Soaking Kiloware Stamps Off Paper
Before soaking any kiloware make sure you've removed any stamps that would be better kept on piece. This might include Post & Go stamps or other self-adhesive stamps that could be damaged along with examples of good complete postmarks that extend off the stamp face. Older stamps can often have their colour washed out by soaking and these should be removed and dealt with seperately. To make this sorting step easier it is usually best to limit the size of each batch of kiloware you intend to soak at any one time.
Now place the kiloware ready for soaking in to a suitable plastic bowl and pour in warmish water. The warmer the water you use the quicker most stamps wil peel away from the paper but, be warned, the higher the temperature the more risk you take with fugitive inks.
Now let the water do its work by dissolving the gum that sticks the stamps to the paper. Many stamps will simply float away from the paper after a while and others will soon slide easily away from the paper. Be patient and don't try to speed the process up by attempting to peel stamps off paper when they aren't ready. It's very easy to leave a layer of the stamp on the paper and end up with a massive "thin" affecting your stamp (or should I say spacefiller now!). Always be patient and try to let the water do the work although you will find some modern papers can be pretty resistant to soaking.
Always use tweezers to gather the stamps that float away from the paper and place them in a small dish full of clean cold water to act as a rinse to remove the final traces of gum. It's quite likely that you will need to help remove some stamps from their backing paper. Deal with these individually and with the utmost care to avoid damaging the stamps. If a stamp isn't peeling easily then place it back in to soak for longer. It's worth noting that stamps can be very fragile when they are heavily soaked. Avoid handling them more than you absolutely have to at this stage.
Different people have different ideas about drying stamps after soaking kiloware. I prefer to pick each individual stamp from the cold water rinse and lay it face down on a blotting paper or cotton sheet (Some people use newspaper but remember newsprint can run when wet!). Personally I do not add another sheet of paper on top to sandwich the stamps although many people do. I prefer to let the air do the drying. During the drying process some stamps will curl or become a little wrinkled and this is normal.
Once the stamps are completely dry they are ready to be flattened. Most people will carefully lay the dry stamps (using tweezers) between the pages of a good solid book. A telephone directory is usually ideal. Once your stamps are closed inside the book lay it down and add more books on top (or anything else to add more weight) as this will speed up the flattening time needed. Some stamps will need longer than others but 24 hours is usually enough to see your stamps soaked off kiloware looking flat and pristine ready for storage.
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