Lubricate A Gimbal? at DVinfo.net

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Old October 16th, 2003, 04:11 AM   #1
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Lubricate A Gimbal?

It came up on another forum that someone had heard that after some use, stablizer gimbals are not as smooth as they once were.
The question was asked: Do gimbals require/benefit from some type of lubrication?
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Old October 16th, 2003, 09:43 AM   #2
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Most gimbals use sealed ball bearings that never require lubrication. My first job out of college was as a sales engineer for a ball bearing distributor (I had to do something to pay off those loans). If you have any additional questions about bearings, get the number off the side of the race. If the bearing is sticking, it may have dirt in the bearing or a flat spot on a steel ball. Either case requires the replacement of the bearing. Steel balls can not be individually replaced and sealed bearings can not be relubricated.
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Old October 16th, 2003, 10:22 AM   #3
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What Jeff said is empirically true about sealed bearings, but I'm not entirely sure if the various manufacturers are using sealed bearings in this class of stabilizer. The gimbal in the high end rigs are not sealed and do require cleaning, particularly the pan bearing. The recommended regimen is to strip the gimbal down to the bearing race, spray it with a residue-free contact cleaner to clean it, and then use a single drop of very light machine oil to lubricate it. I should be cleaning my gimbal once every few months, but I admit to being lazy enough that I only do it twice a year.
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Old October 16th, 2003, 11:20 AM   #4
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If sealed bearings are not being used then a cleaning and relubrication might help. The recommended cleaner would be a product like this LPS product. Depending upon the size and load on the bearing a single drop may not be sufficient lubrication to protect the bearing. However, more lubrication may reduce friction too much. The manufactures may be using lack of lubrication (increased friction) to help control the load. The lack of proper lubrication will lead to premature wear of both the steel balls and races and cause premature bearing failure. Do you know what model Steadicam is being used?
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Old October 27th, 2003, 11:54 AM   #5
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Yes, Jeff. The unit in question is the Steadicam JR.
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Old October 27th, 2003, 12:30 PM   #6
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The JR uses sealed bearings, I believe. I replaced the gimbal assembly on mine years ago and was astonished at how inexpensive it was, but I can't remember the figure.
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Old October 27th, 2003, 01:35 PM   #7
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Ball bearings are relatively Cheap if you buy from a distributor.
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Old October 27th, 2003, 02:49 PM   #8
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The JR gimbal assembly is too small, intricate and customized to be able to be repaired, I believe, Jeff. It's much easier just to screw the assembly off and replace it.

The gimbal on my full-size rig can be field-stripped, cleaned and lubricated...the tolerances and specs are so precise that no-one has dared to replace parts rather than with the manufacturer. I had to replace the pan bearings and race once; it cost something amazing like $800...!

I just gave Tiffen a call on your behalf, Dave. Other than what Jeff and I recommended in terms of blowing out the dirt and applying a very small amount of light lubricant, I discovered that to replace the gimbal and handle assembly is $90.
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