Wooden Gear Clock Cleaning

Discussion in 'Wood Movement Clocks' started by Mark F. Tooze, Feb 7, 2007.

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  1. Mark F. Tooze

    Mark F. Tooze Registered User

    Feb 5, 2007
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    I'm looking for pointers on cleaning a wooden gear clock. I've thought about lemon oil, but am not certain that is the correct approach. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you,
     
  2. Bob Reichel

    Bob Reichel Registered User
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    Feb 13, 2001
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    Most wood clock movements don't need cleaning. If you have unsightly dirt like smoke or grease residue use some very fine ( 0000 ) steel wool to brush it away. The dirt on the plates hurts nothing. A little smooth broaching in the pivot holes will do well there. Clean the teeth of wood works with a fine emery board or wood handle. A stiff bristle, 1/2 inch round and one inch long will clean the arbors and pinions. A little ScotchBright on the brass and steel and you are done. There may be other things to do-but you asked about cleaning.
     
  3. Bill Ward

    Bill Ward Registered User
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    Jan 8, 2003
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    Bob Flexner, in his excellent book "Understanding Wood Finishes" inveighs against the many myths marketers have foisted off on the public about the proper care of wood. One of them is that wood surfaces need to be "fed" with some product, such as "lemon oil". Let's face facts: wood is a part of a dead tree; dead things don't need to be fed! (And they don't breath either! )
    Another myth is that of "lemon oil". Furniture polish sold as lemon oil is really just mineral oil, with a tiny amount of lemon extract added for scent. Pure lemon oil all over your funiture would make you gasp and choke, and make your skin burn when you touched it. Mineral oil does not easily evaporate, and would turn your clock movement into a dust magnet (which is the very reason it's so brilliant as something to market for cleaning: the more you use it, the more you need it! )
    Just brush the poor thing off, and turn your attention to something that needs it.
     
  4. clockdaddy

    clockdaddy Guest

    Bob and Bill are both right. Don't add anything to your clock as far as lemon oil or any other kinds of oils. Simply clean the movement with a stiff brush. If anything gets lubricated, lubricate the pivots, and use graphite.

    Bill was writing of the uselessness of "lemon oil". Your furniture (and your clock) has a finish on it. If you wipe it down will oils to help preserve the piece, where's the oil going to go? It's going to stay on top of the finish just waiting to catch dust. How does that preserve the wood?? Answer: None what-so-ever...
     
  5. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    Nov 4, 2002
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    Harold CD, unless it has brass bushings, the pivots should NOT be oiled. the exception being the escapewheel. Having oil on the wood is not good:eek:
     
  6. clockdaddy

    clockdaddy Guest

    I agree harold, that's why I advised that if lubrication is needed, to use graphite!!
     
  7. Bob Reichel

    Bob Reichel Registered User
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    Feb 13, 2001
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    Pleased you people are backing me up on 'cleaning' clock wood movements. I use graphite grease in a hypodermic syringe---very sparingly. maybe s 32nd of an inch per pivot. I heat the grease in boiling water then pour into the syringe. Works for me.
    Interestingly, I have an Alex Willard ( 1800 ) 30 hour pull-up movement on the bench at the moment. Note, not from the Simon Willard line but from earlier Willards up from Simon.

     
  8. clockdaddy

    clockdaddy Guest

    What can I say but "We are BAD!!". When you've got two Harolds on the job, the only thing to expect is perfection!!
     
  9. Sooth

    Sooth Registered User
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    Feb 19, 2005
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    Bob Reichel, it's normally recomended to NOT lubricate these clocks with any oils or graphite, especially.

    If a wooden works movement is incredibly dirty, you can clean it with warm water and an old toothbrush. I have done this on one movement, and it helped remove dirt and grime drastically.

    If the movement is simply dusty, just dry brush it with an old toothbrush, or paintbrush.

    Polish the pivots, and clean the holes with toothpicks, or pithwood.
     
  10. Bob Reichel

    Bob Reichel Registered User
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    Feb 13, 2001
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    I an not an advocate of moisture on wood clock plates. Too much chance of warpage. But, that my way, as is a little graphite grease. Don't get me wrong here, I respect your method and views.
     
  11. Sooth

    Sooth Registered User
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    Feb 19, 2005
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    I think a lot of people are "affraid" of moisture. But think about it, these clock wheels are 150 years old. New wood that has been kiln dried has a moisture content between 6-8%. After the furniture is made, and brounght into a home, the moisture will decrease even further.

    Clocks and parts THIS old have 0% or nearly 0. I work with wood on a daily basis. We use water based stain at the moment and we have never ever had any warping.

    I have only seen warping on air dried wood, or wood that has been strored outside, or in moist conditions. The reason these curve and twist is likely because of uneven penetration of moisture.

    If you wet only one side of a thin pine board, it will cup.

    But these are small parts that are bone dry. As long as you wet them only a little, and dry them off, they will be fine.

    One procedure that was described in a book on how to straighten a cupped wooden works plate was to clamp it onto a lightly damp paper towel.

    I tried this once on a slightly cupped plate. It straightened out just fine, but after the plate dried in a few days, it curved back to exactly the way it was. No more, no less.

    ***

    As for graphite, it's a metal. Plain wooden bearings with steel arbors will not wear. But adding a metal powder, no matter how fine, will eventually cause wear. That's my opinion. Many clockmakers thought they could improve these, by adding brass bushings, or other modifications, and in less than 50 years, these have often ruined a perfectly good movement. I have two of these movements that now need extensive restorations.

    I really don't understand why clockmakers feel the unstopable urge to lubricate everything. Wooden clocks were not meant to be lubricated in any way, shape, or form (with the exception of the escape wheel).

    I know for a fact that there are numerous old wooden clocks that have never been oiled and have worked for hundreds of years. Harrison's turret clock, for example, has run almost continually for about 284 years, with little or no wear. That clock was only cleaned twice in it's nearly 300 years of operation.

    Please understand that I'm not trying to attack you personally. Just voicing my opinion. I know there are plenty of clockmakers who think graphite is a good idea, and I've even seen it written in clock books, but this information is in my opinion, incorrect.
     
  12. Sooth

    Sooth Registered User
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    Feb 19, 2005
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    As for cleaning, again, here's two photos, showing a clock cleaned with warm water and a soft toothbrush.

    Do not SOAK the parts in water, but if the clock is very dirty, don't be afraid to wet the part you're working on. Dry the part with a soft cloth when you're done.

    This photo compares the before and after of the backplate.

    http://www.nawcc-mb.com/pictures//file-WW1.JPG

    This photo shows all the gears after cleaning:

    http://www.nawcc-mb.com/pictures//file-WW2.JPG

     

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