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What is the best way to remove rust?

nelsonek

Registered User
Feb 4, 2001
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What is the best way to remove rust from the various parts of a watch?
I am working on a watch that went through the wash about twenty years ago. There is rust on many of the winding mechanism parts, the wheels and briges.
What are the proper procedures to remove the rust prior to normal cleaning?
 

nelsonek

Registered User
Feb 4, 2001
30
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0
What is the best way to remove rust from the various parts of a watch?
I am working on a watch that went through the wash about twenty years ago. There is rust on many of the winding mechanism parts, the wheels and briges.
What are the proper procedures to remove the rust prior to normal cleaning?
 

doug sinclair

Registered User
Aug 27, 2000
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Nelson,

What to do about removing rust depends a lot on which parts are rusted, whether the rusted parts can still do their job once cleaned up, the availability of replacement parts, how close to original you want to restore the watch, the quality of the watch and grade of finish, and whether the watch is worth the effort.

Rust on the nickel bridges that has migrated from rusted steel parts can be cleaned up with a soft brass brush without disturbing the original finish of the plates. Rust on flat steel is often too deep to clean up 100%, but the worst of it can be removed with a fibreglass brush. Not very aesthetic, but if replacement parts are unavailable or too expensive, this is about all one can do. Rusted arbors on the wheels often means replacement, depending on where they are rusted, and how badly. Often, polishing a pivot in a lathe using a jasper burnisher will clean up a pivot which isn't too bad. If the pinion is rusted, I know of no way to remove rust from these. Screws can be tidied up with a fibreglass brush if no too bad, and the heads can be polished, if one wants to expend the effort. Screw head polishing tools are used for this purpose.

If the watch is a common one, it is likely best to replace it and save the effort.

Doug
 

nelsonek

Registered User
Feb 4, 2001
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Thanks Doug, that is allot of good info. I noticed that you did not mention any solutions to start with before the brushing and polishing etc. Are there no solutions that can safely loosen the rust before the manual operations?
The value of this watch is sentimental, originality is my first goal but I see some replacement parts in this movements future. The owner as accepted this possibility.
 

Smudgy

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May 20, 2003
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I'm still learning this craft and find rusty watches to be a cheap source to learn on. I've been using penetrating oil to loosen parts. I remove the case and dial and drop the movement into a container of penetrating oil for a few days to a week if it's badly rusted. It saves having to extract a lot of broken screws. Doug is right, though. Most of the parts in a badly rusted watch are trash, and replacing them can get expensive fast. The time spent working on a rusted movement can also be put to better use for someone that has something better to do with their time. Another piece of information for you that I found in a text (possibly Thissold, But I can't remember for sure) is that you can rub a piece of brass over the cleaned pits left from rust. It dosen't really fix them, but they are not as objectionable to look at.
 

doug sinclair

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Aug 27, 2000
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Calgary, Alberta
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Nelson,

My experience with "rust removers" that are readily available, in which rusted parts are left to soak, are acids themselves. Steel parts as small as those in a watch would disappear in that stuff. Nickel or brass parts might be okay in it, but I'd experiment first. I know that nickel or gold plated parts are okay in "broken screw remover" (alum), but steel parts would disappear. Alum would likely clean up any residual rust from non-ferrous parts. ALL steel parts must be removed before using this.

Doug S.
 

nelsonek

Registered User
Feb 4, 2001
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Have you ever heard of using vinegar, which I guess is a weak acid and susceptable to all the concerns that Doug mentioned.
 

Don Dahlberg

Registered User
Aug 31, 2000
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Most commercial rust removers are either phophoric acid or oxalic acid. Yes, you can use them, but get in and out quickly. Examine the piece and then try again as necessary. These chemical will remove the rust, but will not restore the steel. You will be left with pits. If the pits will prevent the piece from doing its job, then you have waisted your time and money. It you are removing cosmetic rust, then great.

Don
 
T

Tim

Also, vinegar would have other ingredients beyond the acetic acid that could leave a residue.

-Tim
 

JimmyC

New User
May 31, 2004
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Soaking in a tea bath will remove rust from steel parts. However it discolors the steel, which would require polishing if bright finish is desired. Of course, pitting could still be a problem.
 

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