed to wall, shown).
Enjoy your fossil collections!
If you no longer wish to keep any of your fossils, why not donate them to your local museum!