Polish and burnish pivots without a lathe?

Kelly

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I asked about priorities for tool purchases in a previous thread, and the general consensus seems to be that a lathe should be a rather low priority for me at this point. That leaves me, however, with a bit of a quandary.

Without a lathe, how do I polish and burnish pivots?

I'm looking now at Conover's "Clock Repair Basics", and I'm given the impression that polishing and burnishing pivots is a standard part of proper maintenance. So I'm assuming it is something I should do if I'm going to be trying to do things the "right" way.

I've seen diagrams and discussions about making a "manual lathe" using door hinges and the like, then turning the arbor with a bow or similar. Can that kind of manual lathe work for burnishing as well as polishing? With a tool like this file/burnisher I already own?

And are there any commercially available "manual" lathes that I can buy? I'd rather buy something than attempt to cobble together something myself.
 

Andy Dervan

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Hello Kelly,

You have several options for polish/burnishing pivots without a lathe:

you can purchase sticks covered with very fine sandpaper that work well removing surface imperfections - roll pivots between the sticks

you can make the same thing gluing fine grit sandpaper at least 600 grit or higher onto popsicle sticks and they work well also.

for final touchup you can purchase Arkansas stone to roll pivots over

Hope this makes sense.

Andy Dervan
 

doc_fields

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you can purchase sticks covered with very fine sandpaper that work well removing surface imperfections - roll pivots between the sticks

you can make the same thing gluing fine grit sandpaper at least 600 grit or higher onto popsicle sticks and they work well also.

Andy Dervan
The use of sandpaper on pivots is not recommended. Sandpaper can leave particles of grit imbedded in the steel which will tear up the pivot holes and bushings. I know, been there, done that. I was even using 2000 grit sandpaper.

Here is a reference on Dave Labounty's website on pivot analysis from using several different techniques:

http://www.abouttime-clockmaking.com/downloads/Whiteman%20Pivot%20Analysis%202.pdf

Here is a link to Mile High Clock's website:

http://www.milehiclocksupplies.com/

I can't provide a direct link because his catalogue is in PDF format, but look under "Catalogue P-Z", and pivot polisher on page 58 is what you want to select. This tool used in conjunction with a Vigor pivot file/burnisher could work well for you..................doc
 

Kelly

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Here is a link to Mile High Clock's website:

http://www.milehiclocksupplies.com/

I can't provide a direct link because his catalogue is in PDF format, but look under "Catalogue P-Z", and pivot polisher on page 58 is what you want to select. This tool used in conjunction with a Vigor pivot file/burnisher could work well for you..................doc
Thank you, Andy, for your initial suggestion, and Doc for your follow up. The electron microscope pictures were educational!

I'm going to order that "Manual Pivot Polishing Tool (PN 87.600" from Mile Hi and use it with my swiss pivot file/burnisher to see how that works. Now all I need is an electron microscope so I can check the quality of my (beginner) work :)
 

Jerry Kieffer

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Kelly
Personally I prefer non pivot contact support when working on pivots. It has been my experience that it requires far less effort to achieve the same finish when only the tool makes pivot contact.
As such I prefer a lathe for Pivot work. For this type work the arbor is supported. The fully adjustable tool that I have made for arbor support is shown in the first attached photo. It is mounted in the Lathe tailstock by chuck or collets. The ball bearings assure that even the highest polished arbor is not damaged or marked. The second attached photo shows the tool set up with an arbor/wheel installed for work. For the few instances where this tool will not work, a steady rest using the same type ball bearings in the support arms is used. (Not shown But can be)
The other square arbor with the ball bearings attached is used for supporting a fine file, burnisher or whatever tool is used. It provides effortless movement of the tool while holding the tool work surface parallel to the pivot when properly mounted in a lathe tool post. This helps assure that the pivot will remain parallel and or return to parallel. The third photo shows the tool support with a tool inplace ready for use.

If you are interested in the simple "Door Hinge" method, the most effective of those methods that I have seen demonstrated to date was by Bob Fullerton. Bob sometimes responds here on the tool site but can always be found in the Clock Repair threads. I am a firm believer that there is no substitute for actual demonstrations that can be evaluated. Bob is always more than happy to do so in person or by video. (As I recall I think he has a video if his tool in operation) As of course are others on this board.

Jerry Kieffer
 

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Kelly

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Kelly
Personally I prefer non pivot contact support when working on pivots. It has been my experience that it requires far less effort to achieve the same finish when only the tool makes pivot contact.
As such I prefer a lathe for Pivot work.
Jerry, nice looking rig! I see you made that yourself- how does it compare to a lathe-mounted "steady rest" like this one?

I do plan on getting a lathe at some point (probably within a year or so). But my wife Irene is starting to make unhappy noises about my clock-related expenditures, so for now I'm looking for alternatives that don't cost quite as much.

I'm not up to building the door hinge "manual lathe", so the buyable one at Mile Hi looks attractive. I think the basic principle of operation is the same (i.e.: arbor supported at both ends, pivot partially exposed, turned by bow or rubber "squeegee").
 

Scottie-TX

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KELLY: You've already met JERRY but let me formally introduce you:
If he didn't write the book on machining and machine practises - he could. In my opinion, most knowledgable here on the subject.
He's an ace, KELLY!
 

Richmccarty

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Hi Kelly, let me answer your actual question.

By far and away the best way to polish pivots is by hand, using a pin vise and filing block. The best ref on the web about polishing pivots is John Losch's site

http://home.att.net/~jclosch/articles.htm#pivots

He is a true master clockmaker.

I do all pivot polishing except the finest Frech clock pivots with an assortment of boxwood filing blocks, pin vises and one of those pivot file/burnishers. Yes they are expensive, but are made specially to file harder metal than a normal file.

Burnishing requires a great deal of downward pressure, so the pivot MUST be supported. You may be able to get away without supporting the pivots on Conn. valley kitchen clocks with large soft pivots, but not much else. Also, burnishing does not measurably change the shape of the pivot, so with the pivot properly supported, pressing down HARD with the burnisher will cause the tool to follow the pivot, so it will be smoother and shinier without getting smaller. Magic? No.

Polishing pivots by hand takes a fair amount of practice, but is well worth it. I use the general technique of hand turning and filing quite frequently, so it's worth learning in my opinion.

I heard about a watchmaker from eastern bloc western Europe who could make a new balance staff for a watch with files and pin vises. Who knows? might not be true, but you'd be very suprised at how accurate one can make things entirely by hand, it just takes a whole lot of practice.

Good luck,
Rich McCarty, GradBHI & West Dean College

"There is no royal road to Geometry"
 

Jerry Kieffer

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Jerry, nice looking rig! I see you made that yourself- how does it compare to a lathe-mounted "steady rest" like this one?

I do plan on getting a lathe at some point (probably within a year or so). But my wife Irene is starting to make unhappy noises about my clock-related expenditures, so for now I'm looking for alternatives that don't cost quite as much.

I'm not up to building the door hinge "manual lathe", so the buyable one at Mile Hi looks attractive. I think the basic principle of operation is the same (i.e.: arbor supported at both ends, pivot partially exposed, turned by bow or rubber "squeegee").
Kelly
A steady rest can be used for all types of work support and for all types of machining/finishing operations. The support shown can be used with most pivot finishing applications and is only used because it is much faster and more efficient. If a steady rest is used with ball bearings I would like to suggest a caution. Support should straddle the bearings so that they are held parallel to the supported work piece. (Attached Photo) If the bearings are screwed to the side of the support arm as sometimes suggested and sold on E-bay, they will quickly deflect to a slight angle under load. When this happens, work piece contact will be on the edge of the bearing. This in turn can easilly roll a ring in the work piece surface.

I totally agree with Rich`s statment of the required downward burnishing pressure required when a pivot is supported such as with a runner or other methods. I experienced the same thing before switching to non pivot contact method. With close inspection under magnification I always found imbeded metal particales it the pivot contact area. It seems to be impossible to avoid this when you have metal to metal contact. Right or wrong I personally felt there had to be a better way of doing it. When pivots were prepared to a proper smooth finish for burnishing and a quality burnisher was properly prepared, far less effort and pressure was required to achieve the same result. Certainly Far less than required to bend or break pivot. The same type oil was used with both methods.
Knowing the sensitive nature of this board it is of course shared as a personal experience that is easily tried for evaluation.

Jerry Kieffer

PS
Scottie
Thank you for the kind words that I can never hope to live up to.
 

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Dushan Grujich

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I heard about a watchmaker from eastern bloc western Europe who could make a new balance staff for a watch with files and pin vises. Who knows? might not be true ...
Good Day Rich,

I have once known a watchmaker who was capable of such a feat, on a daily base. This guy got his training in France where, in his time, that was a common practice.

A set of files, a range of stone slips and several pieces of notched hardwood plus a variety of pin vices was all he needed. No fancy staking set, just a simple set with couple of anvils that can be clamped in a bench vice, not using a lathe, even though this guy had turns and new well how to use it, but he was much faster doing most of the work with his hands.

Oh yes, there are many skills that are nowadays all but forgotten. Try practising some with a set of good files and after a while You might get a surprise of what You can do with them. Just imagine your skill after forty or fifty years of practice.

As a part of a practical training, which I have received from the old Master Watchmaker, I have gained fair skill with a pin vice and a slip of fine Arkansas stone. Far from capability to make a balance staff but good enough for much of the work for which I previously used watchmaker's lathe, exclusively.

I am not suggesting that work on watches or clocks should be done by hand, but there are many tasks where one can go ahead and do the work by hand much faster than what is needed to set it up in the lathe.

Have I had chance to receive longer training than several months during which he endured my "clumsiness" and "lack" of patience (his words only, it was I who was suffering), who knows what else I might have learned from him?

Cheers

Dushan
 

Scottie-TX

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KELLY, just another "angle", if you will.
So primitive that I hesitate to share but will.
I've dressed and polished pivots for a long time with a drillpress. Drawbacks here of course is it can't produce the accuracy, flatness, and parallelism of a lathe fixture.
Candidly, I've never mastered that burnishing process. It continues to elude me as I'm never satisfied with the results and I've followed the guidelines of many masters of the process. Maybe tomorrow.
 

Dave B

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A quick and easy method of creating a rest is to use a piece odf dowel with a notch filed across one end. It can be used as is mounted in a bench vise and spinnig hte arbor with a pin vise, or it can be mounted in place of the tee rest on a lathe. Use it to support the arbor, directly behind the pivot, or, with a smaller notch, it can be used to support the pivot directly.
 

Kelly

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Hi Kelly, let me answer your actual question.

By far and away the best way to polish pivots is by hand, using a pin vise and filing block. The best ref on the web about polishing pivots is John Losch's site

http://home.att.net/~jclosch/articles.htm#pivots

He is a true master clockmaker.
That is a great article, Rich: I'm getting some excellent guidance here regarding doing this "machine free". As much as I may want a powered lathe one day, this means I can spread out the costs a bit and become familiar with another skill.

Kelly
A steady rest can be used for all types of work support and for all types of machining/finishing operations.
Thank you again, Jerry. I'll undoubtedly have a bunch of questions once I get my pennies saved up for a lathe! In the mean time, I'll keep reading every post and article on the topic I can, even though some of the details won't make sense to me until I've got the machine in front of me.

Check out this tool, it is used by the NAWCC Field Workshop Program
http://clockbug.com/PennyPivotPolisher/index.htm
That is a neat looking gadget! It looks like it would help overcome the challenge of twirling the pin vise by hand in the methods described above.
 

Kelly

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KELLY, just another "angle", if you will.
So primitive that I hesitate to share but will.
I've dressed and polished pivots for a long time with a drillpress.
I had wondered about that, Scottie. I don't have a drillpress, and truthfully my non-clock tool collection is pretty sparse, so it is a bit of a non-starter for me. I assume you mount the arbor in the chuck so it is turning vertically... if so, I'd imagine it would be hard to put much pressure on the burnishing tool without deflecting.

Regarding "mastering" burnishing... one thought I have is, regardless how successful I am polishing and burnishing "by hand", I might get a bit of a feel for how the metal should behave. Since it will presumably be slower, I'll possibly get a better sense of the process.
 

Al Schook

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We have a couple of huge flea markets here a couple of times a year and there are a few folks have tool makers chests and a few of those have some broaches. I have a few broaches from my dad, who was a journeyman toolmaker, and they work well. I have seen similar broaches for sale at these flea markets at a very reasonable price. You can gauge the cut by running your thumbnail over the surface, With the finest cuts you will not feel much, but they will still roll the imperfections on the surface and smooth them out. Not as desirable as having a full set of broaches made for clock repair but beggars can't be choosers. The ones I have look like small flat bastard files but with much finer cuts.
Al
 

doc_fields

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The only problem I have with some of the suggestions here is this: if a pivot is supported on the end, resting in a trough of whatever material is used at hand, and you're using a pivot file/burnisher on top of the pivot to do the work, then you're basically rolling the pivot around and around (or back and forth) in the oil that has some cuttings or flakes of metal in it. Just by using the burnisher underneath at an angle, you can see the stuff coming away from where you are burnishing, so why let the pivot roll around in it? Seems a little self-defeating to me.

I hold my burnisher at a 45 degree angle underneath with plenty of oil on it, and you can see the grey steel flakes or whatever it is washing away from the pivot as you stroke it. Jerry Kieffer's idea of supporting the shaft and burnishing on top to me would be okay, because the flakes would wash away from the pivot also. However, I burnish from underneath so I can see what my burnisher is doing and if I'm making full contact with the pivot.

What are your thoughts?...........................doc
 

Jerry Kieffer

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The only problem I have with some of the suggestions here is this: if a pivot is supported on the end, resting in a trough of whatever material is used at hand, and you're using a pivot file/burnisher on top of the pivot to do the work, then you're basically rolling the pivot around and around (or back and forth) in the oil that has some cuttings or flakes of metal in it. Just by using the burnisher underneath at an angle, you can see the stuff coming away from where you are burnishing, so why let the pivot roll around in it? Seems a little self-defeating to me.

I hold my burnisher at a 45 degree angle underneath with plenty of oil on it, and you can see the grey steel flakes or whatever it is washing away from the pivot as you stroke it. Jerry Kieffer's idea of supporting the shaft and burnishing on top to me would be okay, because the flakes would wash away from the pivot also. However, I burnish from underneath so I can see what my burnisher is doing and if I'm making full contact with the pivot.

What are your thoughts?...........................doc
Doc
You make a good point that I forgot to mention. I also sometimes burnish from the bottom (When I burnish that is another story) When the fixture shown is used for bottom burnishing, I simply rotate it in the tailstock 180 degrees so the bearings are on top of the arbor. In addition the bearing support can be set at any 360 degree work position for any required or desired work angle. The tool support if used, can also support tools from the top or bottom regardless of top or bottom pivot work or support bearing position.
Rich brought up a good point regarding a burnisher following the profile of the pivot and not changing its size or shape. I have found this to be more true than not in most cases. Unfortunately many pivots after many years of service are no longer straight round or have parallel surfaces or maybe never did. The bearing tool support holds a very fine high quality file (Or other tool) square with spindle alignment creating a very simple and fast way to correct burnishing preperation issues. Anything less than removing pivot imperfections and taper will result in decreased movement performance as well as prolonged burnishing effort to achieve a good finish.

Jerry Kieffer

Jerry Kieffer
 

Frank Manning

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Hi Jeff,

Have you used one of these? I was wondering if it is easier than setting up in a lathe and can one get the same good results? Sure looks simple.

Frank
 

Mike Phelan

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Hi Kelly, let me answer your actual question.

By far and away the best way to polish pivots is by hand, using a pin vise and filing block.
... and there was me, thinking that I was the only person in the world that polished pivots that way! :)
 

Richmccarty

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... and there was me, thinking that I was the only person in the world that polished pivots that way! :)
Mike, don't worry, there are many of us 'true believers' out there!

I was taught how to polish pivots by a master clockmaker who had spent 40 years working in London.

All the Best,
Rich
 

Dave B

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The only problem I have with some of the suggestions here is this: if a pivot is supported on the end, resting in a trough of whatever material is used at hand, and you're using a pivot file/burnisher on top of the pivot to do the work, then you're basically rolling the pivot around and around (or back and forth) in the oil that has some cuttings or flakes of metal in it. Just by using the burnisher underneath at an angle, you can see the stuff coming away from where you are burnishing, so why let the pivot roll around in it? Seems a little self-defeating to me.

I hold my burnisher at a 45 degree angle underneath with plenty of oil on it, and you can see the grey steel flakes or whatever it is washing away from the pivot as you stroke it. Jerry Kieffer's idea of supporting the shaft and burnishing on top to me would be okay, because the flakes would wash away from the pivot also. However, I burnish from underneath so I can see what my burnisher is doing and if I'm making full contact with the pivot.

What are your thoughts?...........................doc
Your comment about using a notch is well taken, and is why I usually try to support the arbor, rather than the pivot when burnishing by this method. Most American pivots are robust enough not to worry about breaking them off. I don't think I'd want to try that with any of the really fine French or German pivots I have occcasionally encountered, though. (Also, when using a pin vise and v notch, I usually hold the work at a slight angle, relative to the notch, so that it is really only resting on it at the edge. It is just a guide to keep the arbor from "walking" while I spin the pin vise.)
 

Mattbau43

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I wanted to bring back this post for discussion. There is great info in here but almost all of the reference links are dead ends. Does anyone have any good suggestions on where to find this information besides these dead links?
 

Kevin W.

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Matt there is a good posting Charles Davis did on the door hinge polishing tool, you should be able to find it in a search.
 

Dushan Grujich

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I wanted to bring back this post for discussion. There is great info in here but almost all of the reference links are dead ends. Does anyone have any good suggestions on where to find this information besides these dead links?
G'Day!

Not all is lost, You could take any of dead links and search using "Way Back Machine" like i did for John Losch's website click here.

Cheers

Dushan
 

shutterbug

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I'll probably get a lot of flack, but I find an electric drill a pretty fine tool for most pivot polishing. You can't use one in those situations requiring a steady rest (well you can, but it's much harder), but by securing it in a horizontal position you get a very lathe-like look at the pivot while you polish. It doesn't take much pressure to do polishing, and like some of the others, I prefer the pivot tool designed to use from underneath, so you can see how your approach is, and see what the pivot is doing. The typical pivot polishing tool is about twice as wide as it should be for good control, so be sure you are flat on the surface, and not tapering it as you polish.
 

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