Movement Cleaning - What Went Wrong?

howardindevon

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Jan 14, 2021
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Guys,

When I had my first complete movement for cleaning about 6 weeks ago, (as a total Newbie), I used a commercial ammoniated concentrate. This was diluted 7 to 1 as instructed.

However, I did not have the most suitable of containers for the job. I ended up dipping the movement one way up and then the other, because it would not fully submerge in the too shallow container. I washed and finally used a hair dryer.

The net result was a serious staining on the brass front and back plates. (See first two pictures)

Today, having bought an Ultrasonic bath, I used the same type and concentration of fluid but at 25 C and ran several cycles in the unit. Whilst the plates are better, they are certainly not without stains. (See pictures 3 to 6)

Chains and wheels done in the same session seemed to be pretty bright and clean. I did wash all the parts , as before, but now also rinsed in Isopropanol and then forced dry with a hair dryer.

Can someone please advise? Obviously, I messed up badly on my very first attempt. However, are these stains now more or less permanent or is there a simple procedure to remove them? Why did the Sonic bath not do a better job?

Best regards, Howard


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bikerclockguy

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Your plates are/were lacquered, and the ammonia started to dissolve it. I use Dawn Ultra in my ultrasonic, and have had good results with that. Short of stripping and relacquering the plates, you are probably stuck with the stains. On the bright side they are inside the clock, so they won’t detract from its appearance.
 

howardindevon

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Bikerclockguy,

The same thought occured to me - the outsides of the plates are just about acceptable any way and no one sees the insides.

Didn't realise there was a lacquered finish. Will avoid removing this in future. Regards, Howard
 

Grant Perry

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Yes, good idea to watch out for the lacquered finish. When I clean these I cut the cleaning time down and I don't use the ultrasonic function.
When the lacquer peels off you also need to ensure it doesn't lodge itself in pinions, holes, etc...
There looks to be rust on the pivots in your first picture. Is this a before shot?
Good luck!
Grant
 

RJSoftware

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"because it would not fully submerge".

I believe you did what is called a "Duncan Swish".

The nick name references an improper cleaning method where by one sticks whole assembled movement in a tank, as to dunk then swish the movement around.

Duncan Swish is highly frowned upon as it is an attempt to shortcut the actual work required to clean a movement properly.

The movement and all parts should be disassembled. Springs are generally not put in ultrasonic as it encourages micro fractures. Some older brass are also susceptible to micro fractures. Brass that is more yellow is the older susceptible.

Bushing holes should all be pegged out with pegwood or toothpicks. A drill can be used.

Time should be taken to examine wear. Before disassembling and after using letdown tool for letting power down in mainsprings safely, rock the main wheels back n forth, examine the pivots tips. If they travel 1/3rd or more the diameter of the pivot, then mark that bushing hole for repair.

Yes, the plates on many modern clocks are coated. Once you have compromised the coating it also begins to peel off in chunks large enough to stop your clock. This will happen later even though it appears to have all the loose sections off. Scrape finger nail scr ewdriver and see.

You need to disassemble and chemically dissolve it. The ammonia isnt strong enough. I would first try denatured alcohol, if that gets no where then lacquer thinner. It depends on what the coating is.

You can also tough it out with tooth brush and dish soap but it aint easy.
Maybe soft brass brush. Experiment.

Once all thats done dry with hair dryer, assemble and oil. For oiling use small nearly undetectable oil drop in bushing holes and drops on palettes, some on mainsprings. Levers no oil. Rule is dont oil anything that turns less than 360 degrees.
 

Willie X

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Feb 9, 2008
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Many folks put way to much emphasis on ultrasonic cleaning, thinking it is a necessity, or a cure all. I've completely gone away from cleaning plates in the ultrasonic. Just do them by hand. You can get better results in about the same amount of time, as many US jobs have to be gone over again by hand anyway.

FYI, nearly everything that comes into your shop will have lacquered parts. Now if the brass is brown, or the steel is rusty, that one probably wasn't laquered. Ha

Willie X
 

Dietofnothing

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Not a clock expert - but pretty experienced with wood, metal, and paint surfaces & polishing. You can polish the brass until it’s uniform (through the lacquer) with an abrasive polish made for metal and a cotton polishing wheel.

You may also be able to strip it with various organic solvents. There are also various grits of Scotchbrite type products or 0000 steel wool that will work as an initial step to remove the coating

“Polishing” anything with an abrasive can be a rabbit hole (especially metals) if you are going for a mirror finish. You have to decide what is acceptable. The problem is it can be rather difficult to remove scratches put in by some more aggressive abrasives - even in soft metal, and not always practical to remove the previous steps scratches by stepping up the grit.

But, I’m sure none of these movements came from the factory new with a mirror finish. If you have access to cotton buffing wheel it would not be hard to get a uniform finish.

I’ve polished a fair amount of brass that has been neglected for years & I've never seen it stained so deep It couldn’t be removed with some work. This may not be the best approach for a clock movement because anytime you are polishing with anything abrasive you are removing a small amount of material - although if done correctly it should not be enough to make a significant difference.
 
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Kevin W.

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I use Polychem Deox oo7, has no ammonia. I dont heat my solution too hot, just warm when doing cleaning in the ultrasonic. Most movements dont have to shine, but they need to be clean. As said taking a clock movement apart is the prefered and best way to clean it.
 

RJSoftware

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In many instances, I put a clock in The US after removing the barrels , just so I can disassemble it without gumming up my hands and making a mess.
Pre cleaning is good
 

JimmyOz

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Degreaser is cheap and does a good job for pre cleaning and saves the US solution from getting to dirty.
Lacquer thinners is also relatively cheap and will take off any lacquer before US is used, it also takes out the problem of lacquer suspended in the US solution as this will in small part transfer (white powdery coating) to all movements after you introduces it to the US.
In my view it takes more time to clean a movement than doing normal repairs.
 

howardindevon

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Guys,

Thanks to one and all for all the comments. I think, that I have got the message!!

Will live with this one as it is but not repeat the mistake in future. Cheers, Howard
 

Mike Phelan

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I just use either IPA or petrol to wash parts in, unless they were originally polished and not lacquered, as were French roulants.

I used to have an ultrasonic cleaner but never found a real use for it, so sold it.

Cleaning a clock which is assembled is like having a shower with your clothes on - it just rearranges the muck!
 
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howardindevon

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Mike,

Thanks for your comments. Don't forget, that was my first EVER movement cleaning, so I was not inclined to strip down to parts just to clean it.

I NOW have it in parts and have cleaned it well in the US. All I have to do now is get it back together and working again. That is today's challenge. Wish me luck! Best regards, Howard
 
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shutterbug

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I use an ultrasonic often. I learned long ago that any kind of "1/2 at a time" cleaning will leave a line on the plates, so I bought a US big enough to take all of the parts at once. The advantage of having a US cleaner is time. While it's doing its thing, you can be doing something else. As mentioned, it's not a necessity, just a convenience - like many tools we accumulate.
 

SuffolkM

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"Cleaning a clock which is assembled is like having a shower with your clothes on"

This is perfect! :D
 

howardindevon

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Mike,

All parts were cleaned in the ultrasonic bath and all came out bright, with the exception of the movement back & front plates.

This appears to be because I had half stripped the lacquer from these pieces. Short of petrol / Naptha they won't come up any better. Hence decission to "chalk up to experience" and move on.

Next challenge is to reassemble a movement completely from scratch for the first time EVER. Like I said, "wish me luck". Regards, Howard
 

shutterbug

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We're here to help. Just let us know if you get stuck :)
 

tracerjack

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As a collector of 400 day clocks, I have to polish spotty, lacquered plates regularly. The plates can be seen on a 400 day, so once polishing any part of the clock, the plates will need it too. Lacquer is removed with acetone and a cotton ball. Polish with Simichrome or Flitz. Once the plates are bright and shiny, pivot holes are judiciously pegged. Lot of work, but if the stained plates still bother you, they can be improved. However, since your movement won’t be under glass, it will tarnish again very quickly, (unless you want to re- lacquer the plates) so a lot of work for nothing some might say. The only difference I can foresee is that it should tarnish evenly rather than look spotted or stained.
 

Journeyman

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As a collector of 400 day clocks, I have to polish spotty, lacquered plates regularly. The plates can be seen on a 400 day, so once polishing any part of the clock, the plates will need it too. Lacquer is removed with acetone and a cotton ball. Polish with Simichrome or Flitz. Once the plates are bright and shiny, pivot holes are judiciously pegged. Lot of work, but if the stained plates still bother you, they can be improved. However, since your movement won’t be under glass, it will tarnish again very quickly, (unless you want to re- lacquer the plates) so a lot of work for nothing some might say. The only difference I can foresee is that it should tarnish evenly rather than look spotted or stained.
Guys,

When I had my first complete movement for cleaning about 6 weeks ago, (as a total Newbie), I used a commercial ammoniated concentrate. This was diluted 7 to 1 as instructed.

However, I did not have the most suitable of containers for the job. I ended up dipping the movement one way up and then the other, because it would not fully submerge in the too shallow container. I washed and finally used a hair dryer.

The net result was a serious staining on the brass front and back plates. (See first two pictures)

Today, having bought an Ultrasonic bath, I used the same type and concentration of fluid but at 25 C and ran several cycles in the unit. Whilst the plates are better, they are certainly not without stains. (See pictures 3 to 6)

Chains and wheels done in the same session seemed to be pretty bright and clean. I did wash all the parts , as before, but now also rinsed in Isopropanol and then forced dry with a hair dryer.

Can someone please advise? Obviously, I messed up badly on my very first attempt. However, are these stains now more or less permanent or is there a simple procedure to remove them? Why did the Sonic bath not do a better job?

Best regards, Howard


View attachment 638620 View attachment 638621 View attachment 638622 View attachment 638623 View attachment 638624 View attachment 638625
Appreciate that. Will yell if it goes horribly wrong.
Thanks, Howard
Howard, I find a quick scrub over the plates with a brass wire brush will burnish the plates and give them a better appearance, but as said they are not seen anyway.
 

Dietofnothing

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If you ever have to clean anything really greasy - use Brake Kleen. $5 a can. It removes oil/grease quick & well; unlike aqueous cleaners - because oil/grease is not soluble in water. I spray every movement I’ve done before I take it apart. Only grease really left is in springs that are wound it can’t get to. It’s fine on raw metals - it will likely destroy any coatings.
 

RJSoftware

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If you ever have to clean anything really greasy - use Brake Kleen. $5 a can. It removes oil/grease quick & well; unlike aqueous cleaners - because oil/grease is not soluble in water. I spray every movement I’ve done before I take it apart. Only grease really left is in springs that are wound it can’t get to. It’s fine on raw metals - it will likely destroy any coatings.
thing is you have to consider your health and happiness. Brake cleaner is rough, toxic and problematic. If it drips it can ruin a surfsace.

Dish soap with hot water does miracles.
 

Kevin W.

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I go the less toxic way. Brake cleaner use out doors. I would do a pre clean if needed with perhaps kerosene.
 

Bohemian Bill

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Many folks put way to much emphasis on ultrasonic cleaning, thinking it is a necessity, or a cure all. I've completely gone away from cleaning plates in the ultrasonic. Just do them by hand. You can get better results in about the same amount of time, as many US jobs have to be gone over again by hand anyway.

FYI, nearly everything that comes into your shop will have lacquered parts. Now if the brass is brown, or the steel is rusty, that one probably wasn't laquered. Ha

Willie X
Hi All..I agree with Willie X,,,I had a US cleaner at one time and did not see any difference in cleaning job than with my inexpensive porcelain crock pot. I been doing clock repair for 25 years for my clock collection, friends and people at my job. I plug in my old green crock pot in before starting to disassemble a clock movement and the cleaning solution be warmed up to clean the parts, I use commercial ammoniated water base cleaners with hot water rinse in the sink. I dry the water droplets off the brass wheels to prevent spotting with paper towel. I do two drying cycles of drying my parts in my plastic Tupperware box with a hairdryer getting the parts real hot to touch. In my opinion, the heating of the ammoniated cleaner does a better job cleaning than the ultra sonic. Occasionally, upon inspection if I see any parts that needs extra cleaning, I will scrub the individual parts and back into the crock pot. For the new members with limited money, I recommend going to second hand store to pick up a crock pot and hair dryer and invest the money for a good mainspring winder.
 

bruce linde

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i'm not big on lacquered parts and remove the lacquer using acetone (can be flammable, so outside).

next step is to pre-clean in warm soapy water, including pegging/cleaning out pivot holes with nylon bristle brushes. i learned about the need to do that after i had residual pivot hole junk leak out during ultrasonic cleaning, leaving streaks on plates.

next step is any required/desired touchup on the plates using 2000 and 4000 grit wet/dry sandpaper and/or brass bristle brushes... with a possible additional wash. (my clock mentor makes plates look brand new... and too shiny for my tastes. i like movements that look old.... clean, but old.)

THEN they go in the ultrasonic....

i've been using ammoniated, but next purchase (based on lots of reading here on the MB) will be polychem deox 007... license to clean! :)

the basic concept, though, is just like a japanese bath / soaking tub... you get clean before you get it.
 
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Kevin W.

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I have tried ammoniated and home made solutions for clock cleaning. I would do a hand cleaning of plates with the Deox 007. But in my ultrasonic cleaner it works for me the best to clean clock parts. I did these today and used today the the right amount of concentrate. As before i was using less. These parts were filthy and i ran my us about 6 minutes at around 55 celcius the solution.

clean today.jpg
 

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