Martti Tolvanen warns me that my soaking method (described below) is dangerous and can damage the stamps. He mentions a warning in the preface of the MICHEL catalogue. His advise: ``leave the stamps to soak for longer and they'll float off: I leave mine for 10--15 minutes a least, if I have no pieces with special sensitive colours there''.
Method used by Gert Bultman: I find that the hotter (WARNING: See above) the water, the quicker the stamps come off the paper and the better they dry. After leaving them face down on a board covered with a flat (not fluffy!) towel for a little while, I cover them with kitchen paper and then put another board on top of that, weighing it down with a few heavy books. After leaving this for a while, I put the stamps, which are by then almost --- but not completely --- dry in a little 5x8" stockbook which I keep especially for the purpose. This stockbook I press shut with a little vice and leave it like that over night --- the stamps usually come out real nice and flat the following morning.
Michael Rys writes: I am into stamp soaking since 20 years (more than 2/3 of my age!). Yesterday while browsing through a very old SBZ (Swiss Stamp Journal) I saw an article about soaking stamps. Most of was said there I already knew (How to avoid paper to color stamps, that there are countries which use very adhesive stamps). But the author also gave the following tip which was unknown to me before:
He recommended to put a little bit of table salt into the water to keep the color of the stamps crisp.
Has anybody tried this or an explanation for this? Has anybody else such tricks which might not be common knowledge? Please send them to the list.
Caroline E. Bryan writes: In West Virginia (not known for dry air) my mother had a terrible curling problem until she followed a tip from an APS Journal article: put the wet stamps on the paper to dry *printed side up*. Apparently putting the gum side against the drying paper (my mother and I use kitchen towels with great success) evens out the differential drying times of the printed vs. gummed sides of the stamp just enough to eliminate curling.
Both my mother and I soak off stamps as follows: into a shallow dish of lukewarm tap water, put the stamps on paper stamp-side down. Give it 1--5 minutes for the stamp to float off. Pick the waste paper out of the water. Lift the floating stamps out with a fork and place gum-side-down on 2--3 layers of kitchen paper towel. Allow to dry overnight. No blotter paper, no pressing, no fancy stuff, and it works very nicely. Neither of us has had problems with left-over gum adhering to the kitchen towels. My mother buys the cheapest brand of kitchen towel available, and I use Green Forest, the local recycled-paper brand; we see no difference in performance.
Thaddeus P. Bejnar writes: I also use cotton for both blotting, and an initial drying period, usually 30 minutes. I then place the dry to touch but not completely dry stamps between two pages of clean non-glossy paper and press between matte board with books. I move the stamps from one piece of cotton (200 thread count) upon which I blot them, to a second piece where they initially dry. Even in the dry New Mexico air, I don't find much of a curling problem. I do find that if I don't let the stamps dry adequately before pressing, that the pressing-paper absorbs some of the moisture and wrinkles causing the stamp to wrinkle.
When I have stamps that are having trouble letting go of all of their gum, I transfer them to a bath which has a very small amount of TSP (trisodium phosphate) dissolved in it. The TSP (used to clean walls prior to painting, and as an ingredient in many cleaners and detergents) helps dissolve the gum. The TSP is very strong and it takes only a few grains in the bath to achieve the desired effect. The TSP is better than detergents because it has no perfumes or other added oils.