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From Horology magazine, July 1938


The use of the cleaning machine has definitely become a part of the routine in most horological shops and no one whu has experienced the ease of machine cleaning is likely to return to the old method. Investigation has shown, however, that in many instances horologists have failed to derive the advantages which these machines offer.

Although it is an established fact that it is the time element and not the cost of cleaning fluids which concerns repairers, many have gained the impression that they may use cleaning and rinsing solutions indefinitely without replacement and still get good results. They have evidently forgotten how often they had to change their gasoline and alcohol baths when they practiced the hand cleaning method. One therefore hears of complaints and difficulties which when analyzed are found to be due only to negligence.

Explosive cleaning solutions are always more or less dangerous, even when used with just a brush. To use such fluids in a machine may eventually lead to serious consequences. As expensive as the regularly marketed solutions may be, in the long run they are probably cheaper than many of the home made mixtures.  Regardless of what solutions are used, it must be observed that no article will come out perfectly clean if it is given its last rinse in a dirty solution. It is likewise futile to expect the heater of a machine to dry an oil coated plate without leaving a film. Watch cleaning does not consist entirely of making the plates and wheels appear bright and free from lint or dust. As a matter of fact, a watch may be assembled in such a condition and be a complete failure from the standpoint of durability.

Usually the difficulties begin or at least occur more often after the original quantity of cleaning solution, which came with the machine when it was purchased, has been exhausted. The horologist suddenly decides that the solution recommended by the manufacturer of his machine is too costly and that a friend of his is getting just as good results with cheaper solutions or with solutions which he makes up himself by adding one part of this with so many parts of that. Of course, there could be no criticism of such action if it were based on the results of a systematic investigation. But, there have come to light cases in which, as the result of an indiscriminate change, horologists have used two successive rinses which would not mix.

One of the important things to observe in getting good results is to see that the various cleaning fluids do not contaminate each other. It should be remembered that in the process of removing gummed up oil, as well as oil in the liquid state, from the barrel and mainspring, it is transferred to the cleaning solution and to a lesser degree to the rinsing solution.

The first solution, which is usually dark in color, gradually gets filled with oily matter, thereby increasing the contamination of the rinsing fluid each time the machine is used. This can be greatly minimized by throwing of the excess solution from the basket before transferring . it to the next jar of fluid. Under no circumstances should a dripping basket be transferred from one solution to the next. The Last rinse, on which the quality of a job depends so much, must at all times be chemically free from impurities. As soon as it begins to show a change of color it should be discarded or used as an intermediate solution.

Another important point to be remembered is the fact that there seems to be no single solution which will at the same time completely remove the tarnish from a silvered movement and dissolve the gummed oil. There is no harm in dipping such watch parts into a cvanide solution to remove the tarnish. The job can then be completed in the watch cleaning machine in the usual manner. And when an exceptionally gummed up watch is encountered it is not at all out of place to give it a brushing in a benzine bath before placing it in the basket of the machine. This will shorten the time it must be kept in the first solution, besides keeping the solution cleaner.

The matter of preventing a hairspring from getting tangled is also readily solved. In spite of the fact that the ease with which a hairspring may be removed has been repeatedly demonstrated, which by the way, enables one to check the poise of the balance, many insist on cleaning the balance and spring as a unit. This can be safely done only if placed in a small compartment in the center of the basket so that the centrifugal force will not cause the heavy stud to fly out and damage the spring. It is also important that the mesh or screen of the basket be fine enough to prevent the stud from entering one of the openings. If the stud gets through one of them and centrifugal force draws the spring away it will surely be damaged.

The temptation to leave certain parts undisturbed while cleaning seems irresistible to many. It has already been pointed out in these columns that some loose pieces which allow free circulation of the cleaning fluid may sometimes be left on a plate, but it is hopeless to attempt to clean jewels without removing the endstones or a complete barrel with the spring inside.

In conclusion, one must bear in mind that the qualities of any oil depend upon the surface to which it is applied. Even the slightest trace of foreign matter is sufficient to turn it into a gummy substance or draw it away. This is why the same· oil in a given watch may stand up beautifully on some bearings and go bad on others.
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