Sorry about last month’s omission, followers. I took a breather in May and went on holiday. But I’m back for June.
Now, when I clean a clock movement, I tend to do it the old-fashioned way using a warm, mild ammonia solution. To speed thing up a bit I use ultrasonic tanks which create tiny bubbles that burst when they come into contact with the parts through a process known as cavitation. This action shakes all the dirt loose.
The tanks cost £550 for the smaller one and £1,600 for the big one so I was really surprised to find on a certain online auction site a product that claims to do the same for £15. Just place the special sheet of metal in the bottom of a sink, pour two heaped tablespoons of ordinary washing soda onto it, add very hot water to it to dissolve the soda and then place the tarnished items on top so that they make contact with the metal sheet. Then, hey presto! Fifteen seconds later, remove the item and rinse in soapy water and dry. All the dirt from your clock has magically transferred to the metal plate so just rinse that next with some sudsy water under the hot tap and put it away for next time.
If this works, it’s gonna make ultrasonic tanks look positively slow and sales of Horolene will plummet.
Well, it seems it might actually work! But a bit of Googling reveals that the process is supposed to be for silver items, not brass clock parts. The oxidisation of silver (the tarnish) is black sulphide and all you need is some clean aluminium foil and bicarbonate of soda (common baking powder). If you did chemistry at school, you’ll probably this equation:
2Al(s) + 3Ag2S(s) + 6H2O -> 6Ag(s) + 2Al2(OH)3(s) + 3H2S(aq)
If you don’t remember it, try this: Pour some warm water into a container [6H2O], add a couple of spoonfuls of the baking powder [3Ag2S(s)] and finally in goes the foil [2Al(s)] . Place the silver items into the solution in contact with the foil and then remove after ten or fifteen seconds and rinse it off. Job done!
Now I haven’t tried this yet as all out cutlery is dishwasher-safe stainless steel. But if yours is silver, try it and tell me what you think. But if the spoons dissolve or disintegrate, don’t blame me; blame Wikipedia.
See you in July.