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    Default Cleaning Machine Ways and Tables

    Hello,

    I have several machines in my shop. Over the years, way oil and cutting oil have dried onto my milling machine tables and on my lathes, the ways. This could be described as a varnish. There is no rust present anywhere. Could someone please reccomend an appropriate solvent and process for removing the varnish and brightening the metal? Is there an appropriate cleaner/solvent for this? I hate to go at it with scotch-brite, as I don't want to remove any metal. Thank you in advance.

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    I would use a razor blade, Greg.

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    You might a 50/50 mix of acetone and automatic transmission fluid (must be shaken to mix before every use).

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    Brass brush and mineral spirits.

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    If it can be helped you dont want to use any scrubbing pad or material that can break apart and leave grit behind. It is just about impossible to keep the stuff out of trucks or moving surfaces. A solvent would be best and I always start with WD40, it will evaporate after a while and it has good solvent and lubricating properties. Esp if you are going to use a razor blade, if that fails then I would go to mineral spirits or some solvent like that. If you are using a water based coolant then you really should just use some hot soapy water on a rag and see if several applications followed with WD40 wont work for you.

    Charles

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    i have used Bathroom type Scrubbing Bubbles. believe it or not it actually does a number on most
    buildups and allows wiping off. it is water based so if it gets between parts bolted together you
    might see rust.
    .
    for inside drill chuck i use a spray non residue electrical contact cleaner. it dissolves stuff and let it drip
    out as you work the chuck. as it evaporates it leaves no residue.
    .
    using a kerosene or thin oil works for oil based stuff but you might need alcohol for cleaning water based
    coolant dried up.
    .
    some polishing compounds like liberty polish are a micron abrasive paste and ammonia water. they
    smell with the ammonia and will eventually leave a shiny surface
    .
    nylon abrasive after sprayed with M-1 or WD-40 will clean usually too. the abrasive action does not appear to
    be any worse than doing nothing or leaving the rust on. rust itself is a mild abrasive

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    I use KROIL
    It works great and it smells bitchen

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    Hydrocarbon solvents really do not work well. The very best cleaner is an oil "emulsifier" like 409, but industrial strength. This residual oil varnish simply melts away. Often this type of cleaner is sold in barrels and used to clean truck tarpaulins. Most industrial supply stores will carry this. The key is to apply to the surface full strength, wait a minute or so, then with a finger nail brush, brush in tight circles. Use paper towels to wipe the waste away. Repeat as necessary, then once clean, wash with clear water, then dry and re-oil. Try not to apply to a wet surface, as water dilutes the product. The advantage this cleaner has is that it is non-toxic, virtually fumeless and will not damage paint. It is important to work in small areas and progress slowly. Spraying this stuff on a large area and allowing it to evaporate before you get to it only wastes the product and really does not make the job easier.

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    Zep purple...

    Keep it off the paint though.

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    Soaking in diesel helps, but take your time dont hurry.
    We sometimes use "wet diesel rag" (improvized language again when its impractical to soak entire part.

    I have noticed that most people want something like "spray on and wipe - super clean" TV-commercial style cleaning agent. Time and temperature are your friends.

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    I got a Harrison milling machine that had stood in a storeroom, and was covered in hardened cutting oil, I used a rag with what we call white spirit, but is also called turpentine substitute, brush cleaner etc Also used for thinning oil based paints. Most cutting oils are vegetable based, so when the water has evaporated, what is left is polymerised vegetable oil. I think when the British talk about white spirit, and the yanks talk about mineral spirits, we may be talking about the same stuff!
    Phil

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    Quote Originally Posted by AJB View Post
    You might a 50/50 mix of acetone and automatic transmission fluid (must be shaken to mix before every use).
    You will have better luck with the tooth fairy. And GET YOUR LOCATION IN YOUR PROFILE!

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    10 years ago I wrote this. Passage of time hasn't made it any shorter. The methods and procedures I discuss might seem overkill but they are well tested and widely used in industry. I've adapted them for the low end user like most of us.

    I first posted this on Practical Machinist. A fellow in 2003 asked about the best way to dismantle and clean an old freebie lathe. As usual when someone asks me for a drink, I give it to him from a fire hose. Maybe someone here will find this useful.

    The gentler means of cleaning machines and their parts are best.

    The first step is to pump out liquids and scrape off acculations of sludge, Thereafter remove accumulations of dirt and chips. For that a putty knife, shop vac, broom, 5 gallon pail, hoe, or square edge shovel are the most appropiate tools depending on scale.

    Powerful caustics and water based cleaners if trapped in crevices and allowed to remain over time promotes rust in the joint with accompanying part separation and misalignment, failed bearings and working parts, etched and corroded aluminum and babbitt, bleeding under newly applied paint systems, and other problems will occur from disasters to blemishes. Gentle methods avoid all these problems

    I'm not at all in favor of water based cleaning on assembled machinery except the use of household cleaners in small areas at a time on intact paint systems and exposed bare metal or entirely disassembled machine components.

    Here's how disassembly and cleaning of complex machine tools and mechanical assemblies are done in a large machine tool rebuilding shop. Remember that big commercial shops do things this way because it ultimately saves time and confusion.

    If you're the type who tears into machinery as fast as you can rattle parts apart, try it this way once. Skilled mechanics proceed with care observing all there is to see before continuing to the next step. They're efficient so it seems like they're working fast but their eyes are taking in all there is to see and they take notes. This method might be overkill for a bicycle or a small machine tool but it becomes mandatory as you move up the scale of complexity to a knee mill for instance. A formal step by step method is absolutely necessary for light airplanes and large floor mills.

    Before disassembly, the machine should be first cleaned on the exterior, sumps emptied, and all sheet metal and guards removed after being first matchmarked, tagged, and photographed. Draw sketches or take photos of the piping, hoses, and wiring as they are exposed. Tag all piping connections and wires as they are removed. Open and inspect all electrical equipment and motors for a preliminary inspection as they are removed. Bag the dowels and shims that hold the motors in alignment as they removed and tie the bags to the motors.

    Dismantle the machine in a sensible top down order taking photographs and notes, as you go being sure that shims and small parts are kept with their mating pieces. Don't just throw bolts in a bucket; keep them with the tapped parts. It's a hell of a job sorting them come assembly time.

    Be sure to match mark as you go. Many machines have alike looking parts fitted to specific places. Match marking them eliminates confusion about order and orientation.

    Remove major subassemblies intact for later bench disassembly.

    Note deficient conditions as you go. If significant problems are uncovered like cracked castings, evidence of major concentrated wear, broken parts etc. Document them early and thoroughly and call in the boss or customer as necessary.

    At points where it seems advisable, take as-found measurements, readings, and other preliminary determinations for future use.

    Conduct a running account of missing, poorly repaired, and broken parts and mark them on a photocopy of the EPD. If reporting is formalized as it is in some shops keep your findings and paperwork up to date. Fall behind in the paper and chaos, confusion, lame excuses, and maybe a new job opportunity (unemployed and looking) are sure to follow.

    As you approach the final stages of dismantlement, set your helpers to further cleaning. Organize the parts into categories and make a note on the parts containers as to contents and part no's. Organize the parts containers into totes for easy handling. Make metal witness tags for parts subject to chemical cleaning if that's the company method and wire them to the parts.

    Cleaning machine parts gone about sensibly is a three step process: Removing caked goo with a putty knife (or shovels and hoes); solvent washing to remove remaining accumulations; final cleaning and detailing.

    Caustics and nasty water based machine cleaners make no sense when the cake can be simply dry scraped with a putty knife or chipped into a container.

    The intermediate step can be accomplished with any suitable wash. Petroleum solvents like mineral spirits paint thinner is generally best because it doesn't promote rust or attack paintwork, aluminum, die cast, or skin.

    I prefer paint thinner for good reason. Diesel is smelly and irritates the skin and evaporates slow. Kerosene is more expensive than paint thinner (5 gals @ $13 for kero Vs $8 for paint thinner). If the paint thinner smell drives you nuts use the more expensive deodorized. Paint thinner also evaporates faster and has more "holding power" (grease and oil).

    All petroleum solvents are a fire hazard. Work in a well-ventilated shop - and naturally no smoking around them. I keep a chemical fire extinguisher handy.

    For the final steps where clean bright bare metal is desired, I prefer a powered soft wire brush using care that delicate features and details aren't damaged or blurred. I follow with a careful scour with a ScotchBrite pad followed by a lacquer thinner wash. I spray clean parts with LPS-3 and bag them in poly freezer bags with a silica gel packet if it looks like some time will pass before they get assembled.

    Never use WD 40 for a rust preventative. It's a water displacer, not a preservative. WD40 is also a great cleaner but NOT a preservative. NOT a preservative - got that? Any rust preventative qualities WD40 may have, evaporates away in a matter of days leaving the metal subject to rust and corrosion.

    If it's desired to preserve the existing paint and filler, I use clean paint thinner and carefully scrub it with a white (non-abrasive) ScotchBrite pad.

    If it's desired to remove all paint from small items I put them in a covered coffee can and dowse them with a couple of tablespoons of lacquer thinner. Leave them sealed in the can overnight and the paint will be lifted. It looks all puffy and scrapes right off like wet pie crust. You can remove the lifted paint with a stick of wood sharpened like a wood chisel. Scrape off the lifted paint in a separate container so the stripping can doesn't get fouled.

    If the paint is a high performance epoxy or polyurethane coating it will simply take longer to lift but lacquer thinner (or better yet Homer Formby's Furniture Refinisher) will do the job if sealed in a container.

    Removing paint from larger items can move up the scale to a 5-gallon bucket or a 55 gal drum if need be. Large castings can be stripped of paint using commercial paint strippers. I prefer Jasco solvent based paint stripper. Once you get down to the base metal there will still be paint residues. Allow the residue to dry for a day and remove it with a 3" wire cup wheel in a 4" electric angle grinder. A shop vac is very handy to keep powdery paint residues under control. Wear breathing and eye protection.

    Pressure washing dirty oily castings makes a huge mess. The dirty spray flies everywherey. What flies around eventually has to be cleaned up taking extra work over and above the paltry time saved by being lazy. Pressure washing is a good last step but a poor first step unless you have a booth or containment of some kind to contain the crap. Don't think a splashy way is the easy way. There's no sense in having to conduct a lengthy clean up after a pressure wash if your can avoid it.

    When you work small areas at a time using simple easily controlled methods, you only have to clean once.

    Remember the object of machine and parts cleaning is to get the job done efficiently, making a minimum of mess and waste to dispose of.

    Following my own directions, I cleaned a whole 8 ft Rockford planer inside and out to bare iron in most places using two gallons of paint thinner, one gallon of lacquer thinner, 100 cloth rags (still working on the second 50) and three rolls of blue paper towels.

    I finished with a little over a gallon of waste solvent, a half bag of used clay floor dry, some stained cardboard, and a garbage can of waste, including a half dozen 3 lb coffee cans filled with solidified floor dry muck. I would have had more but most of the external filler and paint was still sound.

    Except for the solvent and the oily floor dry, all the waste was landfill friendly.

    The machine and all its internals and removed parts are clean enough to eat off. The job took me maybe 24 hours. and that was a last-bolt dissassembly. Cleaning a big dirty 50-year-old machine tool is no big deal but you do have to have a system. YMMV but the problems are equivalent.
    Last edited by Forrest Addy; 01-09-2015 at 07:06 AM.

  14. Likes CBlair, Demon73, ariyama, Scottl, Dale Lusby and 2 others liked this post
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    I have had good luck with steam. U can rent a unit. The crud falls off.

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    Mineral spirits and a single edge razor in a holder. If you let the spirits soak in before scraping it works ok. the trick is to not let the razor dig in and gouge the table or ways. Wipe the goo off the blade frequently with a rag or paper towel. The razor and lubricant will even remove light rust.

    I would either soak the rags in water or put them outside for a few days in a metal bucket. You don't want to risk a fire from spontaneous combustion and there is no way of knowing how the goop may react because you don't know what chemical combinations may be in it.

    One more suggestion: Highlight all the text in Forrest Addy's post and copy it to a Word document, text file, or whatever. Save it to your hard drive where you can find it. You will have, in a few paragraphs, the best reference on machine cleaning you are likely to find.

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    Forrest Addy, your post is great and helpful. It's a pet peeve though to hear people say that because WD stands for water displacement, WD-40 is a bad lubricant or penetrant or rust preventative. That's a myth. In fact, its original purpose was as a rust preventative on the fuel tanks of Atlas nuclear missiles. About 50% of it is volatiles that evaporate away, and that allows it to be thin to penetrate well and then leave behind a coating of light oil that doesn't evaporate behind to keep water away, lubricating and preventing rust.

    Sure, WD-40 doesn't belong in a machine shop (probably not even for cleaning IMO) and I hear it's a personal crusade of yours to make sure people know that, but for non-machinery uses around the house, there's good reason why it's the most popular solution around.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grbl View Post
    Forrest Addy, your post is great and helpful. It's a pet peeve though to hear people say that because WD stands for water displacement, WD-40 is a bad lubricant or penetrant or rust preventative. That's a myth. In fact, its original purpose was as a rust preventative on the fuel tanks of Atlas nuclear missiles. About 50% of it is volatiles that evaporate away, and that allows it to be thin to penetrate well and then leave behind a coating of light oil that doesn't evaporate behind to keep water away, lubricating and preventing rust.

    Sure, WD-40 doesn't belong in a machine shop (probably not even for cleaning IMO) and I hear it's a personal crusade of yours to make sure people know that, but for non-machinery uses around the house, there's good reason why it's the most popular solution around.
    My personal experience with WD-40 is that it is a great cleaner but a mediocre lubricant. It leaves a waxy residue that can gum up locks and other mechanisms with repeated use. I use it for:

    Spraying concrete tools after cleaning. It also makes a fair release for small form boards.

    Final cleaning of garden shovels, etc.

    Preventing asphalt from sticking to a cast iron tamper and cleaning residue from tools.

    Cleaning the outside of a motorcycle chain after using a penetrating chain lube. I spray it on a rag and wipe the chain to get rid of the stuff that would fly off.

    Preventing flash rusting of steel that has been chemically cleaned (temporary only).

    I use it a lot for stuff like that but IMO it should not be used on locks, firearms, micrometers, and other precision mechanisms. Even for something as minor as lubricating swivel casters on an office chair I have found it to be not as long lasting as other products.

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    grbl

    We can have a polite debate on the topic of WD40.

    I'm not conducting a crusade against WD40 but people look to me for straight answers and reccommendations. Where I can, I call 'em like I see 'em.

    WD40 is great stuff in the right aplication but the application has to take advantages of WD40's properties. It is not a panecea. WD40 does some things very well but fails when misapplied. Why does this assertion meet so much resistance? I don't know but there are folks who accept urban legend over easily demonstrable fact. WD40 has a fantastic word of mouth that works against itself as a product and against the partizans who assert perfection. Here is my take on WD40 as a product used in the home shop and light industry

    Occasionaly, I conduct experiments following a protocol and report results: in this case WD40's usefulness as a preservative. Some years ago I left cold rolled steel samples uncluding: bare (control); treated variously with existing factory shush coating, WD40, slushed with soft bearing grease, sluiced with LPS3 (all experimental). Test venues were out in the weather, under open shelter, and in my damp garage. 5 samples each location

    I've had too many computer crashes since then but if you allow I have a good memory for technical details, here is a rough synopsis of the test and results. The object was to test preservative treatments to determine time to first rust. The test is not particularly scientific but good enough to duplicte as in reproducible results in the back yard. Weather was a factor in my test, it was miserable and rainy; perfect for the test.

    The bare material rusted first, then a few days to a week later WD40, sometime later the factory slush, then after a month or so the first rust streaks appeared in the greased weather sample, and a few months after that (well into summer) the LPS3 weather sample.

    Exposure conditions affected the time to rust but eventually they all rusted except for the sample forgotten in its rack up near the ceiling in my damp garage. I just checked them. The bare and the WD40 samples were rusted all over. The slushed samples had streaks wherever the film was thinnest but the LPS3 sample was pristine. I conclude from the forgoing WD40 is not a metal preservative after a few days.

    Lubricant. I conducted some crossed axis rotating part tests. WD40 failed as a lubricant; not much better than kerosene.

    However as a water dispersant and as a cleaner the virtues and excellence of WD40 are self-evident.

    Move a machine tool and the weather breaks mid-trip? Sluice the machine down with WD40. The water rolls off like the machine was a duck's back leaving clean glistening surfaces. However the next step is to wipe the machine down and fog on a real preservative oil or film forming preservative.

    As a cleaner it's unequaled for removing preservatives from new machine tools. WD40 is almost the first thing I reach for to clean and disperse water or machine aluminum.

    So: WG40

    Preservative - almost ineffective in a condensing environment.

    Lubricant - ineffective after a few hours never as a long term lubricant for mechanism. The residue obstructs or gums mechanism like a locks and cheap alarm clocks from 30 years ago. It absolutely disables camera lens iris diaphragms until the mechanism is dismantled to individual parts cleaned and reassembled with dabs of the right lubricant in the right places.

    Cleaner - works great on any oily mess.

    Water dispersant - unequalled in my opinion. I once sprayed down a computer that had fallen in salt water and immersed for a couple minutes. We first opened it up on the galley table, disassembled everything disassemblable, flushed it with hot fresh water, then sluiced the components down with WD40 letting the liquid fall over the side. The water fell off (we generated quite an oil slick). Then we dowsed it with charcoal starter brushing it in all the crevises to flush out the WD40 residues. After a 4 hour dry in the galley oven at 150 degrees we reassembled it. Turned it on and Klong! it booted. The computer was an Apple powerbook. I would have thought the hard disk was toast but it worked just fine for years after. The CD drive was toast but it didn't cost much to replace.

    Ancillary uses for WD40: fire starter, coolant and tapping agent for most any metal, greasy stain remover, removing label and tape adhesive residues, all good.

    So keep WD40 handy but use it where it works. Reconcile yourself: it aint a do-all product.

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    Someone on the Facebook Machininst group posted a video of using Zep HD Floor Stripper for cleaning old machine crud. I tried some and it really does work. It has 2 main ingredients that I can't pronounce (or remember). I used it straight without diluting and it worked as well as Purple without hurting the paint.

    The woven scrubbing pads you get at the grocery store for using to wash dishes are handy, like Scotchbrite without the abrasive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grbl View Post
    Forrest Addy, your post is great and helpful. It's a pet peeve though to hear people say that because WD stands for water displacement, WD-40 is a bad lubricant or penetrant or rust preventative. That's a myth. In fact, its original purpose was as a rust preventative on the fuel tanks of Atlas nuclear missiles. About 50% of it is volatiles that evaporate away, and that allows it to be thin to penetrate well and then leave behind a coating of light oil that doesn't evaporate behind to keep water away, lubricating and preventing rust.

    Sure, WD-40 doesn't belong in a machine shop (probably not even for cleaning IMO) and I hear it's a personal crusade of yours to make sure people know that, but for non-machinery uses around the house, there's good reason why it's the most popular solution around.
    I both agree and disagree! I agree with Forest that WD-40 is not a rust preventative or preserver in any way. Never use it on your parallels between uses or you'll find out why (don't ask me how I know). However, WD-40 is the only thing I use for tapping, broaching, or cutting when I need cutting oil. I read an article that I can't remember where in a machinists mag that was about one of the secret uses of WD-40 as a tapping fluid. At the time we were using some green creamy gunk that was supposed to be the bomb. I tried it and never went back. Found a few cases on clearance years ago and will not run out for some time.

    Anyway, WD-40 has its uses in the shop just not what people intuitively think it's for. BTW it also works surprisingly well for removing oil stains from the concrete in the shop.

    Best Regards,
    Bob


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