Cuckoo Music Box Bushing Grease?

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by Bradford Needham, Apr 25, 2019.

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  1. Bradford Needham

    Bradford Needham Registered User
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    Oct 31, 2018
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    I'm working on the family musical cuckoo clock. I have disassembled, cleaned, oiled, and reassembled the music box, and am at a loss for what kind of lubrication was on the barrel bushing.

    After ultrasonic cleaning of the music box parts, when I was pegging out all the pivot holes using toothpicks, I found the adjustable barrel bushing - the bushing near the ratchet, which is held in place by a set screw - I found that bushing was cup-shaped, and was filled with some sort of thick, dry goo (see photos).

    I used clock oil on all the music box pivots (including this bushing) because that's all I had on hand. Now the music box seems to behave except that every once it a while it decides not to play even though its fan seems to be free to move. I suspect part of the problem is a lack of thick lubrication in that bushing.

    I assume that bushing requires some sort of grease rather than oil. Any tips/hints as to what grease to use?

    Thanks.

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  2. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

    Feb 9, 2008
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    Clocks do like grease in several specific locations. I've been using regular ole general purpous automotive chasis grease (cup grease) for many years. It is a light yellowish tan color and a very stable product.

    Note, I've never noticed any grease in a music box before but if grease was there, it's probably a good idea to replace it. That's probably not going to be your trouble though. Please report back on your progress. Willie X
     
  3. Bradford Needham

    Bradford Needham Registered User
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    Oct 31, 2018
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    Thanks for the cup grease pointer. Yes, as you guessed, that's likely not the problem. My bet is on the governor, which is probably dirty, because I didn't dare disassemble it (bending metal and all). I have a cheap used governor coming from eBay, which I'll practice disassembling, cleaning, and reassembling.

    Strangely, the music is behaving today. Here are some details: I made a test weight using a shampoo bottle and BBs. At 200g it just barely ran the music; at 250g, it behaved fine; now I'm running with the music weight the clock had already, 320g - and it seems to be running just fine.

    Two things changed: 1) I did find a problem, where the fan blade was high enough that it sometimes caught on the gear that drives the worm gear (the fan). I pushed the fan blade down a bit so it nicely clears both the gear and the bottom support of the fan. 2) It's about 8 degrees F warmer in my office now. It's been about 58 degrees F at night and 68 when I was working in the office. What seemed to be "it only fails when I'm not looking at it" may actually be "it only fails when the temperature is below 63 F".

    If the clock behaves for a week, I'll call it good - I'm reluctant to pull everything out of the case again, because I fear I'll mess with the music box until I break it for good.

    I'll post how it goes here. Thanks again for the grease pointer.
     
  4. Bradford Needham

    Bradford Needham Registered User
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    Oct 31, 2018
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    Now I'm wondering whether that cup contained a felt wick. I discovered a Mechanical Music Digest post about music box lubrication, that says "A porous bronze bushing (also called sintered bronze, because that is the process by which it is made) is _always_ equipped with a felt wick when placed into motor service." Unfortunately, I haven't yet found another reference to a felt wick in a music box. Mysterious....
     
  5. Dick Feldman

    Dick Feldman Registered User

    Sep 1, 2000
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    Hello Brad,
    Almost every music movement (like 99.99%) that I run into has the same problem.
    Most likely yours is not an exception.
    The problem I find is not lack of lubrication, the presence of dirt or something needing adjustment.
    The primary cause of failure is wear.
    If the music movement is worn (including the governor assembly) and unless you do something about the wear, you will continue to have poor results.
    The music movement, if in good shape, should operate without lubrication.
    It will probably work better with lubrication but cleaning and adding more and more lubrication won’t make it go.
    The drum pivot holes probably both need to be bushed and the governor assembly probably needs to be replaced or bushed at all pivots.
    Best,
    Dick
     
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  6. Bradford Needham

    Bradford Needham Registered User
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    Oct 31, 2018
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    Dick,

    Thanks for the advice and experience. In a way I'm happy to hear that a heroic cleaning will probably not help. I think we're going to just enjoy the music while it lasts, then do the governor replacement and bushing.
     
  7. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

    Aug 17, 2014
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    A couple of observations: One is that the replacement of a music box governor is non-trivial, for the new ones never quite fit like they ought to, especially for a part that costs so much. The same can be said for a complete music movement, which also won't quite fit unless you're favored by the heavenly host. They're both tough jobs.

    I'd suggest you use a light oil (I like my Mobil1 0W-20) everywhere, including on that large bearing. There are also very light greases available, including Lubriplate Mo-Lith if they still make the stuff. It won't stiffen at low temperatures, nor will synthetic oils like Mobil1.

    I'd also suggest that you poke around the archives of MMD (Mechanical Music Digest) to see what Nancy Fratti has to say on the subject of lubricating small music movements. I think you can also e-mail or call her: though her work consists of large and valuable antique music boxes, she seems to be a very nice lady and will likely be glad to help if she's not overwhelmed by repair jobs. Or else fill out the tedious submission form for the MMD and put your question there, to which she or other music box people will likely respond.

    (That's what I should have done the last time I ran into a problem like this.)

    Mark Kinsler

    The Mechanical Music Digest is an excellent discussion board for people who repair, restore, and collect self-playing musical instruments, including massive automatic pipe organs, Dutch and German and American automatic multi-instrument bands, player pianos, weird harmonicas on which you turn the crank while you blow through them, plastic musical toys like my Gene Autry guitar with its rubber belt substitute for a pin barrel, and the occasional coin-operated automatic violin. It's free and you don't have to join anything.
     
  8. emhitch

    emhitch Registered User
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    Mar 17, 2009
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    Just a suggestion because I've had several music box governor problems over the years. Many have had issues with the upper fly bearing hole and / or the fan fly cock. Check the upper pivot hole to make sure the pivot is not binding. And I've successfully used Etsyntha 859, not any grease, since we are dealing with very small pivots and pivot holes. Here is an annotated photo of one I recently worked on. fan fly cock.jpg
     

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