Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Lubricating whirligigs and other mechanical projects

Lubricating a whirligig or mechanical project with moving parts.

    Lubricating whirligigs or mechanical projects can be a challenge. The materials you work with can vary from metal to wood and even plastic. Add to this a project that is exposed to the outdoor elements, wind, rain, dust, dirt and even the unexpected squirrel.
    The basic challenge is to keep moving parts moving and there are a few basic rules that you need to consider when you're creating mechanical art.
    The first rule of thumb that I was taught long ago, is to always try and work with like materials. Putting a moving metal part against a wooden part will always result in the wooden part eventually being worn away. Putting plastic or nylon parts in between will help lengthen the life span of your mechanical wonder, but will have to be periodically replaced. And always try to keep lubricated parts sealed when possible. Always use washers and spacers when possible to keep metal parts from rubbing against wooden parts. 
    As for the lubricants themselves, my go to lubricant has always been a pencil. The graphite used to make the pencil lead makes a perfect lubricant. Rubbing a pencil lead on a propeller shaft works wonders and is resistant to most weather conditions. Liquid graphite can also be used when you have metal to metal surfaces, such as brass tubing and brass welding rods used for propeller shafts or other metal to metal parts. 
    As you're creating these projects you should always keep in mind to create projects that can be disassembled. This will make it easy for the owner not only to periodically lubricate moving parts but also make any repairs or replace any worn parts that need replacing. Another option is to also include in your projects lubricating holes, as shown in the diagram above. These are holes or tubing that allow you to lubricate the moving part without disassembling and are usually mounted on the bottom side prevent collecting dust or water. 
    White lithium grease is also an optional lubricant. Normally used on bike chains and other outdoor moving parts such as door hinges. It also is extremely weather resistant and has the added advantage of being in a spray form. 
    The next lubricant is actually a solid and usually in the form of nylon washers. But as I have found over the years nylon washers and metal bearings can be very expensive to use. Using crazy straws and washers cut from milk jugs will work but keep in mind most plastics are designed to be biodegradable and may not last very long if exposed to sunlight. Crazy straws dipped in a pot of boiling water will immediately straighten and as long as they are cut to length and hidden inside the whirligig or project they will last quite a long time. Add some graphite lubricant and they will undoubtedly outperform most expectations. Also keep in mind when using plastic or even brass tubing you will want to keep the sizes close fitting. A loose moving part will wear much faster.
    I hope these tips on lubricating your mechanical art are of help. Please be sure and visit our website for more tips and ideas on your next craft project.

No comments:

Post a Comment