Riley Whiting Graphite Mess

Discussion in 'Wood Movement Clocks' started by wow, Mar 11, 2016.

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  1. wow

    wow Registered User
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    I picked up a Riley Whiting that is in pretty good shape except for the movement. Someone saturated the whole movement with graphite. I have it apart, but I do not know how to clean it. The bushings are gummed up with black gunk as well as the pinions and everything else. What is the best way to clean it without causing problems with the wood. what chemicals can be used safely?
    Thanks,
    Will Walker
     
  2. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    A little acetone on a paper towel or cloth works for me. It need be use a tooth brush and acetone. The stuff is very flammable so use caution and small amounts. Personally, I would avoid soap and water but others will probably respond differently. It isn't just the wood to consider but some of the wheels are likely glued with hide glue.

    RC
     
  3. Peter A. Nunes

    Peter A. Nunes Moderator
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    Murphy Oil Soap, hot water, and a tooth brush are quite effective at removing the horror that is graphite. Scrub vigorously with plenty of Oil Soap on a stiff toothbrush, rinse quickly with hot water, sop dry with clean paper towels. Don't linger in the rinse cycle.
     
  4. wow

    wow Registered User
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    OK, I have both acetone and Murphy's. Which way to go? Anybody else have ideas? I assume the fast rinse cycle is to keep the water from soaking into the wood, right, Peter. How do you wood works guys normally clean a movement without graphite?
    Thanks for your help,
    Will
     
  5. secondarylead

    secondarylead Registered User

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    #5 secondarylead, Mar 12, 2016
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 12, 2016
    - - - Updated - - -

    Go with the Murphy's soap, hot water and a tooth brush as Peter says. I have been working on wood movements for 25 years and this is the method I use and have never, ever had a problem with the wood.

    - - - Updated - - -
     
  6. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    #6 R. Croswell, Mar 12, 2016
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    I can't make the decision for you, but you can try Acetone by putting a few drops on a paper towel and rubbing a small place on the inside in about 5 seconds. It dries almost instantly, so you can tell if it will work for you or not.

    You appear to be a member so you should have access to the on-line library. I refer to an article on page 402 of the August 1966 issue of the Bulletin of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, Inc. titled "Wooden Clock Movements", "NOTES 1. Cleaning which states in part:

    In my experience [the author's] these clocks are more often dusty than 'gunky'. The procedure for cleaning in such cases need be no more than a thorough brushing with a stiff dry brush to be followed by wiping accessible surfaces with a clean cloth..........but air cleaning alone is not enough.....pivot holes should be wiped with peg wood. The most common cleaning practice is to wash all parts of the clock with naphtha [Coleman fuel], paint thinner [mineral spirits], or gasoline. float the parts in a pan of solvent, turning them from time to time so that all surfaces remain wet, and after they have soaked for half an hour or more, brush each surface to scrub it clean. Array the parts on folded newspaper to dry for two or three hours in well ventilated area but out of direct sunlight which could warp the wood....There are rare occasions when a wood clock has been so thoroughly saturated with all kinds of compounds, linaments, and filth that petroleum solvents do not effectively clean the surface of the woods. Horrifying as the idea seems, it may be necessary to clean the parts of the movement with a soap and water solution. A mixture of one-half cup of laundry detergent, one cup of household ammonia (half cup of 26% ammonium hydroxide) and one gallon of hot water may be used to scrub the parts after the solution has cooled to 100 F or less............Parts are afterward rinsed in cold water and allowed to drain and dry slowly overnight..... rapid drying (with heat) will cause extreme warping and distortion of parts........The hazard from soap and water cleaning is twofold. It is important that all surfaces of various wood parts be soaked and wetted equally......If a piece of wood is not thoroughly wet from both sides it will warp and shrink on the side first dry..........The second problem to result from wet cleaning is that of dissolving the glue between wheels and pinions and at the pillars where they are attached to the back plate. .......

    I would add that laundry detergents in 1966 contained phosphates which are not used today. The above article was printed under the name of John C. Losch but it is not clear if he is the author or the editor. The article covers a lot more than just cleaning and is a good read even though it is somewhat dated and we now have additional options that were not available then. What I believe the author is describing is three stages of cleaning beginning with dry brushing for most cases, petroleum solvents for the bad cases (and I believe acetone would fall into the solvent group although not strictly a petroleum solvent), and a detergent or soap and water bath for the worst cases that were not cleaned adequately by other less aggressive methods. The author points out some of the concerns I expressed with soap and water cleaning, along with a few more. Personally, I would not use Murphy's Oil Soap on anything, (perhaps I just don't like the smell it leaves behind). The smell aside, I feel that what ever is used to clean a wood movement should be something that either evaporates completely and/or can be rinsed away completely leaving nothing behind. If I were going to wet clean a wooden movement I think I would prefer the concoction described in the Losch article to one containing Murphy's Oil Soap, but that's just my take on the matter. In the end we all need to review the published literature, (which is sometimes conflicting) evaluate methods suggested by others, and ultimately try things and see what works, and what does not, and evaluate risks and outcomes.

    One aspect of this question that has not been commented on is just how "pretty" does the end result need to be when the movement is not exposed? If the crap in this clock is graphite and not some other accumulation of filth and crud, just how important is it to completely remove all traces of it? That of course is an individual matter.

    RC
     
  7. Peter A. Nunes

    Peter A. Nunes Moderator
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    #7 Peter A. Nunes, Mar 12, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2016
    It's true that it isn't necessary to entirely remove graphite and other crud from the surface of wooden movement plates, only to ensure that the pivot holes are entirely free of dirt and crud. On the other hand, whether they are meant to be seen by anyone but me or another restorer, the quarter sawn wooden plates are things of beauty when the wood is properly cleaned and restored. As I've mentioned elsewhere on the message board, after judicious cleaning with Murphy Oil soap, I allow the parts to dry thoroughly for a day or so. I then apply a mix of turpentine and boiled linseed oil, which I then immediately wipe off with paper towels. Linseed oil soaked paper towels have been responsible for many shop fires (two of which I have personal knowledge here in southern RI) so these I put aside to go right out to the dumpster before I leave the shop for the night. This mixture (which was suggested to me by George Bruno maybe 30 years ago) serves to beautify the wood, and possibly has other benefits, such as adding a modicum of moisture resistance.

    John Losch's 1966 Bulletin article is indeed somewhat dated- in 1966 very few collectors appreciated wooden movement clocks, but by the early 1970s significant research on makers and early manufacturing processes was being accomplished by people such as Ward Francillon and Snowden Taylor. Cleaning and restoration methods also improved during that time period, bring us to where we are today. I've included a few pictures of a pillar and scroll movement that I am currently restoring. It has been cleaned and re-bushed, and the pivots have been burnished. Note that there was not a single broken tooth or pinion leaf in the whole movement, which is from a nice E. Terry & Sons pillar & scroll with a terrific original tablet. Eli and his sons Henry and Eli Jnr. were in business together from 1823-31.

    terry&sons.jpg
     
  8. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    That's an interesting observation. 1966 is pretty close to "the early 1970s". I don't know how many articles concerning wooden clocks and wooden clock repair were published in the "Bulletin" over the years but in my collection I found articles from 1962, 1964, 1963, and 1966, (there must have been others) so there must have enough interest at that time to justify publication. My first encounter, which wooden clocks could hardly be called an "encounter", was at a local auction during that '60's period and I was very interested. Unfortunately my money was not as interested as that of several other bidders. I suspect that the Internet has had a great influence in the awareness of wooden and other types of clocks, and sources like eBay have made the acquisition of old clocks easier. To some extent I believe the interest goes where the profits are as some who may have no interest in clocks at all see an opportunity to turn a buck by selling anything old out of the attic or basement. The recent uptick in interest is probably a good thing but it may also be responsible for more wonderful old clocks being molested and butchered and/or parted out for profit. In deed times are a changing in more ways than one.

    I agree that turpentine and boiled linseed oil are great natural products and have many uses in preserving and finishing wood, and yes, quarter-sawn oak is attractive to look at when finished this, but I have two concerns when it is used on wooden clock movements: first, is how the residual of these somewhat naturally sticky materials may affect friction and natural properties of the wood in pivot holes, and second, while it makes the movement "pretty", in my opinion it also gives the movement an unnatural "refinished" look more so than a "restored" look. Is there any documentation that the original makers finished their movements with turpentine and boiled linseed oil or any other finishing material? (I'm asking, not suggesting that they didn't.) We have often seen objections expressed about refinishing cases and/or using anything other than original materials in restoration, unless is has been substantiated that the original manufacturers "finished" their movements, wouldn't it seem out of place to do so as part of a restoration?

    Great find you have there - a movement that apparently has all its original parts in working order. I can understand the desire to make it attractive.

    RC
     
  9. Peter A. Nunes

    Peter A. Nunes Moderator
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    I generally do the linseed & turpentine treatment before re-bushing, so of course there is no residual oil in the new pivot holes. Pivot holes which are going to be reused need to be heavily cleaned anyway, as there are the accretions of the decades hidden in them. I clean the holes with pipe cleaners and denatured alcohol, linseed oil or not. The filth that comes out is remarkable.

    Once cleaned, wooden movement plates, when left untreated, generally have a flat and blotchy appearance. The oil treatment simply gives the surface some life- there is no particular patina left after proper cleaning anyway, although I think Murphy Oil Soap leaves the wood looking better than solvents, at least that's been my experience. I have two friends who clean the parts with Murphy, rinse, and do nothing else. That's fine. As the decades go by we experiment, and settle on ways to do things.

    There is a bit corollary here with brass clock movements- when we restore them we don't expect them to look ancient and filthy anymore, we replace worn parts, and clean the plates to varying degrees of shininess.

    I have only once seen reference to an early maker using linseed oil on his plates, and it was on a clock label, though I can't recall just who that maker was, or where I saw it- in the Cog Counter's Journal, maybe.

    I would encourage all who have an interest in these wonderful artifacts to join Cog Counters- http://cogcounters.org

     
  10. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    This is true, but if it is a restoration one would presumably want to return the movement to the way it originally was, which was clean with plates of varying degrees of shininess Laquered plates might be relaquered, natural plates cleaned of oxidation and left close to original shininess. In deed the corollary continues as there are those who polish brass that was not originally polished just as there are those who finish wood that was not originally polished. It really would seem to depend on the outcome one wishes to achieve, whether that be an appearance outcome or an operational (mechanical) outcome, or maintaining absolute authenticy.

    RC
     
  11. wow

    wow Registered User
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    Thank you very much, Peter and RC. Your expertise is a great help. I started the cleaning process with the Murphy's. simply as a toss up decision. I used a bristle paint brush and cleaned every wheel and both plates thoroughly, followed by a warm water rinse and drying with a paper towel and a low heat hair dryer. Turned out beautiful. Washed much black gunk down the drain. I bushed several pivot holes and reassembled. Everything looks tight (as tight as I think a wooden movement should be). Will be putting back in case soon and checking it out. Will let you know.
     
  12. bruce linde

    bruce linde Technical Admin
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    i followed rc's advice on an also totally filthy movement... acetone, toothbrush, wood stakes for between gear teeth and even a razor blade for sideways scraping of the more gunked up sides of wheels... it took two of us eight solid hours.... just be patient!

    smike


    IMG_2782.jpg IMG_2830.jpg
    IMG_2833.jpg
     
  13. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    Smile, that's a 911 case for sure. Doesn't get much worse. You may have to use more aggressive cleaning methods to get it really "pretty" clean. Is that a brass tooth on the S2 pinion? Looks like part oh the hour pipe is missing? Perhaps a new thread for your project.

    RC
     
  14. wow

    wow Registered User
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    Ok. Got it going and it looked great. Running great with nice wide pendulum swing. But.....two teeth in the s-1 gear popped out and two of the pinion teeth in the adjacent s-2 popped out. I replaced the s-1 teeth with a piece of dove tailed walnut I made, but now I need to replace the pinion teeth. I can't find anything in my searches that show or explain the best way to do this. Can someone show me a thread or explain how these are best replaced? It's two adjacent pinion teeth.
    Thanks,
    Will
     
  15. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    That's the sort of chain reaction disaster that can happen. Were the teeth that "popped out" of S1 previously replaced teeth? Perhaps glued with water soluble glue? Or perhaps loosened by the swelling and later contracting of the wood after soaking and drying? Pinion repair is more challenging. Some claim that pinions simply cannot be repaired satisfactorily. If just one leaf is broken, I have cut a "trench" where the replacement leaf goes down into arbor and with a snug fit and glue been able to replace a single tooth. If you can find the broken teeth, you may (or may not) have success gluing then back in place. Super Glue gel could do the job. It becomes difficult to get the spacing just right when you need to do two teeth next to one another. You could try...................(all sorts of other things that have not a great chance of working out long-term).

    S2 is under a great deal of load and it tends to be a shock load as pins contact the strike hammer so this will be one of the more difficult pinions to repair. I believe your best option is to contact Don Bruno http://www.torringtonclockco.com/ and have a new part made. Alternatively, if you can find a parts movement with an arbor and pinion that are close enough to work.

    I would try to determine the reason for the tooth failures before replacing anything. If S1 had a previous repair that failed, then that along may have been the cause. Dropping the weight, attempting to wing in the wrong direction, or using too much weight could also cause the problem. Can we see some pictures of he train wreck?

    RC
     
  16. wow

    wow Registered User
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    Thanks, RC.
    Yes, one of the leaves was replaced before. That's the one that popped. I did find the old ones. One is in good shape. What about drilling small holes and inserting two brass pins before gluing? Would that help strengthen? They would be unseen. I'll have to make one leaf because the one that was made previously is soft wood and not made well. I have walnut. Should I make it with the grain parallel to the arbor or perpendicular, (for strength) or does it matter?
     

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  17. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    If you have a good wood-to-wood contact the glued joint should be as strong as the original wood. Strength isn't going to be the problem as much as keeping both replaced leaves in precise alignment. Forget the brass pins. They will just corrode and turn green and you will end up with less strength that the solid wood. If the leaf is glued to the wheel and the pinion hub that will give plenty of extra strength but you would need to saw cut with a jeweler's saw if you ever needed to separate the wheel from the hub. I've never used walnut and have no opinion. As for grain, the original part was cut from the same piece as the arbor so the grain had to be lengthwise. The replaced part will be stronger if you reorient the grain. Keep in mind that the original was more than strong enough for well over 100 years.

    For what its worth, I have a Riley Whiting that dropped a leaf from that same pinion. I found it in the bottom of the case and just glued it back on hoping for the best but not expecting much. That must have been 6 or 7 years ago and the old girl is still running fine (although I forgot to wind her yesterday so she may be upset with me). I run that one, and 4 other wooden works clocks every day.

    Good luck.

    RC
     
  18. bruce linde

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    rc -

    that's the clock you all helped me with a few months ago... no brass teeth.. just some gold paint someone put on to mark a tooth... left it there. hour pipe is fine... picture is deceptive.

    frankly, i never thought i'd look forward to winding a 30-hour clock every morning... but i do, and it runs great.

    thx again for your excellent coaching and advice.

    smike
     
  19. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    If you enjoy winding one wooden clock every morning, just think of how much more fun you could have if you had two! I'm getting ready to wind five before I go to roost tonight. They are five of the best running and most reliable clocks in my collection.

    RC
     

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