September 26, 2021

Clocks And Glocks Need Oil, by A.J.S.

This brief article is about the lubrication requirements of some everyday mechanical objects including clocks, sewing machines, and guns.

It is surprising how little oil is needed but it has to be in the right places.

A clock is a good example. Your mechanical watch or clock may run just fine for years without maintenance. But one day it will stop running before the next wind-up time and you will probably realize it needs oiling. This happened with one of my old pocket watches. It was made in 1899 and is an outstanding example of advanced watch production of the time. I really like the watch design and weight and especially its face. The watch has been through a few hands before I got it and shows obvious wear. There was a repair to the case a long time ago which is obvious and the person before me put it on a buffing wheel to get the scratches out of the exterior and in doing so unfortunately removed much of the relief design. So it is not a museum piece. It is just a watch I like to look at every day and it sits on my book shelf. I would wind it every morning as part of my routine.

It stopped running one day so I took it to my local watch repairman who makes a good living just replacing batteries in modern watches. He is a skilled craftsman with whom I have done business for many years and I trust his opinion. He looked at it and said it was not worth much effort unless it had extreme emotional value which it did not. He said modern oiling practices require that he take the watch apart completely. Then he puts the parts in an electronic cleaning process. Then he assembles and oils. It takes about two months with his backlog and would cost several hundred dollars.

Alternatively, he suggested I could just oil it myself and learn something in the process which is what I elected to do. He showed me the friction points that probably needed lubrication to get it running again. So I set about finding a home repair oil kit on the web for about the price of a sit-down in- restaurant pizza. It had everything in it to oil many clocks and watches. The key point I would make here is that we are talking about less than a drop of oil to lubricate all of the contact points in an old watch. It was easy. I lifted the back cover of the watch to expose the moving parts. Then I gave just the tiniest amount of oil on all the points of movement,. After I lubricated the contact points I left the watch in that position to let gravity help move the oil in the intended direction down into the lower parts I could not reach without taking the whole thing apart. There are several how-to-do-it videos on the web to show how to do it. I have two old ships clocks and a grandfather clock so as I build experience I would oil those as well.

The same process of oiling is true of the sewing machine. You use a needle-like device or a very thin piece of wire. Just touch the point to the oil and then to the place you want it to go. It spreads out and down where it needs to go. You don’t want to overdo it. It might stain fabric which you don’t want to do.

And that brings me to guns. All guns are not the same. All uses of guns are not the same either. The ones I take to the range every week and use to punch holes in paper targets are lubricated like I was taught in the Navy back in the 1960s. The philosophy was to have well-used and well-oiled pieces. We had little green flat cans with a screw-top attached with a chain which were full of oil when the day started. The oil was mainly or exclusively mineral oil. In those days before the synthetic kubrcants all gun oil started as mineral oil then each manufacturer added a secret sauce and put on their own label.

With a high hold on the piece we would flip over the 1911 and drizzle oil down both sides of the trigger. Then flip it over and get both sides of the hammer to prevent rust from moisture if nothing else. Then get the slide and even the ramp from the magazine to the back of barrel. In those days some magazines worked better than others with a particular gun and a lubricated ramp helped some of the ornery magazines feed that last bullet. When the line was called “hot” and you raised the pistol with an outstretched arm and watching the front sight started to acquire the target, if some oil ran down your arm that was not seen as a bad thing. An old marine who shoots at the same range I visit every week who was in service the same time I was said his instructors taught the same thing. Generous lubrication was insisted upon. Problem stains on clothing were not seen as a priority.

Today, in non-military settings there is the issue of the conceal and carry piece, which makes it more like the clock and sewing machine examples. You don’t want so much oil as to stain the clothing. So we need a different approach than for our range guns. If you completely take apart and wipe off all the oil on the pistol or revolver and even use compressed air to get the dust out of the corners of it, then use the technique mentioned above for watches and sewing machines but just oil the slide. The advantage of the synthetic oils on the market today is they do not dry out and you only need a tiny bit to do the job effectively. That gun just needs to operate smoothly for a few shots to do its job. No need to over oil like you still might do for the guns you take to the firing range.

In the title I mentioned clocks and Glocks because I thought it sounded interesting. I don’t own a Glock but one of my grandsons does and this is the advice I give him for his pistol.

I hope my comments are helpful.

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