Friday, April 14, 2006

Death to the Makers of Aluminium Bottle Tops

Dear Reader, wouldn't you agree that aluminium bottle tops are among the most vile and hateful things in life?

What? You don't have a very passionate relationship to these little metallic pests? Then I must enlighten you.

I'm writing this sitting on my haunches in a field in Östergötland. I've spent the day metal detecting, and never before have I done so much digging in vain. Bottle tops. All over the fookin' place.

Many metal detectors, including my own, tell the user what sort of metal a buried object is made of, using a tone of varying pitch. Iron is heralded in basso and baritone, lead in a strident tenor, and then there's the dulcet tones of the alto and soprano. These ladies announce the presence of metals we like: copper alloys such as brass and bronze, precious metals such as silver and gold -- and the hell-spawned aluminium. Oh, Les Baux, so much to answer for!

Metal detectors are tuned to react strongly to thin and wide things, such as coins, brooches, buttons and bottle tops. This means that a silver coin and a bottle top sound pretty much the same. Aargh and gaah, as it is often said.

Kenth actually found a 17th century silver coin this morning. Then he and Tim went home to their lady wives, leaving me in a beeping desert of bottle tops.

Evil, evil beyond description is the bottle top. I'm sticking it out for a few more hours.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bottle tops aren't aluminium, now, are they?

27 April, 2006 17:23  
Blogger Martin said...

You're right: the aluminium ones seem to be post-WW2, pre-Oil Crisis. Making new aluminium takes a lot of electricity.

Back then, beer cans were steel and bottle tops aluminium. Now it's the other way around. Cans are largely recycled, but you do find the pull-tops now and then. And polythene bottle tops, mercifully, don't trigger a metal detector.

27 April, 2006 17:59  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, it all comes back to me now. The pull-tops, yes. Soda pop and Leng-Tch'e in perfect union.

27 April, 2006 21:12  
Blogger Martin said...

As in the death metal band Leng-Tch'e? Now I'm confused.

27 April, 2006 21:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leng-Tch'e as in Death by a thousand cuts.

27 April, 2006 21:43  
Blogger Martin said...

I'm with you now. Yeah, the 70s pull tops were evil in more ways than one.

Luckily, the cap sticks to a modern soda can after you've opened it, so they don't mess up the metal detecting.

27 April, 2006 21:56  
Blogger gregmarsh said...

Why don't you be environmentally good and recycle your aluminium? As an African metal detector, any of those pesky bottle tops are set aside in a box and every few months go to the scrappers. In theory. Unless I lose my temper and toss the cap in a bush. We get 9 South African Rands per kilo which means I can buy a nice sandwich for lunch. You seem the most aerodite metal detector guy on the net so maybe I can ask you: are all screw caps (for wine, spirits) still aluminium? Are all post Oil Crisis bottle tops (ie the ones needing a bottle opener) only steel? Is there a detector that differentiates ally aluminium and steel? Are Sweden's Big Five Animals the bear, the wolf, the lynx, Saab and Volvo?Ok the last question was a joke but the others aren't. Looking forward to a reply here in Cape Town.

05 July, 2007 09:22  
Blogger gregmarsh said...

You seem to the most aerodite metal detecting guy on the net so can I ask you a question? I know you hate that new-fangled aluminium stuff, butt.....Are you environmentally good and keep all the aluminium in a box in the garage? Here in Africa I am trying to do this (in theory, provided I don't throw it into a bush in metal-detecting fury). We get 9 South African Rands per kilo for it which means that my wife and I can have a nice sandwich at a Cape Town deli.... We should all try and clean the earth of junk and get it recycled into more junk. Some more questions, hope you don't mind me pestering you:
1. Given that your blog says that bottle tops are only aluminium between WW11 and Oil crisis, are all bottle tops (the ones requiring a bottle opener), ie beer bottle tops, etc.) now steel?
2. Are all screw tops (ie wine, spirits) still aluminium?
3. Are the big five animals of Sweden the bear, the wolf, the lynx, Volvo, and Saab?

O.K. sorry the last question was a joke but the others aren't...

05 July, 2007 09:48  
Blogger Martin said...

I don't know of any detectorist who collects Al for scrap. It's not an environmental pollutant and the metal price isn't good enough to make it worthwhile for people who can afford a metal detector.

All Swedish non-closable bottle caps are now steel.

All detectors I know of differentiate easily between Al and Fe.

Wine-bottle screw tops are rare but I believe they're still Al.

Thanks you for calling me aerodite! Is that the kind of erudition where you spout airy speculation? (-;

05 July, 2007 14:51  
Blogger gregmarsh said...

Wow , strange , I thought my first post had been lost when I pressed the wrong key and so I retyped it and both seem to have come up. Even more embarrassingly, trying to work out how I made that awful spelling mistake. Then I realised, there is a repetitive TV ad here for a product called aerolite. Hence aerodite, my own great word for windbags. Believe it or not I have an absolute basic entry level Chinese metal detector that does not differentiate between ally and steel. Paid 80 euro for it. Every summer I can walk down to the local beach and pick up 5 times that just in coins.Plus other interesting stuff as you an imagine. Bottle caps are a trial but Africa is a hard place and we get a lot of winos. They all drink cheap wine and spirits by the beach and discard the screwcaps. Which I clear up. Do you really think it isn't worth keeping all the ally you find? Think about it, i know it does not pollute or rust, but is it supposed to be there in a clean environment? If you had kept all the bottle caps you had ever picked up....As for differentiating, after the post I realised I am such a dunce as all you need to do is take along a simple magnet: steel is magnetic, ally not.

05 July, 2007 21:45  
Blogger Martin said...

Believe me, as an archaeologist I do most emphatically not want all non-natural objects cleaned out of the ground. (-;

Most detectorists don't even dig when they pick up an iron signal. The archaeological potential of iron objects is poor as they tend to be too corroded to classify and date. Or they're nails and horseshoe nails that look just the same century in and century out.

05 July, 2007 22:42  
Blogger gregmarsh said...

Good point. Please be patient, I am new to this. I see what you mean. You're opening up my mind. Seriously, without joking, in the future an archeological detectorist will be able to assess sociological problems at a certain point in South Africa by the exact number of indestructible wine caps (identifiable time-wise by logo) in each park... Thanks for letting me try my hand at aerodition. I think I should get a better metal detector. Last question before I stop clogging up your blog: which one do you recommend that can differentiate between metals at a reasonable price?

06 July, 2007 16:05  
Blogger Martin said...

I agree, those screw caps do say something about S.A. society!

As for detectors, I've only used C-scope and White models and they have worked fine.

Please continue to clog my blog with comments: I love it. And feel free to have a look at my current site: Aardvarchaeology.

06 July, 2007 16:44  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thought i would collect some bottle tops in gambia going next week but is it legal/advisable?

01 January, 2008 02:06  
Blogger Martin said...

I've no idea! Maybe the country has a Heritage Board with a web site or a number you could call?

01 January, 2008 10:36  

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