Movement cleaning solutions

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by bangster, Feb 6, 2005.

  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  1. bangster

    bangster Moderator
    NAWCC Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    19,083
    292
    83
    utah
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    What about ammoniated cleaning solutions? Are they really a no-no?

    bangster
     
  2. bangster

    bangster Moderator
    NAWCC Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    19,083
    292
    83
    utah
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    What about ammoniated cleaning solutions? Are they really a no-no?

    bangster
     
  3. eskmill

    eskmill Registered User
    NAWCC Fellow NAWCC Member

    Aug 24, 2000
    7,135
    27
    0
    Region Flag:
    Anyone who puts forth his knowledge, thought or opinion on the subject of ammoniated versus non-ammoniated horological cleaning fluids should wear flame-proof clothing and brace for verbal abuse.

    There is good evidentiary proof backed up with widely acceptable chemical theory that the presense of ammonia or deritaves thereof can accelerate and or cause stress-crack-corrosion in brass or other copper alloys.

    Stress cracks are common in stamped brass clock parts that cannot be relieved of internal stresses during rolling the raw brass and or during punching, forming or fabricating. Many clock parts are necessarily made of brass rolled hard for strength. Some ornamental parts don't have to be strong and are heat treated after procuction to relieve the internal stresses caused by rolling the raw sheet or during production of the part.

    Thin stamped clock wheels typically are punched or machined of hard brass and are never stress relieved because they must have strength.

    Ammonia is said to be especially harmful to older cast-brass clock parts causing the cast parts to break in areas that are stressed even though the cast brass is usually rather soft and not hardened by the rolling process in the way sheet brass is produced. Too, brass castings may have voids and inclusions that will be failure points especially when exposed to an ammonia environment.

    Thus many restorers and repairers avoid ammoniated cleaning fluids due to the possibliity that a hard brass part may already have some invisible stress crack that fails after exposure to ammonia or a cast brass part that has invisible flaws that might fail on account of the ammonia.

    Catastrophic failure in rifle and other military brass ammunition carcases was determined to be caused by exposure to ammonia fumes originating from rodent urine in and around arsenal bunkers.

    Brass is not the only material subject to stress-crack-corrosion.

    I think the best advice is to avoid or minimize the use of ammoniated cleaners when it is practical.

    Master clock restorer John Losch, has said that the natural color of brass is brown not yellow.
     
  4. erngrover

    erngrover Registered User

    Aug 6, 2003
    247
    0
    16
    Clockmaker
    Harrisonburg, VA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
  5. bangster

    bangster Moderator
    NAWCC Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    19,083
    292
    83
    utah
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    I've read the James Moss article, and it sounds convincing. Good research, good aguments, good theory. That's why I raised the question originally.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, haven't ammoniated solutions been used for many decades, with no corresponding massive disintegration of clocks cleaned by that method?

    Aside from the theoretical issues, are there any hard numbers about clocks actually damaged (in any way detectible by ordinary methods, rather than microscopes & stuff) by ammoniated cleaners? Not just damaged in a "some indefinite time in the future they're gonna fail" way, but rather in a "they actually failed" way.

    I am NOT questioning Moss's research. But I am questioning whether his advice "never use ammonia" is warranted for run-of-the-mill amateurs like me working on run-of-the-mill clocks not destined to last for centuries.

    Inquiring minds genuinely want to know.

    bangster
     
  6. John C. Losch

    John C. Losch Registered User
    Old Timer NAWCC Fellow NAWCC Member

    2/7/05 Another view on ammoniated solutions:

    I will be the first to say that there are a few places where ammoniated cleaning solutions would be wisely avoided. A FEW! Drawn alarm clock cases, drawn or spun clock bezels, some pressed or formed clock hardware such as finials are some examples that come to mind immediately. After that, it’s bye-bye for me on the anti-ammonia bandwagon.

    I have spent sixty years at the bench, and it is rare that I have seen stress cracking of any kind on conventional factory made, or cast, one-off clocks. I have seen a lot of damage to parts from incompetent work; I have seen some mid-nineteenth century clock plates that have become “layered” by separation of the metal because the brass rolled to make the parts was impure, and any aggressive cleaning can only exacerbate a latent condition of this sort. I have seen finishes ruined by soaking them for stupidly long periods in caustic or ammoniated solutions. I have also seen various metals never cleaned with anything showing stress cracking solely the result of manufacturing techniques.

    My contrary position on this subject is fairly well known, and I will ask again, where are all the stress-cracked clock parts that seem to have unleashed something close to an hysteria on this subject? Several years ago I wrote and published a lengthy and detailed essay, in the form of a letter, point by point outlining my arguments against the prohibition of ammonia as a cleaning agent. I will quote this paragraph from it, and I will post the entire diatribe if there is sufficient interest.

    I said, “If there is to be a panic-type concern for causes of loss to the historic heritage of artifacts, it should concentrate on incompetent repair and “restoration” procedures, wars, fires, greedy commercial alterations and unrecorded “marriages,” inaccurate or deliberately dishonest or sloppy research, and the consequences of naïve gullibility, to mention only a few of the threats that have plagued historic preservation throughout recorded history. More of the heritage of mankind has succumbed to environmental oxidization, and to the eternal cry, ”Out with the old, in with the new,” than has been lost to cleaning with anything.”

    As with any other procedure involved in restoration and preservation, good and informed judgment, and caution need to be applied. Excessively strong cleaning agents should be avoided in most cases. Responsible cleaning usually requires more than one step, and ammoniated solution can often be one part of the operation, along with thorough rinsing.

    I do almost no work since I retired, but I still do an occasional job. I am willing to work on almost anything if it is worth repair or preservation. In the process I clean with everything from paint thinner (Stoddard’s solvent), to sodium cyanide and lye. One method does not fit all, and as a practical clock cleaning solution, ammoniated baths have an appropriate place. Prohibition doesn’t work. Jcl
     
  7. lylepete

    lylepete Registered User

    Feb 9, 2003
    186
    0
    0
    This topic has always been interesting to me. I have found that there a lot disagreement between metallurigists, chemists, and physicists. Mostly its the chemists and physicists disagreeing with the metallurigist. It seems that the argument isn't whether ammonia can cause scc, but under what conditions. Metallurgigist pretty much think it happens under any condition. While Chems and Phys people only under acidic conditions. I lean more towards the physic and chem people. However I don't use either ammonia or tumbling which may if fact be worse than ammonia.
    I find A lot of good info about tumbling cleaning and polishing, but I've also found some information about it causing stress cracks not in brass ,but other metals such as bronze and steel. I should also point out that high humidy can also cause scc esp on a dirty movement.
    William
     
  8. Just a quick one... great essays, by the way.

    My father, rest his soul, told me as I started really getting serious about clock work the same thing that Mr. Losch so elloquently told us. Namely that there's a place for all cleaners and that many people will tell you otherwise, but to trust him on it.

    As a general cleaner, I use non-ammoniated watch cleaning solution to clean and naptha to rinse. This is what he advised and I stick with it with great results... also, as a watchmaker for over forty years, he had a good supply of the cleaner on hand. I simply decant it when it accumulates too much dirt and grime.

    Thanks again for the information above.

    Charlie
     
  9. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    To All,

    Permit me to suggest that you go to your local library and request the following books:

    Metals Handbook, Desk Edition (ASM) ISBN # 0-87170-188-X

    sTRESS cORROSION cRACKING (ASM) ISBN # 0-87170-441-2

    FUNDAMENTALS OF ELECTRO-CHEMICAL CORROSION (ASM) ISBN # 0-87170-676-8

    CORROSION: Understanding the basics (ASM) ISBN # 0-87170-641-5

    CORROSION Volume 13 ASM Handbook (ASM) ISBN # 0=87170-007-7

    These reference books will give you a basic understanding of brass and ammonia and SCC and how they all can interact.

    If you get bored after reading all of these,. I can come up with about 250 more references for you.

    Visit my WEB site www.antiqueclockconservation.com and look at the pictures and then compare them to the pictures in the above listed books. Take a junk T&S movement, wind up one side, let down the other and place it in a zip-lock plastic bag together with a teaspoon of your favorite household ammonia: seal it. Sit back and watch the cracks grow before your very eyes. It doesn't matter if the movement is ancient or brand new! Do not sit close to the bag because when the great wheel lets go, the mainspring will go through the side of the bag and splatter ammonia all over the place. If you want to be more cautious, put the movement and the ammonia in a plastic see through container so you can watch the action.

    Why don't you see this type of destruction when you are washing a clock in an ammoniated cleaner? Perhaps the stress isn't high enough to cause immediate cracking but on a microscopic level the cracking has begun and will continue until the stress is relieved. It can take several hundred years for this to occur or it can occur immediately. Many clocks are already suffering from this type of damage and many are on their way.

    Most of us feel that something is safe if we don't see anything happening immediately or during our lifetime but consider extending your viewpoint out to 500 years ( which isn't all that far into the future). Many things take a long time to manifest. Asbestos can take 25 to 40 years to show signs of causing damage to our bodies. So too can other chemicals take their own sweet time to show their bad side. I, personally made a click spring for a tall clock and washed it in a strong ammoniated cleaning solution. Six months later it broke in two at the customers house: that is what tipped me off that something was not right. It took several more years to figure out what the culprit was.

    The mechanism going on at the tip of the SCC crack is not known at this time: they are still trying to figure out the process. Most metallurgists are chemists and all of the metallurgists that I know do not debate the connection between brass and ammonia. To them it is a known and accepted fact.

    It takes 5 conditions to produce SCC:

    1. oxygen ( in the air or disolved in the water)

    2. moisture ( humidity in the air or use of an aqueous solution)

    3. Brass with a zinc content between 15% and 45% (it does not matter if the brass is old or brand new or clock brass or some other use of the brass). Have you ever wondered why gas stoves do not use brass fittings? I'll tell you later if you are interested.

    4. Stress: either induced as a result of rolling, stamping, drilling, filing, punching, sanding, hammering, etc. OR applied as when the clock is wound up and teeth are pushing against one another or a click spring is applying pressure onto the click.

    5. And lastly: AMMONIA or its cousins the amines.

    To you who disagree or do not believe...... you are fighting so much scientific evidence to the contrary that your arguments do not hold up.

    Jim
     
  10. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
    NAWCC Member Deceased

    Nov 4, 2002
    40,850
    140
    63
    Male
    deceased
    Whitby, Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Jim, you convinced me. But I have had recently washed springs break within a week without ammonia cleaning (athough I don't know about previous cleanings). I use Deox 007 for my cleaning. It doesn't say what the chemical formula is, but it is odor free and cleans well. Harold
     
  11. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    There is a good possibility that the solution that you are using contains an amine component such as monoethanolamine or diethanolamine to perhaps triethanolamine. Ask you supplier for a MSDS sheet for this product. As the above are considered hazardous, they will be listed.

    Regards,

    Jim
     
  12. Joe Collins

    Joe Collins Registered User

    Jan 3, 2004
    986
    2
    0
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Jim Moss,
    I have a 30+ year old, 140,000 BTU input gas forced air furnace with brass metering orfices. Should I be concerned?

    Joe
     
  13. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    No, Joe, you don't have to be concerned. The exposure to ammonia fumes will be miniscule: there is ammonia in the air we breath but in very small quantities.

    My mention that gas stoves do not have any brass piping components in them is based upon a real reason. Many years ago gas stoves did have brass fittings and tubing. Over a short period of time the gas companies noticed that there was a significant increase in the number of houses that were blowing up. After much research, they traced the problem to the typical housewife and their habit of using an ammonia spray to clean their stoves. The ammonia caused SCC of the brass fittings and tubing and because the gas is under pressure, the SCC cracks allowed the gas to escape....... with enough escaped gas in the house, it would blow up when a switch was tripped or a spark generated. This story is documented: I am not making this up.

    The only time that the orfice in your furnace sees gas is when it is called for by the thermostat. All other times that assembly is pressure free and the gas is shut off by a solenoid. Even if the jet did crack, it would not cause your house to blow up.
     
  14. Len Lataille

    Len Lataille Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Aug 31, 2002
    880
    0
    0
    And now for my two chimes worth. I agree with John Losch. I have attended talks given by Mr Moss where he shows that just about all of the old time repairmen that ever wrote a book on the subject of clock repair, recommended the use of ammoniated solutions.
    Then this means that virtually any clock that comes in for repair that was made in the mid 19th and into the 20th century and has been cleaned at least once, was likely subjected to ammonia. As for clocks before that time period, I must trust my memory concerning comments I once heard by Laurie Penman. He said that When the streets of Europe were open sewers and animals lived in closer proximity to humans than they do today, the ammonia in the air would have reduced every museum piece that we have today, into brass dust, if ammonia was so harmfull to brass.
     
  15. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Len,

    You and Laurie have brought up an interesting point. Now the question arises: why do we have so many clocks that survived? Is it because the ammonia thing is pure BS or could it be for another reason?

    I did some cursory investigating on the WEB and basically came up with the following:

    1. Poor sanitary conditions existed in the areas where the poor and the factory workers lived. The rich were able to afford a better location less polluted.

    2. The cost of clocks during that time ( 17th thru 19th century) was well beyond the means for the ordinary worker thus only the well-to-do or rich people had the money to purchase clocks AND they didn't live in those areas that contained the heavy concentrations of ammonia fumes or septic problems.

    My hypothesis is that because the clocks generally resided in areas of very low concentration of ammonia fumes,if any, that is a reason why most of these clocks have survived rather than the ammonia thing being pure BS.

    Repairers also helped those clocks survive that developed problems ( if any) by replication of the damaged components. We would not be privy to these repairs as very few records were kept and the connection between ammonia and brass was not known at that time so they could not identify the failure.

    Below I have provided some text regarding living conditions as well as the source WEB site. The information comes first and then the reference WEB site. Hope you find it interesting reading.

    ****************************

    As towns and cities sprang up around the factories, living conditions declined. Badly planned, poorly built slums were seriously overcrowded.
    Open sewers and shared privies meant disease was rife and in 1831, Manchester was hit by a severe cholera epidemic which claimed hundreds of lives.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nationonfilm/topics/textiles/background_conditions.shtml



    The population continued to grow with this prolonged success, but construction of fit housing was unable to keep the pace and squalid living conditions among laborers contributed to an outbreak of cholera in 1832 killing nearly 700 people. Marked improvements were made to the city including streetlights, a public sewer disposal system and the foundations of a public transportation. A railway line would soon link Liverpool with Manchester and an influx of Irish immigrants made their way to the city

    http://www.autoeurope.com/guides/United_Kingdom/Manchester-guide.cfm



    Smog episodes begin killing residents of large cities like London.

    1833 -- The Poor Laws Commission (Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Operation of the Poor Laws). This led to the Poor Law Amendments of 1834 which created a central administration, work houses and segregation of classes of workers and sexes (including families) in the workhouses. The law specifies that workhouses are to be less accommodating than the lowest paid labor. Meanwhile, a second survey by Poor Laws Commission is begun. This survey, reported in 1838, finds that poverty is linked to disease and poor housing and sanitation.The report says families are engaged in dangerous, unhealthy work for long hours, living in "ill-furnished, uncleanly, ill ventilated" homes, eating "meagre and ilnutritious foods," and are finally falling the "victims of dissipation." Members such as Edwin Chadwick, Dr. Neil Arnott and Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth find conditions in London so bad in this 1838 report that they petition for a full nationwide survey (finally reported in 1842).

    1835 -- Alexis de Tocqueville publishes Journey to England and describes the industrial city of Manchester:
    "Thirty or forty factories rise on the tops of the hills...six stories (high). The wretched dwellings of the poor are scattered haphazrd around them. Round them stretches land uncultivated but without the charm of rustic nature.,, the fetid, muddy waters stained with a thousand colours by the factories ... Look up and all around this place and you will see the huge palaces of industry. you will hear the noise of furnaces, the whistle of steam. These vast structures keep air and light out of the human habitations which they dominate; they envelope them in perpetual fog; here is the slave, there the master; there is the wealth of some, here the poverty of most."

    1842 -- Edwin Chadwick writes The Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain. Report is first scientific inquiry linking high rates of infectious disease and child mortality to grossly unsanitary conditions and polluted drinking water. For every person who died of old age or violence in Britain in the year 1839, the commission reports, eight died of infectious disease.

    1842 -- English engineers lay out sewer system in Hamburg, Germany, and English system of house by house sewer lines is adopted elsewhere in Europe.
    1845 -- Friedrick Engels writes The Condition of the Working Class in England
    "If anyone wishes to see in how little space a human being can move, how little air -- and such air -- he can breathe, how little of civilization he may share and yet live, it is only necessary to travel [to Manchester, England]... The cottages are old, dirty and of the smallest sort, the streets uneven, fallen into ruts and in part without drains or pavement; masses of refuse, offal and sickening filth lie among standing pools in all directions; the atmosphere is poisoned by the effluvia from these, and laden and darkened by the smoke of a dozen tall factory chimneys."

    http://www.radford.edu/~wkovarik/envhist/4industrial.html



    Interesting reading about these conditions can be found at this site:
    http://www.scienceinthebox.com/en_UK/pdf/history-of-washing.pdf.
     
  16. BIG D

    BIG D Registered User

    Mar 2, 2004
    488
    1
    0
    Memphis Area, TN, USA
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    sooo bang:???:??

    Does this answer your question?
     
  17. bangster

    bangster Moderator
    NAWCC Member

    Jan 1, 2005
    19,083
    292
    83
    utah
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    #17 bangster, Feb 18, 2005
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2017
    'Fraid not, Don. ("Surely, you jest.") I'm still sandwiched into the same conflicting considerations.

    On the one hand, well-articulated metalurgically based intelligent arguments that brass exposed to any amount of ammonia will quickly reveal stress cracks, and before long will weaken and disintegrate.

    On the othere hand, gazillions of clocks cleaned with ammonia-bearing solutions over the last century, that are still running and showing no signs of imminent disintegration.

    There SEEMS to be a conflict between theory and empirical fact. Except that Jim Moss cites facts (stove fittings, etc.) that confirm the theory. While other longtime horologists cite other facts that disconfirm the theory.

    My question was "are ammonia-based solutions a no-no?" So far, all I can say is: I don't know-know. I await any information or arguments that can resolve the the conflicting testimonies.

    bangster
     
  18. Joe Collins

    Joe Collins Registered User

    Jan 3, 2004
    986
    2
    0
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Does this make sense to anyone except me?
    Ammonia, in the presence of stress, has a detrimental effect on brass over a period of time. Absent the stress the effect is reduced or non existant. Since most cleaning is done with the parts in a stress free state the result is less than forecast. A thorough rinse should remove all traces of the ammonia.
    Works for me!!

    Joe
     
  19. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Joe,
    You wrote:"Since most cleaning is done with the parts in a stress free state the result is less than forecast."

    My Response: There are no records showing that early clock parts were stress relieved. Hermle and tht ilk have a type of stress relief done to them but earlier clocks appear not to have been stress relieved. Therefore, as most of the clock parts were made from either hammered or rolled brass, they inherently have stresses within them. In addition, if they were stamped, drilled, punched, filed, hammered, riveted, milled, or any other machine operation, then they have additional stressed induced into them by those processes. SO when you take a clock apart and wash it, the components are NOT stress free. They may not have a critical level of stress that would cause them to crack immediately but they have enough stress to begin the process of cracking.

    Also, you wrote: "A thorough rinse should remove all traces of the ammonia."

    My response:
    By the time that you are ready to rinse off the ammonia, it will have already reacted with the brass and no amount of rinsing will reverse the cracking process. Each time the clock is washed in an ammoniated cleaning solution, the cracks become larger. In some cases, if there is sufficient stresses, the crack will continue to propagate by itself without any additional exposure to ammonia.
     
  20. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Bangster,

    You wrote:"While other longtime horologists cite other facts that disconfirm the theory."

    My response:
    Perhaps those other horologists have opinions but have no training in metallurgy. Perhaps they haven't done the reading and some experimentation. I have had training in metallurgy and I have done the reading and I have done several experiments to check this out. I am absolutely sure that this effect is happening.

    Now, I must tell you that the clocks are not going to disintergrate into powder.

    Here is a metaphorical example.....

    If you took a sheet of rubber and glued it to the top of a closed vise, let the glue set and then opened up the visew jaws, the rubber sheet would be under tensile stress just like a plate of brass would be if it were rolled out. Then, it you took a razor blade and made a slight cut ( a metaphor for a beginning crack), that cut would travel across the rubber sheet until either the remaining stress was just slightly less than the stress required to continue the opening of the cut. This would mean that the cut may stop partially across the sheet of rubber. OR the stress was so high that the cut continued to go completely across the rubber sheet. Metal works basically the same way: when the stress required to continue the cracking process equals the stress in the component, the cracking will stop. The crack has effectively relieved the stress in the component. If the inherent stress is extremely high, then the crack can go completely across the part and it will break in two.

    Now, go try the experiment that I described in an earlier post with a scrap clock movement and see what results you get. Don't listen to me or others, find out for yourself.

    It's late an I'm going to bed!
     
  21. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Bangster,

    T'is morning and I've had another thought:

    What you are doing by performing the experiment is to determine if ammonia can damage a clock. What you are testing for is "susceptability" for a clock or all clocks to sustain damage from ammonia. The test is outside of normal usage of ammonia: it is extreme but can show that something is or could happen.

    Not all clocks will react the same; not all components will react the same BECAUSE not all components even in the same clock have the same level of tensile stress.

    The stress that we are talking about is tensile: that is a pulling apart or stretching of the metal. Much of the time it is on the outer surface of the metal but many times it goes right through the piece and deforms the crystalline structure (an example is the rolling out of a billet of metal even though it is annealed again and again, the last roll will impart a tensile stress and if it is not stress relieved as in annealing, the stress will remain.

    Many times the stress induced will mitigate at room temperature over a very long period of time: in the order of 300-500 years but that is not a guaranteed fact. So brass springs could lose their strength and at the same time not be susceptible to ammonia. Don't hold your breath however!
     
  22. Kenny D

    Kenny D Guest

    Would it be a fair statement to say that; "any type cleaning is detrimental to the metal but sometimes beneficial and life-prolonging to the movement?"
    In the field of medicine, immuno-suppressant drugs are prescribed that actually are harmful to the organs they protect.
    In this analogy it`s a matter of balancing the risks against the gains to get the longest life out of the body/movement.
    It`s all relative to your goal. If you never clean the clock you can have a non-working movement that will last a long, long time. Proper cleaning will result in a movement that will not last as long, but will be a working unit for it`s lifetime. Over-cleaning for cosmetic appearance will shorten the lifespan even more.
    Bottom line; Is there a cleaner/solvent that will do the same or better job as ammonia with less risks?
    Beats me!
    Guess it`s just an individual judgement call depending on methods used, parts used on, etc.

    Sorry if this sounds rambling or irrelevent but sounded good when I wrote it!

    :) :confused: :)
     
  23. Paul Jenkins

    Paul Jenkins Guest

    Hello Jim i am still unconvinced on the subject of Ammonia/ non ammonia argument. I have recently repaired, some would say restored a Lantern clock from the 1650s. This clock has had a hard life and must have been in a great number of workshops in its lifetime. It was covered in Verdigris and showed no signs of stress cracking/corrosion. I have been repairing clocks for over 30 years and never seen the evidence that is causing so much hysteria. Have we any photographic evidence to back up these claims, Paul
     
  24. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Kenny,

    You wrote:
    Would it be a fair statement to say that; "any type cleaning is detrimental to the metal but sometimes beneficial and life-prolonging to the movement?"

    My response: Cleaning metals with hydrocarbon solutions (without surfactants and other additives) is completely safe and not detrimental to the metals. Other cleans are detrimental in one manner or other.

    I agree with your statements: "it`s a matter of balancing the risks against the gains to get the longest life out of the body/movement.
    It`s all relative to your goal. If you never clean the clock you can have a non-working movement that will last a long, long time. Proper cleaning will result in a movement that will not last as long, but will be a working unit for it`s lifetime. Over-cleaning for cosmetic appearance will shorten the lifespan even more.

    You ask:
    Bottom line; Is there a cleaner/solvent that will do the same or better job as ammonia with less risks?

    My response: Same or better is a difficult requirement if the phrase is not defined. Hydrocarbon cleaners do not make the brass shiny, they are slow and require much "elbow grease" BUT they are safe for the metals that are encountered in clocks and watches: they do not etch nor remove metal atoms AND they do chemically clean and remove the unwanted deposits. In addition, they do not attack the existing coatings as does the ammoniated cleaners.
    Beats me!
    Guess it`s just an individual judgement call depending on methods used, parts used on, etc.

    Sorry if this sounds rambling or irrelevent but sounded good when I wrote it!
     
  25. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
    NAWCC Member Deceased

    Nov 4, 2002
    40,850
    140
    63
    Male
    deceased
    Whitby, Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Jim, I am enjoying this post, but I have a question that I hoped someone else might ask. When I go to my local Home Depot and ask them for a hydrocarbon cleaner, what will the confused looking young man behind the counter likely hand me? Sorry, but I was never very good at chemistry. Harold
     
  26. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Harold,

    You can ask for lacquer thinner, mineral spirits, kerosene or paint thinner. If things are really tough to remove, then you could ask for acetone or methyl ethyl keytone (MEK), tolulol or tolulene but you have to be careful with these because they are very flammable and they are carcinogenic and they will breakdown any coating that is on the parts.

    Sometimes you can use alcohols such as denatured or isoprophyl or ethanol but again, they are very flammable.

    Make sure that you use these solvents with lots of ventilation (use preferably under a hood that vents directly to the outside) and away from any open flame or sparks.

    You can use small amounts on a Q tip or a small stiff bristle brush. If you use a brush, make sure that you use a steel brush on steel parts and brass brush on brass parts otherwise you could set up an electrolytic corrosion site(s) because the activity of copper or zinc is sufficiently different from steel that an electrical current will flow under moist conditions. BTW, microscopic particles of brass or steel from the brushes can imbed themselves into the surface of the part and this is what would cause the corrosion to occur.

    I generally do not use brass or steel brushed: I use natural bristle brushes, peg wood, chamois, and pith wood. Cleaning takes me about 4X longer than with ammoniated cleaners but it is safe for the clock and my customers do not object to the extra cost because they know that I am not hurting their clock.

    You can soak the parts for many hours without damage.
     
  27. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
    NAWCC Member Deceased

    Nov 4, 2002
    40,850
    140
    63
    Male
    deceased
    Whitby, Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Thanks, Jim, that was what I thought you meant.
    This is definitely something to think about. As much as I like a bright shiney movement, I hate to think that I am doing more harm than good with my cleaning techniques. When I worked for a punch clock company, the cleaner of choice was varsol (a paint thinner). I am seriously thinking I should go back to this type of cleaner. I have always used toothbrushes for my cleaning, and find they work as well as anything else. Harold
     
  28. Paul Jenkins

    Paul Jenkins Guest

    As my first message seems to have been ignored i have to bring another guestion into the equation. What effect on the environment does all these chemicals have and what about the fire risks. If more and more people are using these chemicals instead of ammonia, how do they dispose of these chemicals safely. Most of my customers would not like the extra labor cost of using these products and it would be hard to earn a living, Paul
     
  29. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Hi Paul,

    I responded to your 1st question via the private mail but I probably don't know how to use it properly. I really didn't ignore your question.

    I have pictures on my WEB site:

    www.antiqueclockconservation.com

    Now to answer your next question: disposal.
    I do not use vast quantities of these chemicals like you would the ammoniated cleaner. Ammoniated cleaners have their own disposal problems. Because I am classified as a Very Small generator of hazardous waste, I am allowed to do either of two options: evaporation and then regular disposal of the sludge at a hazardous waste site or I can just dispose of the waste at a hazardous waste site without the evaporation. The local towns have a hazardous waste day about twice a year and I usually save up my waste (~ about 5 gallons every 6 months) until that day. There is usually a small fee to dispose of this.

    None and I repeat, none of my customers havve ever complained about the cost of the chemicals nor the disposal costs. I have not lost a customer yet because of these fees.

    I have been working with clocks for 36 years: it is my livelihood.
     
  30. hi harold,
    a source for deox007 please.thanks
     
  31. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
    NAWCC Member Deceased

    Nov 4, 2002
    40,850
    140
    63
    Male
    deceased
    Whitby, Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Billie Ray, I get mine from Perrins, a clock parts supplier in Toronto, Canada. However, I got this info off the container. US Polychemical co., 584 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Chestnut Ridge, New York 10977. Phone # 800-431-2072. Hope this helps. Harold
     
  32. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Nothing is easy in this world!

    You have to do your hom,ework before deciding upon a particular cleaning solution. YHou just can't assume by the name or the smell that chemically it is okay.

    You need to consult the MSDS sheets!

    For example:
    Deox-007 contains monoethanol amine

    Amines are the 1st cousin to ammonia so any cleaning solution that contains an amine of any name can cause the same damage as an ammoniated cleaning solution. Many cleaning solutions advertise "non-ammoniated" but is you look closely at their MSDS sheet, invariably you will find that one of the components will be an amine! You have to watch out for advertising BS....... Remember, they will do almost anything for a buck.

    Many of the L&R solutions contian amines. The Fisher scientific ultrasonic cleaning solution is made by L&R and contains an amine!
     
  33. Paul Jenkins

    Paul Jenkins Guest

    #33 Paul Jenkins, Feb 22, 2005
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2017
    Hello Jim, after looking at most of the arguments and side issues of using a non ammoniated cleaning method, it would seem that you are trading one hazard for another. The first hazard is too the clock movement if ammonia is used, but the second method brings human beings into a real danger if so many flammable liquids have to be used and stored safely. I value human life more than clocks which after all are just objects no matter whoe's name is on the dial! Another issue is the time taken to clean a movement, in the UK the average cost of repairing an 8 day longcase is £250 x 4 = £1000, non of my customers would go with this price and probably go to the nearest bodger and the clock will suffer even more. I don't have any answers to these questions, i wish i did. I have heard that half a lemon and salt is a good brass cleaner :) i know i had a laugh too but i am going to try it, i will let you know how i get on, regards Paul
     
  34. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Hi Paul,

    I was only addressing the time that it took to clean literally the clock not to do the bushings and pivots and other work.

    Don't lose sight of the dangers of ammonia to human beings: there is no "free lunch" when using either method.

    I store the flammables in a safety cabinet and in an out building. I only use small quantities (no more than a liter at a time), a stainless steel rectangular container with a top that fits relatively tightly for soaking. I brush and clean the components right in that rectangular pan to contain the splashes from the brushing.

    I also use a ventilated hood that carries the fumes outside: I work under the hood: it is about 1 m wide, .6 m high and .6 m deep and sits on a stone platform that is on top of my bench. The hood has a door that can be closed down to isolate the chemicals.

    I also have a fire extinquisher handy. Been doing this for 18 years without any type of mishap. You just have to think about what you are doing before you do it.

    Well, you've got all the information that you need to make an informed decision!
     
  35. Len Lataille

    Len Lataille Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Aug 31, 2002
    880
    0
    0
    Goodness! Looks like a lot has been said (written) since I was here, last. Reffering back to Jim's reply to my posting on page one, it makes no difference who could or could not afford a clock, in days gone by. The clock still had to be cleaned, eventually. We'll never know who first had the idea, but plunging a clock movement into a dung heap, (p.u.) was discovered to be a great way of cleaning a clock. Brightened that brass, right up there. (Of course, I would imagine that a very thorough rinsing was part of the process!) You cant get much more ammonia than that,(well, maybe using urine might be stronger) at least not in the 16th/17th century. Once again, I must credit someone else for this knowledge.
     
  36. Joe Collins

    Joe Collins Registered User

    Jan 3, 2004
    986
    2
    0
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    #36 Joe Collins, Feb 22, 2005
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2017
    Jim,
    In one post you said:
    In another post you said:
    Please correct me if I am wrong but I always thought that releasing chemical vapors into the atmosphere created or added to air pollution.
    Perhaps the vapor recovery systems on our gasoline pumps are just for show.

    Joe
     
  37. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Joe,

    Adding anything to the atmostphere including flatulence is compromising our pure air. I do not know of any chem lab that has a scrubber in the vent system (there may be some but I am not aware of them)so schools and industry are all venting some level of chemicals into the atmosphere. So, is there a special place where to ammonia fumes go?
     
  38. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Well, Len, your logic is faultless: clocks did need to get cleaned.

    As far as I know, there is not much written material or documentation on the methods that were used to clean clocks in the 15th through the 17th centuries. Urine and dung has been mentioned for applying a patina but I have not seen anything on cleaning using those ingredients. Could be possible.

    Do you have a (or several)citation(s) about cleaning in dung or urine? I would be most interested in them as I have done a reasonable amount of research about early cleaning methods with few results. I did find that in the 19th century benzene and a few other nasty chemicals were used and I also found out the ammoniated cleaners were introduced "formally" about 1895 by Saunier although they seemed to have been known earlier.

    Last night after reading your post, I did a Google search on "cleaning clock manure urine" and the results did not mention cleaning clocks with the above mixtures but they did mention "round the clock cleaning"!

    Anyway, you did read my previous post about the clocks not turning into dust: they would just crack in a few areas that had stress. and, of course, the local clock maker would just replace that cracked part and the clock would go on living..... and they would think that the clock metal was bad because they would not have had a clue what had caused the cracking.

    Yes, there are other reasons and catalysts for cracking and examination of the cracks surfaces can often pinpoint the type of cracking. This can lead to identification of the cause.
     
  39. Len Lataille

    Len Lataille Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Aug 31, 2002
    880
    0
    0
    Unfortunately, life and work do allow me to do the time to do extensive research, especially on a subject that I consider irrelevant. Since I am not certain where I got my information, and I dont want to quote the wrong person, suffice to say it was from somebody much more learned than either one of us,in the horological community. I'll let others speculate as to who that might be.
    Clocks were cleaned with ammonia long before I was born and will continue to be cleaned with ammonia long after I and the rest of us have died. The piece that was expertly cleaned in a conservative manner today, unless housed in a museum, will most likely be treated with ammonia at some future date.
    As an aside, from personal experieince I recall an incident when I was a child. After my great grandmother passed away, my uncle inherited her "summer cottage". It was a 6 room house on a lake, last lived in during the 1930's and used as storage for the family, before and after that time, for decades. From the attic to the cellar it was impossible to walk because of the furniture all of it old, some dating to the late 17th century including a tall case clock.
    With contempt for anything old and a taste for contemporary furniture, my uncle piled all the furniture outside, with the tall case clock at the top of the pile and set a match to all of it, and brought out the hot dogs.
    So fret all you want about ammonia, but even the most conserved of clocks might just end up at the top of a pile of burning furniture.
    Nothing will last forever.
     
  40. Fred Johnston

    Fred Johnston Registered User

    Oct 12, 2003
    49
    1
    0
    Santa Fe, NM / Arlington, MA
    Country Flag:
    Ammonium hydroxide preferentially dissolves (complexes) cuprous (copper1) tarnish, (oxides, sulfates etc), as opposed to zinc compounds on the brass and along any pathes such as grain boundaries where corrosion has gained a foothold. The grain structure of ancient hand hammer hardened and waterpowered machine hammer hardened thick tall case brass plates Jim has worked with, as well as modern rolled brass, likely depends on purity, alloy composition, quench rates as well as work hardening.
    The one early to mid 18th century longcase clock I have serviced had one repaired crack in the moondial arch of the dial, the movement plates looked fine, no cracks or any visible grain structure at all and I used my regular cleaner with excellent ventilation: L&R #667 and #3 watch rinse solution, both free of ammonia.

    Fred
     
  41. Mike Phelan

    Mike Phelan Registered User

    Dec 17, 2003
    9,835
    12
    38
    Retired
    West Yorkshire, England
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Citric acid (lemon juice) is indeed a good brass cleaner, as is vinegar. I use both on paraffin stoves; not tried them on clocks. I think the addition of salt is just as a mild abrasive.
     
  42. Paul Jenkins

    Paul Jenkins Guest

    Hi Jim i have read your comments and know where you are coming from. My main worry is that not all people are as carefull as you about safety and if a person is a homeworker, these chemicals could bring about dire consequences,Paul
    Hi Mike i got the recipe from one of those UK daytime progs and it made quite a job on a Victorian fire fender, Paul
     
  43. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
    NAWCC Member Deceased

    Nov 4, 2002
    40,850
    140
    63
    Male
    deceased
    Whitby, Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Mike, how do you make a paraffin stove. Doesn't it melt with heat? Harold
     
  44. Len Lataille

    Len Lataille Registered User
    NAWCC Member

    Aug 31, 2002
    880
    0
    0
    Harold
    It's worse than you thought. Parafin is kerosene in the UK. In either case the stove wouldn't last very long. Neither would the house. :)
     
  45. R. R. Cross

    R. R. Cross Registered User

    Dec 1, 2002
    39
    0
    0
    Mr. Moss,
    With apologies if I missed it in the foregoing discussion, but
    as a professional conservator, what do you use and recommend
    as a cleaning agent? Thanks.
     
  46. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Speaking as a Professional Conservator and abiding to the AIC Code of Ethics and Guidelies for Practice (specifically regarding the "do no harm" paragraphs), I use Stoddard's Solvent, acetone, IPA, ethanol, and other solvents to breakdown the old lubricants and to remove surface accretions. The solvents are all reagent grade: they contain no additives such as you would find in products sold at a hardway store.

    It is important from a conservation viewpoint to know what you are using as a solvent. Proprietary mixes change at the wim of the manufacturer and their stock holders. They can contain additives that are not listed in the MSDS sheet. These mixes cannot be depended upon to contain the same ingredients batch after batch after batch.

    Conservators must know what they are using and what the chemical reactions will be before using them: we don't just use something because everybody else is using it or that it sounds good. Because we are entrusted with the long term welfare of important historical objects, we must be cautious and careful with our useage of materials and chemicals.

    Not being flip nor discourteous nor having a "better than thou" attitude, I am contributing to the ammonia issue because I know that what the casual repairer and professional repair person does today will affect the well being of clocks in the future.

    This view point has not really been brought forth in the last couple of hundred years because the horological world was not really concerned with preservation (think about Harrison's movements and the special care they received after he proved his point!): they were concerned with repairing. In addition, they did not really have a long term view point of what could happen the the metals of the clocks and watches nor were they really concerned about forgeries etc.

    I hope my input on the ammoniated cleaning solutions has been helpful.
     
  47. Paul Jenkins

    Paul Jenkins Guest

    Many thanks Jim, regards Paul
     
  48. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    This is a listing of what I consider "DO NOT USE" cleaning solutions. I am putting on this bulletin board for your reference:

    The following cleaning solutions contain Ammonia:

    Daniels Solution

    L&R 111 Ultrasonic Watch Cleaning Solution

    L&R No 1 Watch Cleaning Solution

    L&R Waterless Nofome Watch Cleaning Solution

    L&R Extrafine Watch Cleaning Solution

    L&R Clock Cleaning Concentrate

    Historic Timekeepers Ultrasonic Ammoniated Cleaning Concentrate

    Note:
    Don't forget that brass polishes such as Noxon and Brasso contain ammonia also.


    The following cleaning solutions contain Amines:

    Empire Clock's Waterless Non-Ammoniated Clock Cleaning Solution

    Poly-Chem's Deox-007

    Chem-Tech's CT-1 Concentrate

    L&R #677 Ultrasonic non-ammoniated clock cleaning solution

    L&R # 566 Ultrasonic non-ammoniated watch cleaning solution

    I am sure that there are others that should be put on the "DO NOT USE' List, I just haven't had the time to find them and check their MSDS sheets.



    One other thought: using strong acids or bases on some metals can cause damage such as etching and SCC. It is best not to use any of these chemicals. If it cannot be helped, then dilute the solution as much as is possible and keep the time of immersion very short.

    I am not advocating the use of strong acids or bases.

    In addition, electrolytic cleaning of steel can cause hydrogen embrittlement and should be avoided.
     
  49. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
    NAWCC Member Deceased

    Nov 4, 2002
    40,850
    140
    63
    Male
    deceased
    Whitby, Ontario, Canada
    Country Flag:
    Region Flag:
    Jim, I appreciate your efforts here. Very educational. This might be slightly off topic, but what do you recommend for cleaning wood, as in old clock cases? Thanks, Harold
     
  50. Jim Moss

    Jim Moss Guest

    Harold,

    Would you please provide me with more information about the wooden clock case: such as the type of finish, what is it that you want to clean off, is the finish original, is it just bare wood without a finish, etc.
     

Share This Page