After the fire

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by wow, Nov 8, 2018.

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  1. wow

    wow Registered User
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    Jun 24, 2008
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    I got in a nice marble Frenchie that had been in a fire. Looks like everything is gonna clean up fine. The only thing that is a question for me is this dial. It appears to be solid brass with smoke/ash/whatever coated on it. I don’t know what to use to remove the gunk without removing the painted numbers. Naphtha got it off the porcelain center section of the dial, but I’m afraid it would resolve the paint. Help?

    8C860398-1946-4F7A-9E3A-B27706C43219.jpeg
     
  2. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    clean it up and just have the numbers repainted. i have a dial painter who did the same for me... don’t think it was more than $50.
     
  3. dad1891

    dad1891 Registered User

    Feb 28, 2014
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    A long time ago I was in a building that had a fire and everything was coated with smoke. Asked the fire dept what the best way to clean it would be. They recommended a mixture of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda and Tide. Works great! I would suspect that it would not remove paint, but I would definitely test before using. Bear in mind that anything other than incidental use also removes skin. I would start with a cup of each in a gallon of water. Rinse well. Don't use on aluminum.

    It's not always easy to find, but it is usually very inexpensive. Here's what it looks like.
     
  4. Dick Feldman

    Dick Feldman Registered User

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    If you visit an art supply store, you may find they have numerals matching the size and style. Normally these come as rub on transfers that can be lacquered afterwards. Take your dial with you to pick out the numerals. They may have a catalog and those may have to be ordered.

    Best of luck,

    Dick
     
  5. Fitzclan

    Fitzclan Registered User

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    ppache likes this.
  6. wow

    wow Registered User
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    Thanks for all the suggestions. I’ll begin with the baking soda/Tide method and report back.
     
  7. Joseph Bautsch

    Joseph Bautsch Registered User
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    There are a lot of smoke and water damage clean up and restoration companies, even in Pineville, LA, who might be able to help. They have the cleaning procedures and cleaners that will probably do the job. I have no idea what they would charge for a small job but they might give you advice on how to do it yourself.
     
  8. wow

    wow Registered User
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    Well, the baking soda/ Tide solution worked great to remove the sludge from the fire, but the brass is tarnished needing polish. I polished it and it looks great, but the numbers came off. I will now use the rub-on transfers. Should work fine. Found some that match the originals. Will post final results.
     
  9. Bruce Alexander

    Bruce Alexander Registered User
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    Feb 22, 2010
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    I'm sure it will be a vast improvement Will. It looks like there was a lot missing from the numbering before you got started with your cleanup/restoration anyway. I look forward to seeing your before and after comparisons.
     
  10. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

    Aug 17, 2014
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    I sure wish there were ways to restore or at least stabilize dials that are painted directly onto the dial pan and are now flaking off.

    That, and a way to somehow restore paper dials without just buying another to paste over it.

    And silvered dials, too. Were those just silver-plated, or what?

    Mark Kinsler
     
  11. Bruce Alexander

    Bruce Alexander Registered User
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    #11 Bruce Alexander, Nov 10, 2018
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018
    I haven't tried it personally but Soluvar varnish is supposed to be a good stabilizer.

    Photograph, digitally "restore" the original, laser print (not ink jet on archival quality card stock) and replace (or reversibly cover) the original. That is about the closest I've come to doing something along the lines of restoring a paper dial. I'm betting that museum curators could speak to paper restoration/conservation methods.

    I think that the process is called displacement plating.

    "Dissolve a stick of nitrate of silver (or here) in half-a-pint of rain water (just use distilled); add two or three tablespoonfuls of common salt (non iodized), which will at once precipitate the silver in the form of a thick, white curd, called chloride of silver. Let the chloride settle until the liquid is clear; pour off the water, taking care not to lose any chloride ; add more water, thoroughly stir and again pour off, repeating till no trace of salt or acid can be perceived by the taste (not so sure I would do a taste test). After draining off the water, add to the chloride about two heaped tablespoonfuls each of salt and cream of tartar, and mix thoroughly into a paste. which, when not in use, must not be exposed to the light. To silver a surface of engraved brass...[discussion of waxing and preparing brass dial's surface]...Rinse the brass thoroughly, and before it dries lay it on a clean board, and gently rub the surface with fine salt, using a small wad of clean muslin. When the surface is thoroughly covered with salt, put upon the wad of cloth, done up with a smooth surface, a sufficient quantity of the paste...rub evenly and quickly over the entire surface. The brass will assume a greyish, streaked appearance; add quickly to the cloth cream of tartar moistened with water into a thin paste; continue rubbing until all is evenly whitened. Rinse quickly under a copious steam of water; and in order to dry rapidly, dip into water as hot as can be borne by the hands and when heated, holding the brass by the edges, shake off as much of the water as possible, and remove any remaining drops with a clean, dry cloth. The brass should then be heated gently over an alcohol lamp, until the wax (discussed previously) glistens without melting, when it may be quickly covered with a thin coat of hard spirit varnish, laid on with a broad camel's hair brush." Source: "Watch and Clockmakers' Handbook, Dictionary and Guide" by F. J. Britten First published in 1915. [please excuse any typos]

    OR, you can just order silvering kits from one of many Supply Houses. The Kit approach I've tried and it does work quite well even if you pay for the convenience of ready made Silver Chloride salt and Cream of Tartar powder (which you can buy at any grocery store).

    Does that help or did I miss your question entirely?

    Regards,

    Bruce
     
  12. wow

    wow Registered User
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    Well, here’s how it turned out. Dad’s solution of Tide and Laundry baking soda cleaned off the gook well. After polishing all the brass, the numbers, of course, were gone. I used rib-off transfers and then sprayed four coats of matte lacquer on it. Came out better than expected. Customer is going to love it. It’s a family heirloom that he thought was ruined in the fire. Thanks for all your help. What would we do without the MB?

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    Dave T and Time After Time like this.
  13. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    Looks great, Will! Nice job!
     
  14. Joseph Bautsch

    Joseph Bautsch Registered User
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    Agreed, great job. I've never had much luck using the rub-on numbers, but you did a really good job. The customer should be delighted.
     

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