By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more
Forum sponsored by:
Forum sponsored by Forum House Ad Zone

Ping - and a screw is lost

a good work surface for watch repair

All Topics | Latest Posts

Search for:  in Thread Title in  
Iain Downs19/04/2022 18:03:31
861 forum posts
756 photos

I've taken an interest in watch repair. I'm not sure why, but it seems that I have.

Apart from watching you tube, my education has so far consisted of buying a VERY cheap Chinese watch (shuhang) and attempting to disassemble and re-assemble it.

I was working on a tray (one of these lap trays with legs for when you are poorly), in the hope that items will be contained.

I've found that the tiny tiny screws will pop out of the tweezers, bounce like a cricket on the hard surface and be never found again. Twice so far.

What I thought would be useful is to cover the tray (or a more custom made option with higher edges) with some kind of foam backed plastic so that the kinetic energy of the cricket screw is absorbed and their bid for freedom is (hopefully) constrained.

I'm struggling to find the right terms to search for this - or indeed to be sure if I'm looking at the right thing.

I've looked at leatherette, but it's quite thin and I'm not sure that 1mm will be soft enough. Much the same for foam (including foam boards, whatever they are) and they may also be to fragile to put up with a lot of friction due to the work.

So any input would be helpful, or of course, the alternate solution that you all use that's blindingly obvious once it's pointed out!

Many thanks


JA19/04/2022 18:17:33
1405 forum posts
81 photos

I use the lid of a cardboard A4 document box. My work does not go as small as watches but I have yet to lose any 12BA nuts or 10BA grub screws.


Peter Greene 🇨🇦19/04/2022 18:17:42
559 forum posts
8 photos

Green (or other) baize ? (The kind of thing covering snooker tables). Craft stores usually sell something similar.

Edited By Peter Greene 🇨🇦 on 19/04/2022 18:19:14

Peter Cook 619/04/2022 18:22:34
308 forum posts
88 photos

I currently use a 16" tabletop photography lighting box when doing similar things. I got it a few years ago when on special offer with a couple of separate LED lights. Prior to that I had lashed up something similar using sheets of A3 paper taped into a cube and strengthened with lengths of polystyrene packing.

Both are a cube with the front missing through which I can reach what I am working on. Doesn't solve all problems, if it pings towards you it still goes missing, but if it goes backwards, left, right or up, the sides of the cube at least stop it. having all the surfaces white also helps find things. the size is big enough to allow me to work on watches and very small clocks, but small enough so that my bulk blocks most of the escape route forwards.

The worst things are the very tiny  taper pins ( 2-3mm long) or the very small E clips both of which escape from tweezers with remarkable alacrity when you apply force to fit them back. E clips can sometimes be tamed by embedding them in a bit of Rodico while you apply force.

I have visions of getting or making something like a small scale laboratory fume cupboard, the sort with holes through which you can put your arms to manipulate what is inside. The glass front would stop the really active escapees.

Edited By Peter Cook 6 on 19/04/2022 18:25:40

Dave S19/04/2022 18:29:49
374 forum posts
90 photos

The rubbery mesh draw liner stuff is quite good. Stuff falls into the holes and doesn’t bounce back out.

If you are “pinging” out of tweezers I suggest you dress them and also practice manipulating small nuts and bolts - 12BA are cheap enough in a small packet to practice stacking, moving and rotating, with the bonus that they are none critical if they ping off.

Have a poke about at the watchmaking forum on WatchUSeek for more tips and stuff.


Trevor Drabble19/04/2022 18:37:13
288 forum posts
5 photos

Iain , Are you anywhere near a Dunelm store at all? In the past I have found their materials racks very useful .

roy entwistle19/04/2022 18:42:29
1551 forum posts

I would agree with Dave S especially as regards the ends of tweezers and also, don't squeeze them too hard.


Iain Downs19/04/2022 19:37:08
861 forum posts
756 photos

Thanks, all.

Dave - 'Dress' tweezers?

I have a glass / watch screw set which I can use for practice, though they don't go anything like as small as the screws I'm encountering..

Also, Dang. This weekend was a cleanout (the wife made me do it). One of the items discarded was a 50cm cube perspex box (housed a scanner and extracted the paper dust), which would have been a good starting point. typical.


Calum Galleitch19/04/2022 20:22:58
194 forum posts
65 photos

Perhaps a substance sold as "funky foam": a closed cell sponge sold in varying thickness of sheets in various sizes, many with a peel-off-and-stick backing.

Peter Cook 619/04/2022 20:52:07
308 forum posts
88 photos
Posted by Iain Downs on 19/04/2022 19:37:08:

One of the items discarded was a 50cm cube perspex box (housed a scanner and extracted the paper dust), which would have been a good starting point. typical.

Have you seen the price of 50cm Perspex cubes😂

Robert Dodds19/04/2022 21:15:09
322 forum posts
63 photos

My dear wife is into "beading" and uses a beading mat.
It has a deeper pile than standard baize and her 2mm dia beads sit still whilst she picks them off with a threaded needle. They come in A4 size and larger, there is a wide variety on Amazon and lots of other bead shops via Google. You can also get sticky ones too and many are less than a £10 a pop.

Regards Bob D

Paul Lousick20/04/2022 02:55:03
2078 forum posts
728 photos

Felt sheet is a good surface for working on. Old style was made from rabbit fur but now sheep wool and synthetic material. Available from haberdashery stores.

Mike Poole20/04/2022 06:48:46
3381 forum posts
77 photos

If the pingf**kit has not flown too far, a sweep round with a large magnet can sometimes find it, it doesn’t work if it is not magnetic though.


pgk pgk20/04/2022 08:25:37
2605 forum posts
293 photos

Doubtless OTT but there are impact absorption gels- I recall one such demonstrated by dropping a raw egg several stories onto a thin pad. The other OTT alternative might be to disassemble within a bowl of clear liquid

Hollowpoint20/04/2022 08:46:58
476 forum posts
59 photos

Get one of these

Edited By Hollowpoint on 20/04/2022 08:48:02

Dave S20/04/2022 09:56:45
374 forum posts
90 photos

I’ve only skimmed the video, but it looks about right:



Iain Downs30/04/2022 17:26:54
861 forum posts
756 photos

Thank you all for your feedback on this. In the end it was Dunelm to the rescue!

It turned out that there was a Dunelm more or less next to the Ten Pin bowling I took my son to for his birthday.

I found some soft-backed leatherette (some kind of light felt behind the leatherette) and as a bonus there was a 'surface protector' (a chopping board with a raised edge) which I thought would make a good base.

A bit of melamine shelving, some ply and some PVA and here's the result!

watch tray.jpg

Oh and some bathroom sealant to hide the gaps! I've not tried it yet, but I have high hopes!


Clive Steer30/04/2022 18:31:04
100 forum posts
5 photos

For removing small watch items such as screws and click springs I tend to use a cocktail stick with a small blob of Bergeon Rodico on the tip. I can pick up the item and then use the tweezers to get it off the rodico nearer the tray or box it will be stored in.


Adrian Downes30/04/2022 20:51:38
35 forum posts
15 photos

Firstly put the chinese movement to one side & buy a decent quality old fashioned movement off the wibberlWobbly Web - A jeweled Gts Rotary or Accurist with Incabloc shock protection would be my choice. (A quality watch will come apart & go back together much more easily than a cheap one) 


Having got your movement - take it apart one piece at a time, replacing it immediately to teach your self how it all fits together before removing it again & then the next piece..... Going back wards & forwards drills home where everything goes & how it all fits together 



You know you are starting to get somewhere with watchmaking when you start finding pieces.


You know when you are improving when you stop losing them in the first place 😁


AND you know that you are finally succeeding when it still goes at the end❗😂


As has been said you do NEED to dress your tweazers regulatoly - preferably just before you start pinging! ( I even dress brand new, out of the box tweazers befofore use)


Carefully examine your tweazers under a good glass.

ALL the edges should be crisp & flat with sharp right angle corners.

The inside flats should meet parralel & you have to learn how little force you need to grip.


When viewed end on the points should be a fine oval cross section, from the top they should come to almost a fine point & edge on, with the tweazers just closed a slightly broader one.

As a test of your dressing it should be easy to pick up a fine hair off a glass plate.

Edited By Adrian Downes on 30/04/2022 21:02:05

Iain Downs01/05/2022 08:10:04
861 forum posts
756 photos

It's rather nice to (virtually) meet another Downs (albeit with variant spelling!). We're not that common a breed.

At the moment, I'm finding that (as many will tell me) that the cheap and nasty toolsets are mainly nasty. the watch holder that came with my ;watchmakers toolkit (which surprisingly got a lot of decent reviews) blocks access in most directions, so today will be spent making one more like a bergeon (wristwatch revival on youtube is proving inspirational).

I'm keen on the cheap chinese watch, because I don't care what happens to it. I'm in the process of re-assembling it using a second cheap chinese watch. I'm loosing parts putting it back together too! Not finding them, yet which tells you where I am on the skill level.

I have a bunch of 'not working' movements to practice. Though I seem to have picked a lot with a bunch of (tiny() ladies watches. Start with the hardest and the rest will seem easy!

Thanks for the advice, I will dress.


All Topics | Latest Posts

Please login to post a reply.

Magazine Locator

Want the latest issue of Model Engineer or Model Engineers' Workshop? Use our magazine locator links to find your nearest stockist!

Find Model Engineer & Model Engineers' Workshop

Sign up to our Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter and get a free digital issue.

You can unsubscribe at anytime. View our privacy policy at

Latest Forum Posts
Support Our Partners
Rapid RC
Eccentric Engineering
Eccentric July 5 2018
Subscription Offer

Latest "Wanted" Ads
Get In Touch!

Do you want to contact the Model Engineer and Model Engineers' Workshop team?

You can contact us by phone, mail or email about the magazines including becoming a contributor, submitting reader's letters or making queries about articles. You can also get in touch about this website, advertising or other general issues.

Click THIS LINK for full contact details.

For subscription issues please see THIS LINK.

Digital Back Issues

Social Media online

'Like' us on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter
 Twitter Logo

Pin us on Pinterest