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Ultrasonic - Heat or No Heat?

What is the advantage to purchasing an ultrasonic cleaner with heat
vs a less expensive one without heat? And what is the smallest
functional size?

I’m a jewelry/gemology student at Minneapolis Community and
Technical College - have two semesters left. I’m setting up a home
studio - in my basement - and am finding this a very expensive
undertaking. I’ve been looking at polishers, ultrasonic cleaners,
steamers, torches, etc., and am shocked by how much I could spend.
Any tips on starting out cheaply?

Thanks - this is a fantastic resource!

Nancy, I personally could not live without heat in my ultrasonic. Not
only does the heat help remove polishing compounds, it can help when
using solvents to break down adhesives, and many other uses.

However, a steam cleaner can be used to quickly but temporarily
raise the temperature of the sonic by simply connecting a length of
oxygen hose to the nozzle of the steam cleaner and placing the other
end deep into the tank and steaming the solution. Kind of like
frothing milk for a cappuccino. Just be careful, the hose will get
hot fast.

I have seen this method used in a sizable trade shop over a period
of several years but I have no idea if it has any ill effect on the
machine. If it does I’m sure someone will jump in and explain.

John Sholl
Littleton, Co

  What is the advantage to purchasing an ultrasonic cleaner with
heat vs a less expensive one without heat?  And what is the
smallest functional size?" 

Heat is good to have If you have a machine without heat dont be
disappointed you can buy a drop in coffee cup warmer from a travel
store for a few dollars and it works well.

I worked in a jewelry store and every morning we would turn on the
coffee machine, steam cleaner and the Heat for the Ultrasonic
Cleaner. This way you start off with a warm solution and it is good
if you will use it through out the day. Now I sell equipment & our
Sales Figures show that the 1/2 gallon machine is the most popular
and outsells the second best by 3:1. That is because there are more
store owners and retailers than manufacturing jewelers. The ideal
and most economical size is the 3/4 gallon. We find experinced
jewelers usually tend to buy the 3/4 gallon machines on the second
time around.

Nancy: An unheated ultrasonic is an effective tool. It will clean
most items placed in it. Heated ultrasonic have one advantage in
that a hot solution will generally clean more efficiently when the
soil is either fatty , waxy or soapy. Most polishing compounds are
based in wax, fat, or soap. The size you need is based on the size of
the pieces you are cleaning or the volume of work you expect to clean
at one time. If you check e-bay you will find that some of the small
"watch and jewelry cleaners" that sell for $100.00 or less are not a
bad buy …BUT you do have to consider them as disposable when
they cease to function. These little units can be a very effective
cleaning tool. Ideal for one or two pieces at a time. I use one to
clean dental handpieces when they come here for repair, and we use
the components from one manufacture to make a special unit for DNA
research laboratories. There are some good ultrasonic cleaners
available on e-bay, however, you are taking a bit of a gamble as to
the useful lifetime of the used machine. The “buy it now” machines
offered on e-bay, are generally priced at 10-15% over wholesale and
can be considered a pretty good bargain. Shop around at the various
jewelry supply companies and then check e-bay and your pocket to
decide what you want to buy.

Mike & Dale, Lone Star Technical Service

Dear Nancy, several small cleaners are available such as one made by
NEY suitable for small quantities of small items. Generally, the
small ultrasonic cleaners do not supply heat. Such a cleaner is
available for under $100 US.

The trick in getting a small clener is finding one which is true
ultrasonics, producing the cavitation needed for effective cleaning.
Some cleaners called “sonic” and offered to the public for home
cleaning of jewelry are not ultrasonic and cleaning efficiency
suffers greatly. As for size, that depends on the sizes and number
of items to be cleaned at a session. In my experience, size is not
so important as the “cleaning power” of the machine. This is often
listed as “watts” and comparisons may be made between different
cleaners in a similar price range.

Heat is a help is gaining speed in cleaning. A small heatless
cleaner will do the job given enough time using a good cleaning
solution made for ultrasonics. In my experience, the cleaning
times can be much longer with the unheated solution.

In my business, heat is sometimes a detriment. For safety with
certain gems and items, heat is not desired. In such a case I use a
seperate beaker of solution, room temperature. The beaker is placed
in the heated cleaner tank and will slowly heat up but adequate
cleaning is done with the item protected from sudden temperature
change. This obvioulsy requires a tank large enough for a beaker to
be inserted and there you get into the machines in the several
hundred dollar range.

There is an easy way to handl individual items requiring a different
cleaner, such as removing a “fingernail polish” mask from a plated
item or removing dop wax from a stone or item. Place the item in a
leak-proof plastic baggie with the solution(alcohol for dop wax, for
example). Place this in the cleaner tank and the cavitation action
is transmitted through the bag and cleaning is done effectively.

Most supply houses offer the smaller cleaners. You might want to
contact them to be sure the cleaner is true ultrasonics if not
clearly stated in the literature. I hope this helps a tiny bit!

T. Haynes. professional jeweler.

I used one of the small cheap ultra-sonics for many years. No
heater, but I found the solution heated itself anyway from the
ultrasonic action if left running for a while (5 min.?)!

Janet in Jerusalem

I am currently operating on a very small scale and budget myself. I
would suggest that a steam cleaner is not a high priority as you set
up your first studio. I don’t have an ultrasonic myself and I would
only consider one with heat if I were to buy one. Your first
priorities should be a bench, a torch, a flexible shaft machine and
hand tools. You might try using the more expensive equipment at your
school until the course is finished and then see which pieces of
equipment you can’t go without. Don’t be stingy when you do decide to
buy a tool. You could end up buying the tool again if you buy a cheap
one at first. When I began working on my own, I adapted my designs to
suit my tools. As I was able to afford more tools, my designs
expanded. Good luck.

Natasha Wozniak

T. Hayes,

 size is not so important as the "cleaning power" of the machine. 
This is often listed as "watts" and comparisons may be made
between different cleaners in a similar price range. 

The ultrasonics can’t be compared by watts alone. First, all sonic
manufacturers do not rate the wattages the same. They all play a
game so they can put the highest watt rating on the unit. This may
be peak, average or several others and the way they come up with
these ratings can be different. Don’t count on getting the best unit
by looking for wattage. If that were the case everyone that bought
an L&R or an Alcar Ind. would be happy - NOT.

As I’ve stated many times before in this group, actual cleaning
ability and action throughout the tank is more important than
wattage. You won’t be able to get this kind of from a
sales person when you call. You need to talk to a person that works
on all makes and models of ultrasonics to get a good answer or to a
jeweler that has gone through many different sonics and has found
the best brand.

Again look in the archives for info about ultrasonics. And feel free
to contact me for more info.

Ken Kotoski
MPG Repair

Dear All, There is a company in Chula Vista,Cal. Freidhiem tool
co., lowest priced steam cleaner I have seen. It was $399. It uses
"dry" steam, and They advertize that you can steam trays of rings
without damaging the tray. I have a traditional one, and I bought a
second as a back up in case something happens to the one I regularly
use. Richard in Denver