Cleaning a Really Dirty Movement

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  • #48672
    danacv2
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    • Topics Started: 6
    • Total Posts: 20

    Hello everyone,

    I bought an old movement online to practice on etc. and it was really grimy. I tried to clean it (by hand) using historic timekeepers but I found that it was really difficult to get all the grime off. After about 10 minutes I took out a few pieces to check on them and brushed them lightly but they were still pretty dirty so I left in a while longer and brushed some more. I got most of the grime off but it still wasn’t fully clean. Does anyone have any tips on how to tackle a really dirty movement? Do I need to clean it multiple times or just leave it in longer and brush more. Is there a better cleaning solution I can use? I didn’t try using Bob’s recipe. Would that have made a bigger difference?

    Thanks,
    Dan

    #53877
    arutha
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 85
    • Total Posts: 1536

    Hi Dan,
    some of the brass clock movements have been dirty for so long the chances of getting them to sparkle with just chemicals can be a bit slim. The next step is a polishing machine which is just a bench grinder with “pigtails” fixed to the shaft so you can attach wheels and mops. If you don’t want to go down that route then I am afraid it is a case of a good brass polish and doing it by hand.
    Paul.

    #53878
    danacv2
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 6
    • Total Posts: 20

    I don’t necessarily want it to be completely shiny (for now). I’m just more concerned with functionality. There still seem to be some areas where I can scrape off the grime with my nail and I’m not entirely sure that all the gear teeth and lantern pinions are totally clean. I can put it back in the solution for another round but I wasn’t sure if there where any issues with doing that multiple times or leaving it in for an extended period of time.
    Dan

    #53879
    willofiam
    Moderator
    • Topics Started: 75
    • Total Posts: 1437

    Hey Dan, Just as Paul said some of those movements are tough to clean, follow the directions for mixing your solution, I use the same stuff and mix it to the fuller strength and it does a good job (I use a ultrasonic but sometimes will scrub thing too), I have also mixed up the solution Bob talks about and my opinion is that it is a tad stronger and less expensive but you would still have to scrub things (I choose to buy the timekeeper stuff as it is less hassle). I use toothpicks, toothbrushes (after I brush my teeth ;) ) sometime a very fine brass wire wheel to get it shinny and then a buffing wheel, and some of that stuff called elbow grease (doesnt make sense to use grease but.. 🙄 ..), pinions can be a bugger. To get a movement to look brand new takes alot and sometimes clean is clean and like you said functionable (if thats a word). O.K. there are times when a really dirty one comes in I will clean, hot rinse, and clean again, seems to help and I have not had any issues with cleaning something more than once or even more times, I am not sure what happens if you soak it overnight, I never wanted to take the chance so I would do a thorough hot water rinse after each cleaning session. another thing to be aware of is whether or not the movement is lacquered, if it is then the solution you are using will take that off if left in too long (thats why I have gotten into the habit to clean and rinse then redo if necessary), if the lacquer is stained then thats the only way to make it shinny again yet you would then have to re-lacquer the brass. Have fun, hope that helps, William
    P.S. you could send all the really dirty ones to Paul, I hear he is good a it….. 😆

    #53880
    arutha
    Participant
    • Topics Started: 85
    • Total Posts: 1536

    If the mechanism is very oily or greasy to begin with it is always a good idea to give it a scrub in degreaser first. This will not only give the clock cleaning solution less work to do but will also extend its useful life. WD40 will kill your cleaning solution. If after coming out of the ultrasonic tank the pinions/lantern pinions are still dirty it will have to be finished off by hand, tooth picks, toothbrushes etc. You have to remember that some of these mechs have been lying around for 20+ years without being touched which means some of the dried on oil or grease has gone quite hard. If you have ever pegged out the pivot holes after an ultrasonic clean you will still see dirt coming out on the pegwood. Ultrasonics only help to get it clean, they don’t promise a perfect clean on everything. After cleaning a clock through the ultrasonic I will closely inspect each part and finish by hand if needed. I cant think of any cleaning solution or machine capable of getting out every last piece of dirt, it all depends on what substances were last used on the clock, how long it has been lying around for and your cleaning solution and methods as to how clean it will be when it comes out of the tank.
    As for how long to leave it in the solution, if its in an ultrasonic tank then you could leave it for an hour for a very bad mech but I find after 20-30 mins it just stops getting any cleaner. If just putting in a bucket of cleaning solution most of the old clock guys would leave it overnight, you can still do this but not with cast brass, you can end up with a bucket of gold mush if not careful.
    Hope this helps :)
    p.s don’t believe William, he is the one who adores cleaning dirty movements so much so I have heard he does it for free! :)

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danacv2Cleaning a Really Dirty Movement