Cleaning Lights


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How often do your shows pull down all the lights and really clean them out?

For the first time that I know of in three years we have begun the process of cleaning all our lights with watered down ammonia, soft shop cloths, and an air compressor.

Any experiences or tips from you all to share?
wemeck said:
How often do your shows pull down all the lights and really clean them out?

For the first time that I know of in three years we have begun the process of cleaning all our lights with watered down ammonia, soft shop cloths, and an air compressor.

Any experiences or tips from you all to share?

We do a complete full cleaning of every instrument once a year..takes about a full week to do. All units are blown out with air, completely disassembled, cleaned, lenses and reflectors checked and cleaned, all shutters get pulled out and hammered flat if there is any warping, and then reassembled and "lubed" with graphite powder & blown out, the electrics & wiring are checked, repaired and plugs changed or tightened up--all bases are cleaned of oxidation and lubed with Cramolin paste. The pins on each plug get cleaned and scored with a wire brush, and separated if needed. Any other major repairs the unit needs are done at this time. The c-Clamps are checked for bending and stress cracks and replaced, or the square bolt & lock bolt run to check all threads, then get lubed & repaint the whole clamp. The safety chains are checked for slippage of the nicopress or dangerous crimping and fraying of wire and painted--any replacements are done at this time. The yokes and hinge area's have the washers replaced if needed, and all lock bolts & T handles are loosened from any over tightening and then reset to balance. Then the fixture is reassembled completely, lamped & benched. If we paint the units--we cook them for about an hour (only use high-temp paint). We then mark the fixture to our codes--9's, 12', etc,. When done--the fixture is like-new.

During the year the fixtures get blown out every few months with compressed air..but there is only one time a year where we can do a full cleaning of every I said--takes about a full week.

At work all lights are cleaned, painted, instpected and bench focused before they leave for any show. This would include cleaning the lenses reflector and lamp, paint as needed, blowing them out, and any repairs needed. Than after it's done, each light is focused at the lime green ceiling - don't ask, and bench focused at a range of about 20'.

We dont' use as in depth a prep as Wolfe uses, but ours is more of a general prep than a maintinence call and before each show. With other stuff such as the comfounded Cyc lights or 5,000w Fresnels that are like a load stone around my neck, the inspection is usually a bit more in depth as a prep but only because they all need re-wireing and I just don't have time for them unless they absolutely need it. If you are able to handle and test each light before it gets used, such a rigerous testing program probably is not going to be necessary. It would be good but not feasable to do it as well.

That's for gear that is taken down and set up for every show with a large budget to repair what is going bad as opposed to what is bad and high prep standards - or at least as high as you can get with say around 60 Lekos per show going out with tree people and 6 hours to prep and service them. At around $15 to $25.00 per hour for a stage hand to do a on-site service call to our fixtures, it's much better to do it at the shop before it leaves the building and while the gear can ge factory quality repairs. This is not theater however unless you have time, fixtures coming down after each show and budget to repair what might go bad.

For theater, I used to de-hang the stuff and at least give a similar prep to each but that was my situation. In a larger house, I would hope that all gear comes down as with Wolfe, at least once if not twice a year for at least a minor service call and cleaning. It also depends upon how much dust and fog you theater has. In a smaller theater and one that has people on stage cutting lumber or large smoke effects, you might need at least two preps per year just to get rid of the scum that will get on your lighting equipment. We built on stage however so the lights were better off coming down between shows anyway.

In a old house that's made of brick where the lime from it seems to be just getting everywhere, it might be wise for at least a blow off of the lights and some oil where needed to prevent rust. If so intensive a maintinence program isn't feasable, perhaps just equipping people with knowledge on the fixtures and a rag to clean lenses with would suffice to make sure that the equipment is in good shape and the lenses are clean each time they are touched.

It all depends upon the theater space and your program. Certainly a good inspection to the best ability your program is able to do would be worth it at least once a year, or at least paying a professional lighting company to do a service call on your equipment would pay off in keeping a functional inventory. Or better yet, ship your lights to them so the maintinence can be done in a place that has ready access to spare parts and upgrades. It would also be cheaper that way. This for Lekos would be good, but should be done at least once a year also and especially for the dimmers and light board.

"Cramolin paste" barbaric. I use McMaster Carr parts:
7437k15 Electrical Contact Cleaner w. Lubricant 16oz. Spray

7509a74 3M #2141 Rubber/Neoprene Adheasive, 1qt.

7509A72 3M #1300 Rubber/Metal Adhesive 5oz.

1347k16 11oz. WD-40 Lubricant

11615k55 Wood Working Table and Tool Surface Lubricant 10.3/4oz Aerosol

34645k83 General Purpose Cleaner/Degreaser 28-oz Trigger Spray

1202k43 Tri-Flow Teflon® Lubricant/Penetrant 2-Ounce Squeeze Bottle

1233k12 11oz. Liquid Wrench Penetrant

as many of my primary compounds especially the Contact Cleaner. It's officially not rated for the heat, but I use it on up to and including 5,000w Fresnel lamp bases and pins. That's a lot of heat. In other words, spray some on, it acts like a de-oxidant, with lubricant, but isn't as greasy a coating on the parts to collect dust. It takes the heat, and seemingly the lubricant is still there to avail the parts to move after super heated.
A year plus with use in the exclusion of other types of paste or de-oxidant and so far no problems. Good easy stuff to use.

The Cleaner/Degreaser works really well to remove oil from fresh steel or more important it's used to clean fog goo off equipment without leaving a noticable residue. Good stuff, try them.

For glue, we use plyobond from the same catalog for general purpose adhesive especially for glueing together frayed fibeglass sleves on Lekos, and the 3M #1300 for adhering repairs to rubber or similar cable. Long story about how to repair cable but this glue is the key to making it stick after a spray of Naptha to clean the cable and Goof Off than Naptha to remove tape residue.

The only thing I'm not satisfied with yet is the Tri-Flo. It's good stuff in general for applying to say a rail of a Fresnel or follow spot to make it glide better, and won't gum up like White Lithium grease or fall off like graphite, but inspite of being Teflon, it's vehicle does smoke a bit which is a bit disconcerning after use. Once it's vehicle drys - the part of a compound that lets it move about before it drys but otherwise is not it's adhesive or pigment as per paint, once the vehicle dries or is burned off, the Teflon works well for lubing up heat applications.

I'm also play testing Vinyl and Silicone coated wire sleeve to install over the power wires to fixtures. Good stuff so far. Expensive but it lasts a good long time

By the way this is all McMaster Carr gear. Never heard of them? You will if you go pro. More stuff than Grainger and usually of better quality. One of those places that if you name it, you can find it with them.

Anyway, our gear is prepped before each show that catches problems before they are bad enought for the fixture not to preform right - at least hopefully. Given you can do this, you wouldn't have to worry much about doing the yearly test.
We do a full clean once a year. Any major maintenance will take place during the season. Due to the fact that about 95% of our inventory is in the air for 11 months of the year for 6 shows with only about a week of down time between each production. The time to clean is only really available for our month of dark time. I am not exactly sure of our ME's cleaning rituals, but I know it takes him about a week and a half.

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