English PW Suggestions for removing glued-on dial from English verge watch?

Discussion in 'Watch Repair' started by Dave A, Aug 27, 2012.

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  1. Dave A

    Dave A Registered User
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    Feb 18, 2011
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    Hi all,

    I recently bought a lovely verge watch in a silver pair case and it looks to be in good shape other than one small problem. Someone in the past did a rather poor job of gluing a replacement dial onto the mainplate. They actually managed to place one of the blobs of glue so that it squished up onto a wheel, locking up the train. :eek:

    Here's a couple of photos:
    glue_2.png glue_1.jpg

    The glue has a nice sheen and a sort of translucent brown color that makes me think of hide glue, though something more modern seems much more likely. So, my question for you is how might I go about determining the type of glue used, and then how to go about removing it at least enough to get the (porcelain) dial off? Of course I want to preserve the gilded plates as much as possible. There is just enough room to get the blade of a jewelers' saw in there to cut the glue bond, but I shudder to think how that would mar the plates. I have some superglue remover (mostly acetone, I think?) around here somewhere too.

    The watch, for those following along at home, is by George Marmaduke Metcalfe of Newgate Street, London and the case, which needs a bit of help as well, is hallmarked 1797.

    Thanks!
     
  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Jan 7, 2011
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    Hi,

    Best to start with if you can remove the movement from the case and dismantle it as far as you can. The dial looks like enamel, is this right? You're right, trying to cut it off would certainly risk damaging the plate.

    I don't think you'll do much damage if you try a little of the acetone mix or some alcohol on a cotton bud just to see if it softens the glue. If you're unlucky it could be an epoxy resin, which is much more resistant to solvents. If the glue is older and is an animal glue as you suspect, then try a little steam, best if you have a steam generator of some sort and can direct it into the exact spot. Of course the watch must be dried off straight away after whatever you use on it.

    Please let us know how it goes.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  3. darrahg

    darrahg Moderator
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    Dec 22, 2006
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    Gradually applying heat from a heat gun can soften up adhesives to the point of removal. Just be careful in everything you try.
     
  4. Dave A

    Dave A Registered User
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    Feb 18, 2011
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    Roslindale, MA
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    Thanks for the suggestions! The dial is off now, with no damage done.

    I thought that I 'd start by getting some small samples of the glue that I could test. So I tried to scratch off a little of the glue blob where I could easily access it and was surprised to find that it was quite flexible. I persisted and managed to pull of some small slivers. I put these on a glass plate and tried to dissolve them with alcohol, acetone, and some goof-off adhesive solvent, but nothing seemed to touch it. I think it was most likely something like a silicone caulk or 'shoe goo'.

    There were three pencil-eraser sized blobs gluing it on, and I was able to reach in from the side with a small exacto knife to (very slowly and carefully) cut through each, at which point the dial lifted off. Whatever genius did this 'repair' not only glued the third wheel in place but also blocked the ratchet click on the mainspring barrel from engaging. Once the dial was off, the remaining silicone easily peeled off using some chisel shaped pegwood and a soft plastic scraper.

    Obviously, this isn't the original dial. I think it's a very recent marriage based on the adhesive and the fact that the cut ends of the old brass dial feet were still bright and untarnished. It isn't even in particularly good shape, with several hairline cracks and edge chips. But I think I'll reuse it anyway since it's the right diameter, style looks ok, and I don't have anything better. Somewhat ironically, I'll most likely use more glue. Instead of sticking the dial on directly I'll turn some new dial feet and put them on with a two-part epoxy in the proper places so I can pin the dial on as it's meant to be. I've heard of soldering on new dial feet, and I'm comfortable with using a soft silver solder, but I'm worried about doing anything too aggressive given the existing cracks and chips in the dial.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find that other than the dial mess the movement seems to be in fine shape. Fusee chain and balance are good, all the pivots look fine, and there's not really any visible wear to the pivot holes in the plates. The lower balance pivot hole was rebushed at some point and the minute wheel post was replaced, but everything looks to be in good shape and the balance started right up with a light pressure on the crown wheel. So I have high hopes that it'll go well in the end.

    Thanks again for the help.
    -Dave
     
  5. Skutt50

    Skutt50 Registered User

    Mar 14, 2008
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    Congratulations on a job well done!

    Your description resembles hot glue. Did you try to heat it slightly?
     

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