Cleaning and/or lubing sleeves/tubes/canons

bikerclockguy

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Jul 22, 2017
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I Was just taking my ST2 parts out of the US, and getting ready to start pivot polishing on my lathe, and put them back in to soak for a minute while I posted this. There is something I have wondered about with every movement I have built, and I have never seen it addressed here. In pretty much all clock movements I have encountered, there is at least one arbor(the hour hand cannon, if nothing else)that is tubed or sleeved. As I get ready to build the simplest, yet most valuable movement I’ve worked on to date, I want to make sure I get everything right. On previous movements I have built, I have done the following: Look down the tube to see if there are any pits or rough spots. If there are, I take some 0000 steel wool, put a drop of RemOil on it, and push it back and forth through the tube with a toothpick or Q-Tip, depending on the size. When I’m satisfied it is smooth enough, I clean and dry it along with the rest of the parts, and then when I assemble the movement, I put a drop of Nye Clock Oil on a gun cleaning patch, and run it up and down the corresponding arbor before inserting it in the tube. This had served me well so far, but I’m not sure it’s the “right“ way to do it. When disassembling these parts, I have noticed that some look like they were assembled dry; others will have a little black, gunky residue, like maybe they had a drop of oil on them at one time or another. So...what’s the tried and true method? Thanks!
 
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SuffolkM

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Jun 15, 2020
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If possible, avoid oiling canons. A good, very fine polish is a great help but oil will quickly turn against you. The benefits in the first year or two turn into a problem (admittedly not one of the worse we see but I still think it's easy to avoid this one). The oil is likely to carry particles and gain an abrasive action over time. The clocks where you have found gunky residue all started out innocently enough!
 

Willie X

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Feb 9, 2008
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bcg,

I use a very small amount of oil, a fraction of a drop placed between my fingers and rubbed evenly on the shaft. This has never caused a problem and has some effect to retard rust in humid (or salty air) conditions.

I've seen more minute hand shafts stuck from rust than old oil. When you see a thick coating of dried up oil, that is a case of overoiling repeatedly over many years.
A slight one-time coating of modern oil will disappear over time without leaving any trace of anything.

The area where oil (or grease) can get you in trouble is with a close fitting leaver post hub, where the lever is operated by gravity alone, no spring. That one is probably best left dry. :)

Willie X
 

bikerclockguy

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Jul 22, 2017
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It makes sense that excessive oil oiling would definitely be the enemy there. Two things come to mind, though: one is that inside the tube, it will be in a relatively enclosed(not “hermetically sealed”, as they say on the commercials, but close)environment, so I would think it wouldn’t be as susceptible to that effect, as something like pivots, for example, which are subject to drafts in a room from changes in temperature, windows left cracked, etc. Also, in a general mechanical sense, it seems that where you have rotation of one metal part against another, there ought to be at least some sort of lubricatio, however minimal. As I said in the original post, I just used a gun patch to put a very thin coating on the arbor, being mindful that I didn’t want to gum it up.
 

R. Croswell

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Apr 4, 2006
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Gummed up oil indicates the wrong kind of oil and/or too long since the last cleaning. There is almost no side loading of the hour tube along most of its length, but at the base (gear end) it serves as a 'bearing' and is side loaded much like any other pivot point of the motion works. I like to use a bit of oil there. There are many opinions, but I don't see over oiling here as a big issue. Excess oil will just leak out and cause a mess and attract dust to the surfaces it leaks onto but won't affect the operation of the clock in the short term. If not oiled at all there is so little loading that the parts probably won't wear out for decades. Rust prevention is another consideration.

RC
 

wow

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Jun 24, 2008
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Down here in the south there is so much humidity, rust must be a consideration. A thin coat of synthetic oil sure helps avoid surface rust. Lantern pinions are one of the places I have trouble with rust. The arbor in the center of the pinion tends to rust after cleaning even if dried well. “It’s in the air”.
 
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SuffolkM

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Jun 15, 2020
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Interesting point on the corrosion. We do not have that problem in the UK! A good extra perspective on all this. Corrosion is far more destructive than a bit of gunge so I'm on board with this point of view now.

I think my general aim is to use the least oil possible, and rely on the material combination of brass and steel and the low working forces we deal with in slow movements. See Friction and Friction Coefficients). I'm reminded to look into PTFE-suspension oils again as well.

Cheers
Michael
 

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