Cleaning frequency

Muse en Cuenca

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This applies to all of my early American (1830-1910) clocks, so I will spare you the time of looking at pictures of all 50 of them,,,,
I’ve been having a great time learning about clocks. It is satisfying to get a clock that has a movement black with smut, full of dust and stinking of nicotine- taking it apart, cleaning it, giving it needed maintenance like bushings, putting it all together again,,, and having it keep perfect time. Wow!
but it occurs to me that I did my first clock about 6 years ago.
how often do you all disassemble, clean, etc your clock movements? I’m talking about Seth Thomas, Ansonia, Waterbury, etc- I have weight driven ogees and spring driven mantel and wall clocks- no grandfathers, atmos, or other fine mechanisms, or wooden movements. Just the common family clocks of the 1800s.
I guess I am assuming that cleaning always involves disassembly. If not, please let me know!
thank you!
 

R. Croswell

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There is no absolute rule. A clock that is well enclosed and kept in a clean environment can go longer that an open clock (like a kitchen clock where the door is opened every time it is wound. If you are using a good synthetic oil you probably won't need to clean most clocks for 10 to 15 years. You probably should reoil every 3 to 6 years (although there is some disagreement here). When you have the clock apart for oiling it will be obvious whether it needs cleaning. Any time you see black stuff around the pivots (pivot poop) it needs attention now regardless of the years. If the clock starts to behave differently or not run as long between windings (spring clocks) that is a sigh that it has gone too long.

RC
 

Dick Feldman

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That cleaning subject is certainly a can of worms.
My belief is that too much emphasis is given to cleaning clock movements.
Modern production clock movements will last about 20-25 years without cleaning and 20-25 years with periodic maintenance. The solution for one of those clocks being worn is, many times, to replace with new. If one has not a lot to do, cleaning of modern clocks is not bad but I question the merits. Old production clocks are another issue. Many have been stored in barns and/or have been lubricated with organic materials like whale oil or goose fat. The whole process to disassemble and reassemble movements of this sort is tedious and lengthy. To take one apart with only the intent to clean is questionable in my book. I believe every time one is taken apart, it should be inspected for wear, the integrity of the click assemblies, worn pivots, ratchet wheels, etc. A lot of these problems are due to previous shoddy repairs. Those underlying problems should be addressed with every disassembly. It would be a waste of efforts if one went through the cleaning process only to have a click assembly fail and draw blood. Modern clock oils are engineered lubricants and do a better job than what came with these old clocks. The lubricants do not gel, run away, dry up or disappear. I know I digress with lubrication but it seems cleaning and oiling go hand in hand. It is common to see posts on this board where novices have cleaned a working movement only to find it will not now run. Cleaning is many times offered as a solution for a non running (worn) movement.
I believe the primary problem with old clocks will be wear. Wear caused by long use. Dirt and other contaminants are contributory to wear but normally a dirty clock will run if it has sufficient power. So which is the chicken and which is the egg?
A better and more permanent alternative to cleaning as a wear preventing measure is to not run the clock movement but that spoils the fun of it.
I welcome your comments.
Dick
 

Muse en Cuenca

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There is no absolute rule. A clock that is well enclosed and kept in a clean environment can go longer that an open clock (like a kitchen clock where the door is opened every time it is wound. If you are using a good synthetic oil you probably won't need to clean most clocks for 10 to 15 years. You probably should reoil every 3 to 6 years (although there is some disagreement here). When you have the clock apart for oiling it will be obvious whether it needs cleaning. Any time you see black stuff around the pivots (pivot poop) it needs attention now regardless of the years. If the clock starts to behave differently or not run as long between windings (spring clocks) that is a sigh that it has gone too long.

RC
“Pivot poop”! Love it! I’ll never be able to look at another pivot with a straight face!
thank you for the advice!
 

Muse en Cuenca

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That cleaning subject is certainly a can of worms.
My belief is that too much emphasis is given to cleaning clock movements.
Modern production clock movements will last about 20-25 years without cleaning and 20-25 years with periodic maintenance. The solution for one of those clocks being worn is, many times, to replace with new. If one has not a lot to do, cleaning of modern clocks is not bad but I question the merits. Old production clocks are another issue. Many have been stored in barns and/or have been lubricated with organic materials like whale oil or goose fat. The whole process to disassemble and reassemble movements of this sort is tedious and lengthy. To take one apart with only the intent to clean is questionable in my book. I believe every time one is taken apart, it should be inspected for wear, the integrity of the click assemblies, worn pivots, ratchet wheels, etc. A lot of these problems are due to previous shoddy repairs. Those underlying problems should be addressed with every disassembly. It would be a waste of efforts if one went through the cleaning process only to have a click assembly fail and draw blood. Modern clock oils are engineered lubricants and do a better job than what came with these old clocks. The lubricants do not gel, run away, dry up or disappear. I know I digress with lubrication but it seems cleaning and oiling go hand in hand. It is common to see posts on this board where novices have cleaned a working movement only to find it will not now run. Cleaning is many times offered as a solution for a non running (worn) movement.
I believe the primary problem with old clocks will be wear. Wear caused by long use. Dirt and other contaminants are contributory to wear but normally a dirty clock will run if it has sufficient power. So which is the chicken and which is the egg?
A better and more permanent alternative to cleaning as a wear preventing measure is to not run the clock movement but that spoils the fun of it.
I welcome your comments.
Dick
Thank you. Good thoughts. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Since they all got a thorough cleaning and maintenance check after I got them, I’ll give all my clocks another couple of years of close observation and a drop of oil, and reassess at that time.
and, yes, I guess we have all seen some repairs that range between shoddy and completely mystifying.
thank you for sharing your thoughts!
 

Willie X

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I like to check them every 3 to 5 years, mainly to inspect and top up the oil, otherwise what RC said. The correct (tiny) amount of oil will leave close to zero residue as it dries. The black residue (pivot poop) is mostly metal dust, so when you see it, DO NOT OIL, it's time to disassemble and correct the problem that's creating the pivot poop. Oiling over the poop is never a good thing. Willie X
 
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Muse en Cuenca

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I like to check them every 3 to 5 years, mainly to inspect and top up the oil, otherwise what RC said. The correct (tiny) amount of oil will leave close to zero residue as it dries. The black residue (pivot poop) is mostly metal dust, so when you see it, DO NOT OIL, it's time to disassemble and correct the problem that's creating the pivot poop. Oiling over the poop is never a good thing. Willie X
Thank you. I like this schedule And think I’ll adopt it. And I promise to never oil over pivot poop!
 
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MuseChaser

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...
I believe the primary problem with old clocks will be wear. Wear caused by long use. Dirt and other contaminants are contributory to wear but normally a dirty clock will run if it has sufficient power. So which is the chicken and which is the egg?
A better and more permanent alternative to cleaning as a wear preventing measure is to not run the clock movement but that spoils the fun of it.
I welcome your comments.
Dick
While I am relatively inexperienced compared to the professionals here, the vast majority of the twenty five or so time/strike clocks I have renovated didn't run simply because they were filthy and gummed up. Two of them had broken mainsprings. ONLY three out of the twenty five wouldn't run due to wear, and required bushing work to run. I still did correct a lot of wear anyway, but for the most part all of the clocks ran after cleaning the gunk out. The clocks varied in date of manufacture from 1886 to late 1930s, with two or three more modern clocks into the 1970s. Very few had enough wear to arrest their ability to run. The ones that DID show that much wear were a Seth Thomas 89 movement, a Hiboni, and a late 1980s Hubert Herr cuckoo.
 
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Willie X

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If a clock has been over oiled many times in the past (common) the pivot poop can actually be mostly dried up oil. But, if it has been properly oiled a few times, say 10 - 15 years after an overhaul, any poop will be mostly metal. Modern oils just don't leave much, if any, residue.
Willie X
 
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POWERSTROKE

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What Oiler do you folks use. I’ve not found one that puts out the right amount yet.
 

R. Croswell

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Some 8 or 10 years ago timesavers sold dispenser bottle with very fine steel tubes. The dispensers were crap, they leaked around the tube and if one was not careful the end of the dispenser would come out and spill oil everywhere. Maybe that's why they stopped selling them. anyway, I saved the fine wire tube and inserted it in the end of the currently available dispenser bottles (the kind with screw on tops that dump too much oil) sealing with a bit of JB-Weld. This works great. Squeeze the bottle and wait for a tiny drop to begin to form to get just the right amount. I believe McMaster.com sells fine stainless steel tubes, or perhaps the needle from a small hypo inserted in the tube of a stock oiler would serve the same purpose.

RC
 
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Dick Feldman

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While I am relatively inexperienced compared to the professionals here, the vast majority of the twenty five or so time/strike clocks I have renovated didn't run simply because they were filthy and gummed up. Two of them had broken mainsprings. ONLY three out of the twenty five wouldn't run due to wear, and required bushing work to run. I still did correct a lot of wear anyway, but for the most part all of the clocks ran after cleaning the gunk out. The clocks varied in date of manufacture from 1886 to late 1930s, with two or three more modern clocks into the 1970s. Very few had enough wear to arrest their ability to run. The ones that DID show that much wear were a Seth Thomas 89 movement, a Hiboni, and a late 1980s Hubert Herr cuckoo.
It is good to hear that you have had success with a short run of clock movement repairs. It may, however, be time to upgrade your clock repair skills and practices.
I believe you may have your trouble shooting priorities somewhat skewed.
As has been mentioned before, cleaning is not bad for clock movements but it is not a curative process.
Cleaning is preventative. Once the wear has occurred, cleaning will have little effect.
The goal should be a long lasting reliable running clock movement not necessarily just to “make it go.”.
You will only see long term success by addressing all wear points and by attending to inherent flaws in a movement such as shoddy previous repairs, failing click assemblies (No brass return springs please), ill formed mainspring ends, etc.
JMHO
Dick
 

MuseChaser

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It is good to hear that you have had success with a short run of clock movement repairs. It may, however, be time to upgrade your clock repair skills and practices.
I believe you may have your trouble shooting priorities somewhat skewed.
As has been mentioned before, cleaning is not bad for clock movements but it is not a curative process.
Cleaning is preventative. Once the wear has occurred, cleaning will have little effect.
The goal should be a long lasting reliable running clock movement not necessarily just to “make it go.”.
You will only see long term success by addressing all wear points and by attending to inherent flaws in a movement such as shoddy previous repairs, failing click assemblies (No brass return springs please), ill formed mainspring ends, etc.
JMHO
Dick
DIck,

Me arguing anything about clock repair with the greats here would be like my German Shepherd arguing with me about jazz theory... and I ABSOLUTELY agree that it is time for me to upgrade my skills and practices. It will ALWAYS be time to do that. I appreciate any help I can get towards that goal.

I think we may be discussing two different things.... the current cause of a clock not running, vs something that will prevent a clock for running reliably for many, many years to come. As a for instance, let's take this 1924 Ingraham I'm currently working on, with no evidence of prior bushing work, and very few punch marks ( I only noticed one in the escape wheel bridge pivot hole, seen in the pic) ...

IngSqFront.jpg

This is after a good cleaning and test reassembly to assess pivot hole wear, pivot condition, etc. This clock didn't run more than a few seconds when I got it. Now, with a light test bob (not quite visible in the pic ...it was missing its bob) and light (and I do mean light) finger pressure on the first wheel, it runs like a champ. Yes, there is a bit of pivot play in a couple locations, but nowhere near the oft-touted "1/3 of diameter of pivot" rule. This clock is almost 100 years old, and the reason it didn't run was definitely dirt and gunk. It runs fine now. Will it run longer before the next needed repair if I bush the areas that show wear? Absolutely. Is that wear the reason it wasn't running? No... at least, not in this case.
 
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shutterbug

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Personally, I leave clocks alone until they exhibit some need for intervention. I know some guys make "call backs" every X number of years as a way to increase their bottom line, but I don't like the process, and don't do it. For me, it's almost as easy to service the clock as it is to remove the movement, oil it and put it back. As mentioned, a good service will last 20 years or more without further maintenance.
 
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