Removal of Radium Paint from Vintage Watch Dial

A simple demonstration of removing radium from an enamel dial

First of all, of course, there are precautions that must be taken. When the watch is without its glass cover, radioactive dust can fall from it, causing the possibility of food contamination or inhalation into the raspatory tract which is very dangerous. It is vital that the watch should be housed in an airtight bag.

It is also very important that the dial is kept intact, it is easy to ruin the enamel when scraping the radium paint from it! When removing the radium, movements must be careful, thoughtful, and calm.

This is a dial from a military watch – the case has been lost and only the mechanism survives, but we will make it into a wristwatch. Initially, the background radiation from the dial was 908 microrentgen, and 250 microrentgen from the hands.

The dial and hands are carefully removed from the mechanism. All operations on the watch are carried out under water in order to avoid any inhalation of radium dust. After letting it rest in the water for about 3 – 5 minutes, the paint will start to soften.

While holding the dial down carefully using one finger, it is imperative that rubber gloves are worn. With a sharpened wooden stick, the radium paint is gently scraped from the dial. This step should not be rushed – you must always take your time, and the main thing to remember is not to press hard, and instead use light, gentle movements.

The radium paint comes off easily in the water. The hands are also cleaned under the water, and then rinsed using gasoline. Then everything is rinsed with running water and washed with liquid soap and a cotton swab.

Here we have the clean dial – very, beautiful, and with zero radiation. A new, safe paint such as the Superluminova type can now be applied, or the dial can be left as it is.

Attention! All rags, sticks, paper, etc. used must be immediately thrown away! Radium can also be absorbed under the nails, so hands must be protected with rubber gloves at all times.

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More examples of radioactive watch restorations:

Hanhart Luftwaffe Pilot Service Chronograph

Arsa D German Military Watch

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