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How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/14/2009 5:01 PM

I'm going to buy a large 3-piece sectional mirror from someone on craigslist. Problem is, it's large and easy to break taking off, transporting, and installing.

Each section is 3 feet wide by 10 feet tall and glued to his wall. They are close together, so they form a total of 9 feet in width. From my research, the general recommendation to remove mirrors like this is to use mirror suction cups with handles and a heat gun. Use heat gun to loosen the glue, and work the mirror off the wall from the top down. Also, of course, wear lots of protection in case the mirror shatters. After talking to a local glass guy, he was unsure if even he could get it off without breaking since it's only 3 feet wide. He said 4 feet would have given it more structural integrity, but 3 feet would possibly warp / break.

So I have an idea... if I glued a 10 foot vertical Support Beam - something like a 2x4 wood board - to the middle of the to the mirror, it would give the mirror structural support and reduce the chance it breaks. After putting the mirror back up at my home, I could use a solvent to remove the glue.

I'm considering 2x4 wood beam and using cyanoacrylate (crazy glue) and acetone. Would you suggest a different glue? Or perhaps a different support beam? I want to keep it simple and inexpensive as I'm paying him $50 for the mirrors and will be paying $25 for the heat gun and suction cups.

Thanks,

Louis

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#1

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/14/2009 7:00 PM

What are they attached to? Paint over drywall? In other words, what surface is the glue touching?

Do you know what the adhesive is now? Construction adhesive, silicone, etc.

You have a 10 foot dimension, can the window guy work sideways? 4 feet's good, 10 should be better.

Glass is a poor conductor of heat, so heat it gently, but thoroughly. Should be as hot as Mom's old iron to the touch. Use plenty of heat, carefully.

BE PATIENT!

I'm not crazy about that beam down the middle.

BE VERY CAREFUL. IF THE MIRRORS BREAK, THEY CAN HURT YOU!

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#13
In reply to #1

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/16/2009 12:18 AM

'BE VERY CAREFUL. IF THE MIRRORS BREAK, THEY CAN HURT YOU!'

I think there needs to be a substitution of words here... HURT should be replaced with KILL or MAIM of course glass and I have a history (26 plus stitches from 1 incident and there are others...)

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Anonymous Poster
#2

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/14/2009 7:44 PM

Back in the day...piano wire and two patient folks.. pulling top to bottom..( let the wire do the work )......

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/14/2009 10:11 PM

This has merit. The problem here is they would have to work with a nine+ foot wire.

I don't think you can do each three foot section by itself.

Could be done.

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#11
In reply to #3

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/15/2009 11:12 PM

Good idea to use the wire. But instead of using just a piano wire, you can think of using wire with known and calculated electrical resistance and a proper safe DC power supply to heat the wire to a temperature, which will assist you in cutting the glue.

The wire should be strong enough to cut the glue, thin enough to have good resistance etc. etc.

If you know the type of glue, you can find out at what temperature it will get cut.

We (many of us from CR4) can assist you in calculationg all these parameter, if you need.

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#28
In reply to #11

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/16/2009 8:25 AM

Transformer for a soldering iron is often used to heat piano wire for cutting long pieces of styrofoam. I've seen it done for cutting shapes 6' long.

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#4

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/15/2009 1:37 AM

Dear ,

Last month I removed 6 large 1/4" plate glass mirror sections, 23' total height X 12' wide,so I will share what I learned and offer some advice.

First, you can not be too careful with this stuff, it can cut you in half with little effort. Wear work boots w/steel toes if you have them, and gloves are a must. I used gloves that have silicone dots for traction and were Kevlar mesh for cut resistance.

I used a 2 tier scaffold to avoid any falling over with the ladder issues, and secured a safety 2X6 about 1-1/2" out, across the face of the mirrors. For the upper ones I also had a flush 2X6 along the bottom edge for keeping the glass from sudden descent when loosened. This worked perfectly and allowed full control of the descent, and wiggle room, and both hands free for the project.

I found that where the mirror was secured with the proper black tarry cement, the heat gun and a good deal of patience worked just fine. I ran into trouble with the pieces that had been set with silicone however, since it ignores the heat. For those I was able to carefully slip in a long hand saw (vintage from my dad's era) and slowly work my way down through the silicone. Be sure to protect the glass edge from the saw teeth with a wide spackle or taping knife, and avoid over-stressing the glass. Nicks result in certain breaks.

I found it advantageous to flex the mirror slightly while looking across at a sharp angle, to locate and 'black marker' the adhesive spots.

One feature that helped was that these were set on drywall, and the adhesive spots tended to tear off the surface layer of paper of the drywall once I was able the get some movement. Working from the top down, using wide putty knives slipped in to provide a constant gentle pressure, and fingertips to apply pulses of stress while heating the adhesive.

Don't try to heat a small area, especially near the edges or corners. Work a larger area and keep the heat gun a fair distance, 8"-10" away, to avoid quick expansion and cracking. Keep it moving.

Things that did not work, things to avoid:

My daughter heard that sticky shelf liner, contact paper, was the trick to be safe. I arrived to find a situation that I would compare to handling a 6' X 3' glass "numb-chuck" (Karate weapon), since when it broke, it could not separate, and the edges were jammed together causing multiple fracture with each movement. The sharp glass edges had no problem slicing through the plastic contact paper and thankfully there were no injuries. (except to her pride.)

Don't attempt to use a glass cutter while tape or contact paper is on the mirror. The glass must be free to separate, or you will get the multiple chip and fracture routine.

Don't glue anything to the glass, not a 2X4, not tape, - nothing. It's OK to tape the edges for transporting, but not across the face. I was quite successful by using a plywood sheet to add support to the glass sheets as I lay them down, while being safely behind the plywood in the case of a sudden break. I layered plywood with the glass sheets for transport also, = OK.

Don't try this alone. I did because I'm a really big guy, but I would not do it that way again. This stuff holds some very dangerous kinetic energy backed by razor-sharp merciless edges. All it takes is one slip . . .3 flights of stairs . . .<shudder>.

I wish you success. Regards, CJM

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#7
In reply to #4

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/15/2009 4:22 PM

I just realized something. A sheet of jagged glass coming down glued to a 10 foot 2x4 would be like a guillotine. Ok that idea is dead.

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#14
In reply to #7

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/16/2009 12:25 AM

don't quit too easily, this can be done safely... What you need to know is in the thread, just be careful and do everything with deliberation and always err towards the side of caution.

I haven't tried the heating method (I believe it will work well assuming typical installation) but sawing through with piano wire will work, though I recommend three guys instead of two and possibly buying/renting a pair of those cool suction cuppy thing-a-ma-jigs that glaziers use.

Good luck, if you need more advice I'm sure there are knowledgeable folks here who can help; worst case... I know a few glass guys and I imagine I could get their input.

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#21
In reply to #4

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/16/2009 6:01 AM

CJM,

Do you think that using a turpedo heater would assist in heating a large area? instead of contact paper , how about the window films they sell to help winterize? would that help the safty factor. And I really like the wire Idea. I know you can get wire with grit for cutting.

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#38
In reply to #21

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/17/2009 2:28 AM

Guest, I am not familiar with a turpedo heater, so I don't have an opinion on that. I will say that it does not take a great deal of heat, just enough to soften up the goo. An average ladies hair dryer has been used successfully with smaller mirrors.

As for window film etc, I found that sticking ANYTHING other than perhaps suction cups, gives a false sense of safety, and ensures the destruction of the entire section should a break develop.

The reality is that if a large piece of glass develops a break, you must be able to control and separate. Taped together broken edges develop more chips which soon become breaks. I could not imagine taping several large sections of glass together end to end on purpose, and then attempting to work with them from vertical to horizontal, or carry them around that way. Don't set yourself up for disaster.

I found in previous situations that the wire idea, which sounds so good on paper, often results in damaging the edges of the glass. The small chips result in sudden breaks.

Many good ideas have been tossed about for this, but it comes down to

  1. Safety barriers you can easily work around yet still deal with the pieces separately should a break occur.
  2. Shield glass edges with wide taping knives etc when using wire or saw - avoid chipping
  3. Heat gently, don't over heat. This is not a race.
  4. Use a support, plywood or 2X6 etc to reduce flexing and shield worker while transitioning mirror from vertical, but don't glue to mirror.
  5. Wear gloves & eye protection, sturdy shoes etc
  6. Don't use contact paper etc = false sense of security + greatly added problems.
  7. Hand sand edge nicks before flexing glass to avoid cracks
  8. know the weight - Don't get surprised and injured.
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#40
In reply to #4

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/17/2009 8:26 AM

Excellent advice and info. Myself, I would have tried to tape a large sheet of styrofoam onto the mirror (taping the edges), for surface protection, and backed by a sheet of 1/2-inch plywood for structural integrity. That would give rigidity and surface protection. I cede to your experience.

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#5

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/15/2009 1:53 AM

Rather than glue the vertical beam to the centre, why not attach 4 or 5 of those suction cups to the vertical beam - easier to remove and they are the same suction cups used by glaziers to handle large sheets and carry sheets on their vehicles so should be perfect for the job. You may find 2 vertical beams at 1/3 width spacing with the cups will give you a more rigid and safer structure to move around.

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/15/2009 9:53 AM

So are you saying the vertical beams would somehow attach to the cups? What would they be? Metal rods? I thought the cups just have handles... not sure how to attach anything to them...

Louis

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#12
In reply to #6

Re: Removing Large Mirror - Which Glue? Cyanoacrylate?

07/15/2009 11:57 PM

I was thinking something like this,

presuming many of the variety of glass suction cups available would have some mechanism to bolt or clamp these to a wooden or metal beam.

It is probably the type of devices that were used to handle the mirrors in the original installation.

Will all this gear you could probably setup up your own business.

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#8

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/15/2009 10:53 PM

Gluing a single strip of wood will do little to prevent breakage! You also have to be careful as heat will cause the silver to peal from the back and give the mirror bald spots! The proper way to remove the mirror would be to attach a steel or non-flexible frame to the section you are removing. Anything less will allow the mirror to flex and break! Been moving large glass objects for over 30 years so I know what I am talking about!

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#9

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/15/2009 11:08 PM

You should be getting paid for the removal

You could cut the dry wall down while still attached to the mirrors.

maybe a piece of nicrome wire plugged into a suitable power source, this would be a multi person job for sure...

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#32
In reply to #9

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 9:57 AM

But don't pay for any of the mirrors until they're off that wall.

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#10

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/15/2009 11:11 PM

OK, if the mirror is on drywall, removing the mirror will most likely cause damage to the wall. Is the owner aware of that? Is he going to be taking care of that or are you?

Just wondering, but why nor just cut the drywall and take it with the mirror? Drywall is cheap and not to difficult to work with, and since the wall is going most likely need some form of repair anyway. It would also give a backing and support to the mirror during transport, until you could find a more favorable location to separate it from the mirror.

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#22
In reply to #10

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 7:24 AM

amen....I was going to suggest taking a hunk of the entire wall (studs included) since it would be safer to rebuild the wall than to try and peel such a large piece of glass from a wall. I bought a house full of mirrors glued to walls and it is a very dangerous, tricky thing to do...

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#24
In reply to #22

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 7:50 AM

amen

I was going to suggest unrooting the wall itself from the foundation and use that at new location, instead of separating wall and mirror

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#15

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 12:55 AM

and for some added protection, cut yourself a sheet of steel mesh, chicken wire or reinforcing mesh the same size as your mirror sufficiently stiff to be free-standing in the vertical, with some openings for the attachments, whatever they may be and always stand behind the mesh. It wont stop small pieces but will prevent any large guillotine type effect.

Now with your monorail across the ceiling of the room .............

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#16

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 1:50 AM

My suggestion: do a risk analysis. For a $50 mirror, and all the gear and time required, is it worth it?

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 2:56 AM

Not only Risk analysis, Economics of removal also (if no emotions are invalved in the mirror).

May be you will get new mirror much cheaper than the cost of removal.

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#18

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 3:09 AM

I gave the last three posters in this thread votes for good answer.

I've moved big mirrors off of walls, and they weren't glued to the wall.

Hell, I wouldn't have done it without the pay to do it in the first place.

Minimum its a 350 to 500 buck job to get the mirror off the wall and out the house to someplace else, and that mirror is not going to show up somewhere else without damage.

In my opinion, from my experience...

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#19

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 5:30 AM

Proper prior planning prevents poor performance.

First construct a means to handle the mirrors as they are removed; a padded rack mounted to a supported handtruck, portable lifting table or forklift. Configure in a manner to receive the mirror from the wall.

Join a 2 x 4 and a 2 x 6 boards on edge to produce a 6 x 6 angle x 10', secure to immediately outboard of one of the mirrored panels you choose to begin removing to prevent it slipping away from your control. Use vacuum cups to control inward slipping.

Have handy a suitable heat gun capable to gradually heat the entire mirror or if used judiciously a propane tank and rosebud nozzle maybe used.

Position the panel rack to receive a mirror.

Steady as you go too slow is the correct speed...too fast is an accident waiting to happen...

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#20

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 5:37 AM

Hi, Best advice I can give is treat the purchase like a horse dealer, "don't hand over the cash till its on the truck"

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#23

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 7:50 AM

For all the free advice being added here I would say that I don't have the tools or experience to do the job without breaking something. Maybe you should hire it out?

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#25
In reply to #23

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 8:05 AM

I would say that I don't have the tools or experience to do the job without breaking something.

So you would say that I have the tools and experience to do the job of breaking something.

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#26

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 8:11 AM

I would probably skip the glue, and use the suction cup idea instead. I would worry the glue would hold, but the mirror could just break all around it. A wider suction cup would give more pulling area across each piece (using multiple ones). Would also use a high temp heat gun to ensure the glue loosens completely and not get stuck with sections that just will not come off.

Or you could take the whole wall with you.....sorry, couldn't resist.

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#27

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 8:23 AM

I have done this before with a mirror in a bath room. Cover the entire surface of your mirror with duct tape first.This will hold the mirror together if it should break.use a blow dryer to heat the glass evenly all over its surface. This is because it can help soften the glue, called mastic, which holds it to the wall. Next, using your painter's tool or putty knife, gently separate the mirror from the wall, working it around and under the edge to cut through any paint that might have overlapped the mirror, thereby making a small crevice behind the mirror. Now, while keeping a careful hold on the mirror, work the piano wire behind the mirror and bring it down in a sawing motion, with your helper holding onto the other end. The goal is to cut through the mastic, which is usually applied in dabs rather than along the whole surface. It might help to heat the mirror again before attempting this. With any luck, this will totally detach the mirror from the wall. But if it doesn't, it is time to use the pry bars. Use two at once along each side of the mirror to help distribute the pressure and reduce the risk of cracking, since this is the point at which the mirror is most likely to break. Also, be sure that your helper is ready to support the mirror, should it come loose. After gently prying and making more room between the mirror and the wall, try to fit your painter's tool or putty knife between them to work away at the mastic. Again, re-heating the mirror at this point will probably be helpful. Once the mirror is down, you and your helper should store it carefully, wrapping it between several towels for protection. The now bare wall will most likely have some damage, either because the mastic remains or because some of the surface has been torn away. Most experts recommend removing this section of wall and replacing it, which is fairly simple and inexpensive.

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#29

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 8:33 AM

For $50 and the risk and effort I would get a glasscutter, cut the 3' x 10' mirrors into smaller mirrors while attached to the wall, sell the smaller ones on Ebay and use the funds to buy new large mirrors.

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#30

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 8:40 AM

Inspect the edges of the mirror for any chip out or cracks. If there is then I will not recommend heating to soften the glue but go with solvent which will dissolve the glue. Most common one are the stripper, flux cleanner, acetone also work if the glue is based on polyvinyl acetate based. and then get mirroe released from support holding with section cup.

Before transporation blunt the crack so it will n ot propagate. Common blunting solvent is 2% hydrofloric and 2% sulforic acid blend but make sure to have rubber gloves during application. This is only at the are you see crack. Leave this for about 15 minutes then was the area and glass for atleast 10 minutes and then you can carry this like normal glass carrying method. Chances are better than 95% will not break.

Best of luck

Masyood

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#31

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 9:40 AM

Based on the replies, I have determined that the safest thing to do to get these mirrors for my viewing enjoyment while minimizing the chance that they break is to buy the house from the guy and then move my stuff into the house.

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#37
In reply to #31

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 11:34 PM

Congratulations

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#33

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 1:06 PM

Along with all the other suggestions on this thread, I would add that you could also criss cross each mirror with a good strong tape before attempting to handle it. Masking tape, clear package tape, etc. An old movers trick for handling large expanses of plate glass. Also good for reinforcing windows in hurricanes. The tape adds a tensile reinforcing to the glass.

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#34

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 4:10 PM

Wow, and you are paying him..........

He should be paying you to remove it.....considering the risk you are taking.

And the damage to the wall to save the mirror.

oops this was coverd

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#35
In reply to #34

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 5:05 PM

Yes based on comments here and something else I saw posted elsewhere, I told him I would do the job for $0 and keep the mirror. He agreed! Of course, that is fair. He also knows the wall will be damaged. Another option I may take is to cut the mirror, as suggested. Guess I'll need to buy a glass cutter : )

Thanks so much for all your helpful replies!

Louis

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#36

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/16/2009 7:39 PM

HELP FOR YOUR PROBLEM

First go to wal-marts fishing section and get yourself some "leader wire", attach one end to a stick to use as a handle, do the same for the other end. Have a friend stand in front of the mirror for leverage and a friend on each end of the wire and using a sawing motion pull the wire downward between the mirror and the wall. This method should release the mirror from the wall.

as for transport, use a 2x4 placed every 24" on the bed of a pick up or van. then a blanket, then the mirror. Repeat the process for each layer of glass. That should do the trick. To reattach the mirror to the wall use mirror adheasive found at your local glass store or Vulcom-found at the home depot in the paint department caulking section.

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#39

Re: How to Remove a Large Mirror

07/17/2009 7:27 AM

Put a lot of thought into what others have said about safety. Tape on the mirror face and plywood to trap the glass seem like a must.

A few years ago I was in a store while an employee was adjusting a 12" x 18" glass shelve. Something slipped a little, the shelve cracked and fell about 6 inches before it hit his arm. With only an 6 inch fall and less than a pound of weight this cut him to the bone. Your statement "wear lots of protection in case the mirror shatters" is not near good enough. The other poster's statements that the mirror could become a guillotine and cut you in half is a very real risk. As you work on the mirror your arms and feet will be properly positioned for easy removal.

An off the wall idea. Is your friend just getting rid of the mirrors or is he/she remodeling and taking down the wall? If the wall is coming down then it will probably be easier to tape and brace the mirror on one side and attack the drywall on the other side. You would still have the removal problems, but if the mirror is taken down drywall-and-all then it will be much easier and safer to work on.

Be safe.

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