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Pinno's DIY wax chain lube experiment blog

pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
edited January 2019 in Workshop
I'm getting a bit bored of this whole chain/transmission cleaning malarkey, It's getting tedious: strip everything down, clean it, oil/lube it and pedal anything between 35 and 100 miles and it's black. So what do you do? You wipe the chain and you re-lube and you go out pedalling and you come back and repeat this process ad infinitum until you resign yourself to the full strip down and start all over again.

Then I stumbled on the 'Oz Cycle' series of short, articulate and persuasive video's on Youtube; the DIY waxing and lubrication method. Wax the chain in a hot bath of wax and paraffin and make some lube using those two elements and some Xylene. Xylene for the uninitiated is a thinner, most often used in the automotive industry.

Have a look yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF9nbwsaSHs
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D12BFIXZCes

So the first part of this blog was simply waxing the chain. Well, I have a chain cleaner - the brush type and I have bought far too much Muc-off to care to remember yet tot up the cost. Previously, I have boiled chains and soaked them and used all manner of cleaners and decided to go back to plain old petrol.

So, with the last half bottle of Muc-off, I filled the chain cleaner and ran it through. Indeed, it came out black, then another fill and then another fill with an intervening clean of the brush cleaner itself between each stage. I wiped the chain clean. It looked clean. It felt clean but I took it off anyway and I put it into a tub with petrol and... the chain turned the petrol black with a short agitation of the tub. So I repeated the process with petrol adding the cassette, the jockey wheels, the quick links.
I ran petrol through the lot until the petrol was virtually clear. Total volume of petrol? Perhaps 500ml, or 60 pence.

[For the environmentally conscious - my school of thought is that if I can lube and clean the chain less often the better and the resulting 'effluent' goes into an old petrol can which I will use for agricultural purposes. Without this, take the 'effluent' to your local recycling facility and chuck it in with old engine oil or dig a hole in a remote part of the garden.].

Armed with my Xylene, a large candle and some pure paraffin (for lamps), I weighed 200 grams of candle and 200 ml's of paraffin, melted the wax and then added the paraffin.

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Now with a 1:1 ratio in mind, comparing 200 grams of a hard wax to be melted and 200 ml's of paraffin is slightly spurious but it's starting point. The wax/paraffin mix needs to be in between sludgy and hard when cold. So, regularly dipping a knife into my SS pot to test the consistenty (don't worry, it's all very easy to clean off and the OH is at work) by cooling it quickly under the tap. It does not wash off, it sticks like censored to the proverbial.
I added paraffin (whilst still hot and on the lowest setting of my induction hob) until I achieved the correct consistency.

[I strongly suggest that you do not do this on a gas cooker].

Then I put the clean chain in which was incidentally washed in boiling water and left to dry to remove any trace of the petrol.
I left this in the wax for a good 15+ mins. Bubbles started appearing immediately. This is good as this means that the lubricant is getting deep into the chain. I was surprised at the length of time even with agitation using a hook made from a coat hanger (yes, just like in the video) the bubbles kept coming. That made me think just how much you need to concentrate on getting the lube of whatever type deep into the pins and rollers. This is where the over lubrication can occur and probably something we are all guilty of and which is exacerbating the problem of grunge accumulation and the attraction of dirt.

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I removed the chain when the bubbles stopped appearing using my DIY hook and wiped it clean with a cloth.
I put the chain on the bike and put the quick links on after it cooled. The quick links had been dipped in the W/P momentarily.
My initial reaction was just how clean the process of putting the chain back on is and of course, that initial instinct of wanting to lube the chain after assembly had to be over ridden.
It took perhaps 10 rotations of the cranks with the bike on the work stand and then it went as quiet as any good strip down and re-lube. If anything, it's quieter and smoother and quite surprising given the physical feel of the chain and the lack of an oily residue.

I have used the winter bike with crud catchers removed as my test bike so I will use it intermittently over the next few months and see how practical the whole process is. I have yet to make some lubricant using the Xylene but that will be next.
The proof will be in the long term use and i'll keep posting an update.

As you can see, it's quite an old chain so I will probably get a better idea of it's efficiency and merit more than say a newish one.

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So far, so good and simpler than I thought. It's also a remarkably clean process. I hope I can be confident of the fact that the lubricant is deep in the rollers and will offer a smoother, cleaner transmission for longer.
seanoconn - gruagach craic!
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Posts

  • Garry HGarry H Posts: 6,639
    State of that C40!

    Can't be arsed reading any of that. Did it work? If so, send me some.
  • SMESME Posts: 348
    Garry H wrote:
    State of that C40!

    Can't be arsed reading any of that. Did it work? If so, send me some.

    He's been practicing some alchemy, boiling stuff in a pot, and practices this art when the OH is out!
    He never mentions if you have to sing 'hubble bubble, toil and trouble'.

    In seriousness, it does look like a lot of toil, but if it lasts a while, gives smoother gear changes, and the transmission lasts longer, I'll give it a go too. I'm using some lubricant with PTFE or such in it - clean and quite, but has to be applied very regularly, so not overly keen on it. Waiting to see how this turns out.
  • pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
    SME wrote:
    Garry H wrote:
    State of that C40!

    Can't be arsed reading any of that. Did it work? If so, send me some.

    In seriousness, it does look like a lot of toil...

    Well, is it? If you are doing a full strip down, you will still have to go through the process of taking the transmission apart and cleaning it - especially the chain.
    The other thing is, I have made up a sufficient quantity of solution (appro. 600 ml) that all I need to do is reheat it gently and put the clean chain in it. I won't have to lubricate the chain afterwards and wipe the excess off either.
    Whilst the chain is soaking in the hot W/P, I can be reassembling the cassette, rear mech. etc.
    By the looks of it, there will be enough solution to do the chain 20-30 times (as long as there is sufficient depth to immerse the chain).

    After my first ride, i'll assess it and see if it needs the home made lubricant. It will be interesting to see how clean it stays and for how long once I have applied some DIY lubricant. I presume that the Muc off wet lube's being a wax base will be pretty similar to the home made stuff so the point where you apply the liquid lubricant will be the point where I may or may not see a difference to what I have done before.

    As for the state of the C40 - it's my winter bike and it's at least 20 years old Gazza.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • Garry HGarry H Posts: 6,639
    You don't deserve it. Swap it for a cat?
  • shortfallshortfall Posts: 3,287
    What mileage are you getting out of chains and cassettes on your regular maintenance regime Pinno?
  • pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
    Shortfall wrote:
    What mileage are you getting out of chains and cassettes on your regular maintenance regime Pinno?

    Winter bike, a little more than 2000, summer bike about 2500 to 3000. The roads around here are filthy in winter and TBH, I haven't been totally diligent in maintaining the winter bike. It gets rinsed of all the mud and chucked in a dry cupboard behind the storage heater after a ride. Not so inclined to clean it so much in winter.
    When I move, I am going to have my own man cave and a bit more space for fettling and the girls are gradually getting older and needing slightly less attention. :D
    Not sure about the cassettes as most of them have been second hand recently. The Ambrosio cassette was new (Shimano splines, Campag spacing) is holding up pretty well. I have had it 4 winters. I reckon that's about 5000 miles old and in good condition.

    The cost is not my concern so much, it's the maintenance that I find a pig. Been doing it 30 + years.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • Garry HGarry H Posts: 6,639
    Looks like a real man's cassette you've got there. What is it, 11-23?

    I do as little maintenance as i can get away with. Bosch powerwasher for the frame, rag and WD40 for the drivetrain.
  • pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
    Garry H wrote:
    Looks like a real man's cassette you've got there. What is it, 11-23?

    12-25
    Garry H wrote:
    I do as little maintenance as i can get away with. Bosch powerwasher for the frame, rag and WD40 for the drivetrain.

    Given your origins, I understand. Be wary though; WD40 is not much of a lubricant.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • Garry HGarry H Posts: 6,639
    I only use it to clean the chain. Spray some onto a rag, then turn the cranks with the rag held around the chain. Then use a clean rag, then add lube.

    So the idea of the wax based stuff is that you don't need to degrease the chain, is that right?
  • pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
    Garry H wrote:
    I only use it to clean the chain. Spray some onto a rag, then turn the cranks with the rag held around the chain. Then use a clean rag, then add lube.

    So the idea of the wax based stuff is that you don't need to degrease the chain, is that right?

    There's no grease to de-grease! I know what you are saying but the idea is less maintenance, a cleaner chain over a longer period of time as opposed to the conventional lubrication of the chain. Yes, I will have to clean the chain and repeat the process but the interval could be theoretically longer.
    I will lubricate the chain as normal but with the DIY lube until it goes black (as normal) and see a) how easy it is to clean and b) how often I have to do a full strip.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • Garry HGarry H Posts: 6,639
    How do your chains go black? Don't they go orange, like mine?
  • k-dogk-dog Posts: 1,652
    I tried that last year and at first I loved it. Super quiet and super clean - but I had 2 problems.

    1. Any rain and I got superficial rust soon after - doesn't seem to have good protective properties.

    2. I did mine in a slow cooker, let it cool a bit then hung up the chain to cool down before putting it on my bike. I found it really hard not to twist the chain and then it would slip in certain gears. Couldn't stop it so I replaced the chain and it's been perfect since - with regular lube.

    I'm tempted to try again for the summer though because it was so clean but the slipping made me lose confidence. I still struggle to get out the saddle because I landed on the top tube a couple of times.
    I'm left handed, if that matters.
  • fudgeyfudgey Posts: 854
    Sounds like you have a lot of time on your hands ha!

    Imo i would have thought with wax once say a roller has made contact with the inside of the link it would kind of scrape it off no?

    Fwiw last year at a 24h mtb even i bought some TFL ceramic wet lube and a bottle of the dry wax. The dry wax lasts maybe one ride and the wet lube makes the drive gear black and oily as buggery.

    Nearly used all the wet lube and shan't be buying any more, then ill use up the dry stuff and wont buy any more of that either.

    Also my winter bike has done over 3k miles on the 105 chain and cassette with no problems, ill fix it when it breaks.
    I do clean it if its gotten really wet and relube, but have maybe degreased the cassette and chain 3 times on it. It still works.
    My winter bike is exactly the same as my summer bike,,, but dirty...
  • fudgeyfudgey Posts: 854
    Just watched a bit of the videos, ol Bruce says to redo it ever 300km, i cant be arsed with that. Yes oil is messy but it lasts longer than that.
    My winter bike is exactly the same as my summer bike,,, but dirty...
  • pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
    k-dog wrote:
    I'm tempted to try again for the summer though because it was so clean but the slipping made me lose confidence. I still struggle to get out the saddle because I landed on the top tube a couple of times.

    Points noted. I like my top tube, it's handy and I don't intend damaging it with my testicles.

    Surely the slipping was caused by a worn out chain or bad adjustment and not the wax lubricant? I can't see why it would slip as opposed to regular lubricant.
    We'll see. It might be better in summer. I won't have an overall opinion until I have used it for while.

    Ozzie 'Bruce' lives in a dry country so...
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
    Fudgey wrote:
    Sounds like you have a lot of time on your hands ha!

    Anything but. A 4 yr old and a 6 yr old plus work and the OH doing shifts.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • k-dogk-dog Posts: 1,652
    No, I bought 2 brand new chains for this with a new cassette.

    The first time I did it I hung the chain in a loop and with it being hot maybe it bent one link. When you rotated it slowly it kicked very slightly and if you hung the chain up you could see it twist about half a turn down its length.

    I didn't touch anything when I put the new chain on and it stopped so not an adjustment issue.
    I'm left handed, if that matters.
  • ugo.santaluciaugo.santalucia Posts: 26,441
    Seems a lot of work to solve a problem that doesn't exist... friend of mine tried something similar for a while and rambled on about it... he also got to the point of adding graphite by grinding a pencil with sandpaper... I think he has given up now

    I have always used 10-20 drops of generic oil (the one that is in the garage at the time) on a chain wiped with a rag and never had any problem with lubrication, chain life or anything like it
  • pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
    Hmm... Initial reaction to a short 35 miler was that I think my mix needed a bit of tinkering. It is silky smooth and it over compensates for any other pitfalls or possible problems. It was a tad 'dry'.
    So I elected to take the chain off, clean it in petrol and add a bit more wax to the W/P mix. I must say that one wash in roughly 200mls petrol was more than enough. It was a very dusty, windy ride yet the petrol came out so clean, I chucked it back in the can.
    This time, like one other poster had done, I waited for the chain to go cold before wiping it. That could have been the difference but adding 30 grams more wax to 600ml's solution isn't going to make a huge difference one way or the other.

    I have to bear in mind that the Ambrosia cassette is not the smoothest and I wish they had made it better quality as it is a great idea, allowing me to use Shimano wheels on a Campag drive train without a shift mate. However, the silkyness of the drive train made the shifting just a fraction smoother.

    I also took the plunge and did the summer bike. In for a penny, in for a pound as they say.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • k-dogk-dog Posts: 1,652
    My mix was way thicker than that - even when fully melted it was like syrup.

    I used pellets - something like 4:1 paraffin wax to beeswax. Read somewhere that that was a good ratio.
    I'm left handed, if that matters.
  • meanredspidermeanredspider Posts: 12,337
    I tried that wax stuff that comes in a bottle when I was in Amsterdam - mostly because there was a much greater risk of getting lubricant on me when I was carrying the bike up the stupidly steep and narrow stairs or on the apartment floor. My Dutch mate in the LBS raved about it.

    It worked well when it was dry but disappeared really quickly in the wet. On the positive side, I met Marianne Vos on the event I was doing because we were both searching for chain lube.

    I'm with Ugo on this, though. Which probably means my chain gets Mobil 1 10W-60 fully synthetic - that or some cheap Halfords stuff I put in the boys' Punto.
    ROAD < Scott Foil HMX Di2, Volagi Liscio Di2, Jamis Renegade Elite Di2, Cube Reaction Race > ROUGH
  • pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
    I have been down the route I even used Chainsaw oil. I figured it works in really tough conditions. The Chains saw oil and the 40w10 was okay but you got to admit , it's one hell of a clean up when you strip it down.
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • lesfirthlesfirth Posts: 1,203
    Pinno wrote:
    I have been down the route I even used Chainsaw oil. I figured it works in really tough conditions. The Chains saw oil and the 40w10 was okay but you got to admit , it's one hell of a clean up when you strip it down.
    I tried chainsaw oil. Everything sticks to it. It turned into grinding paste in no time. Another bad idea.
  • ballysmateballysmate Posts: 15,628
    First off, I'm not a cyclist, I'm a bloke who rides a bike and casts envious glances at proper cyclists with shiny chains.
    I needed a new chain and cassette and thought I'd give wax a go.
    I bought a 10 quid rice cooker from Asda and some paraffin wax.
    I cleaned my new chain with white spirits and meths

    https://moltenspeedwax.com/pages/clean-your-chain

    Cooked my chain in the molten wax for 15-20 mind and can't believe how smooth and quiet it is.
    The idea is that every couple of hundred miles the chain will get cooked and any dirt slips to the bottom of the pot and new wax is applied.
    I hope it continues to work as it seems brilliant. No more oily hands for a start. :D
  • itboffinitboffin Posts: 19,964
    wow that's too much hard work for 2000 miles of use, i keep my drive chain clean with the odd shake in white spirits and a wipe down after every ride, i'm getting 5000+ easy
    Rule #5 // Harden The censored Up.
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
    Rule #12 // The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
    Rule #42 // A bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run.
  • ballysmateballysmate Posts: 15,628
    itboffin wrote:
    wow that's too much hard work for 2000 miles of use, i keep my drive chain clean with the odd shake in white spirits and a wipe down after every ride, i'm getting 5000+ easy

    Once the initial cleaning to get rid of all lube, no cleaning required. Just lob it in the pot and have a brew. 20 mins later, put it back on.
  • k-dogk-dog Posts: 1,652
    That's why I did 2 chains - all the other pfaff is cleaning them (ultrasonic bath etc) and then when you want to change it I had one waiting then had about a month to do the wax thing so it was ready for duty.
    I'm left handed, if that matters.
  • jermasjermas Posts: 484
    I use a similar hot dip wax, but it contains graphite and oil. It's certainly not sparkly clean, but that's not the reason I use it.
    What's great about it is, in summer it lasts 1000 miles (at least) between re-waxes. Also compared to oil, chain wear/cassette wear is dramatically reduced.
    It lasts well in the rain too, but I still swap to oil in winter due to rust and having to re-wax more frequently.

    If you want your home-brew wax to last longer and stick better try adding microcrystalline wax to the mixture. It's more durable/flexible that straight paraffin wax and also holds oil better.
  • pinnopinno Posts: 42,696
    What oil do you add jermas and do you lubricate between the waxing and if so, what lubrication do you use?
    seanoconn - gruagach craic!
  • jermasjermas Posts: 484
    Adding oil to the mix will make it softer and therefore longer lasting. The negative will be, it won't be as clean looking if that's what you're after.
    I used heavy weight mineral oil (steam oil) and no extra lube between waxing.

    Since you've already added lamp oil, maybe you don't need any additional oil?
    Also I'd be very careful heating your mix-It looks highly flammable!
    Lastly it's not really necessary to clean the chain so much between waxing- just wipe/dunk.
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