Restoration Work (Part 2)

Heat bluing steel watch hands

Last week I collected the Pierce watch hands in my inventory and set about restoring them to their former glory. The hands are carbon steel and have oxidized over the years so the first part of the restoration project was to clean and polish each hand. I started by knocking out the luminous compound from the large hour and minute hands then polishing each hand to a mirror finish using a Dremel tool and jeweler’s polish.

The next step in the process is to heat each of the hands in a bed of brass shavings until they reach  approximately six hundred degrees fahrenheit. It is at this temperature that the steel will take on a deep blue color.

I obtained some brass shavings via eBay as my work on the lathe has produced too few shavings to fill the need of this project. A cheap stainless steel spoon (probably from the Panera Bread restaurant down the road) will serve as the vessel for the shavings.

The tools in my desk just get more and more eclectic

I laid down a bed of shavings in the spoon and carefully set with tweezers the hands in the center of the bed. The brass shavings will help spread the heat across the hands to ensure an even finish but the hands must be impeccably clean or they will not receive a uniform blue from the heating process.

Hands ready to be heat treated

I had originally planned to do this over a the flame of a mineral lamp at my desk but opted for the gas range in the kitchen instead. This turned out to be a wise decision as the flame was much more intense and the bluing process was completed quickly.

I placed the spoon about an inch over the flames of the range (set to medium high) and within five minutes each hand had taken a deep blue color.

There is quite a strong flame here but it’s a bit camera shy
Minute hand after bluing

After the hands had sufficiently cooled I added luminous paint to the large hour and minute hands.

Hands are prepped for luminous painting
The first set of hands are painted and allowed to set

The entire process was not without incident however as one of the hour hands lost it’s tip in a polishing mishap.

The tip of the hour hand has broken off…

Once the luminous paint had set I realized I had a new problem. The hands look so good that the watch dials are going to look bad in comparison. I can live with this problem though.


Hour and minute hands blued and painted
All of the restored hands looking quite pretty

I still have a few Pierce watches that are missing hands so next week I’ll be working on producing replacements from thin sheets of brass and steel. It’s a job I expect to be much more challenging so I’m happy to take it on with boosted confidence!

Author: JPMoeller

Amateur watchmaker and California resident

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