My first clean and service, and it runs!

Discussion in 'Watch Repair' started by rdixiemiller, Sep 1, 2017.

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  1. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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    I'm new to the pocket watch hobby, and I immediately found that watch service is expensive, and slow around here. So, I decided to learn the method.
    I've been a hobby gunsmith for 40 years, so being careful with fine mechanisms is second nature. Did I mention guns are a lot bigger than pocket watches?
    So, some Starrett screwdrivers, brass tweezers, a movement holder, and a magnavisor were procured, and I was off.
    My first watch was an EBay special Elgin 291, 16s. I picked up a couple for 30 bucks for the pair, and started. No problem with disassembly and cleaning, pretty straight forward. Reassembly, now that was a learning experience. I lost a jewel screw, luckily I had 2 movements, so I stole one from the worst one (it's been butchered in the past, a parts movement only). After 3.5 hrs, I put 2 turns on the stem and it started up! It had been jammed by a tiny piece of the hairspring collet that had cracked off. Even with a small chunk missing, the watch is doing well, been running a week. I had to set the regulator almost at the bottom of the range, I think the rotating mass is low with the piece of collet missing.
    I used the Silveroid case from the parts movement, as the one from this one had a bad set of threads on the case back. I know, heresy! After 2 days of carrying the watch, I polished the case with some Simichrome, it turned out quite nice.
    I know this is a very common, low dollar watch, but I am tickled to death with it! Now, to start on the Elgin lever set 18s I picked up for $30 bucks! And then the 16s with the 3 finger bridge..........
    This is an addiction, but quite enjoyable. Much cheaper than Colt target revolvers, and no paperwork to fill out at purchase.
    She that must be obeyed approves, so life is good!
     
  2. Jerry Treiman

    Jerry Treiman Registered User
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    Great progress! Be warned that an 18-size full-plate movement is a different animal for reassembly since so many pivots must be aligned at the same time. Because of the way the pallet fork is placed, these are best assembled up-side down. (... the watch, that is, not you :) - assemble the wheels on the top plate, then carefully place the pillar plate and prod the pivots into their proper holes.
     
  3. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi rdixiemiller,

    Congratulations indeed. It's a lovely feeling when the balance starts off after you've assembled everything. You'll find that you lose far fewer parts as you gain experience, and also invest in the best tweezers you can afford.

    There's a thread here which you might find useful.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  4. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User

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    Congrats on your first one you did very well. Its not a dollar watch, it has 7 jewels. Keep up the great work.
     
  5. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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    I bought a set of stainless tweezers, maybe not the best choice. Very little coefficient of friction between the tweezer and those glass hard screws. A set of brass ones from Esslinger seem to grip better to me.
    What is the general consensus on tweezer material, carbon steel?
     
  6. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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  7. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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    Thanks! I'm proud of it, just because I got it running myself. I like resurrecting old machinery, and the engineer in me is fascinated at the design and craftsmanship that went into these old American watch movements.
     
  8. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi rdixiemiller,

    I think that what they're made of is less important than how well they're finished. That's one of the things you're paying for in the better makes. However, brass is good, and as you've found they do grip better because the metal is softer than the screw, but the downside is that they wear more rapidly and need dressing more often. Also they can bend if you apply too much pressure, whereas steel ones are stronger. Carbon steel holds its shape well, but you need to keep it demagnetised. You'll collect tweezers as you go, because no one type suits every job.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  9. 12V6GT

    12V6GT Registered User
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    Well done Sir, well done!
     
  10. karlmansson

    karlmansson Registered User

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    #10 karlmansson, Sep 2, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2017
    Congratulations! And good work. The mass removed from the center of rotation will have less of an effect than if the mass was removed from the periphery of the balance, such as if a balance screw was missing for instance. Was the chunk very large?

    A more common reason for a speeding watch is poor state of service leading to a low amplitude. A good next step to look into is probably cleaning and lubricating. I couldn't make ouf from your post if you did that to this watch. A watch running in a dirty state without proper lubrication is won't to wear itself out.

    Regarding tweezers it's important that you learn to finish (or dress) your tweezers so that they perform as you would like them to. I use brass tweezers for most of my work. For when I need very fine tips, brass is a bit too soft and I have some very fine tipped carbon steel ones. I think the brass tweezers provide a good grip on most parts and the risk of scrathing polished parts is smaller than with steel, so long as you remember to dress the brass tweezers with a file. Dirt and abrasives will get embedded in them more easily than with steel and silica will scratch any part in a watch save for the jewels. I also really like how the Dumont 1AM brass tweezers feel in my hands. So there is that.

    Best of luck in you future services!

    Karl

    EDIT: Sorry, saw now that you did clean it. How did you do it?
     
  11. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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    I cleaned the parts in a small dish of naphtha with an artists brush. I have a big old ultrasonic I use for guns, but it's a bit large. Probably get a little one for watches.

    The chunk that broke off the hairspring collet was about 1/4 of the total size.
     
  12. Rob P.

    Rob P. Registered User

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    When you say you set the watch at the "bottom of it's range" do you mean you have the arm of the regulator pointing at the "S"?

    Another question: what is the total rotation of the balance wheel (approx degrees from one extreme to the other)? How "vigorous" is the swing of the balance wheel?

    The broken hairspring (HS) collet concerns me. What caused it to break? Did that also damage or bend the HS? Is the collet gripping the balance tightly enough to not slip? Is it still in beat?

    Something I would do to check that the HS is ok is pull the stud out of the balance cock and remove the bridge. Then I'd set it back into place ans check that the HS stud lines up with the mounting hole without needing to be pushed/pulled to one side or the other. Once that's done (assuming it's ok) I'd double check that the regulator pins are correctly set and the HS is centered between them when stopped and "bouncing" from one pin to the other as it runs. (The correct method of checking HS's is to pull them from the balance and set them onto the bridge, checking that the collet is centered over the jewel hole. With your broken collet, I'd not do that but instead check that the HS lines up where it's supposed to without having to be "manipulated" into place.)

    If your HS checks out, I'd put a VERY TINY drop of locktite on it to be sure it's not slipping on the staff (Yes I know, fixing it is better but for now...). Then, the issue is how to slow down the balance to bring the regulator to center. ASSUMING the rest of the watch is in good condition, clean, and lubed correctly, you'll need to add mass in the form of timing washers under the balance wheel screws. Do that in pairs at 180* on the wheel.

    Cleaning can be done in the big US. Just float a cottage cheese container or something similar in the tank for the watch parts. Fill the floating container with watch cleaning solution. You can use tap water in the tank rather than your normal solution if you drain your tank when not in use. You can use string or wire to hold the cleaning container in the center of the tank so it doesn't float around and rub against the tank wall.

    Once the parts are clean, you should peg out the holes. I use toothpicks rather than pegwood. I just sharpen the toothpick with a knife and spin it in the pivot holes to be sure there's no gunk in there. You'd be surprised what can stick around even after an US cleaning let alone a manual cleaning. Pegging gets it out and makes sure your pivot holes are clean.

    Oil. You didn't mention what oil you used. Watches need a specific set of lubes. You can get them from the watch suppliers (expensive!). Not all watches need all the lubes. For a pocket watch, you only need a lightweight oil and some KT 22 grease.

    These are small learning type things. The main thing I need to say is congratulations on making it run. Now, let's get in there and make it run correctly. And run well.
     
  13. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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    Thanks for the info on the hair spring collet. I was concerned that it would slip, but it seems to be holding tight. Motion is vigorous, and smooth. I bought watch oil and oilers, and a movement holder before I started. I lurked around here, read a lot of threads on cleaning watches. I did peg out the holes, got a surprising amount of crud out of the jewel holes. I pulled the balance jewel cap stones and cleaned out the bottom jewels. The most aggravating part was getting the hairspring end piece back into the balance cock. Damned small piece to line up!
    So far, it's holding good time, even though the regulator is at the low end of the scale, probably at 5% of its range. I'm carrying it every day, and having a good time doing so.
    This is an addiction, but it's cheaper than drugs or alcohol, and much more satisfying!
     
  14. Rob P.

    Rob P. Registered User

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    Well, if you've got good rotation on the balance, then I'd consider adding some timing washers under the screws. The object is to get the regulator pointing somewhere in the middle third of the scale, preferably closer to "zero" than F or S. You can get it there, it's just fussy work doing the timing to see how much time it gains/loses per hour with the pointer at "zero" then changing the balance mass to correct for that. Finding the correct timing washers is probably the hardest part.

    Eventually you should learn the steps and techniques needed to change that collet and get that done.
     
  15. RJSoftware

    RJSoftware Registered User

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    Yes, you where touched by the beating heart of a balance wheel brought back from the dead.

    Well foolish mortal, your on your way now to a serious addiction with no cure. In other words -Glad to have you on board..!!!

    Now let me warn you, you can fiddle too far and wreck a good beginning. For now leave your success alone. One might even look at it as an infant in an ICU chamber, but not really -lol.

    The collet might slip later on, the watch go out of beat and stop running. But all is not lost.

    There are all kinds of ways you can mess up. It's soo easy to break a pivot, mangle a hairspring, lose and/or break a part. You might find it strange but most watchmakers have spent many an hour on their knees looking on the floor. We have all been there and know it will happen again.

    Me, I like to work in a box that has a small table in middle. That way I have a fighting chance to not lose parts. But even that is no guarantee as springs can fling parts across the room. Parts are soo small that they can fool you as a piece of dirt. One time I thought I lost a part but it was stuck on one of my fingers. I looked all over the table and the floor and could not find it. Went to other room sat down and watched TV and then saw it on my finger, still stuck there.

    The thing is once you establish a victory, set it aside. You can just as easily mess up a good job in only a few seconds by the pursuit of perfection. Learn to build your skill set first before proceeding by doing test repairs on junk watches. But leave your victories alone until you feel absolutely confident as to the next level of perfection. This is how you win.

    To build your skill set properly get some books. I like authors Daniels, De Carle and Fried. Daniels has the best book but expensive.

    Study some theory but don't worry about it too much because the rabbit hole goes deep. Mechanically it's not all necessary to know that much but a little is good.

    You will slowly gather more specific tools and become more and more proficient. Like the thrill of the beating balance there are many other victories to come. Wait until you buy a stereo microscope and use it to cut a balance staff, you will be stoked.

    The thing is when you conquer what seems impossible, it is amazing each victory. Then when you find that microscopic piece of beetle leg and examine it's detail, you really have give God the tip of the hat. Of course he has better tools than we do. :)

    RJ
     
  16. karlmansson

    karlmansson Registered User

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    You will soon learn that "watch oil" entails at least five different lubricants. :) The cleaning in naptha will work but requires a whole lot of elbow grease. You need to really get the surfaces chemically clean. You also need to rinse the parts in fresh naptha after cleaning, as well as heat them up while they dry to prevent condensation forming on them, causing rust. Just a couple of hints for the road ahead! Depending on the frequency and output of your gun cleaner you could maybe use that. Just need smaller baskets with finer mesh.

    Best of luck to you! And I second the timing washers. Does your watch have mean time screws by the way?

    Best regards
    Karl
     
  17. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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  18. Erato

    Erato Registered User

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    HA!!! So true about beetles- great gawds almighty, what a piece of machinery are most insects! (Although I am more a fan of Hymenoptra than Coleoptera, the Coleoptera are more of an engineering marvel in so many ways...) The more powerful the microscope, the more impressive the detail that is exposed. Engineering at its finest. But for us mere mortals, Watches and Clocks are very strong second runners!
     
  19. karlmansson

    karlmansson Registered User

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  20. karlmansson

    karlmansson Registered User

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    Sorry, didn't finish my snetence there it seems... The hands were originally heat blued and I'm not sure you can get a Bright enough blue using Cold blue. Most examples I've seen of Cold blueing looks almost black on steel.
     
  21. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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    Yeah, cold bluing gives a matte finish, and it can vary from blue (copper based) to black (phosphoric acid based). However, on a set of rusty hands, it might be a reasonable fix.

    I am going to pick up a small US cleaner, and a gallon of cleaner. I want to brighten up some of my watches.

    I also have seen the lubricant arguments. Right now, I just want to get some watch experience under my belt. I will start fine tuning later.

    I will look for mean time screws on this watch, tonight when I get home.
     
  22. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi rdixiemiller,

    An alternative to cold bluing is to use bluing salts, which are melted over heat and the melting point is designed to be just high enough produce the heat bluing.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  23. RJSoftware

    RJSoftware Registered User

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    My understanding is 500 degrees is the temp required for blue. So wouldn't a thermostatic controlled heat source work well? Something like an electric iron and a oven thermometer.

    RJ
     
  24. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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    I've done some molten salt blueing over the years, its also a good way to draw a spring, depending on the salt mix.
     
  25. karlmansson

    karlmansson Registered User

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    The temp Control is only part of the process, more so getting the Surfaces prepped for a good, even blueing is more challenging. You need the Surfaces chemically Clean with no oil or residues.
     
  26. m12

    m12 Registered User

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    If you have purchased a used movement, is it advisable to clean it before running it at all to test it, or can you run it for short periods to test? I'm assuming best practise is to clean it to prevent scratches.
     
  27. m12

    m12 Registered User

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    This would seem to be an important question, or maybe it has come up before and has already been addressed.
     
  28. Jim Haney

    Jim Haney Registered User
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    You can examine it with a 10x loupe and look into the jewel holes (or bushings) for gummed up oil holding dirt and if you find this, don't run it, until you can clean it.
     
  29. rdixiemiller

    rdixiemiller Registered User
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    I have the watch regulated to about a minute a day, seems to run a tad fast today, a tad slow tomorrow. Off about 2-3 minutes a week.
    My co-op here at work broke out in a rash under his wrist watch band, so he has been carrying the watch for the last 2 weeks. Now he is hooked on mechanical pocket watches.
    I think at the end of his term, I will give him a nice one, I have a pretty 18s that I got off an online auction, get it serviced, make him a good present.
     
  30. Rob P.

    Rob P. Registered User

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    Hah! Make him get his own PW, they're cheap enough. Of course, the best part about an 18s is that when your eyes are tired you can still read it without putting your glasses back on. :D
     
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