A Miniature Triple-Expansion Marine Engine Model


Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The cleaning is on!

After a small delay (we have several projects running simultaneously), today’s post is really special! There is a video available for streaming, showing the cleaning procedures that are currently taking place in the conservation lab!
The delicate nature of the model engine requires a gentle cleaning method. And first I decided to try a solvent bath. After disassembling the engine from its ivory plinth, I placed the object in a small container with I.M.S. and White spirit (1:1) and started monitoring it daily.
After two days, the object was examined under the microscope in order to detect if any of the old lubricants had dissolved. The bath had removed some surface dirt but had not done anything to the old lubricant inside the cylinders.
Therefore, we decided to try a different method; low-pressure solvent jet. A small airbrush was used to spray the solvent and dissolve the old lubrication. More like a shower than the bath I used a fine paint brush (size 0) to remove dirt and lubricants manually.

I applied the method to a small area, in order to evaluate its efficiency. As you can see in the video, the cleaning made it possible to move some parts of the engine. This is quite promising, but the model still requires a lot of work to operate again. Don’t forget that this engine was built to run on air supplied by a rubber bulb!
The treatment of the little engine requires constant use of stereo-microscope which is a quite challenging if not uncomfortable task. Our fine conservation tools look enormous and clumsy under a microscope and you have the impression that your hands are shaking horribly! However, it is an exciting project which pursues both creativity and skills.