Helpful Posts Helpful Posts:  0
Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Shoreham-by-Sea
    Posts
    144
    Real Name
    Christopher

    PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head

    After a long shared voyage through time, I noticed that the rails on my faithful BPM bellows and the ball of the Manfrotto head were 'catching' ever so slightly, and wondered what I could do about it. There did seem to be some kind of grease on the Manfrotto ball, in which particles had involved themselves, while the bellows rails had signs of superficial corrosion here and there. I wiped a smear of the Manfrotto goop onto a microscope slide, and found it to contain two sorts of inclusions - graphite particles, and other irregular objects including silica, hair fragments, and cells that were probably shed human skin.

    I flushed out the joint with paint thinner, followed by methylated spirits, until I was satisfied that all the dirty grease was gone, but this left me with the problem of what best to replace it with. I didn't want to replace one lot of grease with another to act as flypaper for micro particulates, so I thought to try pure PTFE powder alone.

    My first attempt was not a success. The PTFE powder came in a little puffer, and fine though the dust was, it wasn't fine enough to get between the ball and the socket of the Manfrotto 168, and was even more useless on the BPM bellows rails.

    There are dozens of different PTFE lubricants out there, many having PTFE only as an additive to an oil-based lubricant. At last I found one that contained nothing but micronized PTFE in a highly volatile base that would evaporate in seconds leaving a very thin film of PTFE behind it.

    I applied a couple of quick squirts of "Tefluibe" to the Manfrotto ball, worked the socket for a few seconds to spread the film, gave it another quick squirt for luck, and that was it. All 'catching' gone without recourse to noxious greases, which will always try to leave their rightful place and make their presence felt where they are least wanted.

    Back to the BPM bellows rails, I attacked the superficial spots of surface corrosion with ordinary toothpaste, rubbing it round and round for a few minutes with a small piece of sponge until the corrosion was gone and all was shiny and smooth. A couple of squirts of "Teflube" on the rails, and the bellows moved backwards and forwards just as smoothly as they did when I first bought them more than 30 years ago. Success!

    PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head

  2. #2
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    12,356
    Real Name
    Manfred Mueller

    Re: PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head

    One thing to do now is to monitor for corrosion.

    While you may not like the grease, it does something more than lubricate; it provides a thin, air-tight coating that keeps steel from rusting. Now that you have removed the grease through a combination of solvents and abrasive (i.e. the toothpaste), you may find that your rails and cup and ball assembly will start rusting. That could end up creating a worse problem than the one you have tried to solve. The teflon spray you have used does not sound like it has any additives that might help in that regard.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Shoreham-by-Sea
    Posts
    144
    Real Name
    Christopher

    Re: PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head

    Thank you, Manfred, for your input. The BPM bellows has never had any kind of lubricant, so I have no concern over having removed superficial corrosion from its stainless steel rails. If I should notice the formation of any oxide layer on the Manfrotto ball, I will stick a small spot of lithium grease on it.

    I visited the former BPM premises in Norway Street, Portslade-on-Sea, just a few days ago, and took a picture of it. A man and a woman from the house next door came out and asked why I was photographing their car. This misunderstanding aside, I learned that the extension to the front of the building was historically recent, and that the owner of the lean-to on the side of the factory hadn't been seen for seven years. "People disappear all the time, nowadays," the woman told me. She asked me if I thought any other sightseers would be coming to look at the factory, and I said I didn't think it very likely.

    PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head
    Last edited by Brocken; 9th August 2012 at 05:00 PM.

  4. #4
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    12,356
    Real Name
    Manfred Mueller

    Re: PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head

    The BPM bellows has never had any kind of lubricant, so I have no concern over having removed superficial corrosion from its stainless steel rails. If I should notice the formation of any oxide layer on the Manfrotto ball, I will stick a small spot of lithium grease on it.
    Christopher - if the rails had corrosion on them, it is quite likely that the rods are not corrosion resistant (a.k.a. stainless) steel. While it is possible to get stainless to rust, those conditions are unlikely to occur in any environment you had them stored in. More than likely your rails are chrome plated and the rust is popping through areas where the plating has worn off; as this is a fairly common material in photo gear.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Shoreham-by-Sea
    Posts
    144
    Real Name
    Christopher

    Re: PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Christopher - if the rails had corrosion on them, it is quite likely that the rods are not corrosion resistant (a.k.a. stainless) steel. While it is possible to get stainless to rust, those conditions are unlikely to occur in any environment you had them stored in. More than likely your rails are chrome plated and the rust is popping through areas where the plating has worn off; as this is a fairly common material in photo gear.
    In the case of the bellows rails, which are certainly made of stainless steel, I believe the superficial corrosion - which I would estimate to have been in the micron range - was caused by localized de-passivation. If any of your gloomy prognostications come true, I'll re-passivate in the conventional way using nitric acid, and examine the work with a metallurgical microscope, though I am very far from expecting such an outcome!

  6. #6
    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    12,356
    Real Name
    Manfred Mueller

    Re: PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head

    Quote Originally Posted by Brocken View Post
    In the case of the bellows rails, which are certainly made of stainless steel, I believe the superficial corrosion - which I would estimate to have been in the micron range - was caused by localized de-passivation. If any of your gloomy prognostications come true, I'll re-passivate in the conventional way using nitric acid, and examine the work with a metallurgical microscope, though I am very far from expecting such an outcome!
    If you are certain that they are stainless, the only other reason for rust would be contamination during the manufacturing process. I've seen instances where tiny particles of carbon steel contaminant have been embedded in stainless parts from the machining process. In that case, chances of anything worse than you have already seen are fairly negligible; cleaning and a hot acid dip somehow seem a bit of overkill, but it would work.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Shoreham-by-Sea
    Posts
    144
    Real Name
    Christopher

    Re: PTFE Dry Lubrication for Bellows and ball head

    If my ball head seizes up with great barnacles of rust, and the bellow rails fall assunder into dust, I shall only have myself to blame, Manfred!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •