• The online Bulletins and Mart and Highlights are currently unavailable due to a failure of a network piece of equipment. We are working to replace it and have the Online publications available as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.

Question on cleaning balance-wheel/hairspring/ balance-cock assembly

TerryK

Registered User
Dec 1, 2016
6
0
0
France
Country
Hi from a new forum member,

I'm looking for opinions/advice on how to clean balance-wheel, staff pivots, hairspring etc.
I've stripped down the watch movement completely, and put back in place the balance assembly on the otherwise bare movement. The intention is to suspend this in an ultrasonic cleaner.
My questions are:
Is it best to remove 1) just the end-stones of the balance pivots, 2) both 'hole' stones and the cap stones and Kif springs
Is it safe to do this in the ultrasonic, or is there a better method?
Any advice would be appreciated.
Cheers
 

doug sinclair

Registered User
Aug 27, 2000
14,364
67
48
Calgary, Alberta
Country
Region
With a watch that has removable shock resist hole and cap jewels, a lot of watchmakers do as you suggest. Be certain that you re-position the shock springs before putting the movement into the cleaning machine. This is how I do these, and the procedure is safe and effective. I have seen some Watch Repair people clean the watch with the hole jewel and cap jewel still in place in the movement! They then remove the jewels after the cleaning, and lube the jewels then. I've never tried that as I fail to see how you can be assured the jewels are clean.
 

TerryK

Registered User
Dec 1, 2016
6
0
0
France
Country
Be certain that you re-position the shock springs before putting the movement into the cleaning machine.
Thanks doug. I was wondering if it would be ok to remove both the cap and 'hole' stones i.e. leaving the balance staff free in the holes?
 

doug sinclair

Registered User
Aug 27, 2000
14,364
67
48
Calgary, Alberta
Country
Region
Did I not imply that in my answer? The balance wheel and cock stay in place on the pillar plate during cleaning. The jewels are cleaned separately, lubed, and re-positioned. But secure the shock springs before the cleaning!
 

TerryK

Registered User
Dec 1, 2016
6
0
0
France
Country
Did I not imply that in my answer? The balance wheel and cock stay in place on the pillar plate during cleaning. The jewels are cleaned separately, lubed, and re-positioned. But secure the shock springs before the cleaning!
Ok doug, I misunderstood because, in my mind, I'd already removed the Kif springs when removing the stones, so
nothing to secure.
 

doug sinclair

Registered User
Aug 27, 2000
14,364
67
48
Calgary, Alberta
Country
Region
DO NOT leave the KIF springs unsecured! Period! Put them back into the position they were in before you removed the jewels! If you don't you'll probably be replacing them after the cleaning process.
 

TerryK

Registered User
Dec 1, 2016
6
0
0
France
Country
DO NOT leave the KIF springs unsecured! Period! Put them back into the position they were in before you removed the jewels! If you don't you'll probably be replacing them after the cleaning process.

I think we are talking at cross purposes here Doug!
I my scenario, I would be removing the Kif springs entirely from the balance cock and plate.
But yes, if I can remove the jewels without removing the springs (by just hinging up the springs out of the way), I will re-secure them.
 

doug sinclair

Registered User
Aug 27, 2000
14,364
67
48
Calgary, Alberta
Country
Region
DO NOT remove the KIF springs!!!!! Just lower them back into position, and turn them back the way they were when you started. I don't have ANY idea as to how I can describe the process any more clearly!
 

WATCHBREAKER

Registered User
Dec 2, 2014
82
1
0
Edwardsville, IL
Country
I think hes talking about the triangle shaped rotating kif springs not the "slide over and flip up ones". in that case, yes you just remove them and set to the side. you will need a kif tool to reinstall though! have to press all 3 ends down and rotate.

easy misunderstanding
 

doug sinclair

Registered User
Aug 27, 2000
14,364
67
48
Calgary, Alberta
Country
Region
The way I read it, he's talking about the BALANCE STAFF KIF jewels in the cock and pillar plate! If he's talking about PLATE cap jewels held by three-legged retainer springs, that is a different matter! With those, I don't remove them. I retract them enough to release the tip, swivel the spring to remove the jewel, then re-position the tip of the spring for the cleaning process. Then repeat the process when installing the jewel. WHY would anyone REMOVE the spring?
 

karlmansson

Registered User
Apr 20, 2013
2,827
207
63
Linköping, Sweden
Country
KIF makes several types of springs, one of which is the "Trior" which does in fact need to be removed in order to remove the jewels under it.

If it's a hinged spring, do as Doug suggests and leave it in its "locked" position for cleaning. If it's a triangular spring, such as Trior or Novodiac, there will be very little tension holding it down during cleaning without the jewels providing leverage for it so you will probably lose it in the cleaner if you leave it in. If you have a small parts basket with a mesh fine enough for it, that's where I'd suggest putting it during cleaning.

Best of luck!
Karl
 

JohnJohn

Registered User
Sep 24, 2014
7
0
0

Hi Terry. Itsounds like you are fairly new to this, so I will tell you how I clean awatch....after 40 years of trying many different methods. This is just my way.I'm sure some watchmakers will scoff, but it works for me and my comeback rateon repairs is almost nil.

When I clean awatch. I remove the hour wheel, canon pinion and Mainspring barrel. I usually don't remove the spring from the barrel unless it's really, really dirty. If it looks good, I just put it aside. I don't put it in the cleaning machine. You can reattachthe barrel bridge, but if you leave it off, it will better clean the winding assembly. (Don't forget to tighten the dial feet screws beforecleaning...they usually will work their way out if you don't). I then clean the watch with the train and balance in place. Aftercleaning, I remove the balance, but don't remove the balance from the balance cock. It's just so much easierthis way and less chance of damaging the hair spring when unscrewing the studscrew. I flip the cock over, with the balance attached, and dip it in One Dipand then into my saw dust box to dry. I then remove the palate and train andclean the jewels with peg wood, if necessary. I Check the wheels and pinions tosee if they are clean and free of any dirt. I reassemble the train, barrel and bridge. Oil the palate stones andassemble the palate, insert the balance and cock and then remove the balancejewels and clean with peg wood and one dip, then oil and assemble. I then grease the stem and attach it, then remove the set bridge and remove the minute wheel and intermediate wheel, grease them and the clutch wheel, clutch lever and the point where the clutch spring rides against the lever. That's about it. I leave the train and balance assembled when I clean the watch because I've found that the cleaners and cleaning machines are so good, that the watch usually comes out incredibly clean. I have an older L&R that does both agitation and ultrasonic. The only caveat is if you have a watch that the oil has hardened and turned to almost a varnish. I see this a lot on old pocket watches. In that case, I take the balance off the cock and clean the pivots and all the train pivots with pith wood. Hope this helps. Sorry I was so long winded. :chuckling:



 

TerryK

Registered User
Dec 1, 2016
6
0
0
France
Country
Thanks JohnJohn for your explanatory run-through , also thanks guys for your replies doug, Watchbreaker, karlmansson.

Yes you are correct in saying I'm fairly new to this. This is only the second time I've stripped-down a watch.

The first time was this same watch, which I did around 14 years ago...
I remember I suspended the entire movement (less auto and calender etc) in the ultrasonic bath
and took off and cleaned the cap jewels afterwards. I can't remember removing the hole jewels.
Somebody told me to take the barrel off and clean it out, which I did (without disturbing the train wheels)

Maybe I was lucky, but all went well, and I've worn it every day since, no problems, (always - 3 to -4 secs per 24hrs.)

This time, I don't want to take any avoidable risks, so that's why I'm asking what may appear as dumb questions!

Having had very little experience, I don't know how much I can get away with regarding 'abuse' or stress to the pivots, hairspring etc.

Anyway, as I said, I have already completely stripped down the movement and cleaned everything, except balance staff/balance-wheel/hairspring, which I have put back in place on the bare movement plate.

I'm now undecided whether or not to suspend this in the ultrasonic machine ( I don't have a dedicated watch movement cleaning machine, it's just a 2 litre capacity ultrasonic used for jewellery work).

Or should I just now clean the cap and hole stones, clean the pivots with Rodico and put everything back together?
The hairspring doesn't look dirty from what I can see...
 

TerryK

Registered User
Dec 1, 2016
6
0
0
France
Country
KIF makes several types of springs, one of which is the "Trior" which does in fact need to be removed in order to remove the jewels under it.

If it's a hinged spring, do as Doug suggests and leave it in its "locked" position for cleaning. If it's a triangular spring, such as Trior or Novodiac, there will be very little tension holding it down during cleaning without the jewels providing leverage for it so you will probably lose it in the cleaner if you leave it in. If you have a small parts basket with a mesh fine enough for it, that's where I'd suggest putting it during cleaning.

Best of luck!
Karl
This is the Kif spring I think it's called Elastor
kif.jpg
 

dAz57

Registered User
Dec 7, 2011
2,018
32
48
sydney Australia
Country
Region
Johnjohn, in reference to the mainspring barrel, with automatics is either leave the barrel alone or fully service it by taking the spring out, you do a winding test on the barrel to see if the spring is slipping correctly, if it's grabbing or slipping too much then it needs to be serviced.

I've done three autos this week, a 1968 glycine airman, a 70s Sandoz with an ETA 2783, and a Seiko auto chrono 6139A, all had the springs removed and serviced, I don't automatically fit a new spring if it's not needed, as all three were stainless unbreakable they were not set.

The problem is if the spring is not removed and is put through the cleaner, then the barrel wall does not get the correct lubrication and the spring can unwind a couple of turns when it comes up to being fully wound thus robing the reserve power.

20161130_125730.jpg
 

roughbarked

Registered User
Dec 2, 2016
6,441
940
113
Western NSW or just this side of the black stump.
Country
Region
Johnjohn, in reference to the mainspring barrel, with automatics is either leave the barrel alone or fully service it by taking the spring out, you do a winding test on the barrel to see if the spring is slipping correctly, if it's grabbing or slipping too much then it needs to be serviced.

I've done three autos this week, a 1968 glycine airman, a 70s Sandoz with an ETA 2783, and a Seiko auto chrono 6139A, all had the springs removed and serviced, I don't automatically fit a new spring if it's not needed, as all three were stainless unbreakable they were not set.

The problem is if the spring is not removed and is put through the cleaner, then the barrel wall does not get the correct lubrication and the spring can unwind a couple of turns when it comes up to being fully wound thus robing the reserve power.

288190.jpg
As an apprentice, I was told that the automatic watches with the gold coloured barrel were lifetime barrels. No cleaning necessary. simply replace the whole thing if anything was wrong.

As for oiling the spring after cleaning, one needs to work the slipper mechanically to get the lubricant in before assembly.
 

dAz57

Registered User
Dec 7, 2011
2,018
32
48
sydney Australia
Country
Region
We
As an apprentice, I was told that the automatic watches with the gold coloured barrel were lifetime barrels. No cleaning necessary. simply replace the whole thing if anything was wrong.
Yeah well good luck with that, even if you were able find one for that 50 year old watch the lube in the barrel won't be any good and will still need to be serviced.

As for oiling the spring after cleaning, one needs to work the slipper mechanically to get the lubricant in before assembly.
Nuh! Clean the spring and barrel, apply the correct slipping lubricant to the barrel wall only, fit the spring and arbor, lube the spring with your favourite lubricant, fit the lid and so a test wind with a pin vise made to hold barrel arbors without damage, and that's it, no stuffing around.

I don't care if the barrel is supposedly unserviceable or it is supposed to be replaced, I do a test wind on every barrel that I pull out of a auto that I service, that will tell you straight away the condition of it.
 

JohnJohn

Registered User
Sep 24, 2014
7
0
0
I've serviced hundreds of automatics and I never clean the spring and barrel, unless it is not slipping right. For modern watches, those made after the 60's, I take the complete barrel out and set it aside when I clean the watch. I clean the barrel teeth by hand with Rodico and peg wood if needed. I will grease the top and bottom barrel shoulders before assembly and remove the barrel cover to grease the spring. Pocket watches are a different matter. I take the spring out and put the barrel in the cleaner. If the pocket watch has a blue spring, it almost always needs replaced. They lose their strength over what seems to be a short period of time. As an add on, in the late 70's, I worked for the Ernest Borel watch company. (Remember their Cocktail Watdh? They also handled Mido watches with the lead back gaskets and cork in the case tube.) A Swiss Watchmaker there showed me how to make a lube so the Automatic Mainspring will slip properly. He mixed a little graphite with Moebius spring grease and would put a dot of the grease at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 positions inside the barrel wall. It worked great. We would test the slippage after assembling the barrel by attaching a pin vise to the arbor and winding until we could feel it slipping. It worked great. You can buy this grease, but so much easier to make your own. Don't despair, daz. I had a hard time the first couple years. Luckily, I worked with my Father and he was always right next to me when I had a problem. My biggest challenge was developing a "soft touch". It just takes a little time. I'm sure there will be some reading this who think that NOT removing the mainspring and cleaning it is a shortcut and not proper. I figure, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Everyone has their own method. Experiment and find what's best for you. Take care and Good Luck.
 

karlmansson

Registered User
Apr 20, 2013
2,827
207
63
Linköping, Sweden
Country
I'm just here thinking that the bearings that actually see action during the power reserve of a watch are the barrel bushings. So to leave those uncleaned and just lubricate them would be cause for some serious wear later on, espicially considering the load on those bushings.

Something similar goes for the spring. If you don't know what lubricant the previous watchmaker put there, you don't really know how the one you put there will behave once it solves all the aged lubricant already in there. It seems you have many years experience JohnJohn, probably many more than I have, and I'm curious to know if you ever got these watches in for a second service, and how their performance and state of wear was at that point. After all, servicing is partially about improving performance, which I'm convinced that your method would do, but also ensuring a performance and wear resistance over time, which I would like to learn more about in relation to your approach.

Best regards
Karl
 

dAz57

Registered User
Dec 7, 2011
2,018
32
48
sydney Australia
Country
Region
Well what do I know, I've only been doing this for 45+ years, I have no idea how many watches I have done over that time but it runs in the many many thousands, worked for a swiss service centre for a while, trade work, now just what comes the door.

so as I said, I test the spring in the barrel, if it feels ok in the slipping then I just clean the barrel with rodico and oil the arbor, but that is only on watches that I have done in the last 5-6 years, but a lot of stuff I get these days haven't been serviced in a long time and there is no real excuse for not doing the service correctly.

So yes most of the time I remove the springs from the barrels on all the watches unless I know the history.
 
Last edited:

Forum statistics

Threads
168,892
Messages
1,473,724
Members
48,640
Latest member
irishbogs
Encyclopedia Pages
1,060
Total wiki contributions
2,955
Last update
-