Advice on suitable lacquers and waxes for brass clock components

Discussion in 'Clock Construction' started by Paul Madden, Apr 13, 2018.

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  1. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
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    Apr 24, 2017
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    Hi everyone,

    I've started to research different methods to prevent brass clock components from tarnishing, specifically the plates, bridges and non-functional surfaces of wheels.

    There appear to be two main methods; applying a clear lacquer or using a carnauba wax after polishing.

    I guess every experienced clockmaker has their preferred method, but I was wondering if any forum members would mind sharing their preferences and advice.

    Regarding carnuaba wax, there are two brands that come up on internet searches; W R. Smiths Rub N Brite, and Clockshine Carnauba wax. Does anyone have experience with either of these brands?

    In terms of lacquers, are their any specific brands that anyone can recommend?

    I guess the three main questions for me are:

    1) Do waxes and lacquers have a detrimental effect on oil if the oil sinks are waxed/lacquered?

    2) Is there any specific preparation or process for either waxing or lacquering that will achieve the best result? (for example mix lacquer 50/50 with thinners, use a hair dryer or heat gun to assist the drying, etc?)

    3) If lacquering is preferred, is there a specific type of commercial lacquer (or specialist clockmaking lacquer) that are recommended?

    There appear to be a lot of commercial brass lacquers, however, these lacquers appear to be used on household ornamental objects. My concern is, are they actually suitable for a functional mechanical clock?

    I'm really new to this, but if any of you have a tried and tested method, I'd really appreciate your advice.

    Finally, If you have tried both lacquers and waxes, and have a strong preference for one over the other, would you mind sharing your reasons?

    I hope this post creates some interest, as I'm certain every clockmaker has faced this question at some point.

    Best wishes in the meantime,

    Paul.
     
  2. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    there is also Renaissance wax
     
  3. Allan Wolff

    Allan Wolff Moderator
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    Paul,
    I have used both lacquer and wax. In fact, on one of my clocks I used lacquer on the back plate and Renaissance wax on the front plate. (It was hot when I did the front plate, see below.) After 5 years, the front plate that was coated with the Renaissance wax was noticeably darker than the lacquered rear plate. Not a lot, but there was enough contrast between them that I felt the need to re-polish and lacquer the front plate before I entered it in the Craft Competition at the Arlington National. I also noticed a small tarnish spot beginning to develop on the waxed plate. It was very tiny but I am sure it would have spread if left untreated. I do not know the cause of the spot, but I believe the lacquer would have protected the brass better.
    The wax is certainly easier to apply with no worries about runs or orange peel. For bright shiny brass, lacquer seems to offer the best protection. I will still use the wax for steel, blued parts and brass that does not need long term tarnish protection.

    I have come to the conclusion that applying lacquer to unpolished brass, such as brushed or satin finish, is easy. You can spray, brush, wipe or dip the lacquer on and it will look acceptable. The only way I have found to get a good finish on polished brass with a mirror finish is to spray on a very heavy coat at cool temperatures so it dries slow and has time to self-level while any runs or sags can be wicked away with the edge of a piece of paper. Small imperfections will shrink away as the lacquer cures. Multiple light coats or fast drying due to high temperatures (above 75 F) always gives me problems. I use Behlen Lacquer for Brass from a aerosol spray can.
    To keep steel bright I have good results with both wax and lacquer. Although many will tell you not to lacquer wheels and barrels, I do if they need to stay bright. I figure the lacquer will quickly wear off of the teeth and pinion surfaces before they cause any problems. No trouble so far. No problems with oil sinks either.
    Allan
     
  4. MartinM

    MartinM Registered User

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    Everything Allan said. And a recommendation for Nikolas lacquer. Best when mixed and dipped or sprayed, but the stuff they sell in rattle-cans id amazing, as well.
     
  5. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
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    Hi novicetimekeeper,

    Thanks very much for making me aware of Renaissance wax. This was new to me.
    I read up about it on their website, as well as on Wikipedia. An interesting point was that one of the disadvantages of Renaissance wax was that it attracted dust, but I assume this would be the case for any wax product.

    However, thank you very much for mentioning this. I can see that Allan also is familiar with this product, so its appears to be known in clockmaking circles, and apparently with restorers/conservationists also. Thanks again!

    Paul.
     
  6. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
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    Hi Allan,

    Thanks very much for your insight into both types of methods. It was interesting to read your comments about Renaissance wax, and from what I have read, it has a different composition to other wax products (microcrystalline waxes, based on refined crude oil as opposed to carnauba or beeswax).

    I'm curious if anyone comes with comments on Rub N Brite or Clockshine horological waxes.

    It was interesting that you use wax for steel and blued parts. I had never considered this. I guess it would be beneficial to give some type of protection to polished blued screws with either a wax or lacquer (Renaissance wax in your case).

    Would you recommend waxing/lacquering blued steel hands also?

    Allan, as you have experience with both, from a servicing point of view, is there any recommended method of removing the old wax or lacquer which does not harm the appearance of the component, for example blued steel components such as screws? Do you use a chemical such as acetone to gently dissolve the lacquer?

    If I was going to consider treating blued steel components with wax or lacquer, I would probably choose the one which has the gentlest method of removal, as I would not want to harm the delicate blued surface underneath.

    This is a really interesting topic, and its great to hear of members experience.
    Thanks very much for your input Allan, its really appreciated.

    Best wishes,

    Paul.
     
  7. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
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    Hi Martin,
    Many thanks. I will definitely check out Nikolas lacquer. I'm really open to all and every suggestion, so really appreciate your comments.

    Is there a specific product you use to mix with the Nikolas lacquer, for example a companion thinner product, or a generic thinning agent?

    Also, what thinner/lacquer mix ratio would you consider appropriate?

    Do you use a higher quantity of thinner when the component has an awkward geometry, and therefore try and avoid build up on edges, etc?

    Best wishes and thanks once again Martin,

    Paul.
     
  8. Bruce Alexander

    Bruce Alexander Registered User
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    #8 Bruce Alexander, Apr 14, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
    Hi Paul,

    There's a lot of pros to using wax. It's quick, easy and reversible. You also don't have to worry as much about getting pivot holes, oil wells or riveted strike levers and the like gummed up with it. If the clock is on a routine maintenance schedule, it will probably hold up fairly well until the next time it requires a cleaning and service at which time a layer of lacquer on the plates may be damaged or otherwise removed anyway. Having said that, Lacquer is the standard. Since you're a NAWCC member, you should have online access to this library resource video presentation by Gordon Sooy entitled Refinishing and Polishing Brass. Here's the link: https://nawcc.org/index.php/resources/61-library/larc/1065-531d-refinishing-and-polishing-brass-by-gordon-sooy . His preferred method of lacquer (Nitrocellulose) application is to dip parts in a thinned solution of lacquer. One can get very good results using his methods, with some practice. The site used to actually host the videos for playback but it looks like they're just offering them for download now. Let me know if you have any problems or questions with it. We'll ask the Cy-brarians for help.

    Good luck and have fun.

    Regards,

    Bruce

    Edit: For your convenience, here is the link to the video archives: https://nawcc.org/index.php/resources/61-library/larc/830-nawcc-video-archive
    Lots of good stuff available in there...even if they keep changing the location/url...dag-nab-it!
     
  9. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
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    Hi Bruce,

    That's great. So far members are giving excellent feedback on both waxes and lacquers, and you are right, I'm sure it takes quite a lot of practice to get good results.
    I will check out the video you mentioned when I return from traveling. I'm sure it provides a lot of good information.

    Thanks once again for your thoughts Bruce.

    Best regards, Paul.
     
  10. Bruce Alexander

    Bruce Alexander Registered User
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    You're very welcome Paul! Safe travels.
     
  11. MartinM

    MartinM Registered User

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    Paul,
    Regarding the Nikolas, I've only used the thinner they sell with their product (The # 275 product), but any thinner that's meant for nitrocellulose should be compatible, to some degree.
    I honestly, just buy their spray can stuff, these days. Except for temps below 40 degrees and over ~100, it always works well.
    Product Selector Guide: Reducing Thinners
     
  12. Bruce Alexander

    Bruce Alexander Registered User
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    #12 Bruce Alexander, Apr 14, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2018
    That's an interesting source Martin. Thanks for sharing. I've used Behlen Lacquer and Thinner before. It's kind of expensive, but I believe that I've gotten good results. Here's one source for it. I'm sure there are others: Finishing Supplies | stewmac.com
    As a matter of fact, as I now recall, I've ordered spray cans of Behlen Brass Lacquer from Amazon. Going to look closely at Martin's source there. Professional....looks like a wide array of products. Could be kind of difficult to pick the right one without some serious study...which is always a good idea anyway. ;)


    Edit: Martin, looks like you can't go wrong with Nikkolas #2105 if you have a pretty clean, dust free area for application. What product do you use, and why if I may ask? Thanks.
     
  13. MartinM

    MartinM Registered User

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    I use the 2105 in spray cans and buy it in 12-can case lots. I use it primarily because of its proven track record on polished brass and silver musical instruments. That and how well it's always worked for me..
    Plus... I live in California and we haven't been able to use automotive lacquers in 30 years.
    After DuPont and Ditzler stopped selling acrylic lacquer in California, I was never able to find another acrylic lacquer that didn't flake off of polished metal quite easily.
    If I had to recommend something available at the average California home store, today, I'd suggest Watco clear wood lacquer. It's reasonably durable and very easy to apply and you don't have to buy a case lot to get a decent price.
     
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  14. Allan Wolff

    Allan Wolff Moderator
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    Paul,
    Lacquer can be easily removed with acetone or lacquer thinner. Denatured alcohol will also remove it, but it is not as fast. These solvents dissolve the lacquer so there is no need for abrasives or friction that can damage a polished or blued surface, just let it soak. rinse in fresh solvent to remove the remaining traces of lacquer.

    I have found that applying lacquer slightly changes the color of blued steel. The Renaissance wax is completely invisible and does not change the color and that is the primary reason I use it on blued parts. I use the Renaissance wax on steel and blued parts as a precaution. We have all seen rusty blued clock hands and screws and removing the rust typically damages the blue surface too. I installed the wax about 7 years ago and the steel is still bright. I do not periodically reapply.
     
  15. Paul Madden

    Paul Madden Registered User
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    Dear Allan,

    Thanks once again for sharing your insight.

    It’s a fascinating subject, and an important one, as essentially it has the role of preserving the surface finish that required much effort to achieve.

    It’s for this reason, I wanted to benefit from the experience of the forum members.

    Once I’m fully back from traveling, I’m going to look into all of the products and techniques mentioned, and I’m sure with some experimentation, I will find a product and method that works for me.

    Thanks once again Allan, and to everyone else who has joined in and shared their advice.

    Best wishes in the meantime,

    Paul.
     

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