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I frequently work on old guitars that have been untouched for decades and often have much grunge on the tuners.  (Images attached)  

I have a few ways of disassembling and cleaning these, and it's often tough on the hands both physically and chemical-wise (When chemicals are in use, I wear protective gloves, a good mask and recently bought a good air filter that I read about in a discussion here).  I thought I'd ask you all for procedures or products you use to clean and lube tuners from the first half of the 20th century that show lots of grunge and oxidation.  The examples in the photos are typical, some are worse, some like they were made yesterday!

BTW, the Tarn-X product works, but wear a mask!

...thanks, Tom

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I have been using a product called Noxon. The parts get a solvent bath first and then a bath in the Noxon. Works OK on most metals but I think it etches to clean. I have noticed some loss of plated Nickel when cleaning old banjo parts. There always seems to be a bit more Brass showing when I'm done. I'm guessing that Tarn-x works similarly.

Paul, can you describe the solvent bath in more detail?  thx..Tom

I just put them in a a small tray with a little lacquer thinner or Acetone and use a small stiff brush to remove whatever will dissolve away. You'll want check the tuner buttons for solvent resistance or just keep off of them. The last ones I did for an old Strad-O-Lin mandolin, had decayed tuner buttons, no need to worry if you are replacing them. You could also just use Naphtha and not worry about the buttons but lacquer thinner and Acetone are hotter solvents and work a bit better/faster.

The Noxon or other metals cleaners work best when any oil, crud or meals from Christmas past have first been removed. I finish up with soap and water and them a light oiling. If the old tuners are plated tin or steel that have developed some rust spots, I coat the entire tuner assembly with the light oil and them wipe them down real well before re-installation.

Thanks, that clarifies the 'bath' part.  

I've done similar, usually with naphtha and solvents.  I also find that 0000 steel wool can get a lot of the oxidation off and leave a nice sheen, just before the soap and water rinse.

When i first started out we used to clean metal parts like this in cyanide solution. I hated getting even in the same room with that stuff, but it sure did a good job. We have come a long ways.

For parts that are made only of metal (tuners, bridges, etc), I use WD40 in an ultrasonic bath followed by a rinse in Naptha or Original Formula Windex.  The WD40 and parts go in a small, thin walled pyrex beaker which(transmits ultrasonic energy well) covered with foil to contain vapors. The ultrasonic cleaner is filled with plain water to the same level as the WD40.  A few minutes gently cleans most parts without abrasion. 

Do not let the WD40 (or any other flammable material) get too warm due to ignition risk.  Fortunately, WD40 has a pretty high flash point but a Fire Extinguisher and supervised operation of the ultrasonic bath is imperative.

One other comment is that is is very important to completely remove any cleaner or oil from the parts to avoid finish damage.  I had a customer with a very nice 70's Goldtop with headstock finish damage.  It appeared that someone had oiled the Kluson tuners excessively.  The oil seeped into the bare wood in the tuner holes and under the finish, leaving a dark stain. 

Yikes, some of this stuff sounds scary!  

Thanks for the info.  I guess there's no silver bullet, just a bit of elbow grease and common sense.  I'll explore the ultrasonic idea a bit more.

In the past few months, I've taken to installing an air scrubber/filter (discussed on this forum) and wearing a mask to protect against fumes, and nitrile gloves to protect my skin.  I've lost my quota of brain cells thus far even w/o the fumes ;-)

Tom

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