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I tried using water and it had two big issues. First, water melted the shellac. I couldn't believe it and thought it was heat. But I ran the same pallet fork in mineral spirits and it was fine. It could be the detergent and ammonia solution I used, but again I need to confirm it.

Edit: turns out it was the detergent and ammonia I was using. This woodworker dissolved shellac in water using borax which is a common detergent. Since I also added ammonia, it probably made te situation worse. Learn new things everyday...

Edit2:  Another thread. A chemist mentioned using ammonia would dissolve shellac.

Second, sometimes I leaves parts in the cleaner for long periods of time because I forget or need to do something. Turns out mineral spirit and water separate each other. You end up with a pool of water at the bottom and you end up rusting parts because of that.

Acetone dissolves water since they are both polar. Seems like that's a better choice for a rinse if you want to use water based cleaners.

Edited by dieale2

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On 8/29/2018 at 8:30 AM, Watchtime said:

a friend of mine who is a professional watchmaker in germany uses isopropanol for mvts, nothing else.

 

I haven't followed this thread in detail but in my experience isopropanol dissolves the shellac pretty quickly. I've ruined a few pallet forks that way forgetting to pick'em up quickly enough from my final rinse.

BTW, is the correct terminology "shellac" or "resin"? I believe Mark Lovick uses the term resin.

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I know this thread is about cleaning solutions, but I'd just like to chip in that in my (limited) experience mechanical cleaning is an absolute must as a complement to reach a clinical state. To this end, my fibreglass scratch brush is my most valued tool. I'm always amazed by how effective, still gentle, it is, for example removing rust, hard to remove dirt, and corrosion from wheel pinions, arbors, teeth, and pivots. After my US cleaning (chemically pure gasoline, isopropanyl, etc.) I'm often surprised to see how unclean certain parts are through my stereo microscope, especially the train wheels.

Edited by VWatchie

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+1 to that. Ultrasonic and chemical cleaning will remove a heck of a lot of "stuff", but there are times when a bit of manual intervention is necessary. I have a brass, steel and fiberglass scratch pen set (cheap 'n Chinese, from ebay,  as is everything these days it seems). The brass pen works well on stainless cases, as it is softer than the steel, so doesn't scratch the finish, but will remove even the most stubborn bits of ancient DNA and fossilized chicken soup.

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On 8/20/2018 at 2:44 AM, dieale2 said:

I found this post to be useful. Especially the part about refining petroleum.

I really don't like using lighter fluid because the purity of it is a pot shot. I was using Publix Quick Light and it leaves a lot of residue. The problem here is that they aren't meant for cleaning things. They COULD be pure naphtha but they could also not be. It's depends on the brand and not everyone has access to the same thing. Also, I get dizzy when I stand over parts soaked in lighter fluid. I use acetone to rinse it off but it's still a PITA.

I try to find all my solvents at Walmart or Home Depot because I am cheap. But it's confusing as hell to figure out what these products actually are. They are named by convention and not chemistry, so names like "paint thinner" could mean different things to the manufacturer.

For example, Klean Strip sells "Paint Thinner" and "Odorless Mineral Spirits." According to them, odorless mineral spirits is a purer version of paint thinner. But since you can use odorless mineral spirits as a paint thinner, it's confusing as to what "Paint Thinner" is...

Also, there are different types of solvents. Acetone is different from petroleum distillates. Since it's basically nontoxic and dries extremely fast, it's probably a good rinse solution.

I am probably going to use a petroleum based solvent and then rinse with acetone. For me, I will probably stick with "Klean Strip" line of products since they are cheap, widely available, and looks like high quality. For petroleum based solvents, there is "VM&P Naphtha", "Odorless Mineral Spirits", "Paint Thinner", "Xylene" and "Toluene." I am already having a hard time remember these names...

The differences between them is the boiling point. They have different properties and cleaning "powers". Not sure which is the best for cleaning watch parts since they all can clean grease.

Thanks for that first link; very informative.  Now I'm wondering, though, why not just use acetone as the primary cleaner and as a secondary rinse? 

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1 hour ago, mlfloyd1 said:

I use acetone for cleaning and rinsing.

i don’t use it on the the pallet fork for fear of it dissolving the shellack holding the pallet stones in the fork.

Agreed. Acetone apparently will dissolve shellac. I think I might go with acetone for everything else, but use VM&P Naptha (US trade name for petroleum ether) on the pallet and possibly the balance. Now the question I have to answer is whether it makes sense to use an ultrasonic cleaner with these products.

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I use a small u/s cleaner that I bought from Walmart. It has two compartments. I bought the jewelry cleaner that’s sold with it and it does a good job. It really does a good job on metal bands.

I use small glass jars to put the parts in so I have everything together while cleaning and rinsing.

I wouldn’t recommend the small round mesh baskets. Parts like small screws and click springs can get hung up in them.


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Thanks all for the info..... Balance in ...... Pallets out ....... smile.png

Yes...I once bought used pallets for a seiko and the pallet stones were mis aligned. I contacted the chap I bought them from and he politely stated the pallets were taken from a working watch and all he had done was clean them prior to sending to me. A day later I got a refund and a polite email saying he had placed scrap pallets into his ultrasonic cleaner to test it, and discovered that it eroded all of the shellac away.

 

I have never found that naphtha fluid, white spirit, methylated spirits, isopropyl alcohol or biotex harms shellac. Has anyone found fluids which should not be used? I’ve not tested petrol (close to benzene).

 

Regards

 

 

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I found this post to be useful. Especially the part about refining petroleum.
I really don't like using lighter fluid because the purity of it is a pot shot. I was using Publix Quick Light and it leaves a lot of residue. The problem here is that they aren't meant for cleaning things. They COULD be pure naphtha but they could also not be. It's depends on the brand and not everyone has access to the same thing. Also, I get dizzy when I stand over parts soaked in lighter fluid. I use acetone to rinse it off but it's still a PITA.
I try to find all my solvents at Walmart or Home Depot because I am cheap. But it's confusing as hell to figure out what these products actually are. They are named by convention and not chemistry, so names like "paint thinner" could mean different things to the manufacturer.
For example, Klean Strip sells "Paint Thinner" and "Odorless Mineral Spirits." According to them, odorless mineral spirits is a purer version of paint thinner. But since you can use odorless mineral spirits as a paint thinner, it's confusing as to what "Paint Thinner" is...
Also, there are different types of solvents. Acetone is different from petroleum distillates. Since it's basically nontoxic and dries extremely fast, it's probably a good rinse solution.
I am probably going to use a petroleum based solvent and then rinse with acetone. For me, I will probably stick with "Klean Strip" line of products since they are cheap, widely available, and looks like high quality. For petroleum based solvents, there is "VM&P Naphtha", "Odorless Mineral Spirits", "Paint Thinner", "Xylene" and "Toluene." I am already having a hard time remember these names...
The differences between them is the boiling point. They have different properties and cleaning "powers". Not sure which is the best for cleaning watch parts since they all can clean grease.

I have had a lot of success with alternatives to acetone, naphtha, white spirit and such like. Two very good household cleaners I have had good results with are biotex and also ‘shout’. The latter being a readymixed waterbased solution in a pump bottle. I use this on very badly contaminated dials. Spray on and after 10 seconds very gently stroke the surface with a fluffed up cotton bud. Rinse after 1 minute and repeat if necessary. The only time this failed was with a Russian watch dial which I accidentally left soaking for about an hour. Unfortunately the decals came off, but the dial was like new!

Here are some before and after photos of a success story. The pointers were not attempted as the lume is too old and thin.
f06d6535106486de7b9f26673d1c4156.jpg212ce2bea330ab318951ce622584027f.jpg


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I was surprised when you said that naphtha, isopropyl alcohol, mineral spirits, etc. didn’t affect the shellac on the pallets.  These are petroleum based products and solvents, aren’t they?.

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I was surprised when you said that naphtha, isopropyl alcohol, mineral spirits, etc. didn’t affect the shellac on the pallets.  These are petroleum based products and solvents, aren’t they?.

Hello mlflyd1.

Yes, they are.. but so is Vaseline, and that is sold for use on baby rash for example. Not all petroleum cracked products behave in the same way. I have not ever had problems with the shellac dissolving from a scrap pallet fork I tested in white spirit etc..

So are you saying that naphtha, white spirit or methylated spirits should not be used to clean the pallet forks?


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I wouldn't recommend using alcohol. I do a bit of furniture refinishing and I dissolve shellac flakes in alcohol to make furniture grade shellac finish. I would think that it would just as easily dissolve the shellac holding the pallet stones.

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No. In a way I’m glad!
Isopropyl alcohol is plentiful, safe, and inexpensive.

Can I use acetone be used to rinse and dry pallets and balance complete?

I also hear Simply Green is a good and safe product to use for all the parts including the pallets.


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I wouldn't recommend using alcohol. I do a bit of furniture refinishing and I dissolve shellac flakes in alcohol to make furniture grade shellac finish. I would think that it would just as easily dissolve the shellac holding the pallet stones.

Apologies if this sounds like I am contradicting your advice TexanDon, but I’m a little confused because a well seasoned Horologist told me that as I’m only cleaning a few watches a week, it was fine to use naphtha (lighter fluid) and then a final rinse in ipa as it does not leave streaks or surface strains. This was for all components. My tests of an old scrap pallet showed no harm to the shellac around the pallet stones.

So tomorrow I’m going to do the test again, just to see either way. The pallet fork I use is from a Russian 2403A which must have been overheated at some time because the pallet stones droop from the pallet fork!

Kind regards


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I use 99% alcohol for making shellac from flakes. It is also called denatured alcohol because of the distillation process used. Drug store alcohol won't be anywhere near that level of purity. It is mixed with water which would make a shellac finish have water spots. Perhaps the lower strength is the key to success for use as a watch cleaning component. I should not have assumed that you meant pure IPA. 

Edited by TexasDon
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Isopropyl alcohol takes longer to dissolve shellac than ethyl, which is the main component of denatured alcohol. Denatured alcohol can vary quite a bit in composition depending on the manufacturer, some have a very high ethyl content around 95%, others may have an almost even mix of methyl and ethyl. It can also contain a number of different solvents to "denature" it (which is just adding stuff to make the otherwise potable ethyl alcohol undrinkable).

While isoproplyl will indeed dissolve shellac a few minutes in it will rarely do any harm. I have a watch cleaning machine designed to use a water based cleaner and alcohol rinse (built in distiller, it's awesome). The only time I have issues with shellac dissolving is when I get distracted and leave the parts in the rinse for 30 minutes or more. It's always good to check the condition of the shellac on a fork as well as roller jewel anyways, especially on older stuff. Ammonia can also dissolve shellac if high enough concentration- it's commonly used to clean brushes used in shellac finishing as it's generally cheaper than alcohol. As most old watches have likely seen a number of servicings, and some watchmakers like to use quite long cycles on their machines, it does pay to check. It only takes a moment to heat the fork up and either reflow the shellac or remove it and apply fresh.

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As promised in my post below, I did carry out a test on an old ruined pallet fork to assess the effect of isopropyl alcohol. The fluid is manufactured by 3M and called ‘Surface cleaner for VHB tape’. The data sheet says the product is 90% propan-2ol And 10% water. (Propan-2-ol is ipa).

First I checked the texture of the shellac with a broken oiler converted into sharp pin. Very hard and glass-like, brittle at extremities

Test 1.
Submersed for 10 seconds, and absorbed excess fluid on tissue paper.

At 20X magnification the shellac appeared no different. Shellac was still glass hard

Test 2.
As above, dip time extended to 20 seconds, results as test 1

Test 3.
Dip time of 1 minute. Results as test 1

Test 4
Dip time 5 minutes with agitation. Results as test 1

Test 5
At this point I had to return to work so I left the component in for well over an hour. Upon my return, I examined the component and this time the shellac had expanded and was sponge like when probed with a pin. The stones could be moved in their sockets. After allowing the shellac to dry for 10 minutes, it’s texture was still soft and spongy. Clearly the ipa had taken an effect

So unfortunately I am unable to conclude the exact time elapsed before the ipa caused the shellac to soften, however even though I have not knowingly had an issue associated with pallet stones in the past, I have now made a decision that I will not place the pallet fork or balance in ipa in future, just in case.
5928f4595402d229036d491c9c8090da.jpg
I also researched the use of ipa for watch cleaning on other sites, and the nawcc is very clear about it not being used at all on components which are shellac bonded:

https://mb.nawcc.org/threads/best-final-rinse-to-avoid-residue-acetone-vs-99-isopropyl-vs-denatured-alcohol.121554/

Hope this is of interest.

Regards.


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