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Repairing Enameled Dials

Repairing Enameled Dials

    Old enameled dials often have broken or missing dial feet, fine hairline cracks, and broken out or loose center or seconds bits.  Most dials will have some small chips some place on their surface, especially between 12:00 and 3:00 which is where most cases have tabs to facilitate opening, also set levers are usually between these points.

    Hairlines are fine cracks in the surface of the dial, they are caused from several things such as age, and stress from poor handling like someone prying the dial of without loosening the dial screws.  These fine cracks are almost invisible until they fill with dust and dirt, if you can get the dirt out of these cracks they will be far less visible.

    Broken dial feet and loose bits are almost always the direct result of poor handling from past inexperienced persons and can be tough to repair.

    With a little patients, common sense and practice most damaged dials can be made to look quite good again.

    It should be mentioned that soldering dial feet and dial bits takes a lot of care and practice, if the dial is accidentally heated to hot it will be damaged for sure.  So practice on junk dials until you are very confident with your skills.  I have repaired many dials over the years and it still makes me nervous. 

 

Repairing chips   Making hairlines less visible    Repairing center and seconds dial bits    Replacing dial feet

 

 

 What you will need to repair chips 

Dial repair medium, which is a white wax like substance available from most distributors.

A very clean and neatly sharpened flat ended metal tool, a 2.50 mm screw driver works well.

Watch paper.

Plastic scraping tool, a guitar pick or the edge of a small plastic box will work well.

Heat source, like a torch or an alcohol lamp.

Razor blade.

Sharp pointed scribe.

Fine tipped permanent marker.

 

What to do

1.  Ultrasonically clean dial.

2.  Be sure any old dial repair material has been removed.

3.  Heat end of flat tipped tool slightly, dip it into dial repair medium, and pick up a small chunk.

4.  Place the chunk of dial repair medium into the chip, and repeat until chip is slightly over filled, keep heating the tool to keep the dial repair medium slightly liquid but do not heat it to hot or it will discolor or burn.

5.  When completely cooled use a very sharp razor blade to lightly scrape away excess until it is almost flush with dial surface.

6.  Using plastic scraper, lightly scrape scrape until smooth and flush with surface.  Using a plastic scraper eliminates the risk of scratching the dial.

7.  Use scribe to mark lines such as for the seconds or center bits, sometimes a compass works well for this.

8.  Rub with watch paper until a high polish is attained.

9.  Use permanent marker of the appropriate color to repaint missing numbers or markings.

 

Do not touch dial surface with fingers, hold dial only by edges.

    Sometimes heating the dial very slightly from the under side will help to level the dial repair medium.  Be very careful not to heat it very much!

    The color of the repair medium can be altered to match the dial by adding pigment from small amounts of dried paint of the right shade mixed with 111 Trichloroethylene ( One-Dip ) This procedure takes a lot of practice to get right but works incredibly well.

    111 Trichloroethylene ( One-Dip ) will thin and/or remove hardened dial repair medium and most other waxes making it very useful.

    Apply the least possible amount of dial repair medium to the chip because the more you apply the more you have to scrape away.

    Do not place dial in any liquid after the repair in made or discoloration may result.

    If your ultrasonic machine is a very powerful one take care to assure the dial doesn’t get damaged by keeping it as far away from the transducer as possible and you may also have to shorten the soak time.

 

 

 

 

What you will need to make hairlines less visible

 

Ultrasonic cleaning tank.

Strong detergent, Castrol super clean brand cleaner works very well and is available at most department stores.

Stiff dial brush.

 

What to do

1.  Clean dial ultrasonically for about four or five minutes in a strong detergent, again Castrol super clean brand cleaner works very well for this.  Brush dial with dial brush half way through cleaning.

2.  Rinse dial with fresh hot running water.

3.  Cover and let dial air dry.

    Do not touch the face of the dial with your fingers hold it by the edges.

    Do not dry the dial with a paper towel or cloth, wiping or touching the dial will introduce small particles into the hairlines and make them visible again.  

    If your ultrasonic machine is a very powerful one take care to assure the dial doesn’t get damaged by keeping it as far away from the transducer as possible and you may also have to shorten the soak time

    If your tap water has a high concentration of minerals the minerals may deposit into the hairlines. Use hot filtered or distilled water.

    When drying dial be sure to cover it so dust doesn’t collect on it’s surface or in the hairlines.

 

 

 

What you will need to repair loose dial bits

 

Soft solder, Tix brand works very well.

Soft solder flux, again Tix brand works very well.

Heat resistant soldering block.

Torch ( preferably ).

Files.

 

    Again it should be mentioned that soldering dial feet and dial bits takes a lot of care and practice, if the dial is accidentally heated to hot it will be damaged for sure.  So practice on junk dials until you are very confident with your skills.

What to do

    If you are unsure of you ability simply use epoxy instead of solder, following steps 1-4 and then place a small amount of epoxy around the perimeter of the grove. 

1.  Remove all old solder or glue until you have bright and clean copper showing, this can be done by filing, or scraping. ( take care not to file away the copper or the grove will be made to big and the solder will not flow around the grove )

2.  Ultrasonically clean dial and dial bit.

3.  Place dial face down on a clean soldering pad.

4.  Arrange dial bit to it’s proper position.

5.  Apply a small amount of flux to the perimeter of the bit.

6.  Cut soft solder into small pieces about 1.0 – 1.5 mm in length.

7.  Place soft solder pieces into the solder grove.

8.  Heat the dial a very slowly using a low temp flame until the solder just starts to flow then follow the grove slowly with the flame until the solder has flowed all the way around.

Do not drop dial in any liquid while it is hot.

Do not touch dial until solder has hardened.

    When heating the dial I can’t stress enough the importance of heating it slow and with a low temp flame.  Use sweeping motions when heating dial like you would do for spray painting this prevents hot spots which will cause enamel to chip and pop off.  When you see the flux start to boil vigorously move the flame back, usually the solder will flow immediately after flux boils.

  If your ultrasonic machine is a very powerful one take care to assure the dial doesn’t get damaged by keeping it as far away from the transducer as possible and you may also have to shorten the soak time.

 

 

 

What you will need to replace missing dial feet

 

Ready made dial foot assortment, available from most distributors.  Dial feet can also be made using a lathe and should be made of copper.

Soft solder, Tix brand works very well.

Soft solder flux, again Tix brand works very well.

Heat resistant soldering block.

Torch

Files.

What to do

    If you are unsure of you ability simply use epoxy instead of solder, following steps 1-4 and then place a small amount of epoxy on the bottom of the foot. 

1.  File away the leftover part of the old foot until you have it flush with the surface of the dial.

2.  Ultrasonically clean the dial.

3.  Place dial face down on a clean soldering pad.

4.  Arrange new dial foot to it’s proper position.

5.  Apply a small amount of flux to the bottom of the foot.

6.  Cut soft solder into small pieces about 1.0 – 1.5 mm in length.

7.  Place soft solder pieces next to edge of foot so solder is resting on edge.

8.  Heat the dial very slowly using a low temp flame until the solder has flowed all the way around.

Do not drop dial in any liquid while it is hot.

Do not touch dial until solder has hardened.

    When heating the dial I can’t stress enough the importance of heating it slow and with a low temp flame.  Use sweeping motions when heating dial like you would do for spray painting this prevents hot spots which will cause enamel to chip and pop off.  When you see the flux start to boil vigorously move the flame back, usually the solder will flow immediately after flux boils.

  Again if you are unsure of you ability simply use epoxy instead of solder, following steps 1-4 and then place a small amount of epoxy around the perimeter of the grove. 

  If your ultrasonic machine is a very powerful one take care to assure the dial doesn’t get damaged by keeping it as far away from the transducer as possible and you may also have to shorten the soak time.

    Again it should be mentioned that soldering dial feet and dial bits takes a lot of care and practice, if the dial is accidentally heated to hot it will be damaged for sure.  So practice on junk dials until you are very confident with your skills.

 

 

 

 

 

2017-02-17T09:01:46-04:00

About the Author:

About Carignan Watch Repair Company Carignan Watch Company was officially started in January 1996. However, long before that, owner Denis Carignan was repairing watches as a hobby. It all began when he found an old pocket watch while antiquing. He was amazed by the craftsmanship and became captivated by what is known as horology. Over the years, we have repaired and restored thousands of timepieces. We specialize in repairing the timepieces that others give up on. Carignan Watch Company has a large inventory of parts and materials, and we also manufacture parts that cannot be purchased due to age or rarity. We service a variety of timepieces. We are an independent repair shop; we are in no way authorized by, affiliated with, or endorsed by ANY watch manufacturer, company or re-seller, and we like it that way. About Denis Carignan, Owner, Carignan Watch Company Many years ago I fell in love with watches and, like many others, I tried having a few serviced by so-called watchmakers and was very disappointed . The “factory authorized service centers” were even worse to deal with unfortunately. When I say I fell in love with watches, I mean it. They fascinate me on many levels and I think it is an absolute shame that it is difficult to get them serviced properly. I began repairing my own watches and before long I jumped in with both feet. From that point on, watches and the repair of them has been my passion, or perhaps obsession. I have devoted nearly all of my adult life to learning the craft and have been providing people and their watches the best possible services available for may years. When someone says “it cannot be done” or “you can’t fix this,” it sparks something in my mind that is hard for me to stop. At times I have spent hundreds of hours on a project that many other watchmakers had abandoned, determined to see it through no matter what. This is usually not profitable, but it sure is nice to see the look on the customer’s face when I hand them their running watch that is for all intensive purposes “back from the dead.” If I don’t know something, I ask someone. If I do not have something I need, I find it. If I cannot find something I need, I make it. If something is truly beyond my ability, I admit it and try to find someone who can help. If help cannot be found, I will do everything possible to learn how to do it myself. I take pride in my work, which I enjoy, and I am grateful to God for the abilities he has given me and plan to use those gifts for as long as I can. I came from a long line of engineers, machinists, and inventors, on both sides of my family, so it’s no wonder, I guess, that I am so interested in mechanical things. Every thing I have I worked very hard for. I hope someday my daughter will get into the business, but only time will tell; she is still young. I am self-employed and independent from any watch manufacturer at this time, for a reason. I do not like being dictated to and refuse to do things that I do not agree with. I am always working on honing the skills I have and learning new ones. I am very well connected and do not shy away from the tough jobs. I take the training I want to take. I work on whatever watch I want to work on, and I use the tools and equipment that I want and deem appropriate to use. I use both antique tools and modern tools that I have purchased over the course of many years. My shop is extremely well equipped and exactly the way I need it and want it. Very few shops have the capabilities that mine does. In my opinion, you should be able to bring your watch to whomever you want to have it repaired; it is your watch and your money. The person you bring it to should be able to get the training, parts, and equipment to service your watch easily and cost effectively, without jumping through constantly-changing hoops and hemorrhaging money. Pomp and circumstance is not something you will find here.
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