Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Just a cutie.

Mineature carriage clock in it's original leather case pictured next to a full size carriage. I didn't measure but it's a little over 2-1/2 inches tall.
Made by the Waterbury Clock company, the patent dates on the back of the clock put it to the late 1800's.
It's just a cutie.

Monday, November 14, 2016

This is a gonna be a tough one.

The broken gathering pallet shaft.
I knew it going in because I've had them before,  Only 3 in over 25 years, but they were all brutal.  I'm sure other clocksmiths have their own "worst" jobs ever, but these are definitely one of mine.  If this wasn't a regular longtime customer, that has never complained about costs, I would have passed on this job in a heartbeat.
And just to put a little icing on this crap cake, the end of the shaft and the gathering pallet were missing completely.  We'll get into the gathering pallet later.
Somewhat of a rare clock movement, with a lot of quality in it, purchased at auction.  Looked like a simple clean and oil, couple of bushings, and out the door it goes. Then you pull the dial and see the gathering pallet.  Well actually you don't see it cause it's not there, but you see the problem.  It's also obvious that someone had tried a really desperate repair that turned out horribly, doing a lot more damage along the way.  Whoever put this into the auction knew it, but this isn't something you will say upfront, because then nobody would opt to buy it.

I don't even know the odds of it, but at the time the bad one came in, I just happened to have a identical twin, but the same maker, on my test stand. The repair was doable without it but at least I could see the shape and size of the original gathering pallet. Even more than that though was it made explaining to the client the severity of the problem with only a couple pics.

Missing shaft and pallet
This is what should be there
 The gathering pallet is probably the one part of any old clock that needs to be made by hand.  This is the piece that makes the clock count the number of times it strikes, and then it's the brake that stops everything.  They are cut and filed out of a solid block of steel, and are the oddest shape that one could even imagine. There are curves, flat spots circles and a square going thru the center to fit the pallet shaft. the tolerances and clearances also need to be very close.

Donor steel and finished pawl
The existing arbor now needed to be extended which is tough.  I elected to use a drill for the shaft because the size quality and hardness of the steel.  A butt joint would not have the necessary strength so I turned the end of the drill down and backdrilled the existing shaft for a press fit.  The joint was then brazed because solder would not be strong enough and then the excess braze turned down in the lathe to end up with a smoothe shaft.
Pieces before joining
Below is a pic of the repaired shaft set up in the jewelers lathe with a filing attachment so that the end can be filed to a perfect square. Prior to this step, and the backdrilling of the shaft, I needed to make a brass adaptor to hold the gear.  Since there was no option but to hold it by the pinion (small gear on end), these teeth needed to be protected.  Here is a pic of the piece.
Brass collet in steel collet

Setup for filing
 These 2 pics are the completed shaft and also the completed shaft in the clock.

Here is a short video clip of the finished part and how it functions.


I was happy to see this job completed and out of here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Antique Cyclometer

Antique Cyclometer.

Yea, I never heard of one either but this one came in a month or so ago.  Over the years people have wandered into my store with all kinds of things, large and small.  Slot machines, scales, model trains, etc.  I think they spot all of the little tools and figure that you can fix about anything.
This one was a little different because it was a longtime friend that brought it over.  The cyclometer mounts on the frame of a penny-farthing or hi-wheel bicycle.  The cross shaped piece on the top straddles the spokes and as the wheel rotates, each spoke advances the counter.  As a big collector of the bicycles, owning many of them, he only had one of the cyclometers until he recently bought this one. When he got it it he saw that it was missing a lot of pieces.  It's a good thing he already had one that I could use as a model and see what the missing parts looked like, because there doesn't seem to be anything online about these things.
This is the original unit.

The main shaft which has a worm gear on one end and a cross shaped piece on the top were missing.  The glass lens was also broken. I don't have any pics of that part of the repair but the glass was replaced with a nice fitting pocketwatch crystal which is held in by a soldered retaining ring and plaster. I wish I took more pics.
Here are some views of the replacement shaft that was handmade.
The completed shaft and top cross completed.
I was not able to determine for certain the material the original cross was, but I made mine out of brass.  I had a plate of some pretty thick and hard stuff.  This was a tough one because it had to be cut by hand with a jewelers saw and then filed.  Once I was happy with the shape I silvered it.  The original one was plated.

Assembled cyclometer on right.  Owner just needs to "age" the silvering on the cross.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Anniversary Clock Restoration

Anniversary Clock Restoration

After sitting on a shelf in the shop for about 10 years, it was time to do something with this.  The newspaper that the pendulum is wrapped in, which is sitting in the clock pillars had a 2006 date on it which is how I came up with the 10 years.
Although the typical anniversary clock will run for a year between windings, this clock only runs a month. Since it is a torsion spring clock it is still put in the same category.
This clock is pre WW 1 dating to 1910.  Being over 100 it was pretty tarnished and something had to be done.  Being the purist that I am, I'm all for leaving things original but when they look like this, you just don't even want to look at them.  It's like having that rare 65 mustang sitting all rusty in a field and thinking you will ruin it's value if you restore it.  Well you won't. If the original maker of the clock were alive today, he would be the first to say clean me up. At least I did all of the cleaning and polishing by hand which makes me feel like less of a sinner.

Here is the clock prior to doing anything to it.

I was surprised to see how clean the pendulum stayed being wrapped in the newspaper all this time.  One thing making this unique is that there are only 2 balls instead of the 4 that are on 99 percent of these things unless they are much older and they used disks.

Here is a shot of the top piece that holds the movement from above and below.  You can see the nice finish on the part that has been shielded where it was screwed together.

The clock movement itself is held into the top with three screws that were pretty rusty.  The heads on 2 of them also butchered up by a previous repaired that didn't know how to take care of his screwdrivers.  They could probably have just been cleaned up with a scratch brush and oiled or painted, but I though bluing would be the first class way to go. The bluing will protect the screw and is quite attractive to look at.  If you have an old pocketwatch, go look at the hands up close and they are probably blued.  The bluing is done by getting the screw as polished as you can, and then as clean as you can, all without touching it with your fingers, and then heating it on a brass plate to a specific temperature carefully watching it as it changes color. As soon as it turns blue/purple it is quickly dumped in water to cool and instantly stop the color change If you heat a second or 2 too long or don't quench fast enough the blue turns to grey and you have to start over from the beginning.

This picture shows the 3 screws in the different stages. The right is the original rusty one, the cemter is after cleaning and polishing, and the left is after the bluing.  This is actually pretty crude by watch standards but is okay for this clock.  100 years ago the watchmakers had a dedicated tool just for polishing screwheads prior to bluing.

Another pic

The screw in the clock.

Friday, May 29, 2015


Although the "punchers" obviously feel as though bushings are a waste of money and don't buy them, they are the proper way to repair worn pivot holes.  They are not hard or even time consuming to install, but unfortunately the plates need to come apart and this does take extra time.
Depending on the clock you are working on determines the quality of the bushing job you do.  Early American clocks were mostly thin stamped brass plates with the pivot holes stamped to almost look like a bushing.  This probably hardened the brass a little more, provided an oil sink,  and gave the pivot hole a little extra life.

 For a clock like this, the hole can be opened up with a special reamer which only cuts on one side until the hole is brought back to center.  Then a bushing of the proper height to match the plate, is pressed into the opening.  It is then opened up a bit with a broach so it's just slightly larger than the pivot.  Too tight and the gear will bind up.

It's important to match the thicknesss of the plate.  Some repairers sometimes leave the bushings too long thinking the added surface will take longer to wear out, but it's not the case.  A long bushing like this pic causes tunneling, which is wear, but not all the way to the end cause it can't reach, but after it tunnels it reduces the end play of the gear which is no good.
Whether you buy your bushings or make them, when they are too tall there are tools (I made mine) that can cut the bushing down to the correct height and leave an oil sink.

On the eveyday, plain vanilla, American clock movement, a visible bushing isn't an issue.  Same for a modern cuckoo clock. ( I know,  you're probably wondering why anybody would even waste a bushing on a cuckoo, but sometimes you have to.)  On finer French clocks, which rarely need bushings anyway, or significant tall case or banjos,  you might want to make the bushings as invisible as possible.  This can also be done with special cutters.


Wanna win all of your coin flips ?  Well then you have to get one of these.
This pic, not edited in any way, it's straight from the camera (iphone), is a coin sitting on a mirror, with a mirror standing up behind it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tool repair - Hammers

Tool repair - Hammer edition.

Well it's really more tool maintenance than repair.  It's a much overlooked part of the trade.  Probably any trade.
You can't do quality work with crappy tools.  Slip with a screwdriver across the back of a 19th century carriage clock and leave a crater of a scratch, and then what do you do ?  Even if you don't slip you will more than likely botch up the screws like this.
Each and every one of these beautifully blued, 100+ year old screws destroyed because a "craftsman" used something closer resembling a butterknife than a screwdriver.  But screwdrivers will be another post.  This post is hammers.
Seems like hammers should be a rarely used tool in the delicate world of watch and clock repair, but in fact they are used on a daily basis.  Many times. These are steel hammers, but leather hammers are also used frequently.
The issue with hammers is that whatever you hit with it, especially when flattening something, or setting a bushing in a plate, whatever marks, dents or imperfections on the face will be transferred to the item.
Here's two of them I did today.  Larger one still has a few scratches in it that were very deep, but will eventually come out.  You don't want to remove any more metal than you have to.

This is the face of a planishing hammer.  I think it's almost 100 years old.
This is a ball peen.  Don't think it's 100 yet, but when it get's there it will be in nice shape.

I forgot to take any before pics of these two tools, but although they weren't as bad as this one, they weren't far from it.  Zoom in on the end of that and imagine the marks it would leave.

One think to mention is that all of the work on these tools was done by hand, with other tools, that also have to be maintained from time to time.  The hammers were done starting with a diamond surface plate, and then progressive grits of sandpaper starting at 320 and ending with 2000. There is no polish or buffing on these finishes.
This is a beautiful little French hammer probably from the 1800's.  Once I find a nice piece of hickory or walnut I'll make an appropriate handle for it.  It's the one in the center of the pic below.

These are just some of the hammers in my drawer.