Cleaning brass advice

Bonkdlab

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I’m working on cleaning a Herschede grandfather clock. First timer here: I’ve obtained a manual and have taken many pictures.

I put the plates in an ultrasonic cleaner with an ammonia-based solution to try and get off the old lacquer. After a few cycles, I took them out and cleaned with soapy water and a nylon brush. Though the plates are brighter, it still looks to me like there’s a lot of old lacquer there. Is it reasonable to expect to get all the lacquer off? Should i keep running them through the ultrasonic cleaner, or go another route?

7115B9B4-A68F-4CFB-BDB9-A68BFB4DC369.jpeg 0A6226F6-5D1C-4E42-B364-449E40A717CA.jpeg 05B5FEB9-7CC3-4645-8C3D-E07BFEDA752B.jpeg AE32235E-C0BA-4885-9ED0-17A590FC8344.jpeg
 

Willie X

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Acetone, or Lacquer thinner, will do it. Outdoors only, very flammable. Willie X
 
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Bonkdlab

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Thanks! Will do! Any advice on how to clean the pendulum, weights, and chimes?
 

MuseChaser

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Another way to remove lacquer that works well is to soak the parts in hot water.... about 180F degrees, not boiling. It'll soften the lacquer to the point where it'll peel/rub off, almost like little pieces of plastic sheets. I've found that it's faster, easier, and less messy than using acetone or lacquer thinner, although those can be used equally effectively, or used on any small subborn spots that may remain.
 
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Willie X

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"Cleaning" everything can get you in trouble. Mainly because you have to stop at the dial. Then you have shiny weights and pendulum with a mismatching dial. Same thing with the movement but you have already 'gone there' and the movement doesn't show, so that's a good place to stop. Willie X
 

Bruce Alexander

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That's a good point Willie. These 9-Bell Tall Cases usually came with gold plated dials with silvered chapter, seconds, moon and subsidiary dials. If the silver is in good shape (sometimes a big if) the dial should look pretty good. The damascene pattern on the movement plates looks pretty "fresh". Can you post a photo or two of the clock case and dial Bonkdlab? If any part of the dial looks a little worse for wear, Willie is on point. A peeling Moon dial alone can cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 last time I checked. It only goes up from there. These dials can cost over $500 to restore professionally. Actually, prices have gone up: Prices | dialhouse

With antiques very often less is a lot more.

Generally, I'll only replace lacquer when it is peeling or badly discolored. I'll clean lacquered plates by hand to avoid removing/damaging existing lacquer. If I polish brass, I'll either lacquer or wax it.

BTW, I often use 4-0 Steel Wool to quickly impart a nice finish on unprotected brass but don't try it on the finished sides of these plates. The machined "Fish Scale" damascene patterns are very shallow and can very easily be scratched or otherwise damaged. The patterns can be redone when necessary, but it's very time-consuming. Handle with great care, especially when the lacquer has been removed.

Good luck with it.

668-dial-large.jpg

Bruce
 
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Bonkdlab

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Good points. I’m including a picture of the dial. There are a couple of spots and the edges are a little dull, but the moon dial seems fine. The manual didn’t really cover how to care for that, either. The old lacquer was in rough shape, but I probably won’t bother with stripping it in future cleanings.

I guess my main goal is to get the clock cleaned and lubricated so it can go back into use.

57D09B2C-2909-4C63-8C00-782239F09800.jpeg
 
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bangster

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What Willie said about acetone.
Is what I say.
 

Bruce Alexander

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That's a nice looking dial bonkdlab. I'm sure your Herschede will be in great shape when you're all done.

I agree. I don't keep acetone, but I do try to keep plenty of lacquer thinner on hand. It works much better than most paint strippers I've tried. It's much cleaner to work with too. Besides, "thinning" lacquer is what it is made to do, right? It's like alcohol to shellac.
 

THTanner

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Rather than steel wool - I use 0000 Brass Wool on brass. There is not a lot of difference, but I think it does a better job with less scratching since the part and the wool are the same metal. You can order it online. Occasionally you can find at paint supply houses.

I also use Brass Wool rather than Steel Wool when working the finish on wood. Too often a bit of steel wool breaks off and gets embedded in the wood. After awhile it rusts and you get a little black area. Brass Wool does not present that problem. A carpenter friend told me about this and since then I have stocked Brass Wool. I use steel wool when cleaning steel parts.
 

Bruce Alexander

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Thanks for the tip/reminder TH.

I have looked for brass/bronze wool before. Had trouble locating it and when I did, I found it was a bit expensive, but isn't that usually the case? I'll just have to bite the bullet and pick some up soon.
I think you recommended some scotch-brite rotary wheels for Dremel types of tools a while back, didn't you? I picked some of those up on eBay and have found them to be very useful/helpful. :thumb: Scotch-brite pads are good to have on hand too.

I still wouldn't use any kind of mechanical stripper/polisher over the fish scale pattern on these plates just to remove the lacquer. Not unless you're trying to "wipe the slate clean" before re-doing the pattern. It's too shallow.

Regards,

Bruce
 
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Bonkdlab

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Just an update on my progress so far.

I tried heating up some water & let the plates soak. Unfortunately, I used a pot that was too small, and part of the plates stuck out of the water. Foolish mistake. It did strip some lacquer, but left a “high water” mark.

Next, I tried scrubbing with acetone and a nylon brush. It did seem to thin out the lacquer some... left some areas lighter than others. Couldn’t shift the mark from the water.

I ended up putting the plates back in the us until the water mark dissolved.

Thanks for all your suggestions, and feel free to continue. I see this as a learning process, and really don’t mind all the trial and error as long as I don’t do any permanent harm!
 

Bonkdlab

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I don’t know if this should be a separate thread but...

After assembling, oiling and greasing, the clock ran fine for a little bit, but wound up stopping. I had to adjust the beat adjustment nut to get in beat, and i think it stopped because the fork struck one of the guards. After starting it again, for some reason, I cannot get the clock in beat. It is leveled, and no amount of adjustment to the beat adjustment nut will even it out.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the ticks are occuring when the pendulum swings to the right and when the pendulum is perpendicular to the floor. Is that right? I had always assumed the ticks would occur at the same place on the right and left swing.
 

shutterbug

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You assumed correctly. If you can't adjust it with the nut, the put the adjuster back in the center and see if you can move the crutch.
 

Bonkdlab

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Thanks! So, i took the crutch and anchor back off, and the anchor does move a little from side to side. I’m attaching pictures of this. Does anyone know how to prevent this from happening? There doesn’t appear to be a set screw. The wiggle is occuring at the anchor itself, not at the crutch.

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Bruce Alexander

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How loose is the "wiggle"?
You said

i think it stopped because the fork struck one of the guards.
If you have fairly easy access and if the anchor will keep its setting through normal use you may just want to follow Shutterbug's advice above and leave things as they are.

If the assembly is too loose to hold your setting, and if you have the right tools, you should still do as Shutterbug advises first, then carefully remove the assembly and tighten the bushing that is used to mount the anchor to the arbor.

I haven't done this before. No doubt someone here has. My initial thoughts, based on what I have available in my shop, would be to use a Crow's Foot Anvil and a flat punch to carefully tighten things up around the Anchor.

Let's see what others suggest.
 

MuseChaser

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How loose is the "wiggle"?
You said



If you have fairly easy access and if the anchor will keep its setting through normal use you may just want to follow Shutterbug's advice above and leave things as they are.

If the assembly is too loose to hold your setting, and if you have the right tools, you should still do as Shutterbug advises first, then carefully remove the assembly and tighten the bushing that is used to mount the anchor to the arbor.

I haven't done this before. No doubt someone here has. My initial thoughts, based on what I have available in my shop, would be to use a Crow's Foot Anvil and a flat punch to carefully tighten things up around the Anchor.

Let's see what others suggest.
Whomever last worked on the clock I just renovated would probably have said... "Solder. Solder is ALWAYS the answer." .... sigh....
 

shutterbug

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You do want a little movement there (that's where I suggested adjusting your beat setting), but you don't want it so loose that it moves when the clock is running. If it's real loose, then staking it tighter is the answer .... but not too tight. A bench block or crows foot and a small hollow punch would do it.
 
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