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Loren

Solution to clean "varnished" pieces?

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Sorry.  I know this has been covered before, probably multiple times, but I can't find it. 

I have an old pocket watch I'm restoring.  I have it all apart now, and it appears to me it has rarely if ever been thoroughly cleaned.  There are areas where the old lubricants have turned to a hard finish, almost like varnish or lacquer.  I have tried lighter fluid and alcohol, and it doesn't touch it.  I'm wondering what the community would recommend that would dissolve it without damaging the pieces.  Thanks!

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Hi as mentioned by Old Hippy a photo would be advisable so as to asses the level of contamination.   as to dissolving varnish, metheylated spirit is what cabinet makers use but be aware that "varnish" as used by cabinet makers is the same product as used to cement in Jewels in the older watches and is still used on some modern watches. As Vinn has mentioned don't wash the jewels out of their settings

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Thanks for the advice, Folks, and also the warning about the pallet jewels.  I knew that but it never hurts to be reminded.  This is not really a crisis.  I'm sure everything would be fine with no further cleaning beyond what I've done already.  I was just thinking as long as I have it apart if I could spruce it up a little more, why not.  As always, I appreciate your input.  Loren

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Old pieces where the oil has gone solid require a lot more work than usual. You'll need stiff brushes that fit into the teeth of the gearing, pith wood to stick pivots and pinions in, pegwood to clean off and in jewels. Then a new total clean.

The old oils can be so tenacious that even extended washing in heavy duty pro cleaning solutions barely touch them.

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Yea like nickel said your gunna need a lot more than just a solution. But you should try this stuff, its called metal rescue. Home Depot has it, i use it for old rusted motorcycle parts since it is a rust remover. It works amazing on rust its all natural non toxic and safe for anything besides rust. I once used it to clean out a carb filled with gas varnish. I used it with an ultrasonic and left in the solution over night, the next day the carb looked like factory new, and all the varnish was liquified, jets were clear as a whistle . I have since used this product on rusted movements and it works very well and restores shine, I would try metal X its only $13 for pint and its totally safe to use. If you don’t have an ultrasonic then let the movement sit in it overnight.

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Just as a follow-up... a tiny tiny stiff brush, acetone, and a lot of patience did the trick.  I did NOT soak anything.  This was just spot cleaning where the old oils had turned to a hard, varnish-like finish.  Thanks again for all you input.

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One thing I do if the watch is really filthy is to remove the balance and pallet fork, wind the mainspring while keeping the wheels in position with a piece of pegwood and then dunking the whole thing in lighter-fluid. Next the pegwood holding everthing in is removed and the watch is allowed to unwind merrily in the LF.

I still clean out the holes and pivots as well as the pinions but I find that this gets a lot of the grot out.

It is important to ensure the movement is submerged as free-spinning the wheels will generate some heat (the fluid will cool it down before it gets hot) and the fluid will also slow down the wheels quite a bit. I have dunked some watches which were frozen solid and left them overnight and they free up quite nicely. The colour of the LF will also darken so that is a lot of dirt that I would otherwise have had to work loose with pegwood and brushes.

This is followed by a proper clean of individual parts.

Anilv

 

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