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Thread: Compass oil / fluid?

  1. #1
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    Default Compass oil / fluid?

    I have an old fluid filled, externally gimbaled compass from M.C. co, which I think I have found refers Marine Compass Company, which joined Ritchie in 1951. How careful do I need to be to get the correct fluid to fill it? I am cautious because I also have a hand bearing compass in which the markings have detached from the card and I don't want that to happen to this one.

    KenIMG_5733.jpg

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    Ritchie still sells "compass oil". You might check with them on its compatibility with old MC instruments.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    I just did, and miraculously found a guy who actually knew what he was talking about: so for future reference by others, he told me to drain some and smell it and rub it between my fingers. If it felt oily, and didn't smell, use good paraffin based mineral oil, but if it smelled like alcohol, use alcohol. I didn't pursue what kind of alcohol, because it definitely wasn't alcohol. However it did smell, it felt like oil, but it evaporated fairly fast, so I was stumped. I called back, eventually found the same guy, who told me to order "Isopar L" compass oil. After I was done with all of this, the bell finally went off in my head, and I identified the smell of the stuff, which was particularly aromatic kerosene.

    Ken

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    If I remember correctly Amarican made compasses used a light oil like your kerosene. Internationally they mostly tense to use an alcohol solution. We used to top up the compass with either gin or vodka, essentially a clear solution.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    I always thought it was only alchohol.
    It's all fun and games until Darth Vader comes.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    I just went through this search for fluid for my 1970 Ritchie binnacle compass.

    In Canada it's practically impossible to get Ritchie's proprietary oil. Shipping it across the border simply doesn't happen. And there is no Isopar L in stock anywhere. No Odorless Mineral Spirits.

    But a sailor friend of mine recommended baby oil, which made me laugh! But I used it, cut about half with mineral spirits. So far it's working very well.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    South West Instruments in San Pedro had their own brew that smelled like alchohol and had a bit of mineral oil in it. When I need to flll my own compasses I use a mixture of both but don't drink it cause it will give you the runs!
    Jay

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    Be careful with old compass oil. It can be radioactive. I wouldn't recommend putting fingers in it or sniffing it.
    Rick

    Lean and nosey like a ferret

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    FWIW, Sestrel compasses use “Bayol”.
    IMAGINES VEL NON FUERINT

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    Quote Originally Posted by gilberj View Post
    If I remember correctly Amarican made compasses used a light oil like your kerosene. Internationally they mostly tense to use an alcohol solution. We used to top up the compass with either gin or vodka, essentially a clear solution.
    Sounds like a tragedy, unless, of course, you have packed more 'likker than water...

    Ken

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    Quote Originally Posted by kbowen View Post
    Sounds like a tragedy, unless, of course, you have packed more 'likker than water...

    Ken
    we were of course able to lubricate ourselves to help in handling the stress of the situation.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    Reminds me of the old tales of the cruises of the Constitution. capturing barrels and barrels of alcohol, but returning, oddly enough, with full water casks.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    I have become confident that the original stuff was kerosene, but wtf, I have found it is nigh impossible to get true clear kerosene in the US these days: If you ask for kerosene (as lamp oil) they send you to the pump that has red-dyed (differently taxed) diesel oil which stinks and soots up an oil lamp and is useless in a compass.

    Ken

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    Have you tried a hardware store or variety store? Around here, that's where we buy lamp oil, usually in quart size.


    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    Clear Kerosene is the same as Jet-A. And it does have a smell. Deodorized Kerosene is sold by quarts and gallons in hardware store for portable heater and stove use.

  16. #16
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    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hadfield View Post
    I just went through this search for fluid for my 1970 Ritchie binnacle compass.

    In Canada it's practically impossible to get Ritchie's proprietary oil. Shipping it across the border simply doesn't happen. And there is no Isopar L in stock anywhere. No Odorless Mineral Spirits.

    But a sailor friend of mine recommended baby oil, which made me laugh! But I used it, cut about half with mineral spirits. So far it's working very well.
    Thanks for this tip, Dave! I’m just south of you and looking to top up an AirGuide compass from likely the same era. You’ve saved me the hassle of a similar search.

  17. #17
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    Nov 2002
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    St. Petersburg FL
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    Default Re: Compass oil / fluid?

    https://www.vikingcompass.com/

    a good source of information

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