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11-15-2019, 12:55 PM   #1
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re-lubed, but still stiff ... what next ?

Today I disassembled and cleaned the focusing helicoid on my Jupiter 9 rangefinder lens following a You Tube video. The lens had been extremely difficult to rotate for focus. I removed all the old grease using lighter fluid and cleaned all thread surfaces with alcohol. They came out perfectly clean and I didn't see any damage to the threads. I relubed the helical using "SuperLube", a synthetic grease (PTFE). Reassembly went fine and infinity was maintained.

While the lens is now able to focus freely, it is still a bit stiff doing so. I had been hoping for a nice smooth and buttery focus. The Jupiter 9 was made in 1969. Is this result all I can expect ? Is there something else I should have done or can do ? I don't mind giving it another try. It's a nice cold weather project.

Thanks for any help.

11-15-2019, 01:13 PM - 2 Likes   #2
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I don't know of SuperLube PTFE grease, but looking it up on Amazon, I see it's aimed at auto and truck maintenance. It's almost certainly too heavy and thick.

The type and viscosity of lubricant makes a huge difference to how a focusing mechanism feels. I generally use Helimax XP, which is designed for telescopes and lenses, and is incredibly light - almost like a light face cream to the touch. It also remains quite stable across a wide temperature range.

Prior to this I used to use a white zinc oxide marine grease, which worked fine on simpler focusing mechansims such as the Industar-50, but was too heavy for lenses like the Jupiter-9.

If you decide to re-lube your Jupiter-9 again, I'd recommend Helimax XP. Also, make sure you thoroughly clean both halves of the helicoid mechanism before adding the new lubricant... you want every last bit of old grease and dirt removed from the grooves (I use wooden cocktail sticks to do this, or the plastic toothpick from my Victorinox pocket knife). When you apply the new lubricant, wipe it around the the entire helicoid so that it sits in all of the grooves.

Good luck
11-15-2019, 01:18 PM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by zman Quote
I relubed the helical using "SuperLube", a synthetic grease (PTFE). Reassembly went fine and infinity was maintained.While the lens is now able to focus freely, it is still a bit stiff doing so. I had been hoping for a nice smooth and buttery focus. The Jupiter 9 was made in 1969. Is this result all I can expect ? Is there something else I should have done or can do ? I don't mind giving it another try.
Sounds like you are taking the necessary care in restoring the helicoid.

I've cleaned and re-lubed maybe a dozen lenses. Like you, I use 'SuperLube' as well as other synthetic greases. In my experience, it may take more than one attempt to achieve the right focus feel. Usually, the amount of grease and its application is critical.

On some lenses -- especially those with larger diameters or longer helicoid threads -- I found the right focus feel by applying grease thinly at only sections of the threads, say at 90-degree spacing, rather than coating the entire helicoid.

If it's any consolation, I re-lubed one of my Takumar lenses four times, using two different greases.

Edit: As @BigMackCam suggests, a grease that is designed for focusing mechanisms is generally preferred over generic synthetics such as SuperLube. IIRC, SuperLube has a viscosity rating of NLGI Grade 2 (normal weight), whereas special helicoid grease is generally lighter. Nonetheless, grease such as SuperLube can work fine, but might be more finicky with respect to its application. I've been meaning to order a small amount of helicoid grease myself.

- Craig

Last edited by c.a.m; 11-15-2019 at 02:18 PM. Reason: comment on BigMackCam's post
11-15-2019, 01:27 PM - 1 Like   #4
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"Stiffness" on lens movement is mostly a matter of personal preference. It is a function of the lens and the hardness of the grease.

If it is too "stiff" then use a softer grease. Hardness of grease is usually rated with a NLGI (National Lubricating Grease Institute) number from 000 to 6 (softer to harder). No. 2 is the most common.

I prefer using Helimax-XP, a PTFE based synthetic grease made specifically with for lens helecoids with a NLGI of 1. Many people find it too "soft" for their preferences but for me it is perfect.

Edit: It appears Super-Lube has a NLGI of 2. Give Helimax-XP a try. You should be able to find it on eBay or Amazon.

https://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/978/nlgi


Last edited by Not a Number; 11-15-2019 at 01:44 PM.
11-15-2019, 02:48 PM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by zman Quote
I relubed the helical using "SuperLube", a synthetic grease (PTFE). Reassembly went fine and infinity was maintained.
QuoteOriginally posted by BigMackCam Quote
I don't know of SuperLube PTFE grease, but looking it up on Amazon, I see it's aimed at auto and truck maintenance. It's almost certainly too heavy and thick.
Wrong lube. I use and strongly recommend a product called Helimax-XP, a lightweight lithium/PTFE lube formulated specifically for optical and fine instrument helicoids. It is distributed by a company called MicroLubrol. One can buy direct or through other vendors. Google is our friend.


MicroLubrol Helimax-XP Camera Lens Grease w/PTFE 2oz 57g


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11-15-2019, 03:40 PM - 1 Like   #6
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All good advice and nobody else went for the crude joke........
11-15-2019, 03:48 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by garywakeling Quote
All good advice and nobody else went for the crude joke........
And that's indicative of the quality of our forum. Anyone suggesting crude oil doesn't belong here.
11-15-2019, 04:10 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by garywakeling Quote
All good advice and nobody else went for the crude joke........
Pondering an answer all night I can tell yer !

11-15-2019, 04:30 PM - 2 Likes   #9
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Thank you for all the help , suggestions, and smiles from the comments. I re-cleaned the lens again and this time used only a very small amount of the "Super Lube" grease. Seems I used too much grease the first try and that was causing a problem on the finer threads of the helicoid. When I watched the You Tube video the author applied a pretty good coating of a dark green grease and I believed that to be the norm, not thinking about the viscosity of different products. I think I will order some Helimax XP for the next lens, but for now my Jupiter 9 is nice and smooth.

Again, I appreciate everyone's help.
11-15-2019, 04:55 PM   #10
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One additional point that might make you want to re-lube with Helimax -- it's specifically formulated for helicoids on sensitive equipment where "travel" is a problem. Sometimes it's good for a grease to work its way into all the cracks and corners, but on photographic equipment that usually means coating the iris blades/mechanism and making it stick. You may be fine esp in colder temperatures but just a friendly warning about the long-term health applying a grease designed for a different purpose.
11-15-2019, 05:52 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by garywakeling Quote
All good advice and nobody else went for the crude joke........

I'll admit It got a laugh out of me when I saw the thread title appear on the login page. my first thought was "I wonder where they will take this one"...I have to say I'm disappointed at how wholesome this thread is.

Last edited by Digitalis; 11-16-2019 at 05:48 PM.
11-15-2019, 06:27 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by fehknt Quote
One additional point that might make you want to re-lube with Helimax -- it's specifically formulated for helicoids on sensitive equipment where "travel" is a problem. Sometimes it's good for a grease to work its way into all the cracks and corners, but on photographic equipment that usually means coating the iris blades/mechanism and making it stick. You may be fine esp in colder temperatures but just a friendly warning about the long-term health applying a grease designed for a different purpose.
Yes, the potential issue of "travel" always should be considered when selecting greases.

Technically, greases are characterized by various properties, including oil separation and evaporation loss, amongst others. Lubricants are tested against standards and methods, for example, the ASTM International standards (formerly, American Society for Testing and Materials). Many manufacturers of lubricants publish technical data sheets, which list the results of their tests.

For example, the manufacturer of the Super Lube product line -- Synco -- provides a number of technical bulletins. Generally, they state that their Super Lube synthetic grease with PTFE "offers good mechanical stability, does not evaporate or form gummy deposits. It will not melt or separate. There is no Silicone in Super Lube..."

Similarly, MicroLubrol claims that Helimax-XP "has low seepage so it does not migrate and stays in place better than other [petroleum based] greases that tend to separate, especially at higher temperatures." However, it is not apparent that MicroLubrol publishes technical sheets for Helimax-XP, so it's difficult to compare it technically to other greases.

I'm not trying to promote one grease over another; Helimax-XP has been proven by many users, and it's frequently recommended, while Super Lube is also often mentioned in this context. I think Super Lube is popular because it's commonly available.

It seems to me that Helimax is similar to Super Lube in many respects: synthetic base; PTFE; no silicone; wide operating temperature range; low or negligible evaporation, separation, and seepage; low odor; and suitable for metal-to-metal contact. For larger lenses, the lower viscosity and damping properties of Helimax are probably better suited to helicoid lubrication than generic greases, which are typically not intended for damping applications. For smaller, lighter lenses, a normal synthetic lubricating grease such as Super Lube may be suitable, depending on its viscosity ('stiffness').

- Craig

Last edited by c.a.m; 11-15-2019 at 08:16 PM.
11-16-2019, 01:40 PM   #13
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The title of this thread sounds a lot like myself these days.
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