Tumbling chains (and other parts, maybe) to polish them.

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by kinsler33, Feb 20, 2019.

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  1. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

    Aug 17, 2014
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    Behold: this weird-looking object began life as a perfectly clear plastic water bottle taken from our recycling bin. I used it to polish the rusty copper-plated chains of a Japanese cuckoo clock.

    The technique isn't complex. Just remove any sort of label from the bottle, drop the chains in, close the cap tightly, and throw the bottle into the washing machine and then the dryer along with your laundry the next time you do the wash. It probably helps if the bottle is dry inside: mine was.

    Bottle, laundry, and machines tolerated each other quite well. The bottle was unaffected by the highest temperature setting available in the dryer. It made a bit of noise at the start, but quieted down after about a minute, and I went off to do other things while my chains were tumbling.

    The inner surface of the bottle was uniformly abraded, with particles of rust and steel worked into the irregularities to create a distinctive metallic gray color. I don't think the strength of the bottle was affected, though I should mention that this bottle was from a carbonated beverage and thus thicker than the very thinnest water bottles. When I removed the cap a puff of gray dust emerged, but the chains were perfect, shiny and amazingly smooth to the touch. Untangling wasn't particularly difficult.

    I'm not sure, but prior to the tumbling I may have run them through some lacquer thinner to strip any coating off them. Since the chains were gritty with rust anyway I doubt that this is necessary, but I'll experiment.

    M Kinsler

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  2. mauleg

    mauleg Registered User
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    Nice hack, Mark! I might just try this with the one set of mild steel chains next service interval.
     
  3. THTanner

    THTanner Registered User
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    I do similar with a couple of exceptions. I squirt the chains with a small amount of Inox MX3 and put it in just the dryer cycle. I also add a piece of paper towel which comes out pretty black with a lot of whatever comes off the chains embedded in it.
     
  4. Bruce Alexander

    Bruce Alexander Registered User
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    I can see how this works with chain links since they are burnishing one another. I don't know how well it would work with surfaces not easily accessed by other parts. Perhaps if you included some type of media which could work into small recesses, this approach might work if the cycles are long enough. If you have some steampunk worthy parts laying around, it would be easy enough to test/refine your approach..
     
  5. Michael Linz

    Michael Linz Registered User

    Oct 2, 2014
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    I'm intrigued with this method of cleaning chains, especially the rusty, dirty ones I frequently come across on cuckoo clocks. Does the dryer need to be on a heat cycle or is the Air setting sufficient?
     
  6. THTanner

    THTanner Registered User
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    I set the dryer based on the clothes that are in it with the bottle. I don't think the temp matters much to the chain. But if it gets too hot the bottle might pop so I squeeze some air out of the bottle before tightening the lid to allow for expansion. I have heard that if you leave some Coke in the bottle - defizzed - it works pretty well also.
     
  7. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    Just put the bottle in with the clothes, preferably yours rather than hers. The heat setting is unimportant and no significant pressure will build up, for the bottles are designed to maintain well over 100 psi or 9-10 atm of air pressure. It's a lot quieter if there are clothes in there with the bottle.

    If you are married and the laundry is typically wrangled by a female person you'll likely be aware that women worry a great deal about laundry machines. (It's because their clothes are expensive and contain heat-sensitive elastics.) Ergo, be diplomatic or sneaky when trying this tumbling technique. Use it when cleaning rags, or your work clothes (Natalie says that the two are indistinguishable around here.)

    Mark Kinsler
     
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  8. THTanner

    THTanner Registered User
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    Too funny - and heed the life lesson of Chess - only the Queen is allowed to move as she wishes.
     
  9. Michael Linz

    Michael Linz Registered User

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    Thanks for your input. I'm most intrigued with this method of cleaning chains. I've never used Inox, so I may just get some and try it. Thanks!
     
  10. steamer471

    steamer471 Registered User
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    Well I had to try this and let me say it worked quite well. I put four chains from two different clocks. I did add a little WD40 rust remover (similar to evapo rust not the usual spray solution) and they cleaned up nice. One set of chains from an older Herr and one from a more modern Regula. The worst part was in using four chains I had to cut the bottle open to remove the chains and took a little to untangle but worth the effort. Didn't take a before picture but they were the typical rusty chains.

    A concerned female watched me like a hawk as I tried this experiment with my work towels. It's amazing with women, I can take the washer or dryer apart and fix them but they will swear I don't know how to use them.

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  11. kinsler33

    kinsler33 Registered User

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    All will be revealed upon your entry into the Afterlife. I've lived with women for most of my life and know nothing.

    M Kinsler
     
  12. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    The secret is to never let them know you can cook or that you know how to sort clothes for the laundry! :D
     
  13. MartinM

    MartinM Registered User

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    A couple of months ago, i literally did take the entire washing machine apart to replace the drum bearings and the stator assembly that was also destroyed.
    But, do you think I'm allowed to wash any shop towels in it... EVER?
    Sorry... Not gonna happen.
    Soda bottles:???:
    Filled with dirty rusty old chains:???:
    I'd be sleeping on the couch for a week.
    Nice idea, though. I've always done it in a soapy bath using hand scrubbing. This is a good example of working smarter and not harder.
     
  14. Royce

    Royce Registered User

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    Thank you so much for this super idea!!! The picture shows the 3 chains for the HWN Grandfather clock I'm restoring. Unfortunately I was not alert enough to take a before picture but the chains were very tarnished. I used a small amount of de-fizzed Coke, along with a paper towel, and ran it through the 40 minute dryer cycle on medium heat and they came out beautiful (fortunately my wife is out of town). I guess this, in reality, acts like similar to a parts polishing tumbler. Anyway, great idea!!!
     
  15. Clockinit

    Clockinit Registered User

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    NICE!! I'm gonna take away a little bit from all your suggestions, and use this on the current Tall Clock I'm refurbin'...
     

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