Monday, February 2, 2009


Need a drop of oil?

Sure you do. Everybody does, now & then.

Pocket-knife. Part of my Uniform, issued to me by the Navy in June of 1956. Good knife. The steel holds an edge. The blades pivot on either end. Keep the big blade 'knife-sharp,' the little blade 'razor-sharp.' (It has to do with the cross-sectional shape of the blade. Razor-sharp is a temporary thing; it dulls in a hurry; needs to be stropped back to sharpness. Knife-sharp isn't as sharp as a razor but it keeps it's edge longer. When it gets dull you sharpen it with a whetstone. Just a few strokes.

Oil a micrometer?!! Well... yeah, I guess so. After all, it's just a 40tpi thread inside a graduated barrel. But it doesn't need to be oiled very often; mebbe once every five years if you use it a lot.

Fan with Oilite bearings? Sure! Sez so, right there... little hole 'OIL.' And you are the Mechanic in Charge.

When it comes to lube-jobs we have a tendency to ignore the little jobs, like all those kitchen appliances you and your wife depend upon. But if you read the manuals you'll generally find some mention of lubrication, although many will want you to take it to a 'qualified repairman.' Which is you, by the way. Indeed, the main difference between a modern 'Lubricated for Life' partis that they make no provision for periodic lubrication. Most of today's cars are like that, with many key components being 'lubricated for life. But it turns out that their definition of 'life' can be as little as sixty-thousand miles, at which point you will be forced to buy & install a new part.

Kitchen drawers & cabinets? Yep. Tiny drop of oil every five years or so. Along with your home's door hinges, door knobs, latches, locks and so forth. But not always oil. Some call for a whiff of powdered graphite, like the door lock on your car or truck.

Sewing machine requires periodic maintenance, just like your car, boat or plane. And they'll usually tell you what oil to use.

Funny thing about oil: Provide something with a hole that sez 'OIL' and the odds are, it will get too much oil. The oil gets past the seals; gets into the motor which slings it all around. The oil collects fine-textured debris which eventually blocks the vents needed to allow the motor to cool properly. So they seal-up the oil holes, leaving you to go around, put your hand on the motor or gear-case to estimate the temperature. If you can put your hand on it, it doesn't need any oil. But if you can't touch it with your bare hand, then there's a good chance it needs to have it's lubrication replaced.'

Good motors, the sort of thing you find on ammo hoists and other military equipment, have very specific instructions with regard to lubrication. They spell out when the thing is to be dismantled and cleaned, what lubricants should be used and how much.

The point most often overlooked with regard to such lubrication chores is that the item to be lubricated must also be cleaned occasionally.

Another point often overlooked by the home mechanic is that selling light-grade oil in small quantities often inflates the price to over two hundred dollars per quart. No, that isn't a typo. See the half-ounce tube of Singer Sewing Machine oil? It's list price is $3.19.

This sort of thing reflects modern-day corporate thinking, in which every possible effort is made to screw the customer. Proof of this is seen in the first photo which includes a 4 ounce can of Singer Sewing Machine oil for thirty cents ( ie, $9.60 per quart ).

Your best defense against this sort of thing is to buy such lubricants in larger quantities, such as quarts or gallons and to provide your own dispenser... or to simply refill the regular dispenser, such as the cans shown in the top photo. WD-40 and kerosene are available in one and five gallon containers and a flit-gun provides all the atomizing I require. The same is true for light-weight oils which are usually available from distributors of hydraulic lifts and elevators.

The best example of this that I can think of is that I can think of involves my Zippo cigarette lighter, variously repaired (at no cost) by the Zippo company three times since 1958. Lighter fluid is naptha. Purchased by the gallon, is ( or rather, was, the last time I bought some ) about $3 per gallon while lighter fluid cost about $0.75 for a 4.5 oz can. That's about $21.00 per gallon. ( And the price has since gone outta sight ).