Cleaning Clockwork

Posted by admin on June 21st, 2014 filed in Steampunk

Real clockwork gears look nicer in steampunk costumes – but they are harder to work with. Many gears have long prongs or sharp spikes that limit how close to your body you want to wear them ;) Others are solid metal and there is no obvious way to attach them. I started out by sorting my gear collection into roughly four categories:

  • Large flat wheels with gaps (necklace);
  • Tiny fragile wheels (need a foundation, not too exposed, maybe on hat or bracelet?);
  • Tall funky wheels (stylish hat decorations?)
  • Wind-up keys (pendants);

This photo is a partial closeup of the broken clockwork straight off the fleamarket. A lot of rust and patina, but nice unique shapes and materials that you don’t get when you buy “100 Assorted Wholesale Steampunk Gears”. Mental note: Must repress the urge to wash metal with water… =-)

I found a nice kutilství (crafts and DYI) shop and asked for an anti-corosive agent. They recommended a cheap locally-made cleanser called Silichrom. You put a layer of this paste on the metal object, wait a bit until it dries, and then remove the paste. I used an old toothbrush (and wooden toothpicks) since most gears had odd shapes and I could not easily wipe off the surface. Silichrom removed most of the rust and patina, although I sometimes had to apply it twice for full effect.


The important step is to polish the metal with a soft cloth right after the application. I used a simple viscose cloth and some q-tips (and rubber gloves). Don’t use your favorite dish cloth (nor you favorite rubber gloves), because rust leaves drastic stains. :p The gears look nice and shiny now! Only close up you see some scratches.

I already started working on a necklace, a kind of Charivari-style clockwork collar with keys as pendants. :-) The central gear looks super awesome, and I even got it unstuck, which means I can rotate the inner wheel in one direction, and the ratchet clicks into place.
You see that this is where I used all the flat large gears. I had to cut off two prongs of the central gear with a hacksaw though. Next I need to cut and attach the chain, and decide what kind of fastener I want, but decisions about the collar’s chain depend on how it fits to the costume’s bodice.


First attempt – we’re getting there!

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