Lubricants

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by fixer_123, Apr 4, 2005.

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  1. fixer_123

    fixer_123 Registered User

    Mar 12, 2001
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    Hello:

    I have always read and heeded the warnings against using automotive lubricants in servicing clocks.

    However, I have learned that a number of colleagues are now using Mobil 1, the synthetic lubricant, in lubricating clock mainsprings.

    Has there been any discussion on this?? Also, I'm wondering what the feedback is on this procedure and any positive and/or negative feedback from individuals who have used Mobil 1 to lubricate mainsprings.

    Thank you.

    Bob
     
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  2. fixer_123

    fixer_123 Registered User

    Mar 12, 2001
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    Hello:

    I have always read and heeded the warnings against using automotive lubricants in servicing clocks.

    However, I have learned that a number of colleagues are now using Mobil 1, the synthetic lubricant, in lubricating clock mainsprings.

    Has there been any discussion on this?? Also, I'm wondering what the feedback is on this procedure and any positive and/or negative feedback from individuals who have used Mobil 1 to lubricate mainsprings.

    Thank you.

    Bob
     
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  3. rgtrepp

    rgtrepp Registered User

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    Lubricants are like books and cleaning solutions-everyone has their favorite lists. There are numerous messages concerning lubricants. Personally, I think the clock oil companies formulate oils for clocks and know whatthey are doing. I like Keystone medium for mainsprings and any of the name brand oils for clocks like LaPerle.Have not tried Mobil 1 but I read where many use this- and then there are those that swear by 3 in 1. Good luck.
     
  4. Robert M.

    Robert M. Registered User

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    Hi Fixer:
    The gentleman who mentored me when I initially got involved in clock repair swore by Mobil One.I certainly had no reason to doubt his preference being that he is a master Clockie with many,many years of experience in the repair trade and damn good at what he does, but like Dick I like to stay with the lubricants that were manufactured for that specific purpose.I too use Keysone for that reason.
    Personally I think its a matter of personal preference.Like the other poster I know that a lot of folks use synthetic lubricants and have never experienced any detrimental effects from them.There again I think it's your own call.
    Sincerely,Bob F.
     
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  5. akldb1

    akldb1 Newbie

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    I've been using vacuum oil to lubricate clocks for several years now. It has the advantage that there are no high vapour pressure components to evaporate and cause the oil to thicken. High vacuum oil is generally synthetic although there are mineral ones available also. As I run vacuum pumps for my business, getting a small amount of oil for clocks has never been an issue.
     
  6. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

    Feb 9, 2008
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    Give it a try. John H. did a lot of testing some time back. Hopefully you can search the archives and find his work. Also, you will find reams of oil info in the archives of this MB.

    Just so you know, Nanolube didn't pan out.

    An oil good for clocks needs to:
    - Remain stable, not thicken or darken appreciably for 10 years when exposed to air and some light.
    - Stay where you put it, not run or spread out to much.
    - Have no Ill effect on brass, steel, and sometimes plastic over time.

    Few (maybe no) oil will do all these things all the time but try to find one that will ... if you can. :)

    WIllie X
     
  7. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    Problem is there are likely dozens of oils sold specifically for nonclock applications that would work fine for clocks but we have no longterm test results with large numbers of clocks. The number of people using Mobil-1 synthetic oils is growing and I have not experienced or heard of any documented failures. We may never agree on what is best and I suspect any selection will involve a degree of compromise. Perhaps it is more important to consider oils that probably should not be used. I will no use WD-40, 3-in-1, or any form of nano oil, vegetable oil, or animal based oil. I prefer synthetic although just bein synthetic does not alone make then superior.

    Is what I think

    RC
     
  8. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

    Aug 17, 2014
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    Now you've done it. It is tantamount to shouting "Oil!" in a crowded theater, for if tradition holds we won't see the end of this for weeks.

    Insofar as anyone can tell about the only lubricants you shouldn't use in clocks are certain animal and vegetable oils that harden with age. Just about everything else works fine, for modern lubricants in any application are all very stable. You can't buy any oil that'll seize up or rot out brass or steel. But everyone likes a good legend, and you'll find lots of questionable lore regarding oil.

    One book I read, which seemed about as authoritative as any, recommended light grease for clock pivots. There's one called MoLith #2 by Lubriplate that would probably be great, now that I think of it, but probably not for balance wheels.

    The basic problem is that no real research has been done on mechanical clocks for a good 90 years. They were important to astronomers, navigators, and aviators before that, but behold: Quartz clock - Wikipedia. Once reliable vacuum tubes were made a century ago, it was all over for polished pivots and escape wheels if you truly needed to know what time it was.

    And thus nobody has kept track of how a mechanical clock will fare over the course of thirty or forty years if lubricated with Nye synthetic oil, or Elsyntha $35/gram oil, or Tractor Supply Company Hydraulic Jack Oil. (ATF might work well, for that matter.)

    And the reason that nobody has kept track is that everyone who fixes clocks is generally old, and they don't live long enough to publish useful conclusions. Clock manufacturing companies _do_ live long enough, but they've traditionally produced no useful information, and they're about gone as well.

    A few months ago I was feeling anarchistic, so I responded to a request for help on lubricants for music boxes on the Mechanical Music Digest, knowing full well that it would cause endless trouble for that innocent crowd. I recommended Mobil1 0W-20, which is what I use, for mainsprings, pivots, and everything else save the most delicate wheels, for which I use Nye synthetic watch oil. If I get some MoLith#2 sometime I'll probably use that for mainsprings so that it doesn't leak out of the barrel, but that's not a big issue.

    M Kinsler
     
  9. TooManyClocks

    TooManyClocks Registered User

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    #9 TooManyClocks, Oct 17, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
    Being maybe two years into working on clocks, I might as well add my two cents, which should add fuel to the fire since the subject is clock oil...;)

    A little over a year ago, I started using Mobil 1 0w-20 on pivots and Slick 50 one lube spray on mainsprings. This was because i read that several people on this message board use it or something similar, and i did read through several entertaining discussions on clock oil!

    I think this is the link Willie was referencing: Mobil 1â„¢ 15W-50 full synthetic oil at Walmart. $6.95/qt.

    At any rate, the information John Hubby related in his post in the link above was what really made me decide on the synthetic oil i now use.

    A year or so later, none of my clocks are complaining:D

    John

    (In 10 years or so, I’ll revisit this if my memory is still intact, which is doubtful—and the clocks are still running, which is more likely...)
     
  10. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    I was trying without luck to think of a funny motor oil name as an example of a something that would lubricate a clock as well as anything else, but I could not for the life of me think of the name Valvoline, which is my favorite oil name.

    I inherited a tiny, essentially-empty bottle of Nye's clock oil, the stuff that they got from (approximate quote) 'a cavity in the jaw of a porpoise fish.' This isn't one of Flipper's air-breathing relatives, but another fish conveniently called a 'porpoise.' My guess is that the oil found therein is lots easier to get than the sperm-whale oil supplied by Captain Ahab.

    Upon removal of the cap I discovered that the aroma of 100-year-old fish oil does not improve with age. But I'll bet the stuff still works: it hadn't thickened at all.

    (A friend of mine ran a motorcycle junk yard and, upon endeavoring to drain the fork-damping oil from an early Honda motorcycle, discovered to his delight that the original installation was also fish oil.)
     
  11. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    Just so there isn't any confusion, the Nye clock oil sold today (Nye-140 Clock Oil) is not fish oil but apparently a synthetic oil blend that is sometimes sold as "synthetic". I used it for years and had no problems but it seemed to me to be a bit on the thin side for typical American clocks. I found that Mobil-1 0W-20 has a somewhat higher viscosity that may be better suited for pivots of many clocks.

    John, Good luck with your clock. Unfortunately none of us will likely live long enough to really know how good the lubricant's we select are unless we make a terrible mistake. Many clocks will run fine with no oil for a while, so it is easy to conclude that our selection is a good one. You should be aware that "Slick 50 one lube spray" and engine additive once contained Teflon but I believe the formula was changed and that may not be true today. Generally a thicker oil or grease is used on main springs, especially older springs that may not be real smooth. Without the Teflon advantage one has to question the use of Slick 50 one lube spray on main springs. Like the rest of the clock, almost anything will work for a while.

    RC
    .
     
  12. Uhralt

    Uhralt Registered User
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    You mean that we live too long? :D

    Uhralt
     
  13. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    I have some synthetic motor oil in a container, i think air got into it, as it turned gooey. I have heard many others use it with sucess on clock pivots.
     
  14. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

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    #14 Willie X, Oct 17, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
    Mobil-1 and Slick-50 One-Lube will darken in a few months when exposed to indoor lighting and air. The darkening doesn't seem to have any effect on their properties. So far, I haven't seen either of these turn "gooey" after about 8 years of use. But, none has ever sat in one place for 8 years, it all goes into a clock in about a year or so. If not, I discard it into a lawnmower engine, or other less fussey applications. WIllie X
     
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  15. dad1891

    dad1891 Registered User

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    FWIW, I have used Mobil 1 75W-90 gear oil on mainsprings for about three years now. I have about 20 years of experience with it in cars and have never seen any indication of degradation in applications that are far more severe than clock springs.
     
  16. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    That's what I now use on most main springs. I have a 400-day clock that I couldn't keep running for more than a few weeks even after cleaning and oiling. Cleaned it again and oiled with Mobil-1 0W-20 in the goint train and Mobil 1 75W-90 gear oil on mainsprings and 1 year later it was still running on the same winding. Not sure when it stopped but I think about 14 months (It was in a room where I didn't didn't check on it every day).

    RC
     
  17. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    I had a fairly long discussion with an engineer at Nye Lubricants, or whatever they're called now. He didn't know much about the firm's history, so I told him about fish oil, whale oil, and clocks, and why the company is located in Captain Ahab's old home whaling port of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

    He seemed fascinated, and I noticed that Nye has since added that history of the company on their website.

    In any event, the fellow told me that 140 and their watch oil (I don't remember the number) are their standard synthetic instrument oils and have been made forever. Their first application would have been for WWII aircraft instruments, which would freeze solid when lubed with conventional oils. Nye helped develop the synthetics.

    Nye isn't a consumer- or hobby-oriented firm, and at this time I don't think they offer their oil in consumer-friendly packaging. When you get it from Timesavers it comes in a plain plastic bottle with a poorly Xeroxed label that promptly falls off. I assume that's because Nye ships it to Timesavers by the quart or half-gallon or something, and then someone at Timesavers sits there with a lot of tiny bottles and a funnel.

    The company seems to be doing well enough. They specialize in industrial lubricants, some of which have weird applications: when I talked to the guy he was working on the grease used by automobile manufacturers to ease the assembly and preserve the plugs in their wiring harnesses. The particular problem was 'fretting corrosion,' a combination of wear and oxidation that appears in electrical connectors subject to lots of vibration.

    Whenever I'm done with a clock movement I often let it run for days without oiling it, and typically lack of lubricant doesn't make any difference. Now, I wouldn't let a clock out of here without lubrication, but it's worth considering that in lightly-loaded, zero-speed, brass/steel plain bearings the type of lubricant or even presence of lubricant actually should not affect their performance. Others have noticed the same thing, and at least one clock book I saw opined that oil probably did little more than prevent corrosion.

    M Kinsler
     
  18. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

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    I have been using Mobil 1 20W-50 (made for motor cycle engines and transmissions) for a couple of years now, with good results. I'm careful to use just enough to coat the spring. I might switch to the 75W-90 but so far I'm pleased with the 20W-50. Willie X
     
  19. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    I strongly recommend against that. The most important time to protect newly finished pivots and bushings is during initial metal to metal contact at the start of the break in period. Pivots should never be run without proper lubrication. You may not see the consequences for months or years later but without oil the bearings begin to wear out before they break in. Oil is cheap so why not use it.

    Nye is an old well know supplier of clock oil. I don't how it matters who packages it for retail sale as long as it isn't diluted or mixed with something else. Other than having low viscosity, Nye-140 is a good safe choice as a general clock oil that has a long track record. That doesn't mean that something else isn't just as good or better, but for those who insist that the container say "clock Oil" it is one to consider.

    RC
     
  20. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    The 75W-90 is a gear oil. It has a "smell" like gear oil. It seems to work OK but I have wondered if 20W-50 or heavier engine oil might be just as good or better. For some applications I use synthetic grease.

    RC
     
  21. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

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    That (gear oil) smell is usually from a sulfide and (sooner or later) can cause problems with the brass. I have used keystone mainspring lube for many years and it also has the sulfide smell but not to strong. Never a problem with it to date. Willie X
     
  22. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    My synthetic motor oil was in glass vials with cork caps. Perhaps not a good way to store it.
    I would not run a clock with out oil.
     
  23. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    Apparently it doesn't cause any problem with the brass sync rings in automobile transmissions. I've never seen any problem with Keystone and I don't really expect a problem with Mobil-1 and brass but time will tell. If there is a real problem I expect we would be seeing actual examples of problems like was the case with Nano Oil.

    RC
     
  24. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    What happened with Nano Oil? I can't imagine that it would have caused much of a problem in anything like a clock.

    As for running a clock without oil, it's never for very long unless I forget about it, which happened once. (That one came right back out of the case after I realized what I'd done, and I oiled it. It ran just the way it had run earlier, but I felt far better about it. Maybe that is clock oil's major purpose.)

    If there was anything like metal-to-metal contact of a variety that could cause damage it would have been apparent very soon. The sort of galling damage we see in unlubricated sliding surfaces begins with microscopic welds that come from two similar metals being pressed together without any barrier between them. (In fact, this turns out to be an effective method of industrial welding.) The welds then tear apart, roughening the surface. Brass and steel don't do this because they're different metals.

    My point was that clocks don't seem to require oil to run, and I wonder if this could somehow be tested. It probably cannot unless someone greatly improves the current technologies in time acceleration and travel.

    M Kinsler
     
  25. TooManyClocks

    TooManyClocks Registered User

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    Your comments about running a clock without oil to see what happens has me at least curious enough to try a very low-tech experiment...i have a few total bonepile clocks around whose only redeeming value was the purchase price to learn how to fix what was broken and get the thing running, which i did. No one will ever want the things, so I might take one of them apart, ultrasonically clean the movement to get the oil out, put it back together, mount it on the wall out in the shed where it won’t annoy my family, and try to remember to wind it once a week.

    Then I can check it for wear occasionally, and see how long it will stay running. If the pivots don’t grind themselves down to a thread, and the already bushed pivot holes don’t go wandering off to the side of the case, it will at least be an excercise in just seeing what happens...i probably will keep the oil on the mainsprings, just because the thought of putting that much torque on a dry mainspring while winding it up fully gives me the heebie-jeebies thinking what might break...:eek:

    For anyone who wonders about it, the clock i’m thinking of maybe sacrificing is about one step away from being thrown out, and I don’t say that carelessly. Someone took a case back from a gallery clock, married a round wooden dial surround to the thing from something else, the dial is a total mismatch to the movement at least because a new winding hole was drilled in it and the old hole patched over and painted, and the movement was a bodged up mess when I got it but after a bunch of repairs does run now—when i don’t have it shoved in a corner like it is most of the time.

    It was a good practice clock that I learned from, and it will at least serve a purpose of sorts if I treat it sacrificially...hope I don’t get too many flaming darts thrown at me for thinking of doing this:D

    John
     
  26. TooManyClocks

    TooManyClocks Registered User

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    #26 TooManyClocks, Oct 19, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2019
    Thanks for your thoughts; i do take them seriously. If nothing else, I have wondered about the thinness of the Slick 50 on the mainsprings, and its tendency to run a little no matter what. Enough of it does seem to stay put, but trying a heavier viscosity does seem to have merit.

    John Hubby in his post in the thread i linked to above equates Slick 50 one lube to Mobil 1 10-40, so it’s probably not a horrible choice. It is at least convenient to just give the mainspring a quick spray and be done with it. Any more than that just runs off. I may revisit my mainspring lube choice and try something with a heavier viscosity to see how it varies from what i’m using now

    I learn a lot from these threads, so thanks again!

    John
     
  27. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    We will probably never know for sure what went wrong with Nano oil. I tried it in a few clocks of my own and all of them stopped before the next scheduled maintenance, and some had strange discoloration of the brass around the pivot holes. Perhaps these clocks had other unknown issues. About that time Hermle suddenly stopped using Nano oil but as far as I know never provided any reasonable explanation why. I think that pretty much closed the book on Nano oil for me and a lot of others.

    Most clocks, and especially over powered American clocks do not require oil to run at least for a while. We see clocks 100+ years old that are still running but we assume that they have all had at least some maintenance over their life but perhaps more important they likely were oiled properly initially when made. People in the day were used to mechanical things requiring oil and a $6.00 clock was an expensive investment to be cared for so it is reasonable to conclude that the first owners probably did oil the clocks. Oil doesn't facilitate the running of the clock, it protects the moving parts to reduce wear. You won't likely see the pivots of your bone pile clock grind to dust in a few weeks, but I would not bet on it running 30 years. Same thing with newly bushed clocks run dry without protecting the metal with oil during the critical brake in period. Now if you really want to give that rebuilt clock the best chance for a long life, oil it before it is run then after about the first year take it down and clean it and reoil it before starting the regular maintenance cycle. That will help clear out any debris from the brake in period.

    Now if you really want to play with not oiling clocks may I suggest wooden works clocks. While many have suffered all sorts of abuse it isn't uncommon to see original pivots and pivot holes still operating after 150 to 200 years. I have several of my own in which I have installed Delrin-AF bushings that are running fine for 12+ years with no oil and no signs of wear.

    RC
     
  28. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

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    Note, using dissimilar metals does not prevent 'gauling' and any common machine will run without lubrication, just not for very long. The only exceptions are machines that run under close to zero load, have a close to zero friction coefecient, or have a close to zero speed.

    The top end of a small well made clock movement would come pretty close at meeting these conditions, on the rotating parts, along with the escapement, various levers, etc.

    WIllie X
     
  29. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    I have one in house right now that has a bunch of discoloration around and on the pivots. The time and strike trains are almost without wear, and the chime side will require only three bushings. It must have stopped from lack of lubrication. I suspect Nano Oil was used. It did dry up fast, and the particles it was supposed to leave behind were not adequate to provide the needed reduction in friction.
    No way to know for sure though.
    I've often wondered if the technology would have been better if the nano particles were added to a good oil instead of whatever base they used?
     
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