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To Shell-ack or Not?

Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (May 2019)
Instead of buying a shell at the Pilgrim's office or some tourist shop, I'm taking along a shell that I found at my mother's house. Given that shells aren't that sturdy and they'll be banging around the back of packs and lodged against walls for over a month, would it be helpful to protect the shell by putting on a coat or two of lacquer, polyurethane, or shellack (assuming they'll stick to calcium carbonate shells)? I'd prefer to return my mother's shell intact if at all possible to add to her collection. Thanks in advance for any advice!
Doug
 

Raggy

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
I'd ask your mother if she'd rather you cover it in lacquer or risk breaking it. She might surprise you. Perhaps she feels that it's highly valuable (and then, perhaps you should leave it behind) or not worth worrying about (in which case, why spoil it with lacquer?).
For what it's worth, shells can be quite robust - I'm sure there are some breakages, but I know people who have carried the same shell on the outside of their rucksacks over many Caminos. Shells protect their inhabitants from the ravages of the ocean, so I guess they're stronger than they look.
 

Iriebabel

Iriebabel & the cyborg turtle
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances April (2018)
Camino Del Norte end of March 2019
Instead of buying a shell at the Pilgrim's office or some tourist shop, I'm taking along a shell that I found at my mother's house. Given that shells aren't that sturdy and they'll be banging around the back of packs and lodged against walls for over a month, would it be helpful to protect the shell by putting on a coat or two of lacquer, polyurethane, or shellack (assuming they'll stick to calcium carbonate shells)? I'd prefer to return my mother's shell intact if at all possible to add to her collection. Thanks in advance for any advice!
Doug
Shells at the pilgrims office are offered for a donation as I recall from last year.. There are pretty thick and came with the predrilled hole and string, I had no breakage with mine. Ones in the tourist shops I considered to be much thinner. I bought a few in Santiago as souvenirs for friends. Also I considered the Shell I have from St. Jean to be special, one of my most prized possessions and It will accompany me on the Norte this year.
 
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trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
I really don't see how shellac would prevent it from breaking
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
For what it's worth, shells can be quite robust - I'm sure there are some breakages, but I know people who have carried the same shell on the outside of their rucksacks over many Caminos. Shells protect their inhabitants from the ravages of the ocean, so I guess they're stronger than they look.
For what it is worth, I've never had a shell break on the Camino, and never applied any protective layer to them. Coming home in a checked backpack on an airplane is another story. There you want to be very careful or take it in your carry on luggage.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (May 2019)
I'd ask your mother if she'd rather you cover it in lacquer or risk breaking it.
It was actually my mother's idea for me to take the shell along, and she suggested considering protecting it with polyurethane. I'm a marine biologist and brought this shell back to my mother during one of my research trips. I'm taking it to bring it even more meaning when I return. It was one of the few that survived my old rucksack, so I know they can be brittle and want to explore how to preserve it during my trek.
 

jeffnd

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
March/April 2014
I can't tell you how many times I dropped my shell. It did not break.
 

Camino Chris

One step forward...
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
The shell that hangs from my pack is a mini version of the large ones offered in the pilgrim office at SJPdP. I found it myself on the ocean. It has never chipped. I doubt shellac would help. I think it just depends on how robust the shell is to begin with. If fragile and thin, I would use a different one.
 

DevereUx

Devereaux
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances Sept-Oct 2018
The shell I picked out in SJPDP (my first Camino "step" and one of the most emotional) survived intact in Santiago as well and is my prize possession. It's a bit chipped at the edges, like me, but those chips simply added "Camino character" to me. It dangled, bounced and chimed off the backpack all the way, including the flight home!
 

Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2015); Ch. d'Arles: Oloron Ste Marie to Aragones; Frances (2016); V.d.l.P.; Sanabres (2017)
I have an amazing light and apparently fragile shell. It was given to me in the church at Arzua by a woman who asked me to carry it to Santiago. She said that the red Santiago cross had been painted on the shell by a man whose son had died and he wanted a pilgrim to carry it to Santiago. It goes on all my caminos now and has been to Santiago three times, via the Frances, the Aragones/Frances and the VdlP/Sanabres. I don't believe that anyone ever gets over the loss of a child, so I shall go on carrying this shell to Santiago, and praying for father and son, so long as I am able to walk the caminos. So far, it has proved very sturdy, although the red cross has mostly worn off.
 

Anamiri

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances
And I never met anyone whose shell broke.
And I forgot to take mine off my backpack and it was subjected to the rigeurs of being loaded in and out of aircraft holds, and still didnt break.
 

t2andreo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
And, these shells are not expensive. At the Pilgrim Office, the donation is only either € 1 or € 1.50. They come with a red cord so you can wear it or attach it to your pack.
 

Susan Watson

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning Camino Del Norte to Oviedo and then Primitive in May / June 2018
Instead of buying a shell at the Pilgrim's office or some tourist shop, I'm taking along a shell that I found at my mother's house. Given that shells aren't that sturdy and they'll be banging around the back of packs and lodged against walls for over a month, would it be helpful to protect the shell by putting on a coat or two of lacquer, polyurethane, or shellack (assuming they'll stick to calcium carbonate shells)? I'd prefer to return my mother's shell intact if at all possible to add to her collection. Thanks in advance for any advice!
Doug
Hi Doug, Last year my husband and I walked our first Camino, the Camino del Norte, carrying shells from home. I got the shells from the east coast of Australia in Burnett Heads, a fishing port where my twin sister lives. After we devoured the scallops I took them back home to the other side of Australia in Perth where my two grandsons aged 2 and 11 painted them. Our scallop shells are verrry thin. I gave them several coats of polyurethane front and back, from a craft shop and they proudly hung on our packs from Irun to Santiago de Compostela. I must also add that whilst I was generally aware of how I place my backpack to avoid damage my husband was blissfully unaware of where or how he threw his about and all shells still survived fully intact. They are now packed ready for our next Camino, Portuguese later this year.
 

Charles Zammit

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances , St Jean Pied de Port - Finisterra May/ June 2017
Le Puy en Velay - Ales May 2018
Try this on another shell to see if it is acceptable. Coat the inside of the shell with superglue , the cheap sort that is about $2 for four tubes . When still wet sprinkle with bicarbonate of soda ( used for cooking and acid neutralizing) . This will create an incredibly hard matrix . The initial layer will be very thin , add more glue and another layer of bicarbonate , shake off any loose particles and repeat as many times as necessary .
 

dqduncan

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015:SJPdP-Santiago
2016:Hosp. training
2017:Hospitalero,Aragonés@Arrés.
Next? Norte/Primitivo
...protect the shell by putting on a coat or two of lacquer, polyurethane, or shellac...
Doug
Mine did, in fact, break upon return to home. They can crack; mine broke when slinging my heavy pack around. As it was a special reminder of my first Camino and as I was not sufficiently informed by Buddhist friends to eschew 'attachment' to things :-} , I did cover it in several coats of polyurethane (clear, glossy). Hard as a rock. Did the trick. Happily 'attached' to it and it to me when, occasionally, I put it back on my pack for a Camino hike with the local chapter of Camino friends. Buen Camino.

PS BTW, I received a new one as part of our last chapter meeting in a lovely ceremony to end the day. I liked getting my shell from a non-commercial source. The donation option at the Pilgrim Office is very nice. Finding one or getting a gift from a friend is nice. I'm just not big on getting one from a souvenir type place.
 

El Mayordomo

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino France (Invierno) 2019
I bought this St James Cross pendant in one of the souvenir shops in Santiago on a Galicia holiday many moons ago. It was on that trip that I first witnessed the remarkable blend of joy, exhaustion and camaraderie of dishevelled pilgrims in the Praza de Obradoiro. I knew of the Camino a little then, but that was the first of the camino seeds in my head. So it was with great joy that I found the little red cross in amongst some old bits and bobs in a drawer last week – now I am more a scientist than a believer, but I do believe in fate – this little cross was bought ages ago, has sat in the darkest recesses of a drawer for over 10 years and was meant to be found at this exact time. The little red cross was always destined to make the journey back to Santiago. So I set about attaching it to my favourite scallop shell, a grey black one from the incredible, long, unspoilt sandy beach of Mazagon, Doñana in Cadiz. I chose this from the many we have accumulated over the years, including some Zamburiñas from the Parador de Santiago restaurant itself. Perhaps it too was destined for more than just being washed up, picked up, looked at momentarily and discarded like so many others. So I have my own very personal pilgrim scallop shell attached to my backpack. It is strange but it has already made me feel like a ‘peregrino’.
 

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steve cole

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Starting the french way today
I'd ask your mother if she'd rather you cover it in lacquer or risk breaking it. She might surprise you. Perhaps she feels that it's highly valuable (and then, perhaps you should leave it behind) or not worth worrying about (in which case, why spoil it with lacquer?).
For what it's worth, shells can be quite robust - I'm sure there are some breakages, but I know people who have carried the same shell on the outside of their rucksacks over many Caminos. Shells protect their inhabitants from the ravages of the ocean, so I guess they're stronger than they look.

You should get the shell at Cape beach at end of Camino, that's what pilgrims did originally. I have shells from the beach ,it's very special.
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" Camino
but 2019?
You should get the shell at Cape beach at end of Camino, that's what pilgrims did originally. I have shells from the beach ,it's very special.
I wonder about that, pilgrims going on to find a shell at Fisterra I mean. If the aim of a medieval pilgrim was to visit with St James why would they need to go on to Fisterra? After all they needed to get back home to tend the land and they were walking back not jetting off like we do. More likely they bought their shells along with their pieces of the True Cross, and slithers of the bones of St James from a peddler in Santiago.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2014, VDLP 2018, Levante spring 2019
Sadly my scallop shell broke half way along my first camino; I carried all the pieces to Santiago. In a strange way, I liked the realization of fragility and there is so much beauty in brokenness. I'm stopping now before I get all deep and meaningful....
 

steve cole

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Starting the french way today
I wonder about that, pilgrims going on to find a shell at Fisterra I mean. If the aim of a medieval pilgrim was to visit with St James why would they need to go on to Fisterra? After all they needed to get back home to tend the land and they were walking back not jetting off like we do. More likely they bought their shells along with their pieces of the True Cross, and slithers of the bones of St James from a peddler in Santiago.
I think it was to do with proof they had done the pilgrimage. Pilgrims definitely did bring a shell with them, so it only recently that people started sticking a shell on their rucksack.
Everybody does their own thing, but a shell on your rucksack on the way to Santiago does not say a lot.
Get the shell at Finisterre , and treasure it 👍
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" Camino
but 2019?
I think it was to do with proof they had done the pilgrimage. Pilgrims definitely did bring a shell with them, so it only recently that people started sticking a shell on their rucksack.
Everybody does their own thing, but a shell on your rucksack on the way to Santiago does not say a lot.
Get the shell at Finisterre , and treasure it 👍
I've got six 52008 and treasure them all ;)
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" Camino
but 2019?
Sadly my scallop shell broke half way along my first camino; I carried all the pieces to Santiago. In a strange way, I liked the realization of fragility and there is so much beauty in brokenness. I'm stopping now before I get all deep and meaningful....
Gorilla Glue is your friend - I hope you kept the pieces.
Mine are all marked with the year and the start and end points of my Caminos. My favourite is the one where one of the lobes broke at the piercing - it had lasted all the way to Sarria and earned its retirement.

52009
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
I think it was to do with proof they had done the pilgrimage. Pilgrims definitely did bring a shell with them, so it only recently that people started sticking a shell on their rucksack.
Everybody does their own thing, but a shell on your rucksack on the way to Santiago does not say a lot.
Get the shell at Finisterre , and treasure it 👍
Medieval pilgrim's took a shell home with them, but I don't think there is much evidence that they necessarily walked several days more to Finisterre to get it when there were plenty of similar shells much closer to Santiago (and probably in Santiago itself).

We are no longer medieval pilgrim's, though. Today, a shell on your backpack says you are a pilgrim on the way to Santiago de Compostela. For some of us, that's a lot.
 

steve cole

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Starting the french way today
Medieval pilgrim's took a shell home with them, but I don't think there is much evidence that they necessarily walked several days more to Finisterre to get it when there were plenty of similar shells much closer to Santiago (and probably in Santiago itself).

We are no longer medieval pilgrim's, though. Today, a shell on your backpack says you are a pilgrim on the way to Santiago de Compostela. For some of us, that's a lot.
Interesting, David, but do you need a shell on your backpack to show are a pilgrim? I am currently on my 6th Camino (Mozarabe) I never felt the need to say I am pilgrim , I have my credential that's the important thing. But I understand everyone has their own Camino so if you need it then fine but it is very much a recent occurrence 👍. My last words are; just enjoy the experience 😎
 

El Mayordomo

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino France (Invierno) 2019
Interesting, David, but do you need a shell on your backpack to show are a pilgrim? I am currently on my 6th Camino (Mozarabe) I never felt the need to say I am pilgrim , I have my credential that's the important thing. But I understand everyone has their own Camino so if you need it then fine but it is very much a recent occurrence 👍. My last words are; just enjoy the experience 😎
How was the walk from Almeria! Bet it's lovely there at the moment - I miss it greatly!
 

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