WD-40 long term use warning!

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by jhe.1973, Mar 2, 2012.

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  1. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Hi Everyone,

    I originally intended to post this in the owner built precision regulator thread that I started in the clock construction forum. However my life doesn’t seem to be settling down as much as I would like and I think this is too important to wait until I get to discuss it there.

    Also, this thread has more exposure.

    In 1982 I started full time construction of 5 precision regulator movements as I have pictured at the end of my first post in the above-mentioned thread.

    Tonight, because I could not get enough lighting into the assembled movement I pulled it apart to give you an idea of how the arbors looked before I tried to use WD-40 as a preservative. Here is the movement with front plate removed to show the placement of the arbors:

    1a.jpg

    I seldom take this down because all the tolerances are very close and with plates that are 5/16 inch thick the risk to the ruby and sapphire jewels is rather high. The white arrow points to a clear sapphire that disappears in the photo, the rubies are obvious:

    2a.jpg

    Here are the 3 arbors from the movement. Note the finish:

    3a.jpg

    This particular movement was to be a demonstration piece that I never intended to case. Because of this I used arbors that weren’t up to my standards. The other 4 arbors of each size were actually finished to a higher standard. All told, they all took about six weeks of full time work to make, including weekends.

    Before we moved from Wisconsin to Virginia in 1984, I was not able to finish everything so I removed all of the wheels and stored the arbors in a tin can covering them with WD-40. I figured that if any condensation got into the can, the water-displacing feature of WD-40 would keep moisture away from the polished steel surfaces.

    About once a month I would check the can and top off the WD-40 to keep everything submerged.

    In 1993 we moved across the country again, this time to Arizona.

    In 1997, after 13 years of having no trouble with this method of preservation, I was heartbroken to find that, since my last check, the surfaces of arbors had all been destroyed, making them all useless:

    4a.jpg

    Here is a close up of one of the escapement arbors where you can still se a little of the original surface on the right:

    5a.jpg

    Here are two closer views of the same arbor:

    6.jpg

    What puzzles me are the deeply etched lines that run along the surface, more or less parallel with the shaft.

    When I discovered this I was working for the Physics & Astronomy department of a university and nobody I showed these to had any good explanation for what caused this. One person did however mention that he had heard that WD-40 will actually absorb moisture from the air.

    This is the closest I have come to finding an answer and I ‘m just passing the information on.
     
  2. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Good Lord!
     
  3. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Thanks bangster! My feelings exactly!

    Although this was devastating, I'll be dammed if I'm going to give up.

    You comment helps provide me some comfort and a chuckle.
     
  4. David S

    David S Registered User
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    I have never been all that impressed with WD-40. Some learned person once told me that it is very very similar to kerosene. We have an outside locker at our rv park with a padlock on it. It was always getting hung up and hard to operate with the key, since it is outside in the rain / snow etc. I tried wd 40 and in a few months it would act up again. Tried silicone spray..same results. Finally I tried T40 from Krown rust control. This stuff is awesome. I sprayed the lock two years ago and haven't had to do anything since, and it operates smoothly. Since this stuff is meant to prevent rust, this may be a better product for long term protection of parts.
    David
     
  5. soaringjoy

    soaringjoy Registered User

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    Thanks for posting, a very impressive report with pictures of exceptional quality.
    I don't even let WD 40 get close to movements, since it always has been my belief,
    the stuff is aggressive.
    May I use some of your pics for the German DGC and my database, please?
     
  6. Richard T.

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    I am in the camp of many that WD40 has no place in anything related to clocks and/or clockmaking. As far as I know it isn't a preservative and as you posted can have dire results.

    Surely there are more accepted means of preservation.........

    Sorry about the loss of your arbors.

    Best,

    Richard T.
     
  7. moe1942

    moe1942 Registered User

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    The WD-40 formula has changed over the years. I personally haven't used it in twenty years or more. Never was a very good preservative in my neck of the woods. I'm not sure it still works as a water dispersant..

    I have just been introduced to a product called fluid line. The distributor is sending me a free sample to test. From what he said it would excel in a situation like this. I will post my results when I have tested it on my equipment for awhile.
     
  8. harold bain

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    Just a thought, Jim, and sorry for your loss. Rice is great as a moisture absorber. I wonder how well you would have faired with some rice in the bottom of the can. I put a few grains of rice in my salt shaker at the cottage, and it never gets hard. Without the rice, the salt becomes a bound up lump in the shaker.
     
  9. Thyme

    Thyme Banned

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    The vehicle (meaning the stuff the makes WD-40 liquid) that is used in it is Stoddard solvent, AKA mineral spirits, and similar to kerosene. You can search for my thread that illustrates what WD-40 looks like after all the vehicle has evaporated. The residue is the consistency of lard.

    For that application, rust and binding in outdoor locks, you will find that graphite lock fluid is a good choice.

    As for moisture absorption, the OP and others should consider using a desiccant. Here is one example of a popular one (click here).
     
  10. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    #10 Kevin W., Mar 2, 2012
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
    In the machine shop where i work we used to use wd 40 on metal parts to stop corrosion.I dont like the stuff but i am not the boss of the shop.Since then we have changed to using TT 9 rust inhibitor.Also we have rust inhibitors in thhe commercial size ultrasonics that we use for cleaning parts.There is also those small containers of that sillica that will control moisture as well.
    It,s too bad that happened to you after all your hard work.
    I dont use wd 40 at home.
    http://www.theruststore.com/Boeshield-T-9-12-oz-Aerosol-P3C4.aspx
    T 9 was desined by Boeing aviation.
     
  11. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Hey Jim...

    ANY chance of rescuing those parts?
     
  12. shutterbug

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    I'm pondering whether a vacuum food preserving machine would do a good job on long term preservation of clock parts? Once they are completely dry, vacuum sealing should keep them that way. Thoughts?
     
  13. Jerry Kieffer

    Jerry Kieffer Registered User
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    My personal experience with WD-40

    I find it to be an excellent short term penetrating and lubricating fluid for manufacturer suggested applications . However, when it dries it leaves a waxy film that can be good or bad depending on how it is utilized. For example, when bead blasting I spay the metal immediately as it comes out of the booth and it offers the best practical protection of any product used. Again however, if I wait and allow humidity to form on the metal surface and then spray it, it will trap moisture between the waxy film and metal. This in turn has greatly increased corrosion. While it is not designed as long term rust protection, it can be fairly effective if understood and used properly. For long term rust protection, I use cosmoline based spray products such as Sprayon S00710 and Schafco 24-3250

    Personally, where Horological bare metal surface protection is required or desired I use high quality clock/watch oil depending on surface size. A very thin coat is applied and reapplied after evaporation. A very thin coat is easily applied with a high quality make up brush with very very fine bristles. This is of course done with the understanding that even the thin film will attract dust and lint.

    In regard to visible metal lines.
    Almost all metal alloys have grain similar to wood. Corrosion will sometimes highlight metal grain in the same manner as a acid bath.

    Jim
    Unless there is deep pitting I am not seeing in the photo`s, corrosion of this type can be easily removed and surface finish restored using commercial vibratory metal finishing products/procedures. It is surpassing how lightly pitted surfaces can be blended to a smooth polished surface without loosing noticeable dimensions.

    Jerry Kieffer
     
  14. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Hi Everyone,

    I'm visiting my daughter today so I should be able to get back here a few times to address all the great points that have been raised.

    Thank you all for the interest and understanding. It is a big help to know I am among friends.:)

    soaringjoy:

    I am honored that you would like to pass this information on I and appreciate your consideration in asking. Please do help get the word out.

    One point I want to go into a bit more is that this corrosion didn't happen over the 13 year period of storage, but in the final 30 days. This is why I felt I should call attention to it as soon as I could get to it.

    About 1 1/2 years ago I feel that I have gotten the final piece of the puzzle.

    We had the gas meters re-done at our house & shop and because I like to watch ANY careful craft person at work I watched the entire process asking questions once in awhile.
    I mostly wanted to see how they would tap into a live gas main, but that's another story.

    One of the final things they had to do was weld a copper lead to the new line with the other end connected to a sacrificial anode that was left next to this line. Why was one of my questions. The installer explained that steel will corrode very quickly because of the minerals in our soil so they have to use an anode to prevent this corrosion.

    Ever since moving to the desert southwest, I have noticed that every breeze brings an extremely fine dust that is actually ultra fine sand from the ground. The gas line craftsman verified, at least for my curiosity, that the mineral content floating around us out here can be corrosive in the right environment.

    I strongly suspect that over time the WD-40 absorbed enough water and minerals to change from a protecting fluid to an electrolyte. I further feel the tin plating of the can was a sufficiently dissimilar metal to set up an etching situation. Unfortunately, it was the arbors that lost the metal and not the can.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it!:whistle:
     
  15. moe1942

    moe1942 Registered User

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    You nailed it. Dissimilar metal corrosion. Store in plastic containers. I was in aircraft maintenance and we fought it continually..
     
  16. Rob P.

    Rob P. Registered User

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    I'd think that a vibratory tumbler with a soft medium like rice or Bulgar wheat could take off the ugly surface without harming the arbors. It certainly wouldn't hurt and could save another 6 weeks of machining to replace them.
     
  17. lmester

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    That seems possible to me. Electrolysis or maybe chemical etching.

    I've played around with electroplating some. Your arbors look similar to the anode rod after it's been used for a little plating.

    I've had good luck keeping steel parts from rusting by putting them in a tightly sealed container with a packet of silica gel. You can reactivate the silica gel packet by warming it in the oven on low. Do a Google search for "reactivate silica gel". You can buy them new but I've just saved them whenever I find one in a package.
     
  18. Dch48

    Dch48 Registered User

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    I'd be inclined to go with the electrolysis theory. Which really couldn't be blamed entirely on the WD-40.
     
  19. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    Those silica gell packets can be had in many sizes, i save them and i put them in things i want to keep moisture out of.
     
  20. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Hi Everyone,

    Thanks ya’ll for your comments, thoughts & quite valuable suggestions for preserving steel in the future and for dealing with the situation as it is now.

    bangster and Jerry:

    I won’t toss these parts out and will try to salvage them if at all possible.

    As I recall, the pinions (the most critical profiles) either have very light grooving or none at all so that I might be able to save them. The test will be in how much the tooth profile has to change to get them re-polished. I am quite interested in the vibratory finishing you mentioned Jerry and will look in to that for sure.

    I do think that, for what I am after with these movements, they are too far gone. It is possible to lightly hook the edge of a fingernail in some of the grooves. This indicates to me a fairly deep groove.

    All of the ring jewels are already locked in their settings (end stones aren’t yet). I only had .001 inch radial clearance for each pivot, so re-polishing these pivot areas will probably remove more material than I would rather deal with on these first five.

    I was so fussy with the tooth profiles and pivot clearances that I went so far as to make a different cutter for the 15 tooth escape arbor pinion even though the 16 tooth cutter for the other 2 pinions was mighty close.

    Once these first 5 movements are finished I will try to salvage these arbors for the next batch where I can use new jewels to use with the reduced diameters.
     
  21. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Re: WD-40 long term use warning! Final verdict!

    Hi Everyone,

    A couple of months ago I was at the Tucson Gem & Mineral show and saw a great demo of a small vibratory tumbler. I have one of my pinions on top of the cabinet to show the size.

    Tumbler.jpg

    Next, at the end of last month I was in Barstow, CA and took a couple of these pinions with me to show the manufacturer of the tumble what my problem was. He was very helpful, but not too hopeful. Mostly because their primary market is stones, not metal. He also was concerned about getting down to the small area between the teeth.

    I figured I didn't have anything to lose and the tumbler wasn't expensive so I bought one w/their finest polishing medium.

    Here is a before shot of one of the best of the corroded ones & one that didn't meet my dimensional target so I never tried to preserve it.

    3-8-13c.JPG

    After 24 hours with both in the tumbler, they were showing some real improvement. Especially the one on the right - the non corroded one:

    3-9-13b.JPG

    The brass collet for the wheel was responding really well. I noticed a slight burnishing though on the shiny arbor and thought that it might be due to the teeth of the corroded one rubbing against it in the drum. It already had brightened up well enough to impress me so I only put the corroded one back in fro another 2 days. You can see that it was getting a smoother satin finish and the teeth tips were becoming shinier:

    3-14-13b.JPG

    I kept the penny in the photos to help with getting the exposure close to the same w/each photo.

    Final results next post...................
     
  22. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Re: WD-40 long term use warning! Final verdict!

    Here are close ups of the surface to show why I stopped trying:

    DSC_1398.jpg DSC_1418.jpg

    As the surface is being smoothed, it is showing up the grooving cased by the etching of the corrosion. This was one of the best pinions, they only get worse! I suspect that the corrosion forms a thin layer that averages out & masks these grooves until it is removed.

    So, my final opinion is that they cannot be saved.

    I am not disappointed though about the tumbler.

    I feel that it brightened up the non-corroded one so well. and especially the brass, that it will be quite valuable to me in the future.

    Thanks guys for the suggestion.

    One more point that I thought I mentioned (but didn't) last year when I posted this.

    Jerry Kieffer mentioned his experience that if humidity is allowed to get to the surface before applying the WD-40, that it will trap moisture between it's waxy layer. This seems to be my experience, but if it is true (I think it is) then the advertising claim that it displaces moisture is FALSE.
     
  23. Scottie-TX

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    Re: WD-40 long term use warning! Final verdict!

    I think perhaps JERRY may have nailed it. I have had excellent results using WD for SHORT term app. Living in Mich. at the time where even bananas rust, I had a sports car I entered in concours events in the summer and pack it away and winterize it every fall. I drenched the polished aluminum, steel, all metal parts with WD. It would turn to a very tenacious gummy sludge that came off easily and quickly with WD or gasoline. So, short term.
    I wonder how preservation in a ziplok bag stored in the freezer would work for small parts. Part of the refrigerator's function is also to dehydrate.
     
  24. dAz57

    dAz57 Registered User

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    Re: WD-40 long term use warning! Final verdict!

    many years ago a shop I worked in had some rain damage come inside, the torrential rain overloaded the internal gutters of the mall roof and the water poured in through the ceiling tiles, and of course over my workbench with part completed, dismantled and waiting repairs, probably 2 dozen watches or so, I simply wrapped them in plastic and put them in the freezer.

    a week later after drying out the workshop, cleaning my tools, taking my vibrograph apart to make it was clean and dry, no power was running through it at the time so no damage, same for the watch cleaner and lathe.

    I started taking one or two jobs a time out of the freezer to work on them, overall any water damage was very minimal if any, the only real casualty was a musical cuckoo clock lying on its back on a shelf, we all forgot or missed it, the water had poured over the front and pooled in the back, the movement was completely rusted, fortunately a new movement was available.
     
  25. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

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    Is this a re-post of an old thread?

    Maybe another one nearly the same ...

    Willie X
     
  26. hoo-boy

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  27. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    I started this thread last year to alert anyone of my experience w/WD-40 not displacing moisture as it is claimed.

    A couple of people suggested vibratory tumbling as a possible way to salvage the arbors that were destroyed.

    This is my update when I finally had the opportunity to try the tumbling.
     
  28. Tinker Dwight

    Tinker Dwight Registered User

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    I have also warned people about the corrosion problem but others
    have had success with short term use.
    I have also seen similar corrosion issues and have seen clocks
    with pivots that have similar etching that Jim saw.
    I don't recommend buying a clock that has had WD-40 sprayed or
    otherwise applied, depending on how long it has set.
    Others have said that it is not a problem but I know what I saw.
    Tinker Dwight
     
  29. Thyme

    Thyme Banned

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    WD-40 does not cause corrosion, nor does it mitigate it.

    Anything that is done by its application can be undone. And there are other solvents that will remove WD-40 - other than adding more WD-40... ;)
     
  30. Tinker Dwight

    Tinker Dwight Registered User

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    Perhaps you did not see Jim's pictures.
    Tinker Dwight
     
  31. Thyme

    Thyme Banned

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    Sure I did. But it has not been proven that WD-40 was the cause of the corrosion.

    There is nothing in WD-40 that will cause corrosion. But that is not to say that WD-40 will prevent corrosion nor that it is universally beneficial either, despite the manufacturer's claims.
     
  32. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    I believe the corrosion started in a sealed can, then with WD added it could not protect or displace moisture on the metal parts. Corrosion happens so quickly that without a inhibitor aplied after dry it will happen quickly. I know what the pictures say and they are helpful. I am glad the tumbler worked and helped in this case.
     
  33. Thyme

    Thyme Banned

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    It was originally said that a steel ("tin") can was used.

    There is one way to sort this out, by experiment. Repeat the procedure, but this time using plastic, sealed containers. In one container place only a brass part, in another place only a steel part, and in a third place a bi-metal part comprised of both brass and steel such as the arbors involved, all immersed in WD-40.

    Remember that WD-40 does evaporate, so make sure the containers are adequately sealed.
     
  34. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    Take a tin can and seal it, even empty it will rust. Even with just a lid no special sealing required.
    I dont see the point in changing the material of the container. But if someone wants to try this why not.
    I know about galvanic action i saw it with water pipes before.
     
  35. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Hi Everyone,

    To help explain further, I just took a photo to show precisely how these arbors were stored:

    DSC_1466.JPG

    Because I have had considerable experience with humidity being trapped between metal items & leading to corrosion, I did not seal the can that was filled with WD-40. Instead, I had a terrycloth rag folded 4 times & placed over the filled can. I figured that if any moisture made it the the inside of the cigar box, allowing the can to breathe through the rag filter would prevent moisture contamination of the WD-40.

    Here is a close up of the above photo:

    DSC_1466a.JPG

    I would like to point out that ONLY the items in the can that were submerged in WD-40 were destroyed, yet the other steel items shared the same environment as the can.

    My point/warning is still the same.

    If WD-40 actually displaces moisture, as claimed by the manufacturer, then these steel surfaces could not have been attacked by dissimilar metal corrosion.

    Of course I have no proof of exactly where the moiusture came from, but being informed that WD-40 can be hydroscopic is enough of an explanation to suit me.
     
  36. Tinker Dwight

    Tinker Dwight Registered User

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    "WD-40 can be hydroscopic is enough of an explanation to suit me"
    This is the problem. In order to displace water it still has to be able to
    absorb water. This means that most anywhere you put it, it can cause
    corrosion. When I've seen it on movements that have been sitting and
    the WD-40 has dried, I can clearly see green corrosion around steel
    screws and black coating on the screws. It doesn't take much to see
    that it promoted corrosion rather than inhibited it as claimed on the label.
    When I've had it on otherwise clean steel that I've left on the bench for
    a month or so, it will have a thin layer of rust while surfaces that don't
    have it on will look clean.
    Tinker Dwight
     
  37. Thyme

    Thyme Banned

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    The green stuff you see is not "corrosion around steel screws".

    Corrosion around steel items does not produce green gunk. But certain lubricants do, particularly mineral oils. The green gunk is not corrosion.

    Again, WD-40 doesn't cause corrosion. Only moisture causes corrosion. But WD-40 doesn't inhibit or prevent corrosion, either.
     
  38. Thyme

    Thyme Banned

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    A: Finding out what actually happened is more important than hypothetical warnings based upon your personal experience. That requires a controlled experiment. ;)

    B: I do not believe the manufacturer's claims for WD-40 as being true, I never have, nor do I think that that they may be relevant at all. Those claims are is best ignored. Assume the product is a mystery snake oil brew, in a spray can.

    C: You items were not in a sealed container and were exposed to environmental factors.

    Run the controlled experiment I suggested in a sealed environment to rule out most or all of the other possible factors. If you like, also run it with the same three subjects in open containers as opposed to sealed ones. But having done this trial with no immersed item involved, I can tell you what will happen in the latter situation: the solvent will eventually evaporate leaving a greasy, lard-like, residual film behind.

    After these trials are done we might learn something about what WD-40 specifically does or doesn't do under certain conditions. :)
     
  39. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a recognized fallacy of deductive reasoning. But that doesn't mean that it's irrational. If x occurs after y, it doesn't mean that y caused x. But it may mean that y is causally related to x. An observed phenomenon doesn't determine a rule that "y's cause x's." But it does justify a supposition that y's may cause x's, if we have an unusual case to support the notion that y is sometimes the cause of x.

    The original claim isn't proven. But it's plenty well justified.
     
  40. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Feb 12, 2011
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    Hi Everyone,

    I posted the photos in post 35 to offer every last bit of evidence that I could so that everyone can draw their own conculsions.

    Regarding the first sentence: Stating that finding out what actually happened is more important, is your value, not mine. If you wish to view my warning as hypothetical, that's your priviledge.

    Regarding the second sentence: I suggest that you run the controlled experiment because it appears more important to you than to me - I have plenty of work to do.

    Regarding the last sentence: I respectfully suggest that you read this line in your own signature, "Never give advice. The wise don't need it, and fools won't heed it" because it sure sounds to me like you are giving advice.

    Of course how it sounds to me is purely hypothetical. :)
     
  41. leeinv66

    leeinv66 Moderator
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    Mar 31, 2005
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    I have a problem with the suggestion that the arbors in question have been destroyed. As far as I can see from the pictures, the arbors are still serviceable. While their appearance has been compromised, I don't think that in its self is enough damage to rate them as destroyed.
     
  42. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    I think a reasonable conclusion is: Don't use WD-40 for anything involving a clock. That way you're safe regardless. :)
     
  43. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    Apr 11, 2002
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    That is a sound conclusion Shutt, i have one old can of it in my shop, far away from my clocks.
     
  44. Thyme

    Thyme Banned

    Sep 18, 2006
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    Without it we can never sort out the causes or contributing factors. How do I know the results for evaporating WD-40 and describing the residue? Because I did take the time to do it and to report the results here in a separate thread.

    I'm not insisting that you personally should run the trials, but you do seem to be taking this personally. It was a reasonable assumption that you might be interested, considering the entire thread. Apparently you ignored my smilies as your reply is unnecessarily terse.

    It wasn't advice as much as it is an open suggestion for anyone who might be interested in finding the cause by determining the effect of WD-40 on various metals under controlled conditions. I described how that could be done. Obviously you aren't interested and probably no one else is either.

    This list never ceases to amaze me in that many are eager to express an opinion but virtually no one is interested in testing their theories. And that is not directed toward anyone in particular.
     
  45. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Hello Peter,

    For the purpose these arbors were made they are now useless which is why I consider them destroyed. They could undoubtedly be made smooth once again & they may even work as far as getting a clock to run.

    However, they were designed for some precision regulators I am building and the tooth profiles are very critical to uniform power transmission at each stage of the train. By the time the tooth surfaces are smoothed, their shape will have been degraded considerably.

    The pivots were finished for ruby jewels that I already have set into collets. Re-polishing them will only make them looser. This will reduce the uniformity of the meshing action by allowing the arbors to bounce around. Each pivot only had .001 inch maximum clearance.
     

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