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Ultrasonic Cleaners



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Whichever ultrasonic cleaner you get, you should try it out with some destructable/sacrificial test pieces before you do something serious with it. I got a high powered commercial ultrasonic cleaner, and learned it took the gold plating right off Pilot and Platinum branded pens. Fortunately, the Pilot and Platinum pens were junk pens which were for parts, so no actual loss occurred.

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For light duty (meaning just an hour or two a week), the Harbor Freight ones tend to be just fine. You just have to unplug them when you're done, because the heater element keeps running even after it's turned off. (It won't come on on its own, it just doesn't appear to turn off). Also, trade out the cable it comes with for a computer power cable. Longer, more flexible, and usually a higher gauge of wire.

 

No matter how powerful the UC, it will _not_ remove plating unless that plating is already compromised. It induces surface cavitation. To peel off plating, the liquid has to be _under_ the plating.

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Bibliophage... yes, the Pilot and Platinum pens were selected, as they are known to have poor quality plating from the factory on some pens... they served as a good acid test. If you doubt me, I can post pictures. The underlying silver colored plating is present, but the gold is gone.

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Bibliophage... yes, the Pilot and Platinum pens were selected, as they are known to have poor quality plating from the factory on some pens... they served as a good acid test. If you doubt me, I can post pictures. The underlying silver colored plating is present, but the gold is gone.

So, what you're saying is that if the plating is already prone to be removed, a cleaning device can remove that plating.

 

What a surprise.

 

I've found that a toothbrush can remove crappy plating. Heck, I had a razor where the plating wiped off with a cloth after just being soaked in Dawn and hot water. Don't blame the ultrasonic cleaner for the fault of the plater.

 

Perhaps a better way to have said it would be - "If you have marginal plating, an ultrasonic cleaner can cause it to come loose faster."

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Bibliophage,

You may be taking the context of my statement wrong. We both actually agree. Poor quality plating is succeptable to ultrasonic cleaning from a powerful ultrasonic device. It also serves as a benchmark to determine the "power of a cleaner". The same pens were unaffected by the inexpensive "jewelry store" ultrasonic cleaners. I was unsure of the level of power of the new cleaner, and these well-known succeptable pens served as a good measuring stick for power. They also acted as a cautionary tale for those who are unaware that this CAN be an outcome for some (but not all) pens. The more powerful cleaner only has more robust items put in it for cleaning, such as hard rubber feeds which are heavily caked and ink stained, and nibs which some person used India ink with them. More delicate parts go to the hobby grade ultrasonic cleaners.

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An ultrasonic cleaner of about 35 - 50 watts is sufficient for cleaning pens. In almost 30 years, I haven't had a problem with plating getting stripped off. Just keep the tank full so that the water dissipates the energy (heat). I don't like tanks with heaters, and you want to avoid the units with buttons in the lid. The wires run through the hinge, and the repeated opening and closing of the lid causes it to fail fairly quickly.

 

Staedtler-Mars had a great one that was made by Rotex Manufacturing. They also made one branded Charette. The company is out of business, but you still find them on Ebay. The Staedtler-Mars is blue with a power button and a light on it. No timer, you don't need one. The plastic basket around the perimeter has sockets in it for holding pens. If you can find one, they're very good and last a long time. Mine gets used constantly, and I like it so much that I have two as spares sitting on the shelf.

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Ron - I suspect you use yours a LOT more than I do.

 

Personally, I like the heater, but then I bought it for cleaning safety razors. The amount of caked on oil and soap is unbelievable sometimes.

 

If you're buying a small one from HF (2.5 liter, because they're all Chinese, and wouldn't know a quart if you hit them with one), they do have a heater - but you don't have to use it. Buttons are on the front, unlike the previous 1 liter version that I had to repair twice before relegating to being a soaking tub. It does have a timer, which is annoying, but considering how forgetful I can be, 8 minutes is -more- than enough for a single run between soaks.

 

Downside - I don't think it's really "160 watts", but it does have to cavitate a larger space than the small 'hobby' cleaners. The heater, once turned on, doesn't really turn off until unplugged (I have a scorch mark to prove it). The screen to keep things from bouncing directly on the steel bottom has no hooks, so you can't suspend it, and to pull it out, you have to put your hand straight into the unit. (I just made wire hooks, one for each corner)

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We've used cheapies from Amazon, and they've worked just fine.

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Whatever is in stock at Bed Bath and Beyond for jewelry cleaning. And use a 20% off coupon.

$40 machine lasted me about 6 years. Then finally just stopped turning on. So I bought another.

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With the caveat that I'm cleaning metal objects as often as plastic, I found that the really tiny 'jewelry' cleaners just didn't do much of anything. My first purchase was one of those - I then passed it on to my brother, who was only likely to be cleaning jewelry.

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If there is any recommendation -- it may be to avoid the models that put the controls on a flip up lid -- as the wiring at the hinge may tend to break from excessive flexing.

 

I should check my storage locker -- I suspect my backup cleaner is of that type. My primary cleaner has only one button (start/stop) with an LED. Automatic stop (about 5 minutes). Last time I looked however, the cost had gone through the roof... https://www.amazon.com/Branson-Model-B200-Ultrasonic-Cleaner/dp/B07T7YNMBM (rated 50W in, 30W output).

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  • 1 month later...

In case anyone reads this post for help, thought I would add a note about the purchase I made. I got a Branson Model B200. Simple but reliable machine that will last years. Heard that many laboratories use Branson ultrasonic cleaners as well, so that gave me some confidence.

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I second the advice about buttons on the lid; my first one died that way after several years but still prematurely, and I couldn't easily ID/fix the break.

 

The replacement, with the buttons on the front, works fine shifting caked on ink in 2nd hand pens, or speeding up the cleaning process before returning a pen to storage after its turn in rotation. Some pens seem to clean out a lot quicker/more easily than others.

 

So yes, they can be invaluable, and I find the 600 ml mains power models sold as jewellery cleaners for around A$40 to be perfectly adequate.

 

As for brands, I couldn't say... so many are generic models made in China, as is mine - https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/600ml-Multiuse-Ultrasonic-Cleaner-Sonic-Wave-Tank-Watch-Jewellery-Cleaning-Timer/233434745193?hash=item3659cb8969:g:VSEAAOSwhqhddxX4 .

 

Regards,

Glenn.

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You can repair the wires for the ones with the buttons on top. I did it twice before the unit finally gave up the ghost.

 

But you don't have to fix it if you don't buy one with buttons on the lid... and not everybody can fix theirs.

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This is my choice for cleaning ink off of parts-

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01KZEF8AW/ref=ppx_od_dt_b_asin_title_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

Just get a plastic basket so you don't get marks on your parts from vibrating against the floor of the tub.


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But you don't have to fix it if you don't buy one with buttons on the lid... and not everybody can fix theirs.

It was more for those who already _have_ one of the ones with buttons on the lid. Harbor Freight stopped selling them - probably for that reason. However, I've seen them on E-Bay and a few other places.

 

One semi-workaround is to just remove the lid completely, and put the buttons on a shorter wire, wrapped in electrical tape. It'll be ugly, but removes the bulk of the problems.

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