Another interesting note from a customer:
“Don’t knock my smock or I’ll clean your clock” was a panel line in a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip. As one who repairs antique clocks I checked the origin of the phrase and found that it usually signifies a violent encounter. Not a good idea when dealing with a customer’s heirloom time keeper.
Most of the clocks I clean and repair have brass works – the gears and frames – along with steel parts such as verges, spindles, spacers and springs. In my early days cleaning these parts after disassembly entailed dipping them into a solvent and using a soft brush to work away grime and dried lubricants. A messy process indeed, and not that satisfactory in terms of results.
An ultrasonic cleaner has proven far more satisfactory, but when using this technology for clocks and watches care must be taken not to damage the parts.
In a sense this method to “clean your clock” can be equated to a “violent encounter.” My compact Elma ultrasonic cleaner obtained from Tovatech is powered by transducers operating at 37 kHz – above the audible range – that are attached to the bottom of the cleaning tank containing the cleaning solution. Disassembled clock parts are placed in the supplied basket and immersed in the ultrasonic cleaning solution. When I turn the unit on the transducers create billions of minute bubbles that implode when they contact parts in the cleaning basket. The implosion, called cavitation, creates shock waves on a microscopic level that quickly blast off grime and dried lubricants while leaving a nicely polished surface.
Proper solutions and proper energy levels are important when using ultrasonic frequencies to clean clocks and watches. For example, water-containing solvents should never be used when steel parts are in the basket. And while ammonia-containing solutions are great cleaners – especially for fancy watches and watch cases – they should not be heated as they give off vapors.
As a further caution, parts should be kept in the ultrasonic bath only as long as necessary to complete the cleaning process. Energy levels must be low enough to avoid cavitation damage to soft brass clock parts or delicate watch parts.
Please share your experiences in using ultrasonic energy to increase efficiency in your operations. What system or procedure did it replace? How have you “tweaked” the cleaning process to improve results or throughput?