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Cleaning gold nib


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#1 extrafine

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:41

I landed a junker pen (in an odd lot), with a 14 ct gold nib, but otherwise of little value, so I figured I'd experiment.

The aforementioned nib was the most crudded up I'd ever seen, bar none. Most of the time, ink residue seems to be removable with a bit of ammonia, a toothpick, and some patience. Not in this case.

Eventually, in despair, I put it in a glass and sprayed it with over cleaner, figuring 14 ct gold wouldn't be attacked too readily anyway. I left it for a few seconds, then flushed it out with lots of water.

As far as I can tell, no damage has been done to the nib, but all the crud has come off.

Is this a dumb thing to do? I wouldn't try it on a steel nib: I mean on a gold nib.

How are other common materials, such as celluloid, hard rubber, etc, affected by oven cleaner (sodium hydroxide)? I wouldn't be too keen on trying it (though perhaps I'll sacrifice a junker) but for the fact that it cleaned out the old ink so wonderfully.

What do others use? I don't have a sonicator. Besides, I'm not sure that that would help... I think that the problem was beyond dried ink, and at the level of surface corrosion of the non-gold metals in the nib, probably from acid ink or something of that nature.

Any thoughts? How do other people clean old nibs?

Thx...

#2 Kelly G

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 04:51

Well, I'm neither a chemist nor a pen cleaning expert, and while I certainly wouldn't say using oven cleaner is stupid, it does seem a bit risky - the instructions don't tell you to wear eye protection and rubber gloves for nothing. Perhaps your nib had some India ink on it or some other non-water soluble substance? There are specific cleaners for India ink - I believe Koh-i-nor makes one.

If I have a particularly cruddy nib, I've been known to use a bit of Simichrome with a soft brush. Typically, the ammonia water solution gets it. I've also used toothpaste. Never oven cleaner. But, maybe you're on to something.
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#3 extrafine

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 06:05

I theoretically should know something about this, having once studied metallurgical engineering, but I've forgotten it all, hence my turning here for help...

It'll definitely damage some metals, such as aluminium and zinc, which don't take well to alkaline environments. Pure gold, I'd have no worries. I think that copper would be a significant constitutent of 14 ct gold alloys, and sodium hydroxide doesn't affect that. On the other hand, it kills zinc, of which perhaps there is some? No idea. That's why I didn't leave it in there long. I was just amazed at how it totally cleaned the ink off.

It'll definitely damage skin and especially eyes.

Toothpaste, now that sounds like an interesting idea... a perfect very mild abrasive... I'll be trying that next.

I think I'm going to soak an elastic band in sodium hydroxide, to see what happens, on the theory that if it doesn't get affected, rubber probably won't either. Plastic seems more hit and miss. Will report back on that :-).

Anyone else have any thoughts?

#4 Methersgate14

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 10:18

Safe on the nib; unsure about the feed.

Gold dissolves in aqua regia (mixture of one part concentrated nitric acid to three parts concentrated hydrochoric acid - don't try this at home, folks!) but it does not dissolve in anything much else.

#5 fitypoundpdog

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 10:32

In our chemistry lab we use Hydrochloric Acid to clean our gold (vials used for high pressure geochemistry in this case, but about the same!)

#6 fitypoundpdog

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 10:34

QUOTE(Methersgate14 @ Nov 2 2007, 11:18 AM) View Post
Safe on the nib; unsure about the feed.

Gold dissolves in aqua regia (mixture of one part concentrated nitric acid to three parts concentrated hydrochoric acid - don't try this at home, folks!) but it does not dissolve in anything much else.


Yup, watch out for that Nitric!

#7 extrafine

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Posted 02 November 2007 - 12:29

QUOTE(Methersgate14 @ Nov 2 2007, 06:18 AM) View Post
Gold dissolves in aqua regia (mixture of one part concentrated nitric acid to three parts concentrated hydrochoric acid - don't try this at home, folks!) but it does not dissolve in anything much else.


Cyanide will dissolve it by forming some sort of a complex, which is why it's used in gold extraction, but that's not something we're going to be playing with here :-).

It's the non-gold part of the 14 ct that I'm worried about. That being said, between your reassuring words and my experience, I'm starting to think that it's probably safe enough on the nib. I was a bit worried about the tipping, but in this case at least, it wasn't damaged at all.

Now, for that junker feed... next experiment :-)

#8 Ron Z

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 03:28

Some interesting questions certainly come up here.......

Why use a caustic substance on a gold pen?? Remember, even 14K gold is not pure gold. How about a simple jewelers cloth? Or if you insist, Flitz or Simicrome. Or micromesh......



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#9 psfred

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 05:15

Whatever that crusty old black stuff is that sometimes collects on vintage nibs and will not wash off with water, 409 spray cleaner dissolves instantly. Don't want to use it on any other parts, particularly, but it will often zip a gold or stainless (or plated nib) clean of whatever the stuff is instantly.

It does have a high pH -- it's not safe on painted surfaces -- and I wouldn't clean a pen with it or soak one in it, but it really does to a bang-up job of cleaning nibs!

Peter

#10 extrafine

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Posted 03 November 2007 - 23:34

Ron Z: I've been afraid to use something abrasive. Maybe I shouldn't be! I think I must start looking for a jeweller's cloth.

psfred: I've heard a lot about this 409 stuff, but have been unable to find it here in Toronto, and trust me, I've tried. I'm guessing it may not be available in Canada. If anyone knows otherwise, please inform!

Thanks again to everyone for their help.