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This book has been written as the Clock Class text and is based on Rod' extensive experience in clock repair, together with the feedback from his class students.  

Every time a class problem arises, Rod updates his book, making it a one of a kind goldmine of clock repair tips and tricks. 

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My first and second editions have been very popular. I have listened to all your comments and my clock class students comments and requests and this new version is twice as extensive, starting with the very basics going to a full on repair. Mechanical clocks are now considered works of art, a part of history, a member of the family and they need love. Sooner or later, your treasured time piece will stop. Your choice is to either live with it in silence or go to a hard to find repair shop, leave it for weeks and pay perhaps hundreds of dollars to get it back, hopefully working. Fact is, you can more than likely do the same thing they do yourself. There are little known items that stop a clock that you can easily do yourself for very little money. You can even oil your clock for just a few dollars’ worth of oil. You can service: Grandfather Clocks, Mantel Clocks, Wall Clocks, Kitchen Clocks, French Clocks, Cuckoo Clocks, etc. No expensive tools needed besides oil which I will tell you where to buy it very inexpensively. I will teach you how to service your own clock.
Tid Bits courtesy SNclocks

Tid-Bits Galleries

Introduction To Tech Tid-Bits : The work done in my shop focuses on the repair and restoration of the clocks I admire most - Vienna Regulators - using techniques garnered from a number of sources: Some are refined from the lathe and clock restoration training I received from Roy Hovey and the watch restoration training I gained at the bench of a retired railroad watch inspector, Ray Ashcraft. In addition, I have adopted methods gained through hands on instruction from a variety of sources in the UK, Germany and Austria. I have been fortunate enough to find watch and clock repair folk who have allowed me to spend time with them, in their shops, giving me a chance to understand techniques and tools they use in their restoration work. For the past several years I have been documenting subjects as diverse as the details of unusual mechanisms, interesting clock repair techniques, wood-working, or wood-finishing methods, unusual tools, or a novel use for a tool, for the past couple of years. This has resulted in a series of what I call “Technical Tid Bits”. While my focus is mostly on Viennese and precision regulators, the content of the Tid Bits are applicable to a wide range of clocks. This prologue is meant to serve as an introduction to what I hope will become a fixture in the Bulletin for the next couple of years. I plan to provide a series of fairly short technical articles covering a broad range of topics. And to introduce you to some of the truly wonderful mechanisms I have had a chance to work on - Viennese year runners, 6 month runners, month runners, even week runners with unusual features. And, hopefully, from your feedback and comments, I will learn a bit more myself! Because that is one thing I have learned from the many students who have shared my shop: “Qui Vocet Discet” – or “Those who teach learn”.

Introduction To Tech Tid-Bits

The work done in my shop focuses on the repair and restoration of the ...

Updated: Mar 26, 2011 11:52am PST

Tid-Bit 1 - Got Stones? : Pulished in the 10/2009 NAWCC Bulletin Page 580 The restoration work I have done on years-duration weight driven Vienna Regulators has taught me how extremely important it is that the pivots and the holes in which they rotate are in perfect condition. In the case of pivots, this means that they must be stoned to give a flat surface that can then be burnished to perfection. The first topic I want to present is focused on the restoration of clock and watch pivots, and one that is very near and dear to my heart: The kind of abrasives used to prepare a pivot for burnishing. Hence the rather catchy title of this particular Tid Bit: Got stones? I’ve been asked this more times than I want to remember. And yes, I do have stones: I hit the MART tables for years. So yes, I have Arkansas and India stones, most of them 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide by 3 or 4 inches long. And this means that when I want to work a pivot all I have to do is reach into my stone drawer, pull out a couple of slips, and away I go. So, YES, I HAVE STONES. When I am introducing a new student to pivot restoration, I start them with a 1/8 x 1/8 x 2.5 inch hard Arkansas stone. This is what I teach my students to use when preparing pivots for burnishing. But these stones, as purchased, are too aggressive to do fine pivots and also a quite a bit too coarse for using just before burnishing. When working on really fine pivots, my students also discover the joy of ruby slips (available in 0.04 and 0.08 inch widths), these are perfect for preparing the finest pivots found in a Vienna Regulator, or French mechanism for burnishing. While these are also fairly course, they can be refined as discussed below. One of my students, K.C. Morrissey, spent some time a couple of months ago, modifying an Arkansas slip to make it extremely useful in stoning pivots. Not only did his work result in he and I having pretty nifty stones to use, but it also justified this Tech Tid Bit on stones. Thank you KC! See, KC is new to the concept of using slips to finish pivots. He has been introduced to the sand paper on a Popsicle stick approach. But, he had also heard me say before that you didn’t want to ruin a fine mechanism using sandpaper and Popsicle sticks. None the less, KC needed a stone. And, all I had are the 1/8 x 1/8 x 2.5 inch ones that can be gotten from Jules Borel (see sources listed at the end of this Tid Bit) - which come with a pretty aggressive cutting surface. I had been thinking for some time that it would be neat if my students had access to stones that would cover the range of “grits” needed for Vienna regulator pivot work. Everything from a fairly aggressive stone (like the 1/8 inch ones), to a fine, and even a finest stone. Problem is, I just don’t know where they can buy the fine or finest stones. So, KC spent 2 hours sanding away the skin on the tip of his fingers, and in the process made what I think is a fantastic tool for those of you who want to work on clock mechanisms. He took a 1/8 inch stone and sanded the edges until he had one stone with three different “grits”. WOW!!! So, how does one “sand” a stone? First you get a piece of glass that you can use as backing for sand paper. KC flattened two edges (on opposite sides of the slip) with 220 grit wet or dry sand paper, and one side with 600 grit wet or dry sand paper. Laying the sand paper on the piece of glass gives a very flat surface for sanding the slip (another name for the small stones we are discussing), while lubricating the paper/stone with mineral spirits improves the cutting action and helps wash away the cuttings. The 1/8 inch slips come with edges that are rounded: This keeps one from working the surface of a pivot right into the shoulder between the pivot and the arbor. KC’s goal was to first sand the two opposite sides of the slip with the 220 grit paper until all four edges of the slip were nice and square. Then he sanded one of the remaining faces with the 600 grit paper until he was sure he had smoothed out original, very course surface.

Tid-Bit 1 - Got Stones?

Pulished in the 10/2009 NAWCC Bulletin Page 580 The restoration wor ...

Updated: Mar 26, 2011 11:31am PST

Tid-Bit 2 - Using a wax chuck : Published in the 12/2009 NAWCC Bulletin, page 695 Shellac Chucks – The perfect way to hold unusual bits and bobs in the Watchmakers Lathe This Tid Bit discusses how I cut out a disc of brass for the top of a clock weight. Sounds easy enough – eh, but, how to do it? Let’s see – I guess I could use a jewelers saw to cut out a disc, drill it in the center, mount the rough disc on a mandrel, and then spin it in the lathe to clean up the edges and cut it to exact size. For those of you who have ever used a jeweler’s saw, you know it is very satisfying; if indeed, rather slow work. OK. Show of hands – how many of you have ever used a shellac chuck (sometimes called a wax chuck)? Right, put your hands down – looked like around ten percent have used one. While I had never tried holding a flat piece of brass on a shellac chuck, it turned out to be a slick solution to my challenge. But to digress a bit. Shellac (or wax) chucks are typically used to hold very small parts that just can’t be readily held any other way. For instance, the escape wheel from a watch. By gently heating the shellac chuck while it is mounted in a lathe, and then applying a bit of shellac or wax to the face of the chuck, and continuing to gently heat with the flame from an alcohol lam you can soften the shellac, mount, and then center the work piece on the chuck. The centering part is done while the lathe is spinning and the shellac is just softened (judicious application of the alcohol flame to the brass arbor between the shellac chuck and the collet). Believe it or not, it is possible, just using your finger, to center a gear on a shellac chuck so perfectly that you can repivot a very small arbor, like the escape wheel of a wrist watch. But, that is not what I did in this instance. This time I was holding a 2.5 inch square of 0.023 inch thick brass so I could cut out a circle. But, before we get to the technical part, let’s spend a moment discussing safety. As you can see in the accompanying photos, we will be talking about doing a number of things that could hurt us. We will use heat to melt shellac, we will be spinning a square of metal in a jewelers lathe, and we will be generating fine metal shavings when we use the graver to true up the edges of the disc. While each of us has probably done such things a number of times before – it pays to take a minute and think through what could go wrong and what we should do to keep it from going wrong. Heat – each time you light the alcohol lamp, or the stove, think about what will be getting hot, and where the flame is. Especially with alcohol lamps, it is all too easy to not notice the virtually invisible flame – until you put your sleeve or arm into it. So, make a conscious effort to know where the flame is at all times. And, it also makes sense to extinguish the lamp when you get the work piece located on the chuck. Fortunately, the way I show mounting the brass to the plate keeps your fingers away from the flame, and from the heated brass sheet. Even when you pick up the collet to lift the plate off of the stove and place it on a towel, the collet will still be cool. None the less, wear safety glasses when working with the flame and the shellac. While it is unlikely that the shellac could pop or splatter, a little water in the shellac could cause steam and splattering. As shown in the pictures, I spun the square of brass plate on the lathe. This means there are sharp points spinning around which could readily cut you. As with the flame, you need to focus on where the risk is located, and consciously keep your hand, arm, and clothing away from it. If it makes you nervous, take a pair of tin snips and cut off the sharp corners, being careful to keep the deformation from the tin snip cuts away from the edge of what will be the finished disk. When you start cutting you will be generating fine shavings of brass. Be sure to be wearing safety glasses when cutting out the disc. Also take extra care when finishing the cut and parting off the square with the hole cut in the center. I found the actual separation point to be anticlimactic, but I was taking care to be extra observant and cautious as I approached that final cut.

Tid-Bit 2 - Using a wax chuck

Published in the 12/2009 NAWCC Bulletin, page 695 Shellac Chucks – ...

Updated: Jan 15, 2008 6:21pm PST

Tid-Bit 3 - Gathering Pallets : Published in the 2/2010 NAWCC Bulletin, page 80 It is amazing how many times people have asked me how to set up the strike trains of a three-weight Vienna regulator mechanism. And, while I like to think I am good at setting up these trains, it seems like each one I work on teaches me another little trick or necessary step to make sure they perform as originally intended. When set up properly, they truly are a dream. Of course, after working on over a hundred of them, I have learned a number of little tricks and necessary steps… I plan to cover various aspects of this subject in future Technical Tid Bits. This Tid Bit focuses on one of the things that can keep even a well set-up strike train from working. While I am using a Vienna Regulator mechanism for this explanation, any clock that uses a rack and snail strike system can likely have similar challenges. It’s just that Vienna’s, with their very light weights, perhaps are more sensitive than a British long case clock or the like. Troubleshooting a strike train involves getting everything set up correctly, and then, when it doesn’t work, finding sources of undue friction or binding that have developed due to wear. Needless to say, the pivots on the gears in the strike train need to be stoned and burnished to perfection. This in itself will eliminate many of the challenges these trains present. This Tidbit focuses on two sources of binding that I have seen, a very small thing, but one that can shut down the whole process.

Tid-Bit 3 - Gathering Pallets

Published in the 2/2010 NAWCC Bulletin, page 80 It is amazing how m ...

Updated: Mar 26, 2011 3:22pm PST

Tid-Bit 4 - The Joys of Pallets : Published in the 4/2010 NAWCC Bulletin, page 191 Those of you that know me are aware that my true love in the horological world is regulators, both Viennese and Precision regulators. There are many reasons for this affection, but one that stands out is the ability of these clocks to keep time rather, well, precisely. Many factors contribute to their precision, but a significant one is the use of a dead beat escapement. While invented by Richard Towneley, and first used by Thomas Tompion in 1675, George Graham popularized the escapement in 1715 and is generally credited with its development. The “Graham Dead Beat Escapement” offers two significant improvement over the anchor escapement: (1) The pendulum is not being constantly being pushed by an escape wheel tooth throughout its cycle, thus allowing the pendulum to move freely during most of its swing. This significantly improves the pendulums isochronism. (2) The escapement does not push the escape wheel backward (commonly called “recoil”) during part of its cycle. This reduces wear in the clocks gears, and improves the accuracy of the mechanism.

Tid-Bit 4 - The Joys of Pallets

Published in the 4/2010 NAWCC Bulletin, page 191 Those of you that ...

Updated: Mar 26, 2011 3:33pm PST

Tid-Bit 5 - Power Pegging : Published in the 6/2010 NAWCC Bulletin, page 314 How do you clean pivot holes? I was taught to use peg wood (often tooth picks): Taper the end with a knife, then twirl the pointy end in each pivot hole. Re-sharpen when the taper was dirty (or when it broke off in one of those really small holes), and repeat until it came out of each hole clean. I have done a lot of this, but I will admit, on any hole larger than say, an eight of an inch (3 mm for those that are not metrically challenged), it took some real effort to get the holes clean. Enough effort that I have blistered my fingers pegging mechanisms. More than once actually. So, why do we peg holes? Easy answer is because we want them clean. But, more fundamentally, I think it is important to understand a bit about what that black stuff is in the holes that we strive to remove. Most of us are aware that the steel pinions in clocks often wear faster than the brass gears. While it is perhaps not intuitively obvious why this is so, I, for one, have seen a lot of British longcase clock mechanism with pinions that were worn significantly. The reason for this wear in clock mechanisms is, all too often, owners oiling the gears. Once oiled, any dust in the area is picked up by the oil and provides a perfect recipe for wear. The dust both suspends in the oil (wearing both the brass and the steel) and also becomes embedded in the softer of the two metals (the brass). The embedded dust no longer abrades the brass, but instead forms an abrasive surface that erodes the steel pinions.

Tid-Bit 5 - Power Pegging

Published in the 6/2010 NAWCC Bulletin, page 314 How do you clean p ...

Updated: Mar 26, 2011 3:57pm PST

Tid-Bit 6 - More Donuts : Published in the 8/2010 NAWCC Bulletin, page 477 The purpose in making the drums larger is to increase the torque supplied to the mechanism by the weight. Torque is what drives a mechanism. So, rather than hanging a larger weight on a mechanism that won’t run (a practice that will only increase wear, especially in a poorly serviced mechanism), some folk just make the winding drum larger, providing more torque to the mechanism, and hopefully making the clock run. Torque is calculated by multiplying the force (think weight pulling on the weight chord) times the moment arm (the radius of the winding drum). So, increase the radius of the winding drum and you increase the torque. Problem is, if you increase the size of the winding drum, each turn of the drum releases more weight chord. In fact, the increased weight drop is directly proportional to the increase in the size of the drum. And, if more weight chord is released in each turn, the weight falls farther for each turn of the drum, and the drum ends up turning fewer times for a given available weight drop. So, a larger drum may get the clock running, but it will shorten its duration. If you look back in the August 2005 NAWCC Bulletin starting on page 469 you will find an article on a donut I found in a month-duration Vienna Regulator. Since then I have come across several more donuts, and one of my correspondents down in Dallas sent in interesting pictures of one he found – carved out of a thread spool – as shown in Figures 1 and 2 below:

Tid-Bit 6 - More Donuts

Published in the 8/2010 NAWCC Bulletin, page 477 The purpose in mak ...

Updated: Mar 26, 2011 6:03pm PST

Tid-Bit 7 - Tipping Escape-Wheel Teeth : Published in the October 2010 NAWCC Bulletin starting on page 574 The even ticking of a clock. Quietly telling you of how great a job you did restoring the mechanism - a joy to hear. But, what if the beat is not even? Or, more aggravating, what if it is mostly even, but sometimes seems to shift a bit - to have an intermittent tick and a tock that are just not right. Welcome to the world of escape wheels - and, more specifically, the world of long and short escape-wheel teeth. Let=s start out with this underlying assumption behind us: You have already done all you can to get the clock in beat - and, are satisfied that all is as right as you can make it. If the beat seems to periodically change you have already tried letting the mechanism spin very slowly without the anchor in place - looking for bent arbors or pivots, or fouled teeth. If your mechanism ....Seems to have an even beat, except for one or two beats each rotation of the escape wheel, or, ....You have a clock that does pretty well for a while, but it seems that, just before it stops, the beat becomes erratic, I am hopeful that this Technical Tid-Bit will help you understand what it is that is frustrating you, and also perhaps help you understand what you would do to Amake it all better@! When a pendulum is swinging with a lot of over-swing (more swing than necessary to just release the pallets), the beat tends to be more even than when the pendulum is swinging just far enough to release the pallets. I have had a number of chances to work on escape-wheel teeth because of the number of long duration Viennese clocks I have had the chance to work on. In general I find that longer duration clocks operate a lot closer to the minimum weight required to swing the pendulum just far enough to release the pallets. Why are long duration clocks more prone to having problems when escape-wheel teeth have been damaged? Let=s think through how much weight is typically used to run long duration clocks. It is not uncommon to find a 3 pound weight driving the trains on a week-duration Vienna Regulator. OK, now, assuming a years duration clock is as efficient as the week duration, it is only logical to say the year runner should have a weight that is 52 times as heavy as the week runner. But, well, 52 times 3 is 156 pounds. Yes, I have seen British years runners with weights in the 40 pound range. But, a Viennese years runner, with its exceptional pivot, gear and escapement work, typically requires about 16 pounds. In fact, I am currently finishing up work on a clock that runs 16 months on 16 pounds, and I have a 3 month runner in my collection that runs on 3 pounds. Almost sounds like a pound is the minimum for each months duration to me. Running on such little weight typically results in a very narrow pendulum swing - people often ask if my long duration clocks are even running! This is why, when I am setting up a clock, be it an Anniversary clock, or a conventional pendulum clock, I always try to set the pendulum swinging (or rotating for an anniversary or other torsional clock) just enough to barely Atick over@. This amplifies the impact of any Aout of beat@ issues. But what about when you have your mechanism in beat, to the best of your ability, and it is still sometimes wanders off for a beat or two? Usually when I get a call or an e-mail about this I find that the repair person has already tried to rectify the problem - usually by Astraightening@ the Aobviously bent@ escape-wheel teeth. And, while the clock may have run before, well, now it doesn=t seem to want to any more. In general (yes, I realize that a statement like this just begs for contradiction) bent escape-wheel teeth will result in an escapement hanging up - a pallet fouling or Arunning into@ a tooth when it is supposed to just clear it. Yes, a bent tooth does end up just a bit shorter than the other teeth, but this is a very small change in length (has to do with the cosine and the tangent of the angle by which the tooth is bent from its correct position - and, since I do not want to remind any of you how much fun geometry was, let=s just say it is a very small change in length). But, in general, a bent tooth does not result in an uneven beat. That takes a tooth that is either too long or too short. Funny thing is, often when a repair person tries to straighten a tooth they end up making it longer, and now it is really out of beat. Or they break off the end of the tooth, but we don=t really want to go there. A clock that wanders out of beat has a tooth or two (or three or four, well you get the idea) that is not real close to the length of the other teeth. Let=s think about this for a second to see why this should cause an uneven beat. As the pendulum swings it moves a pallet out of the way of an escape-wheel tooth. But, let=s say a tooth is shorter than most - the pallet will Arelease@ the tooth sooner in its movement than with the rest of the teeth. Because the pallet releases an escape-wheel tooth sooner in the pendulums swing the tick is shorter. Likewise, it the tooth is longer, the pendulum has to swing farther, and the tock is longer. I think now is the time for a word or two of caution. The subject of this Tech Tid Bit, ATipping Teeth@ is something that requires a lot of care and a lathe with a cross slide. Yes, I have talked to people who have successfully tipped escape wheels with a power drill and a file. But I have also had calls asking if I had a spare escape wheel for a Gustav Becker anniversary clock, amongst others. Why is it important that the beat be even? In many clocks it isn=t. Especially if they have a weight big enough to provide a lot of over-swing. Then it just doesn=t matter. But, as we take things to the extreme (think long duration which usually translates to minimal over-swing) an overly long escape-wheel tooth will shut it down. And a short one will not allow the mechanism to run as well as it could, and to stop sooner than it might otherwise. I decided to write this article when I was faced with tipping an escape-wheel from a truly magnificent mechanism. As you can see in Figure 8, the workmanship (not sure how to make that term asexual) required to make this escape-wheel is phenomenal. Think I wanted to tip the teeth? Think again. But, the mechanism did not want to run. Yes, I probably could have put a bigger weight on the mechanism and overcome the problem. But, being a 6 month runner, and being convinced I could tip the teeth without destroying the wheel, I decided to go forward. Now for another word of caution. I use a cross slide to hold a cutting tool to cut the tips of the teeth. If you have every used a cross slide you know that there are knobs (or levers if you have a lever-actuated cross slide) you twist to move the cutting tool back and forth and closer and farther from what you are cutting. I make myself practice with both knobs, making sure that I know which direction to twist the knob to move the tool in and out, and back and forth. If you inadvertently go the wrong way and cut too quickly I pretty much assure you that you will bend teeth and potentially trash your escape wheel. I don=t recommend tipping teeth with a lever-actuated cross slide. I really like them for some operations, but not one as delicate as tipping teeth. And, I don’t recommend setting up to tip teeth with a stone – a properly-sharpened graver will cut extremely fine bits of brass off of the teeth, and will only be cutting right at the tip – if a stone is used it will be cutting across the entire tip of the tooth, significantly increasing the risk of bending teeth. The first step is to mount the escape wheel in your lathe. Typically I find that holding the escape-wheel arbor in a collet is accurate enough. That is assuming the run out on the exposed end of the arbor (the amount that the exposed pivot moves as the gear is spun in the lathe) is minimal. Typically I chuck up the gear in the lathe, check it for run-out, if not acceptable I then loosen the collet, rotate the arbor in the collet a quarter turn, re-tighten, check run-out, and repeat until I get the least run-out possible. Then I will put either a steady rest on the exposed arbor or use the tail-stock with an inverted cone (with a hole in the center where the pivot can rotate without touching the cone) to hold the arbor as centered and as steady as possible. Remember to put a small drop of lubricant on the jaws of the steady rest or the inside of the inverted cone. If I find that I can not hold the arbor in a collet because the exposed end is not steady (caused by an arbor that was bent when it was made, too short of an arbor, or a tapered arbor that can not be readily chucked up), or I have noted an offset pivot on one or both ends of the arbor, I will turn the escape wheel between centers with a drive-dog on the escape-wheel arbor. I will have to write an article on turning between centers one of these days. Do not chuck up on a pivot to spin the escape wheel. This will only give you a chance to practice repivoting. My typical set-up is shown in Figure 1.

Tid-Bit 7 - Tipping Escape-Wheel Teeth

Published in the October 2010 NAWCC Bulletin starting on page 574 T ...

Updated: Mar 27, 2011 9:34am PST

Tid-Bit 8 - Drilling tiny holes in really small work pieces : Published in the December 2010 NAWCC Bulletin starting on page 727 The retired railroad watch inspector (Ray Ashcraft) who taught me so much about the restoration of pocket watches once told me that the most important tool in a shop was the lathe. As time has gone by I have realized just how true that bit of wisdom really is. A lathe gives us the capability to make many of the other tools we need. I have also come to realize that a lathe is simply a platform on which one can mount a number of attachments. This Technical Tid-Bit focuses on using one such attachment - a three-jaw face plate - for drilling holes in small work-pieces. I can vaguely remember the first time I tried to drill a very small hole in a very small piece of metal. Back then I had a small drill press, one that could hold very fine drills, and I had several machinists’ clamps. In theory, it was possible for me to gently punch a dimple in the piece of metal and then position it just right on the drill press platform so I could drill a hole. Being a very small hole, and since the piece of metal was hardened, I was using a carbide drill bit. Despite my best efforts, the dimple was not exactly lined up with the tip of the drill bit, and one thing that carbide will not abide is flex. So, scrap one drill bit. I did finally get the hole drilled, but I will admit I was just a bit frustrated - trying to hold a very small piece of metal so I could drill an even smaller hole. My mentor, Ray Ashcraft, had told me about three-jaw face plates, explaining that they had a pointy plunger - called a pump center - that allowed one to align a hole such that it was exactly centered in the face plate. See Figures 1, 2, 3 and 4 for an overview of a watchmakers face plate.

Tid-Bit 8 - Drilling tiny holes in really small work pieces

Published in the December 2010 NAWCC Bulletin starting on page 727 ...

Updated: Mar 27, 2011 9:55am PST

Tid-Bit 9 - Heat Treating Steel : Published in the April 2011 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 202. Heat Treatment of Steel Have you ever held a small pan full of sand or brass shavings over an open flame and watched a clock or watch part (say a hand or perhaps a screw) slowly change color? If you have tried this you have probably learned that patience is a virtue and that touching pans held over a gas flame tends to make one a bit cranky. I remember my mentor, a retired railroad watch inspector named Ray Ashcraft, demonstrating the technique. As with all of the things he showed me, each piece he blued turned out perfectly, without the need to get salve for burnt fingers. Or the need to re-polish a piece when it was heated a bit too long and turned a drab gray. Fast forward a few years and I am managing an effort to develop a novel titanium alloy. Now, honestly, did I know anything about metallurgy? Uhhh, no. But, I did know how to evaluate experimental data and how to guide research. With this I was in charge of a development effort that was staffed with several very knowledgeable metallurgists. As in PhD metallurgists. While the effort turned out to be for naught, it did give me a chance to develop an understanding of how to heat treat steel. As for the research, if you are curious, look up metastability. We had a fantastic alloy that resisted corrosion like no ones business, unless it was scratched. Then it corroded like gang busters. OOPS. But, between experiments I wrote up what the metallurgists explained to me, at times borrowing texts to help me understand some of the concepts. When I was done I had a document that I have referred to over the years to help me understand what happens when I heat steel. When I write up documents like this I tend to write in an outline format. This article is based on the outline I put together many years ago, with text added to emphasize points I think are important. When do I heat treat? Most often I am heat-bluing screws or clock hands. In my restoration work I clean up all the screws in a mechanism and then re-blue them. I leave the screws in the oven for an hour or longer to stress relieve the screws – so that they have less tendency to break when reinstalled. I also polish hands until they are bright and shiny and then blue them. Unless the hands have been soldered in the past – heating them to blue the steel would also melt the solder. In addition to the color and stress relieving, bluing is an oxide layer that helps fight corrosion. While not corrosion proof, the oxide layer is an improvement on bare metal. I also heat treat pallets (harden them) when I find that the pallets are soft. Soft pallets leave a trailing lip of thin metal on the edge of the pallet when ground. This lip of metal degrades the performance of the pallets while making it difficult to achieve a clean, crisp edge on the pallet faces. I harden soft pallets to their hardest state before continuing to work the faces. Fortunately, when properly hardened the pallets grind with a clean, sharp edge. I sometimes find when replacing a broken pivot that the arbor is hard enough that high-speed steel drill bits do not readily cut the steel. I will typically soften just the end of the arbor to make it easier to drill. Of course, if there is pinion right at the end of the arbor that needs re-pivoted I do not soften the arbor; it is always best to leave pinions as hard as possible. In those cases I get out carbide bits and carefully drill the hole. Speaking of hard arbors and pivots, my experience with the wonderful round French mechanisms, the classic “Pendule du Paris” pieces made in the 1800’s has taught me that the arbors are not readily softened for drilling. Apparently the French used very hard steel with sufficient carbon to form excessive carbide inclusions. These inclusions hinder cutting no matter how soft the surrounding matrix. This conclusion is supported by the very fine grain I see on the end of a French arbor where a pivot used to be. In the case of French arbors, I use carbide gravers and drills. The other time that I will heat treat is when I need to cut a fairly small pivot. Typically I can turn down around 0.013 inch pivots in reasonably soft steel. But, if I need to turn a smaller pivot I will harden, and then temper the pivot once I have cut down to around 0.013 inch. With the pivot hardened I continue to cut, with a carbide graver, down to the desired diameter. Heat-Treating Terms The hardness and strength of carbon steel can be changed through hardening, annealing, and tempering. Annealing (Slowly cooling a red-hot piece of steel) is used to soften steel so that it can be bent and cut easily. Hardening (Quickly cooling - quenching - a red-hot steel) is used to make a very hard and brittle steel. Tempering (Heating to a desired temperature/color) is used to make very hard (hardened) steels stronger and less brittle. Annealed steels can not be tempered since they are already soft. Oil-hardening steels are alloyed (contain chrome and nickel) which allows them to be quenched at a slower rate than water-hardening steels. Air hardening steels are even more highly alloyed and can be quenched very slowly compared to water-hardening steels. Needless to say, air-hardening steel costs more than oil-hardening steel, which in turn costs more than water-hardening steel. Oil-hardening steels can be quenched in water but water-hardening steels should not be quenched in oil. For the most part I buy oil-hardening steels and then water quench with a layer of oil on the water. Safety – In this article I refer to temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit – when you see the letter “F” by itself this means I am referring to a temperature in degrees Fahrenheit. I also provide roughly equivalent temperatures in Centigrade in the table – where I use “C” to so designate. When you see numbers higher than 120 F (50 C) you should be aware that the metal is hot enough to burn you. My experience has taught me that I can almost hold a piece of metal at 120 F, though there is some discomfort. Touching a piece of metal at 400 or 500 F skips the uncomfortable part and goes directly to burn. A little planning before you start dealing with hot pieces of metal will improve your chances of enjoying the process (not to mention keeping you skin and the surrounding surfaces intact). If I am heat treating a piece in an open flame I focus on several points: Keep a fire extinguisher handy. While this should be a no brainer, I have to remind myself when doing something I have done a dozen times before. If I drop the work piece where will it land? What can I put there to keep it from scorching a bench or melting carpet? As I am getting ready to heat treat I remove all readily flammable items (cloth, paper, any solvents or other inflammable liquids) from the area where I am heating a work piece, and place fire brick where the work piece will fall if I accidentally drop it. Is there a safer way to treat the work piece? Much of my work is focused on tempering steel. Most tempering operations (and heat bluing for that matter) can be done in a household oven. These ovens are designed to handle temperatures up to around 550 F. It is possible to place the work piece in an oven, close the door, heat to the desired temperature, check the color using a kitchen pot holder to pull out the rack, and finally let the work piece cool on the rack with the oven off and the door open once the desired temperature/color is achieved. And, a work piece can stress relieve in an oven for an hour or two without your intervention (can you imagine trying to hold a pan of sand over an open flame for even a minute at a reasonably constant temperature?). Steel wool – a fire hazard? I often use steel wool to polish a work piece in preparation for heat treatment. It is very important to realize that steel wool will readily “catch on fire” (“exothermically oxidize” to a technical type). While it might not be obvious that a piece of steel wool is oxidizing merrily away, steel does oxidize at a fairly high temperature and can, if left unattended, ignite paper, cloth, and even a wooden work bench. I keep a steel cylinder on my bench for storing steel wool. I do not leave steel wool loose on the bench if I am doing any metal working, even a spark from a grinder will ignite steel wool. And, once ignited, steel wool burns around 2,500 F (1,400 C). When heating a work piece held in a pair of pliers, consciously remind yourself that it is not ok to grab the work piece if it slips out of the pliers. Or a work piece that is falling off of a fire brick. Don’t wear rubber gloves or clothing that is loose enough to get ignited. I will often wear a pair of thick leather gloves when working with very hot metal. Or an oven mitt. Not that either the leather or the mitt will handle temperatures over 600 or 700F, its just that the layer of leather or heavy cloth will give me a moment longer to realize I should quit touching the hot workpiece before I burn myself. Rubber or plastic is totally unacceptable in that it will melt and adhere to your skin. And even burn if given a chance. Quenching – pop, splatter and burn! Quenching cherry-hot steel in cold water is simple and, provided there is sufficient water available to effectively cool the work piece, pretty safe. This changes in a hurry when quenching in oil. The oil can splatter you (risking skin burns or worse if the oil ignites) or the oil can ignite in its container when you quickly lower the work piece into it. I find that the best approach is to have plenty of oil so the work piece can be lowered into it quickly without risking splashing or part of the work piece remaining above the surface. I also keep the quench oil in a container that can be readily covered if the oil catches fire. As part of my planning I set a cover beside the quench oil to make sure I am ready if a cover is needed. In fact, I typically do a dry run of the motions I will use to heat the work piece and to quench it. This helps me identify where I might get in trouble (ever wonder why we don’t have a few more hands, instead of 10 thumbs?). In summary, it is very important to plan out the steps you will take and plan what you will do if (when) things go wrong. If in doubt, a large, metal bowl of cold water placed where you can drop a work piece into it is not a bad safety precaution. Practical Procedures Annealing: Making a hard piece of steel bendable Heat the work-piece to cherry red (table salt melts at 1480, a good indicator of the correct temperature, or you can check to see if the steel is “non-magnetic” – as discussed below) and then cool the workpiece slowly - in warm air, in a pail of ashes, or placed on a fire brick or a heat pad, or better still, in a warm oven. Or, you can withdraw the flame very slowly if using a torch. Hardening: Making a soft piece of steel very hard Heat the work-piece to cherry red, and quench rapidly in water (or oil, or air, depending on the quality of the steel) to obtain a "glass hard" product. When longer pieces, such as arbors or punches, are immersed in water, be sure to plunge the workpiece straight in lengthwise, with the end that needs to be hardest first. When hardening a cutting tool you can have some decarburization (carbon in the steel is burnt out near the surface), it is good to grind off the surface to get to hard steel. Tempering: Making a glass hard work-piece usable Use steel-wool or fine emery paper to remove any surface oxide and expose fresh, shiny metal. Slowly heat the work-piece until the desired color is achieved: The hotter the piece is heated, the softer the product. 400 to 450 F (200 to 230 C) - Light Straw Color - Suitable for punches and steel gravers, will cut/punch steel that has been tempered to a blue color. Roughly 500 to 600 F (260 to 320 C) - Blue - Suitable for balance staffs and most hardened pieces. Soft enough to be machined, yet hard enough to withstand wear. While a work-piece is tempered as soon as the temperature reaches the desired point through out the piece, leaving it at the tempering temperature for an hour or two increases toughness and reduces hardness. And, while the ranges of temperatures shown above might seem a bit wide, start at the low end of the temperature range, let the workpiece “come to temperature”, then check the color. If the color isn’t right I increase the temperature in 10 F (5 C) increments until you get the color you want. In truth, most steels that I work with exhibit a very nice blue color in the 500 to 530 F range. Note – this is within the range that can be readily achieved in most home ovens! To keep a work-piece from discoloring - oxidizing - while heat treating Lightly heat the work piece, then dip it in liquid soap or roll it on a bar of common laundry soap until covered. This coating will flake off when the piece is heated to Adull red@ and drop into water or oil used to quench Heating Protecting fine threads and holding small pieces - Wrap bailing wire around piece to hold it, as well as to protect fine threads from oxidation. Since salt melts at 1480 F (800 C), a good practice to recognize achieving the temperature necessary to harden steel is to drill a hole in the end of a piece of the appropriate steel, fill it with salt, and observe when the salt melts when heating. This is hot enough to harden most steels. If you see scaling on the steel you are around 1550 F (840 C), too hot for most steels. When hardening or softening the pivot on an arbor it is best to indirectly heat the pivot by transferring the heat through a piece of brass rather than applying the flame directly to the arbor. I drill a hole in the end of a brass rod, and then use the rod to heat, and protect the pivot when heating. The hole is roughly the diameter of the arbor and deep enough that the pivot and a length of the arbor roughly equivalent to the diameter of the arbor will slide in. The rod should be at least two times the diameter of the arbor. With the pivot and the end of the arbor in the hole I can heat the brass rod a half inch or more away from the end of arbor and transfer heat to the pivot through the brass. I monitor the color of the arbor/pivot just outside of the hole in the end of the brass rod judge when I have achieved my desired temperature. As with all heat treating using a flame, proceed very slowly, it is amazing how quickly an arbor can heat up. What happens when we heat treat Typical carbon steel consists of iron and carbon with traces of other materials. Increasing the carbon content of steel increases its hardness: Steel Type Carbon Content Critical Temperature Iron Less than 0.15%, cannot be hardened Low Carbon Less than 0.3% 1400 F (760 C) Medium Carbon 0.3 to 0.6% High Carbon Over 0.6% 1,200 F (650 C) Tool Steel Over 0.77% - can be hardened to 800 Brinell, or 8 times hardness of unquenched iron Cast Iron 2.3 to 4% >5% gives poor mechanical properties Steel becomes progressively more hardenable up to around 0.8% carbon. Higher levels of carbon increase the wear resistance but do not have much impact on the hardness. Heat treating and tempering involve changes in the crystal structure of steel. The ultimate strength of steel produced from a given iron/carbon mixture depends on how the steel is heat treated. When steel is heated to its Acritical temperature@ (think cherry-red or red-hot), the iron and carbon molecules form a solid solution in which the carbon and iron are evenly distributed throughout the solution. (Note, table salt melts around 1480 F (800 C), and most tool steels become non-magnetic around 1355 F (735 C)). The way the red-hot steel is cooled controls the strength and hardness of the final product: If the red-hot steel is cooled very quickly (quenched, or hardened), the iron and carbon form very small crystals with the carbon evenly distributed throughout the steel. This produces very hard, brittle steel called Martensite. This steel can be tempered to a wide range of hardness to make it less brittle and more workable. Note that when cooling a thick work-piece, it is not uncommon to find that the center of the work piece has not achieved the fine crystalline structure because it did not cool as quickly as the outside. This is why oil-hardening steel can be worth the added expense – it is easier to work with and is more forgiving in the time allowed for cooling. If the steel is cooled very slowly (annealed) the iron and carbon produce two separate crystalline forms, one being nearly pure iron (Ferrite), the other being iron carbide (Cementite). These two materials form separate layers: the slower a steel cools, the thicker the layers, and the softer the steel. Annealed steel can not be tempered but can be bent and cut easily. The hardening temperature influences the grain size distribution, Under heating results in a coarse grain, while the steel grain distribution is irregular and the steel is brittle when overheated. The strength of steel is also influenced by the carbon content: the higher the carbon content, the more carbon there is to make iron carbides, and the harder the steel will be for a given cooling rate. Interestingly, the higher the carbon content, the lower the critical temperature to which the metal must be heated for proper hardening. Steel can be hardened several times, but each time the steel is heated red-hot a bit of the carbon in the steel is oxidized, resulting in a progressively softer steel. Hardness The maximum hardness for a given steel is achieved by quenching quickly from red-hot. The actual hardness achieved will depend on the carbon content of the steel. A steel containing 1% carbon will be harder than one containing 0.4% carbon. For most steels the optimum temperature to obtain the toughest steel is 1450 F (790 C). Likewise, the optimum temperature for tempering is around 350 F (180 C). A much softer steel will be produced by slowly cooling from red-hot. The slower the cooling rate, the softer the steel. In general, the strength of steel is proportional to its hardness Hardening - Treating a steel so that is very hard and strong, but brittle. Steel is heated to red-hot (note - red-hot steel is not magnetic) and then cooled rapidly by quenching in oil, water, or brine (salty water). Quenched steel is very hard and brittle; It may crack if dropped. If you wonder if steel is hardenable, try hardening a piece and then test it by seeing if it will crack when bent. You can also notch a piece to control where it breaks. When it breaks, look at the texture of the break. Wrought iron is fibrous and stringy, steel is crystalline with a grainy structure at the face of a break. Oil Hardening vs. Water Hardening Steels Oil-Hardening Steel - Can be quenched more slowly than water-hardening steel - Oil cools the metal more slowly than quenching in water Oil-hardening steel requires a more highly alloyed composition. The increased alloy content slows down the formation of the layers of ferrite and cementite, allowing more time to form martensite, the desirable and very hard steel. Quenching steel causes the volume of the steel to increase by roughly three percent. This can cause significant warpage and cracking in quenched work-pieces. Slower quenching (in oil as opposed to using water or brine) generates less distortion in the work-piece Oil-hardening steels can be water quenched and will produce a little bit harder steel than if oil quenched Water-hardening steels - Have to be quenched very quickly to form martensite. Water cools the metal faster than oil Adding salt to the water makes it a more effective coolant, while making the water less prone to forming bubbles around the hot steel. An indication of the correct amount of salt is when a potato just floats in the solution, or roughly 3/4 pound per gallon of water. Water-hardening steels have fewer alloying components. Less alloying means the ferrite and cementite form more quickly, so the steel must be quenched faster to get hard martensite. Faster quenching with water increases the risk of distortions in the work-piece. The risk of pulling carbon out of the steel is reduced if the water has a layer of oil on the surface – the oil tends to coat the workpiece as it is lowered through the oil into the water. Water-hardening steels can be oil-quenched, though the steel will not get as hard as when water-quenched. (May not be fast enough to form any martensite) Whichever type of steel is used, it is important that long objects, such as arbors, be plunged into the quenching liquid on end, not on their sides. Plunging on end minimizes the risks of warping arbors or other long objects. Ductility - The ability of a metal to change shape before it breaks. Quenched steel is very hard but not ductile; in fact it is very brittle. Tempering is needed to impart ductility (while reducing brittleness) to the quenched steel, usually at a small sacrifice in strength. Annealing - Treating steel so that it may be bent and cut easily. Steel is heated to red-hot and then cooled very slowly - often in an oven so that the temperature can be brought down at a slow, controlled rate. Alternately, when using a torch, you can withdraw the work-piece slowly from the flame to extend the cooling period. Normalizing is a form of annealing where the steel is cooled in air. Normalizing will not make steel as soft and workable as annealing. Work Hardening Steel that is bent when cold has a tendency to harden in the deformed areas, making it more difficult to bend and more liable to breakage. Alternate bending and annealing operations are performed on most manufactured steel products to minimize the negative impacts of work hardening. Tempering - Also called Drawing - Making a steel tougher and less brittle - Reheating hardened steel to a set temperature for a set time and cooling back to room temperature makes steel tougher and more shock resistant but reduces the steel's hardness and strength. - Tempering results in the formation of tiny carbide particles in the steel, but does not change the grain size of the steel. - Quenching steel that has achieved the required temperature for tempering does not decrease the effectiveness of the tempering. - Annealed steel is already soft, it can not be tempered. An example: Heating a punch that has already been hardened to make it less brittle. The tip of the punch is heated to a light straw color (about 430 F (220 C) by gently heating the body of the punch and monitoring the progress of the color change up the shaft. When the last half inch of the punch begins to change to a straw color, remove from heat and plunge straight down into water. Stress Relieving - Heating a steel to relieve internal stress and thus prevent distortion or cracking during machining. Alloyed Steels Chrome and nickel are added to delay the formation of a two-phase microstructure. This allows the steel to be quenched more slowly without giving up any hardness. Such steel is said to be more "hardenable" than steels that must be quenched quickly. Likewise addition of chrome and nickel allow for a more consistent hardness throughout a thick piece of steel when it is quenched. Hardenability should not be confused with hardness: Hardenability refers to a steels ability to be hardened throughout a thick piece of steel, whereas the hardness that can be achieved in a given steel depends on its carbon content.

Tid-Bit 9 - Heat Treating Steel

Published in the April 2011 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 202. Hea ...

Updated: Mar 27, 2011 10:18am PST

Tid-Bit 10 - Adjusting Pallets : Published in the June 2011 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 330. The Graham deadbeat escapement is found in a wide variety of clocks, including most of the Vienna Regulators and Precision Regulators seen in my shop. With time the escapements pallet faces become grooved from sliding across the tip of the escape-wheel teeth. Over the centuries this grooving can convert a deadbeat escapement to a recoil escapement. Interestingly, when this happens the clock often continues to run, perhaps a tad fast, but run none the less. While hardened pallets wear at a slower rate than softer pallets, eventually they all develop grooves, unless of course one is lucky enough to own a clock with jeweled pallets. My methods for dressing grooved pallets are discussed in a previous Technical Tid Bit (see the April 2010 Bulletin, page 191 for Tech Tid-Bit 4).

Tid-Bit 10 - Adjusting Pallets

Published in the June 2011 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 330. Th ...

Updated: Mar 26, 2011 10:22am PST

Tid-Bit 11 - Making a Burnisher : Published in the October 2011 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 538. Burnisher 101 How to make your own Thinking about burnishers brings to mind one of my first MART’s. Never had I imagined there would be so many specialized tools for working on clocks and watches. And, while I had no idea what-so-ever what burnishing was all about, one savvy table holder made it clear that you had to have a burnisher if you ever wanted to work on clocks. I still have that burnisher, and several others that are similar - you just can’t have too many tools - especially ones as important as burnishers! Not that I knew how to use them, even when I was buying numbers two, three, and, well, you get the idea. If you would like to learn more about such burnishers I highly recommend David LaBounty’s article in the June 2006 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 323. When I read David’s article I was struck by his statement “A true test of skill is burnishing a pivot by hand. It takes many hours of practice and frustration just to become moderately proficient and years before the task becomes routine.” Having tried to use commercial burnishers on the pivots in the clocks I love (Vienna Regulators), I can understand his comment. It is sort of like trying to drive a small nail with a 6 pound sledge hammer. My first MART find, and burnishers like it, is the reason it is so important for you to make your own burnisher. Figure 1 gives a side-by-side comparison of three burnishers - the top two are commercially made, the bottom one is the burnisher handed down to me by my mentor, Ray Ashcraft.

Tid-Bit 11 - Making a Burnisher

Published in the October 2011 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 538. ...

Updated: May 22, 2011 2:25pm PST

Tid-Bit 12 - Tips for Working on Vienna Regulator Winding Drums : Published in the February 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 65. It is a good idea, when servicing any weight-driven clock, to remove the gear from the winding drum arbor so you can restore all of the pivots on the winding arbor. When servicing a Vienna Regulator mechanism I always remove the gear, and then remove the spring, and the pawl from the gear before cleaning the parts in cleaning solution. I then stone and burnish all of the bearing surfaces on the arbor – including the section of the arbor on which the gear rides. While removing the gear is often a fairly straight forward proposition, the mechanisms made in Vienna tend to be not quite so simplistic, at least at first glance. The gears for both German and Viennese winding drums are typically held onto the arbor by a slotted washer. While many of the German factory-made Vienna-style mechanisms use a screw to retain these slotted washers (see Figure 1), the Viennese recessed these pesky little washers into the gear (Figure 2). The first time you see one you might just decided you don’t need to take it apart. None the less, with the simple technique that is the first subject of this Tid-Bit, you too will be able to laugh at this technical challenge and slip the washer right out!

Tid-Bit 12 - Tips for Working on Vienna Regulator Winding Drums

Published in the February 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 65. ...

Updated: Jun 28, 2011 12:21pm PST

Tid-Bit 13 - Mechanism Assembly Tips : Published in the April 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 191. Not long ago I was reading an excellent article on moving pivots when assembling a mechanism (Some Thoughts on Pivot Locator Hooks, Scotty Dean, 4/2010 NAWCC Bulletin Article, pg 186). Scotty Dean presented a number of examples of hooks and pushers that can be used to move pivots around when trying to get them to slip into their appropriate holes. His article reminded me of several phone calls from novice clock restorers who were working on their first Vienna Regulator mechanism, and having problems getting pivots to cooperate. The one that really stands out was from a gentleman who had replaced the weight line on a years-duration weight-driven Viennese mechanism, and who couldn’t get it to run after he had put it back together. The challenges he faced are the subject of this Tidbit. It doesn’t take much pressure to inadvertently bend, or even remove a pivot when dealing with the finer pivots in Viennese or French movements. And, while I have seen time and again that an experienced craftsman can do phenomenal work with tools that only serve to expose a mere mortal’s lack of skill, the gentleman mentioned above epitomized the problems inappropriate tools can cause for beginners. While I like to think the tips I offer in this Tidbit for putting together mechanisms can be of value to both novice and experienced clock restorers – my real focus is on those who have not yet mastered the exquisitely fine touch that renders seemingly impossible challenges easy. Back to my friend with the weight-driven year runner that wouldn’t do its thing. Fortunately he lived fairly close, so the next weekend saw him and his mechanism at one of my benches. Whilst he only bent 2 pivots using a pusher like the top one in Figure 1, well, that is still two too many. We discussed his procedure for assembling the mechanism while straightening the bent pivots – and from this discussion I learned that he had used a pivot locator identical to the top one in Figure 1.

Tid-Bit 13 - Mechanism Assembly Tips

Published in the April 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 191. N ...

Updated: Jan 14, 2012 2:10pm PST

Tid-Bit 14 - To See or Not To See : Published in the June 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 297. Recently I had the chance to have breakfast with a number of knowledgeable clock folk who meet regularly to discuss their shared fascination. This particular morning one of the men had an American mechanism that just didn’t want to run – something was amiss with the escapement. The restorer had spent some time working on it, but frankly was bumfuzzled. When it was my turn to look into the bowels of the mechanism I donned my 2 power binocular loupes and noticed that there were signs that one of the pivots for the anchor had been moved – which likely would result in exactly the problem the mechanism was said to be experiencing. This experience reminded me how important it is to be able to see what we are doing. To me there are two aspects to seeing what we are doing. The first is being able to see well enough to spot the problem. The second is getting our minds to actually “see”, or perhaps the better word is “discern” what the optics allow us to see. Whilst I am sure the repairman could see the plugged hole – he did after I pointed it out – somehow it just didn’t grab his attention. But, when magnified, the plug was too obvious to ignore. I suppose experience is the best teacher in learning to discern what is important (or, in my case, luck), but I firmly believe that being able to clearly see the tiny bits we work on is the critical first step. And that is the subject of this Tech Tidbit – the optics I use to see what I am working on. So much for a long winded introduction as to why I use microscopes and binocular loupes when I work on clocks. Oh, there is another reason: I am not getting any younger, and neither are my eyes. Optics can obviate the otherwise seemingly insurmountable challenges we all face now, or will face in the future as our eyes loose their youthful resiliency. I have had students (experienced clock repair folk and customers who want to learn how to repair the finer weight driven clocks) spend a half hour working on a pivot while using an Optivisor to see what they are doing. When I then look at the pivot under a microscope I find they have not even begun to properly restore the pivot. Because they could not see what they were doing. Methodology I used a Sony DSC-T200 8 megapixel digital camera in close-up mode with no flash to shoot pictures of a pinion and pivot through the various optical devices discussed in this article. Every effort was made to position the camera to reflect the distance from the eye to the optical device. Likewise the optical devices were positioned such that they were at the appropriate distance (focal length) from the pivot and pinion. The pictures shown below were all shot with the same camera-lens settings and were all cropped identically to give reasonable representations of the relative size of the image seen with each optical device. Reading Glasses When I turned 50 I discovered the joys of reading glasses. Simply put, reading glasses allow you to focus on objects that are too close for aged eyes to see clearly. While you used to be able to focus on something 6 inches from your nose, there will likely come a time when you need to hold objects a couple of feet away to see them. And, at that distance, it is really hard to make out the fine print. Hence reading glasses. Reading glasses come in various focal lengths. When you buy reading glasses you will see numbers ranging from 1 to around 3: These are the diopter of the lenses – diopter being the reciprocal of the focal length, measured in meters. Let me put that another way. The older you get, the higher the diopter you will need to see something close to your face – as your eyes continue to loose the ability to focus on near objects. At one time I thought that diopter was the same as magnification. It isn’t. The magnification of a pair of reading glasses can be calculated as follows: Magnification = (Diopter divided by 4) plus 1. Hopefully the following table will make this clear:

Tid-Bit 14 - To See or Not To See

Published in the June 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 297. Re ...

Updated: Dec 18, 2012 1:01pm PST

Tid-Bit 15 - A Striking Problem - or All About Springs : Published in the August 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 404. Being a rather avid collector of Vienna Regulators I have had a chance to evaluate and troubleshoot a number of mechanism challenges. The three weight mechanisms tend to pose the most opportunities for “meaningful discussions”, in that they are the most complex examples. More specifically, the hour-strike train is usually the problem child. Why is this? Because the hour train has a lot more to do than either the time or the quarter-strike trains. I have one rather unusual early Vienna Regulator with a three train movement but only two weights. Both weights have the same mass, but one weight drives just the hour-strike train while the other drives both the time train and the quarter-strike train. I think that is indicative of the power required for the different trains – twice as much for the hour train as for the other two trains. A three-weight Vienna Regulator mechanism counts both the quarter and the hour every 15 minutes. For example, at 9:15 the quarter-strike train will strike once, while the hour-strike train will strike nine times. On the hour the quarter-strike train strikes 4 times while the hour-strike train strikes the hour. Over the course of a day the quarter train strikes 240 times while the hour train strikes 624 times. Most Vienna Regulators have the same size weights on all three trains. Meaning that both the quarter-strike and the time trains are pretty well powered, while the hour-strike train is the one that will let you know if the mechanism needs cleaned. And, given its’ more challenging task, it is also the train that tends to be “adjusted” most often by would-be master-clock repair folk who can’t get it to work. It is probably not necessary to point out, but I will anyway: The hour strike train on a long duration (month, 3 month, 6 month, once in a great while, year) 3 train mechanisms are especially sensitive to problems, and adjustments. These are the trains that have helped me fine-tune my understanding of the challenges that hour-strike trains face. This tid-bit focuses on a couple of issues that can cause problems, specifically it focuses on the how and why of adjusting the springs that are incorporated in these strike trains. Figures 1 and 2 show the location of the springs I will be discussing. If you would like to see more pictures of this great mechanism check out

Tid-Bit 15 - A Striking Problem - or All About Springs

Published in the August 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 404. ...

Updated: Apr 06, 2012 8:13pm PST

Tid-Bit 16 - Gear-Holding Techniques : Published in the October 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 525. I get the opportunity to work on a variety of time-keeping devices, from vintage pocket watches to tower clocks, though most of my work is on the Vienna Regulators that I love. And, given my awareness of the importance of stoning and burnishing pivots, I have to be able to effectively spin a rather wide range of gears in my various lathes. This article, the third in a series covering the techniques I use in restoring pivots, focuses on the way I hold the gears and arbors while working their pivots. The first article – “Got Stones” - covered the preparation of the hard Arkansas slips I use to smooth pivots. The second - “Burnisher 101 – How to Make Your Own” – explained how to make the kind of burnisher I find most effective for smaller clock (like Vienna Regulators) pivot work. This article covers how to hold the gear being restored, with subsequent articles discussing the use of Arkansas slips and burnishers. The techniques discussed in this article are drawn, to a large extent, from the lessons I received at the bench of my mentor – Ray Ashcraft – a retired railroad watch inspector. When I first started learning from Ray I was enamored with a lovely little six millimeter (6mm) European-style watchmakers lathe. The thing I loved most about that lathe, other than its perfect size for doing watch work, was the selection of accessories for the tailstock. The lathe was designed with a runner that allowed you to align saddles and lanterns for working pivots – See the first four pictures for several examples of these special accessories. Being a tool freak I was very proud of my little lathe with its special saddles and pivot-supporting accessories.

Tid-Bit 16 - Gear-Holding Techniques

Published in the October 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 525. ...

Updated: Dec 02, 2012 8:03am PST

Tid-Bit 17 - 6-Jaw "Bezel" Chucks : Published in the December, 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 637. Over the years I have fielded quite a few questions about holding gears so that one can work pivots. This is why I wrote the previous Technical Tid-Bit in this series – “Gear Holding Techniques”. But, as I discuss gear holding techniques with students and other clock repair folk the focus usually ends up on holding gears that don’t have much arbor sticking out past the gear hub. An example of such a gear is shown in Figure 1.

Tid-Bit 17 - 6-Jaw "Bezel" Chucks

Published in the December, 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 637. ...

Updated: Aug 02, 2012 11:58am PST

Tid-Bit 18 - Soldering : Published in the January 2013 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 77. My biggest challenge in repairing/restoring clocks is remedying previous repair folks fixes. More specifically, poorly soldered pieces are one of the most vexing mechanism problems that I run into – it seems that everyone loves to solder because it is such a permanent solution. And hey - if a little solder will do the trick, gads, won’t a little more work even better? More solder will always take care of a poor fit! This Tid-Bit focuses on the repair of a poorly “fixed” Vienna Regulator crutch, and putting a broken winding drum click back together. But, before getting into the how’s and why’s of this article, let’s first think a little about safety. I use a variety of small torches when soldering small pieces (see Figure 17 for two of them). Torches remind me of the rule I was taught when taking a gun safety course – don’t ever point a gun at something you don’t intend to shoot. Likewise, don’t ever point a torch at something you don’t want to torch. And, just like when shooting, it is very important to look around and behind the workpiece you are heating to see what you might be inadvertently about to torch. Often the first step in repairing someone else’s work is to remove the excess solder. There are times that the most effective way to remove solder is to heat the work piece, and then wipe it with a piece of cloth to remove the melted solder. Always wear a leather glove when wiping away excess solder with a piece of cloth to keep from getting burnt. I do most of my soldering on a fire brick. A fire brick is capable of withstanding fairly intense heat without cracking or melting. Granted, heating with an oxy-acetylene torch will melt a fire brick. But, using propane, butane or MAPP gas (trademarked name belonging to Linde Group for a fuel gas based on a stabilized mixture of methylacetylene (propyne) and propadiene) torches will not melt a fire brick. When you are done soldering a workpiece, especially when working on a fire brick, well, it only stands to reason that the workpiece is very hot. A fire brick retains heat and slows the cooling process. Especially when working on a fire brick, let the workpiece cool for a while – make sure the solder has set before picking it up, and use a pair of tweezers or a pair of pliers to pick up the piece. Flux is used to prevent oxidation of metals that are being soldered and to ease the flow of the solder on the metal and into cracks or crevices. Many fluxes are acidic. It is imperative that eye-protection be worn when soldering to prevent molten solder or acidic fluxes from splattering into the eyes. It is also important to look at what might be impacted by the acidic flux when you are putting it on a workpiece. One of the worst problems that I see is caused by a repair person soldering a broken part with the part still in the mechanism. The heated flux vaporizes, and then condenses on parts near the piece being soldered. In a couple of years the flux, if not properly rinsed off, will destroy the surrounding bits. When done soldering always rinse the workpiece in cool water for 30 seconds as soon as the workpiece has cooled to remove any residual soldering flux. What I hope is a fairly obvious corollary: Don’t solder pieces that are still attached to the mechanism. When soldering a complex piece, one which might retain flux in an inner cavity or such, it is a great idea to clean the workpiece after soldering in an ultrasound with an ammonia-based cleaner. Ammonia, being a base, will very effectively neutralize any residual acidic flux. It is a good idea, when heating solder, to think about where the molten solder might fall if it happens to drip. Sometimes I solder pieces held in a vise on the side of a work bench. There is nothing quite as exciting as having melted solder drop on your foot – or slip right through your socks or fabric shoes and come to rest on your bare skin. Lastly, an Exacto knife is very effective at removing excess solder – and skin. When I am using an Exacto I think about where the blade will go if it slips, and then do my best to not have anything in that area – just in case. I also remember the friend who was cutting veneer with an Exacto – fortunately they were able to remove the piece of it from his eye after the blade snapped in two. Wear safety glasses when using sharp knives. The steps I follow when soldering can be summarized as follows: -Remove previously applied solder -Make sure the pieces are very clean -Make sure the pieces to be soldered fit together very well -Decide if the workpiece needs to be reinforced – if so, make an appropriate reinforcing piece -Use a moderate amount of flux -Use a minimal amount of solder -Use “just enough” heat The crutch hub shown in Figure 1 is from a Vienna Regulator mechanism. It had been previously broken and soldered.

Tid-Bit 18 - Soldering

Published in the January 2013 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 77. My ...

Updated: Sep 28, 2012 11:18am PST

Tid-Bit 19 - Restoring Clock Pivots : My goals in restoring clock and watch mechanisms are: 1. Restore the mechanism to as close to original condition as possible, 2. Reduce friction in the gear trains, and 3. Minimize the potential for additional wear and tear. This article focuses on the work I do in restoring the clock pivots. Specifically I cover the use of stones - to remove imperfections in the pivot - and burnishers - to produce an extremely smooth and hard finish. Which reminds me of a question that I often hear: Do I use the same techniques on all of the clocks I work on? Typically, this is a question asked by someone who works mostly on American spring-driven mechanisms, like those found in kitchen clocks. To which I can honestly say yes, I use the same techniques. Granted, I mostly work on Vienna Regulators, but I use the same techniques on all the mechanisms I restore. A case in point – I have a British long-case clock from the late 1800’s. I do not believe the pivots were originally burnished, based on my observations when initially reviewing the mechanism – looking at the pivots under a 10 power microscope and focusing on areas that had not seen apparent wear. This particular mechanism strikes the quarters on a nest of 8 bells – the quarter-strike train was originally driven with a 32 pound weight. I had the mechanism restored by a gentleman noted for his work on English mechanisms. When done the mechanism ran perfectly - with a 32 pound weight for the quarter-strike train. I later went through the mechanism myself – after noting black deposits around several of the pivots. I found the pivots to be only marginally burnished. My restoration included stoning the pivot-surfaces (to remove grooves and to “flatten” the circumference of the pivot) and then burnishing each pivot. The quarter-strike train now operates with a 14 pound weight and has been running, as my shop clock, for the past 4 years. Were the pivots originally (as in back in the 1800’s) properly burnished? I don’t think so. In point of fact, I have worked on perhaps 60 British long-case clocks. I have only found one maker whose pivots reflected effective burnishing. Which raises a bit of a controversy – is it appropriate to burnish pivots that were not originally burnished – thus going against the first goal listed above? My answer is yes – the reduction in wear, with a focus on preserving the mechanism for future generations - is my justification. In terms of my shop clock – after 4 years I am not seeing black residue around the pivots, and it should be self-evident that a gear train that is being driven by a 14 pound weight is not going to see as much wear as if driven by a 32 pound weight. Equipment This Tid-Bit is meant to sum up and draw on several previous Tid-Bits covering tools that I use to restore pivots. Tid-Bit 1 - “Got Stones”, published in the October 2009 Bulletin, starting on page 580. This Tid-Bit explains the type of stones I use for working pivots and how I prepare the stones for use. Tid-Bit 5 – “Power Pegging”, published in the 6/2010 NAWCC Bulletin, page 314. While this Tid-Bit is not specifically on restoring pivots, it goes hand in hand with this subject since even a perfectly restored pivot will not perform well in a pivot hole that is not properly cleaned. Tid-Bit 11 – “Making a Burnisher”, published in the October 2011 Bulletin, starting on page 538. The burnishers I use have 3 out of 4 edges rounded and are sized to be appropriate for the different sized pivots that I restore. Tid-Bit 14 – “To See or Not To See”, Published in the June 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 297. I find that the minimum magnification needed to do pivot restorations is 5 power (5X), provided the person doing the restoration is experienced enough to really know what they are doing. Otherwise 10X is more appropriate. And please understand that I am referring to magnification, not diopter – as discussed in Tid-Bit 14. The numbers one sees on reading glasses and Optivisors refer to their diopter – a diopter of 10 is only 3.5X. Tid-Bit 16 – “Gear-Holding Techniques”, published in the October 2012 Bulletin starting on page 525. It is important to realize that the gear/arbor must be mounted in the lathe such that the pivot spins with little wobble when being restored. Tid-Bit 17 – “6-Jaw ‘Bezel’ Chucks”,published in the December, 2012 NAWCC Bulletin, starting on page 637. These chucks make it possible to hold some gears that are not amenable to other techniques. Pivot Files – as the youth of today say – “Not so much”. I only use pivot files when the damage they do to the pivot (because of their very coarse nature) is less than the damage being repaired (due to wear and tear on the pivot). While I rarely reach for a pivot file, I do have a number of them to choose from. Lubricant. There was a time I used rubbing alcohol for my stoning and burnishing work – it is very effective – and tends to keep things very clean. I also used it to lubricate my carbide gravers, where it was not so effective. When I switched to using automatic transmission fluid for my gravers I also switched for my pivot work – it works very well. Light Source. You can’t do great work if you can’t see what you are doing. With that introduction, let’s talk a bit about safety. As with any thing we do on a lathe, there are risks involved in restoring pivots - risks to ourselves, as well as risks to gears, pivots, and tools. Safety While it might seem unlikely that we could end up with something in our eye, anytime one is working around a lathe one needs to be wearing some form of eye protection. I use microscopes for all of my watchmaking lathe work - which is handy because it gets my eyes about a foot from the action. Every one that uses a lathe needs to give thought to how they can keep their eyes safe while using the lathe. Having used a 5X loupe I can say that one must be very careful not to get ones nose involved in ones lathe work. This is doubly so with the 10X loupes I used at one time to do pivot work. One must be especially careful when using 3 or 6 jaw chucks, or faceplates to hold the workpiece. Even the gear itself can pose risks when holding the arbor in a collet – the teeth can snag anything that gets near them (a good reason not to wear long-sleeve shirts with the cuffs undone or loose long-sleeved sweatshirts. I am especially aware of the risk every time I work a pivot with a gear that has pins sticking out of the side – these pins love to drag a stone or burnisher – either breaking the stone, throwing the stone/burnisher, breaking off the pivot, or breaking off the pin. And, of course, if one is not careful, the pins can very quickly cut an errant finger that gets in their spinning way. In addition to the pins in the sides of gears, it is a good idea to watch out for the short pieces of metal on winding drums that are meant to guide the second round of line being wound onto the drum so the line doesn’t end up on top of the first round of line. These little pins are often sharpened, making them more effective for deflecting line and cutting miss-placed fingers. The force applied to stones or burnishers is likely the source of the greatest risk for breaking pivots. It just doesn’t take much force to break or bend a pivot as small as some we find in the nicer clocks. And, besides, the more force one applies the deeper the scratches will be when stoning and the more risk of galling the pivot when burnishing. Why do I stone pivots – to get the pivots as perfect as possible before burnishing. Which raises another point. I am lucky enough to get to work on clocks that have often spent many many years “under the roof”, a quaint way of saying “in the attic”. My primary focus is Vienna Regulators, with a penchant for long duration pieces. While working on such clocks, some of which have had very little wear or maintenance since new. I have seen a number of clocks with pivots that were tapered when they were originally made. Do I make these “coned” pivots into perfect cylinders – thereby likely necessitating bushing the plates? I think each and every restorer has to come to grips with their own philosophy for restoring mechanisms. I have previously discussed my concerns with bushing Viennese mechanisms – see “To Bush or Not to Bush - A Very Important Question Indeed!” in the December, 2006 Bulletin, starting on page 698. I only bush when it is clearly necessary. And, having worked on year-duration weight-driven mechanisms that operate on as little as 10 pounds with tapered pivots – I do not focus on making perfectly cylindrical pivots – I follow the original makers lead. Likewise, when presented with scored pivots – my focus is to remove enough of the problem to give the arbor an effective wear surface. When stoning a pivot I will not attempt to remove every imperfection – I often talk about a 99% solution – or one in which I remove at least 99% of the grooves, but don’t go after the last one or two grooves - perhaps the last one percent - if it will require significant pivot diameter reduction. Don’t get me wrong – if a pivot can be made absolutely perfect with a light stoning – I go for perfect. But, if I will be removing enough pivot material that I will likely have to bush the pivot hole – I give it some thought. Given that I will sometimes leave small imperfections in my finished pivots I think it is also important to point out that when burnishing I pay extra attention to imperfections, using the rounded edges of my burnisher to round the edges of any circular grooves or other imperfections in the finished pivot. In this way I minimize the impact of these residual imperfections in the pivots operation. Of course, working under 10X magnification, the imperfections I am talking about are just not likely to be visible to the naked eye or even under a 2 power loupe. Stoning a Pivot My first rule of thumb when starting to restore a mechanism is to start with the largest pivots first. This gives me time to get my touch sensitized before going to the finer pivots. My second rule of thumb would likely be that I use the finest abrasive that I can, based on my initial inspection of the pivot. My choices for initial work are pivot files, and the 3 different faces on the hard Arkansas slips that I use for pivot work (discussed earlier in the “Equipment” section. Rarely do I use pivot files – the damage they do to the pivots is excessive due to their relatively coarse nature. Brings to mind a discussion I was having with a British restorer who was used to working on British long-case mechanisms. He was fairly sure that one should always start with a pivot file. Until he worked on his first Vienna Regulator mechanism and looked under his new 10 power microscope at the file next to the pivot. Only then did he realize how really coarse pivots files are. Usually I will start with the number 2 face on my hard Arkansas slips (prepared with 220 grit sand paper) and see if it will remove imperfections in a timely manner. If the pivot is in decent shape I will start with the number 3 face (prepared with 600 grit sandpaper) – or I may go directly to burnishing if the pivot is in excellent condition. The grits I refer to are the grades of sandpaper I used to prepare the faces. The equivalent “grit” of the faces of the hard Arkansas stones are much finer – the number 3 face gives a finish comparable to a very worn 2000 grit or finer Emory paper. But, unlike the Emory paper, the stone does not conform to the shape of the pivot – so the stone can show where the pivot is not perfectly flattened. I find that the effort necessary to remove the coarser scratches left by pivot files or the number 1 face (prepared with 100 grit sandpaper) is much greater than just taking a bit more time with a finer face initially. Over the years I have had a number of questions about the impact of pivot restoration work on the shoulders adjacent to the pivots. Some are concerned that burnishing the pivot will also result in significant metal removal from the shoulder. This concern was coupled with the belief that burnishing was a metal removal process. Reality is that burnishing is not meant to be a metal removal process – it is a metal working process – and has negligible impact on the dimensional stability of the shoulder. Stoning on the other hand can result in metal removal from the shoulder of the pivot. While this was not a concern in the videos I shot for this article (because they show the steps in making a pivot for a pulley, and the shoulder needed to be cleaned up anyway), it is important when working pivots on existing arbors. The primary way I keep from impacting the shoulders is to focus the pressure from my fingers on stoning the pivot, and not letting the stone press against the shoulder. While the stone often rests against the shoulder, there is very little pressure in that direction. The secondary way I keep from impacting the shoulder has to do with the way I prepare my stones, and how I use them. My stones have three different faces: Coarse face (perhaps the equivalent of 600 grit sandpaper), marked with a single dot, Medium face (perhaps the equivalent of 1200 grit sandpaper), marked with two dots, Fine face (think of very worn 2000 grit sandpaper), marked with 3 dots. There is one coarse face, and, on the opposite side of the stone there is a fine face. The other two sides (the sides adjacent to the coarse and fine faces) are medium faces. When I stone a pivot with a coarse face the adjacent face, or the face touching the shoulder, is a medium face – which is much less aggressive than the coarse face. Likewise, if I orient the stone correctly, the face touching the shoulder when stoning the pivot with the medium face is the fine face. And, when using the fine face on the pivot a medium face is touching the shoulder. But, in this last case I am using the lightest possible pressure on the stone and focus on not working the shoulder. Then, when I burnish I consciously burnish both the shoulder and the pivot. In my years of working on Vienna Regulators there have been several occasions when I knew I had individual gears in a mechanism that did not have enough end-shake. I have found that the techniques discussed in this tid-bit did not alleviate this problem – in fact I could not see any impact to the endshake when I worked the pivots. I had to either cut back the shoulder with a graver or create a small depression in the plate to give the necessary end-shake. My first Tid-Bit discusses making two slips – one with ¼ inch faces, the other with 1/8 inch faces. These are pretty much the only two slips I use – a point I want to emphasize – you don’t need a wide array of slips to do pivot work – these two slips will cover most of the work you do on pretty much all the clocks you work on – unless you get into tower clocks – at which point you might need a ½ inch slip. The only exception is that I will sometimes get out a coarser hard Arkansas stone – when the pivot wants a bit more taken off, but not enough to merit having to clean up the mess a pivot file makes. Oh, and sometimes I will get out a 1/16 inch wide ruby slip that I have prepared by flattening the different faces on diamond plates of different grits. It is very handy on really small pivots. Figures 1 and 2 show how I hold slips when stoning a pivot.

Tid-Bit 19 - Restoring Clock Pivots

My goals in restoring clock and watch mechanisms are: 1. Restore the ...

Updated: Dec 15, 2012 8:36pm PST

Hour Strike Rack and Snail Variations : These pictures show the relative position of the gathering pallet and the teeth of the hour rack for each of the twelve steps of the hour snail. In the photo’s you should note that the hour rack pawl is not engaging the rack – so the position of the rack is due to the hour rack lever resting on a step on the hour snail. The point to notice is that the relative position of the gathering pallet shifts relative to the closest tooth as you step through the pictures. This reflects minor variations in the height of each step on the rim of the hour snail. If the hour rack lever is not adjusted correctly it is all too easy to have the gathering pallet work just fine when initiating the strike for most hours, but, because of variations in the snail, hang up on the tip of a rack tooth for one of the hours. As you step through the pictures in the photo gallery (I found it easiest to click on the “Slide Show” button in the upper right of the photo-gallery screen, then click on the large arrows to the right and left of the picture) you can readily see that the gap between the gathering pallet and the rack teeth is smaller for the 2 and the 7 o’clock teeth. If the hour rack lever was set so that the pallet just cleared the teeth at most positions it could readily foul at either the 2 or the 7 positions. If the gathering pallet comes in contact with the very tip of one of the rack teeth the gathering pallet will hang up, which will keep the clock from striking. It is for this reason that I will typically check that the gathering pallet does not foul the tips of the rack teeth in all 12 positions of the hour snail. Needless to say, I check the same thing for the 4 positions of the quarter snail. The last item in this gallery is a short movie of a quarter-hour gathering pallet that is having problems moving the rack over - because the rack drop is not set correctly. I will cover this issue in more detail in a future tid-bit.

Hour Strike Rack and Snail Variations

These pictures show the relative position of the gathering pallet and ...

Updated: Nov 03, 2012 8:02pm PST

Bob Crane No-Jaw Chuck :

Bob Crane No-Jaw Chuck

Updated: Mar 22, 2009 11:54am PST

Strike Wheel Pin Replacement : This gallery is about a Becker 2 weight mechanism that had stumped at least one other repairman. When I took the mechanism apart I saw all the signs of a mechanism that had been "tuned" to make up for week trains - the springs on the strike-train levers were set so they didn't quite touch the levers they were meant to actualize (I suspect a repair person at some point figured the less spring tension, the less strain). Naturally all the gear teeth were oily, as was the entire mechanism. And, let's see - the spring on the strike arm lever was broken off (OK, most of the Beckers used bent pieces of very thin steel which aren't all that strong, but they do serve a purpose and should be there). The face of the strike hammer lifting arm was pretty rough where it was "lifted" by the pins on the strike wheel (not uncommon, but not good), and, what I think was the underlying problem - one of the pins in the strike wheel had been replaced. I tried to shoot shots of the exceptional job that was done - note the damage to the teeth around the replaced pin, and also note that the pin has been replaced a bit farther out than the original, the stub of which is still there. Hopefully you can see the problems - I don't think these pictures are as good as they could be. While the miss-placed pin would be enough to shut down a week strike train (being farther out toward the rim of the gear would mean the hammer would have to be raised significantly higher), the damage to the tips of the teeth around it sure didn't help. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to replace the pin with an appropriate one in the original hole. Funny that, the broken off bit of the original pin popped out with just finger pressure on a stake in my bench staking tool. If the original "repair" person had pushed at it with a straight pin it would have come out. But, looking at the residual evidence, said repairer spent a bit of time doing the job badly instead. Fortunately the tip of a taper pin made a perfect replacement. I then used a very very fine pivot file to remove the damage from the tips of the nearby teeth, sanded with 0000 emery paper, and then lightly brushed with a very fine brass wire brush. Given how much damage had been done to the tips of the teeth, I would say it is a toss up which was the bigger problem - moving the pin out farther or the interference the dings on the end of the teeth would have caused with the pinion. The remaining hole was drilled close enough to the rim of the gear to weaken one of the teeth. I filled the hole with a brass plug and soft soldered the pin in place. I was reticent to hard solder, in that the temperature needed for silver-solder might soften the brass, though I did use a solder with a low silver content to improve the strength. My first step in filling the hole was to use a lathe to cut a taper pin down to where the wider end of the pin would just lay flush with the surface of the gear when it is lightly pressed into the hole. I then cut the other side off with a pair of fine cutters, tapped the plug lightly with my staking set to expand the plug just a bit and flatten off the cut end. I thought it might be a good idea to give an idea of how small this project really is. Hence the shot with the tip of a pin in the picture. If you look closely in the picture with the pin you can see the rather small chip of solder that I have laid on the back of the pin in preparation for heating and flowing the solder into the gaps in the hole. It really is a very small chip of solder. I then lightly applied heat with a small torch until I just saw the solder flow into the hole, rinsed off the flux, and lightly sanded the back of the gear with 0000 Emory paper to clean up surface. While the finished wheel is not flawless – please remember – you are looking at the equivalent of perhaps 100 time magnification. To the naked eye it is absolutely perfect. Which brings me to the point of this tech tid bit. When a mechanism comes to me with evidence of previous work I always review that work under a 10 power microscope to see what "novel" repair and damage has been done. It is amazing how often just fixing the repairs and damage done by a previous repair person will eliminate problems in a mechanism.

Strike Wheel Pin Replacement

This gallery is about a Becker 2 weight mechanism that had stumped at ...

Updated: Dec 13, 2010 10:32am PST

How repair work can impact a mechanism :

How repair work can impact a mechanism

Updated: Sep 03, 2008 12:26pm PST

Setting up Bevel Gears on an Elliott 9-tube mechanism : One of my hard and fast rules is that I remove as many screws as possible before putting clock parts in a clock cleaning solution. This has always served me well - it eliminates the risk that a screw will be corroded in place, making it very hard to remove down the road. Of course, I know that I must take careful notes so I know which screws go where. As an aside, this is especially important with earlier clocks, the ones with hand made screws: It is best if each screw goes back in the hole from which it came – visually identical screws oft times are not actually all that identical. But, in the case of a 9-tube Elliott mechanism that I had in for repair, this hard and fast rule gave me a chance to do a bit more work. The screws in question are those which adjust the fitment of the bevel gears that drive the pinned drum in a 9 tube mechanism. These screws, as well as the two bevel gears in question, are shown in the first two pictures in this gallery:

Setting up Bevel Gears on an Elliott 9-tube mechanism

One of my hard and fast rules is that I remove as many screws as possi ...

Updated: Jun 21, 2011 7:25pm PST

Polishing Weight Shells : It is not uncommon to find weight shells with missing bottoms, and most every weight needs to be polished. This tid-bit focuses on a set of weights that needed both new end caps and polishing. Let’s cover soldering in new bottom caps in weight shells first. I was lucky enough to have the lead inserts come out of all three weights with just a bit of judicious shaking, and, for the two weights with no bottoms, prodding with a piece of wood. As an aside, it is not a good idea to try to pound a lead slug out of a weight shell with a hammer. What happens is that, rather than move, the lead expands, firmly setting itself in the shell. Or, worse when you hit a bit harder, bulging or breaking the shell. But, as I said, these three came out! Next I used a shellac chuck to turn out bottoms for the two shells that were missing theirs (see Tid-Bit 2 on shellac chucks). I don’t know how many of you have tried to solder in new bottoms in weight shells, but the typical problem is that you get solder all over the bottom of the cap when you try to get it to flow into that really tight joint between the shell and the bottom cap. Since I had the slugs out, I was able to solder from the inside – which virtually eliminated any excess solder on the outside of the shells! But, before getting into details of soldering caps – safety. When I solder I use small propane, butane or MAPP gas torches. I always clear everything off my work bench that can be readily ignited, such as rags, news paper, paper towels, steel wool (ever seen that stuff burn – it goes very easily – in fact, it can self ignite on a really hot day – be very careful where you leave the really fine – 0000 - stuff), cleaning solvents and other combustibles. I also think about how I am going to hold something when it is hot. While a pair of leather gloves will work for the other end of a long item (like a weight shell), a pair of pliers or a vise are necessary if the work piece is too short to insulate you from the heat. I also figure out a safe way to apply flux (typically the end of a tooth pick or a cotton swab) and where I am going to put the flux applicator after it has been dipped in the flux (you don’t want residual flux on your bench or on other tools). Since 90% or more of my soldering involves placing small chips of solder on the work piece, I also set up to cut these very small pieces of solder. I want all the tools I will need laid out where they are easily and safely accessed before I start soldering. Given the potential for solder to pop and spatter, I always wear eye protection, and it is a very good idea to wear leather shoes, just in case a drop of solder falls on your foot. It is amazing how quickly a drop of solder can slip through a canvas shoe and find your foot hiding inside. I also think about how I am going to hold the torch, and where it will be pointing, preferably away from my body. And, lastly, it is a good idea to have a moist towel on the bench just in case something doesn’t work quite right, or something decides that it wants to burn. Or, you find that you need to drop a work piece that has gotten a bit too warm to handle. Now, back to the weight shell. I turned new bottom caps so they fit rather tightly in the shells; once in place they stayed nicely. Then, I used a long cotton swab and applied a small amount of flux to the inside of the shell/bottom cap where I wanted to put the first bit of solder. I focused on wiping the surface of the brass to be soldered, without leaving enough flux to let the flux drip through the seam. Next I cut off a very small piece of solder (think 3 pin heads worth) and used the flux swab to position it on the inside of the weight shell, right on the seam. Holding the weight shell so the section of seam to be soldered was lower than the rest of the seam, and looking into the shell from above, I gently applied heat to the outside of the shell where the bit of solder was positioned until the solder flowed into the joint. The bit of solder was enough that it wicked and filled about an inch of the seam. I next soldered a similar section on the opposite side of the shell, then spent a bit of time doing small sections until the seam was filled. This worked extremely well with minimal solder showing on the outside of the shells. The next order of business was to polish the shells. The first photo shows the chuck I use to hold one end of weight shells.

Polishing Weight Shells

It is not uncommon to find weight shells with missing bottoms, and mos ...

Updated: Jul 11, 2009 1:28pm PST

Finials-Clock 245 : New finial tops for a very unusual Vienna Regulator

Finials-Clock 245

New finial tops for a very unusual Vienna Regulator

Updated: Dec 26, 2009 1:52pm PST

Restoration of a Miniature Vienna REgulator : A Miniature Comes to Life!

Restoration of a Miniature Vienna REgulator

A Miniature Comes to Life!

Updated: Dec 26, 2009 2:44pm PST

Herschel's Pivot Restoration : Herschel Koester - one of the people I been lucky enough to share some of my clock restoration techniques with, received an Elliott 9-tube mechanism that had been "worked on" by a previous repairman. Apparently the pivot for one of the strike-train fans had either been broken off, or was so badly worn that a previous restorer decided they needed to replace it. The first photo below shows the truly legendary result of their efforts. Clearly they didn't bother to remove the acidic flux they used to solder in the new pivot. I especially like the clipped end of the new pivot - truly amazing, and truly crappy work. I suspect the repair person didn’t even remove the fan from the arbor before soldering in the new pivot. I include here Herschel's comment that he sent with these pictures: "Stephen: Remember that rotten looking re-pivot job I showed you awhile back, I finally got back to it. There was no end shake at all, really tight between the plates. Took my graver and kept cutting arbor until it measured the same as the other fan arbor. Except for the pits from the corrosion it came out very well. It took a considerable amount of time, more so than many in the business of clock repair would have taken." I think the pictures speak for themselves. I especially like the photo’s taken through his microscope. Herschel uses the same kind of microscopes that I use in my shop, which allows him to do really great work like that shown here.

Herschel's Pivot Restoration

Herschel Koester - one of the people I been lucky enough to share some ...

Updated: Mar 13, 2010 6:47am PST

How not to solve a depthing problem : This 3 weight from Becker’s Braunau factory, is serial numbered 44806. While I was inspecting the pinions under my 10X microscope I saw something that didn’t quite seem right. The tips of the pinion leaves on one of the gears in the strike trains were ground. As in pretty badly mauled. I guess I really noticed this because I had seen something similar just a week ago in another Becker, this one serial numbered 59488. Based on the last version of John Hubby’s Becker dating work that I have seen, these mechanisms were both made in the early 1890’s, perhaps 1890 and 1891 respectively. Given that John shows the factory only had been making these clocks for perhaps 3 years at that point, are we seeing a simplistic approach to resolving depthing problems? It looks like someone mounted the arbors in a lathe and then took a coarse file and “shortened” the pinion leaves. Funny. On another part of the 44806 mechanism, I find exquisite work – the fans are not the usual pieces of stamped and bent brass – they are machined from thick pieces of brass. Excellently done too. Interestingly, 44806 is a Becker mechanism that has a Viennese makers name on the dial – Eduard Walloschek (shows up in Claterbos – 1876, so he had been making clocks for a while before casing this Becker mechanism). For pictures of the mechanism and the fan, check out . Did Eduard replace the original fans with the nicer ones when he went through the mechanism and cleaned up the pivots? Worth wondering. I do know the pivots were beautifully burnished and needed very little attention, not what I typically find in a Becker. Perhaps he replaced the fans to eliminate the inherent imbalance that the typical Becker fans are challenged with? None the less, an interesting little mechanism. Have any of you ever noticed such marks on pinion leaves?

How not to solve a depthing problem

This 3 weight from Becker’s Braunau factory, is serial numbered 44806. ...

Updated: May 02, 2010 6:11pm PST

Another donut-like approach : Scottie, a clock mage down in Dallas, sent me the following text and pictures after getting my latest Tech Tid Bit. He wrote: Since you mention, "novel repair" in your last letter, I share with you someone's alternative to the ubiquitous Donut. This enterprising blodger made a double size pinion and shoved it over the original and moved the wheel to turn this monthrunner into a two week runner! I held my breath as I removed it thinking it might expose a broken pinion leaf but, WHEW! It yielded with a few light taps and exposed a perfectly good pinion. Then one of his umpteen bushings fell out during bath. SHEESH. I have been fascinated by the quality of work that has been done on some of the “donuts” I have found – and by the obvious skill necessary to make the double-sized pinion above. The good folk who made these modifications were clearly knowledgeable, clearly able to do complex machining, yet they still could not get their long duration mechanisms to run. As time has gone by I have slowly realized that the difference between burnished and unburnished pivots in a long duration mechanism is virtually a 50% change in the required drive weight. Give or take, it takes twice the weight to drive a mechanism with “Polished” pivots when compared with burnished pivots. Why do I stress long duration – because they have at least 1 more gear (and therefore two more pivots) in each train. When you get into 6 month and years runners, they have two more gears. All these gears add up to much greater drag from “polished” pivots. I am equating “polished” with buff sticks, or any other form of Emory paper on wood. Even 0000 Emory paper that is well used will leave a surface that will not perform any where near as well as a burnished pivot. And no, I do not consider pivots polished with very fine diamond powder as any better. Face it, if you can see a bright, shiny pivot you are seeing light reflected from a scratched surface. When I burnish pivots they go from shiny to virtually black – think about it – the reflected light from a truly mirror-like pivot only comes from that very narrow line where the pivot surface is reflecting back at you eye. This is only a fraction of the light reflected from a “shiny” surface, which reflects everywhere there is a scratch – which is the entire surface. One day, when I am set up to do video’s through a microscope, I will be shooting a video of the impact of burnishing. Till then I can only keep pointing out the impact of burnishing and hoping that people today will learn what watchmakers have known forever – burnished beats polished.

Another donut-like approach

Scottie, a clock mage down in Dallas, sent me the following text and p ...

Updated: Jun 19, 2011 3:35pm PST

An Anniversary Clock with a Buffed Pallet : Way back when, my introduction to working on clocks came about because a clock shop could not repair an anniversary clock I had bought from them. Sure, they tried, but after taking it back 7 or 8 times, I finally decided to look at it myself. And, even at that early point in my clock career, it was pretty obvious that it should tick evenly. So, after figuring out to check the over-swing on each direction of rotation, and making rather minor corrections to the orientation of the suspension spring, I had a clock that ran great. Yup, that was my introduction to clocks. And, while I later amassed over 100 of the more interesting examples of Anniversary Clocks, disc pendulums, globes, tomb-stone dials with date and day of the week, unusual cases, even a wall clock, it was all due to the inability of a clock repair person to repair one of these gems that got me into clocks! Interestingly, it is because of the same repair person – let’s call him Walter, to protect the innocent, or whatever, anyway, a couple of months ago I get a call from a car bud who has this anniversary clock that wouldn’t run. And, it had deep sentimental value. And he had taken it to two shops already and it still wouldn’t run. And, you guess it, one of the people was Walter. The other is immortalized in my mind as the only person I have ever found who will bush every hole on an anniversary clock. But, that is another story. The owner wanted to know if I would look at it? OK, the kicker was, he was willing to pay $500 to get it running. At least he now had my attention. It turned out to be a rather nice example of the Jahresurenfabric clocks with the 49 in a circle on the back plate. This one was one of those with the off-white painted trim, with the small flowers… And, they had bought it on their 30th wedding anniversary. After fixing all the obvious problems (bent pivot on the escape wheel, 0.003 instead of 0.004 spring, suspension-spring fork gapped way too wide, properly restoring the pivots - it looked like they had been “polished” with fine emery paper, so had to be stoned and burnished, and, of course, putting it in beat) and giving it a good cleaning, it would run for a while, but not keep running. It ran fine with lots of over swing (like ¾ turn), but when the pendulum slowed down to a more expected over swing of around a quarter turn, it kept wanting to flutter on one side of the swing – the escape wheel tooth would fall on the dead beat face of the pallet, then recoil back far enough to slide onto the impulse face. Almost like the pallet face had the wrong angle. Well, the adjustable pivot for the anchor had been mucked with (oh why, oh why do people have to try to adjust the depthing of the anchor? A good rule or thumb – the anchor does not need adjusted. This is similar to rule 2 - the anchor does not need adjusted, and rule 3 – the anchor does not need adjusted!). So, I worked with it for a bit, but to no avail. The clock would not keep running. I had noticed when first inspecting the clock, that the end of one pallet looked like it had been rounded over a bit. The first attached photo shows the original anchor – hopefully you can see that the left hand pallet doesn’t have quite the right shape.

An Anniversary Clock with a Buffed Pallet

Way back when, my introduction to working on clocks came about because ...

Updated: Jun 19, 2011 4:00pm PST

A Becker Strike Train Challenge : None of us like a mechanism that runs in our shop, but then starts to miss-behave when the customer sets it up. I just had such a situation with a 3 weight Becker Vienna regulator, circa 1901. The quarter strike worked fine, the weights went down at the same rate, no problems for a week on my test stand. Ship it off, and I hear that it is being erratic in counting the quarters, and hanging up periodically. The first shot if the front of the mechanism - a pretty standard turn of the century Becker 3 weight.

A Becker Strike Train Challenge

None of us like a mechanism that runs in our shop, but then starts to ...

Updated: Jun 19, 2011 4:40pm PST

Clock Cleaning Solution : Clock cleaning 101, by Stephen Nelson, who provides no warranties, stated or implied, as to the effectiveness of these techniques. If you want to see how well they work, check out the “Fantastic Mechanisms” section of this site. It seems like people are always curious how I get the mechanisms I work on so wonderfully clean and shiny. There are a number of reasons they come out so well, the first of which is the cleaning solution I use. This is a classic recipe, one that has been around for a very long time. It consists of an ammoniacal solution (to remove the tarnish from brass) with a surfactant (to help dissolve oils and greases) and a brightening agent (to brighten the brass parts). Safety considerations: Wear hearing and eye protection when using compressed air. Wear appropriate gloves when handling acetone, ammonia, and the cleaning solution Have adequate ventilation when working with volatile chemicals like Acetone and Ammonia Wear eye protection when working with solutions that can damage your eyes – this includes soaps, oleic acid, acetone, and ammonia. Directions The first two steps involve making the two blends listed in the table shown elsewhere on this page - one that contains only Oleic acid and Acetone, the other containing the final 4 ingredients. Note, when I call for Ammonia - I am referring to household strength ammonia. Stir these two solutions separately until they are well mixed, and, in the case of the first blend, until all the oleic acid is dissolved in the acetone. The acetone is used to get the oleic acid into solution. Once into solution it can then be mixed with water (the second solution) Combine the two solutions described above and stir well to make the cleaning solution. After cleaning with the above, rinse with water, then dry. I put small screws and other small bits into an aluminum-foil lined pie pan and place that on my gas range. I then turn on the fire and let it heat for 3 or 4 seconds, then turn off the gas and let the parts dry. Dries the small bits wonderfully. I blow dry the larger parts with compressed air. Discussion - See recipe below This recipe is basically a 1 in 4 ammonia solution with soap to help dissolve/disperse oils and waxes, and oleic acid to brighten the brass. Yes, ammonia smells bad. As noted above, I am talking about household ammonia - the higher strength ammonia used to fume oak is really not worth the safety issues it raises. I tend not to put my face down in it to test my breathing, unless I need to clear my sinuses. Common sense should rule here – don’t work unless you have adequate ventilation – no matter who’s recommendation you follow. Flip side, house wives have been using ammonia to clean windows for a long, long time. They are pretty smart, those house-wives. The ammoniacal solution works great, and is very effective in an ultrasonic cleaner. It is not uncommon for me to take a really filthy mechanism and first soak the parts in an organic solvent, mineral spirits comes to mind, to remove the oils and greases. This helps keep the ammoniacal solution cleaner, and softens up the hard stuff. After cleaning with this solution I polish, where necessary, with Brasso, or Simichrome. After polishing with Brasso or Simichrome, it’s back into the ammoniacal solution, etc. I also wear, always, nitrile gloves. I strongly recommend using gloves, whatever you use to clean. I also recommend that every part be fully taken apart before cleaning. Everything. All screws removed. Otherwise the corrosion that you leave behind will one day preclude the screws coming out in one piece. Environmental impact – well, let’s see – oleic acid comes from animal fat. Totally biodegradable, in fact, drink as much as you want. Ok, it will clean you out, much like mineral oil. But, not deadly. Ammonia – pour it down the drain. Ammonia is a fantastic nitrogen source for the bugs at the local POTW (fancy initials for publically owned treatment works – or sewage plant if you don’t recognize the high faluting name). Dish soap – well, better be environmentally benign. And, that leaves acetone – which is necessary to help get the oleic acid into solution in water. Once again, good bug food in the POTW. When not to use an ammoniacal solution. Thin, very worked brass (as in the bases of anniversary clocks that are covered with brass that has been spun to form the base) is work hardened. Or thin, spun brass bezels for clock dials. The ammonia can and will cause hardened brass to stress crack. So, don’t go there with spun bases and the like. Flip side, I have never had a problem with brass springs found in Vienna Regulator mechanisms. Actually, I will go one step farther, I have never had a problem with stress cracking of brass. But, my metallurgical training tells me loud and clear that one can have such a problem. After cleaning it is necessary to peg every hole to get any residual grunge or grit out of the holes. I even use my wood lathe to turn down dowels for pegging the larger holes. I can then “power peg” right on the wood lathe. My power pegging is the subject of another tech tid bit. One question that came up after I wrote up this for the Becker Yahoo group focused on Oleic acid and on ultrasounds: “Is the oleic acid any particular type or purity? I could not find it locally. Online the less expensive stuff says that it is used with soldering flux (like $20/qt). Also, do you know how the ammonia solution performs without the ultrasonic cleaner? I am just getting started and have not invested in an ultrasonic cleaner yet.” I thought these were two very relevant questions, so I put together the following discussion on Oleic acid and ultrasonic cleaners. Oleic acid is almost amusing – you look on the web and find that “Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid found naturally in many plant sources and in animal products. It is an omega-nine fatty acid, and considered one of the healthier sources of fat in the diet. It’s commonly used as a replacement for animal fat sources that are high in saturated fat. You may find various butter and egg substitutes made with high levels of oleic acid. As a fat, oleic acid is one of the better ones to consume. As a replacement for other saturated fats, it can lower total cholesterol level and raise levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) while lowering low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), also known as the “bad” cholesterol. Usually switching to an oil high in oleic acid is not difficult since there are numerous sources available. From a health standpoint, oleic acid exhibits further benefits. It has been shown to slow the development of heart disease, and promotes the production of antioxidants. One very interesting use of oleic acid is its use as an ingredient in Lorenzo’s oil, a medication developed to prevent onset of adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a condition effecting only young boys that attacks the myelin sheaths of the body, causing symptoms similar to those in multiple sclerosis. Though Lorenzo’s oil does not cure the condition, it can delay onset or progression of the disease in those who are not yet symptomatic.” And, on another site, where you can buy it as a soldering flux, you find: “Hazardous Material - No Air Shipments. PRODUCT CANNOT SHIP VIA ANY TYPE OF AIR TRANSPORT, INCLUDING UPS NEXT DAY AIR, UPS 2ND DAY AIR, UPS 3 DAY SELECT, FEDERAL EXPRESS, PRIORITY MAIL, ETC. THIS PRODUCT MUST SHIP VIA GROUND TRANSPORTATION ONLY!!! Promotes Solder Flow and Adhesion. Prevents Oxidation. This CRL Oleic Acid is a soldering flux that cleans the surface and promotes solder flow. Designed to be brushed on with a Acid Brush prior to soldering. This product makes solder adhere better and prevents oxidation.” So, what’s the big deal here? Simple answer – if buying a “Chemical” one gets the full load of haz mat information associated with specific words. Like acid. Now those of us that grew up in the ‘60s know what acid is. OK, that’s not what we are talking here. We are talking a material that generates hydrogen ions. Hydrogen ions can do good things (like remove oxidation products from brass) and bad things (like eat up the body of a car). Oleic is a pretty mild acid, but it does provide a very effective brightening agent in the classical cleaning solution. Regarding the specific question – I called the vendor of the oleic acid (link above), TechnologyLK, at 888-663-9830. They really didn’t know much, but gave me the manufacturer - where I was able to pull up an MSDS , and found that the oleic they sell is 100% oleic. They list an S.G. of 0.895, which ties up nicely with the SG of a non-diluted oleic acid. OK – it is not pharmaceutical grade, and I don’t know I would recommend eating it, but it looks like it will do very nicely for making up a very effective cleaning solution. Next question – ultrasonic cleaners. These cleaners take advantage of the turbulence generated in a liquid when it is vibrated by sound waves. These vibrations cause the liquid to move back and forth, which enhances the cleaning power of about any solution. And, yes, I use one. Even still, on a dirty mechanism, I will often lightly scrub the surface of the parts with a soft toothbrush (while wearing appropriate nitrile gloves to keep the ammonia from drying out my skin) (and while making sure that I do not put my head down close enough to the solution to clear out my sinuses) (and while wearing eye protection to keep from getting ammonia in my eyes). My feelings on ultrasonic cleaners are a bit mixed. They do a great job, but they are expensive. Most have a handy drain hose out the bottom of the tank so it is easy to drain back into the bottle for storing the cleaning solution. But, if a new clock person is limited on funds, and also limited on tools, I would suggest that they just take a bit more time when cleaning their parts, brush off the parts while immersed in the solution, get some pipe cleaners and push them through the holes that are big enough, and you will get a better clean than you will with an ultrasound. Then, if, down the road, you have a good lathe, collets, chucks, and other needed tools, hey, an ultrasound is quite nice to have – especially since they have that neat drain out the bottom. FYI – my background is chemical engineering, have earned 6 patents, spent many years in the environmental remediation field, managed research into a novel Titanium alloy, and now I spend a lot of my time working on Vienna Regulators. I have probably been through 3 or 400 Vienna mechanisms, and probably through more long duration Vienna mechanisms than anyone else in the world. I hope that helps give you an idea where I am coming from with the comments I made above.

Clock Cleaning Solution

Clock cleaning 101, by Stephen Nelson, who provides no warranties, sta ...

Updated: Jun 21, 2011 6:58pm PST

Copper Plating : You just never know when you will have a chance to do something different when working on clocks. Some time ago, I bought a floor standing Vienna regulator by Wolkenstein ( ) with copper plated bits and bobs. This clock recently sold, and it was time to think about getting it ready to send to the new owner. As you can see in the detailed shots of the weights (follow the above link – click on the picture of the weights) – there was a bit of room for improvement. The pictures don’t show the dings to the tops and bottoms, but they do show where some of the copper plating has worn off. So, choices were to run them down to a plating shop, or plate them myself after rolling out the worst dings. After my experiences with plating shops (it is amazing the damage they can do), I decided it was time to search the net and learn to plate. Found several sites, but liked this one for its simple methodology: So, after getting the requisite chemicals, I set up the experiment on the kitchen counter:

Copper Plating

You just never know when you will have a chance to do something differ ...

Updated: Jun 21, 2011 7:10pm PST

Pivot Saddles and Lanterns :

Pivot Saddles and Lanterns

Updated: Jan 20, 2012 8:49am PST

An Escapement Problem : Escapements can be frustrating, especially when they have been “adjusted” by a wanna-be clockmaker. I recently worked on a mechanism that has been on the shelf for over a year now – one that I had committed to repair for a customer. He indicated that the mechanism had always had a problem running – he thought perhaps the problem was “in the escapement”. Here is the list of problems I found on initial inspection: -Anchor, arbor and crutch did not come from same clock. -Poor solder job on crutch hub -Crutch hub fit poorly on arbor – so someone crushed the crutch hub to make it fit tightly on arbor -Anchor drilled from back – creating a tapered hole such that the anchor could slide farther onto the square on the arbor – and the square on arbor had been filed apparently in an effort to make the anchor fit – overall poor fit and finish, as well as poor alignment of anchor on escape wheel. -Washer between the pin that holds the anchor on the arbor and the anchor - trying to hold the anchor firmly in place on the arbor -Pallet faces rounded and grooved from filing -Balance bridge badly bushed, bushing offset from original location, and there were brass shards in the pivot hole. -Back pivot on anchor arbor bent -Front pivot for anchor arbor bushed off center, and new pivot in arbor oversized, not centered in arbor, and too long -Pulley pivot screw badly grooved and rough on wear surface -Grease and particulates in teeth of motion works gears -All gears poorly cleaned – deposits on teeth -Pallet faces not perpendicular to arms – tilted so the anchor would be pushing the anchor against arbor shoulder -Pallets set too far apart – in recoil mode. -Pivots in train look to be sanded, not sure how flat they were, definitely not burnished. Sort of hard telling just which problem would keep it from running – I can see 4 or 5 that would be sufficient. I then set to work trying to get the escapement to operate in dead-beat mode. First thing I did was to regrind the pallets’ impulse faces – making the impulse faces “square” to the arms, flattening the rounded pallet faces, and removing the file marks… Next I pulled one of the pins locating the anchor arbor bridge – such that I could leave out the screw associated with the removed pin. I was then able to manually rotate the bridge up and down to adjust the depthing of the anchor. I then brought the pallets together a bit (roughly 0.13 mm). By adjusting the depthing (up roughly 1.5 mm) I was able to get the escapement to run in half dead-beat mode – the escape wheel teeth fell on the impulse face on one pallet, and on the dead-beat face on the other. If I brought the pallets any closer together the pallets fouled the escape-wheel teeth. Next I changed the angle of the pallet that was in dead-beat – flattening the pallet angle. And then steepened the angle on the pallet that was in recoil mode. Whilst it only took perhaps 20 seconds to type these two sentences, in truth this was a trial and error effort – fortunately (amazingly actually), by making small changes, and then adjusting the depthing I was able to get both pallets in dead-beat mode, and then adjust the pallet faces further while working with the depthing until I achieved equal drop and lock. In the end the anchor needed to come up about a millimeter – but, looking closer at the anchor arbor bridge – it had been bent down about a millimeter – so reversing the previous “fix” brought it back into line. I then went through the rest of the mechanism. Found that both pivots on the motion works idler gear were bent, as was one of the pivots on the escape wheel. A couple of the pivots were in decent shape, the rest pretty rough. When all done I shot the pictures in this gallery – showing how the mechanism turned out. I am especially proud of the short movie of the escapement, ticking away happily on a 1.5 pound weight (compared with the 2.5 pound weight that came with the clock). The pictures clearly show an excellent example of a Viennese mechanism – the Geneva Stop is very rare in Viennese pieces – very gratifying to be able to bring back to life such a great little mechanism! While I was working on this mechanism a gent in Australia – Paul - sent me an e-mail asking for guidance in working on a mechanism he had just bought – here is his story: “The reason that I am contacting you is of course clock related. I am a jeweler by trade and in the last few years I have been helping friends and family with minor clock repairs and of course this has grown into a sort of major part of my life. In these few years I have tackled all sorts of clock repairs and restorations and I have of course I accumulated many clocks of my own. Which leads me to my most recent purchase - a Vienna Regulator. After looking on the net I found a close picture on Wiener Uhren's site which of course led me to you. The clock itself is a timepiece, single weight, with a white porcelain face, inner and outer brass rings, with a matching porcelain disc in the bob bearing the makers name Wilh Kollmer. The movement is in great condition it has no stamped numbers or identification marks, it is without any great wear and the train spins well and clean. The only problem is that I can't get it working for more than 5 minutes. I think it is a 30 day duration movement as when the escapement is removed the weight takes 25 minutes to finish the cable. The movement is very similar to VR-332 on your website. The weight is 1.9 kg and the pendulum is195 grams although the pendulum has been shortened at the top by 10mm allowing for a shorter suspension spring of about 5mm. I think the spring may be to stiff. There is no maintaining power on the barrel and the winding drum surface is smooth, no cable grooves. The thing that worries me the most is the escapement. It is a single piece, V shape Graham which has had some major pallet adjustment. I don't think that it is original.” This leads me to my question, is it possible to maybe replace the escapement with an original or to manufacture a substitute to the original specs? My response included guiding Paul to a number of tid bits on the site – discussing donuts on winding drums, bushing Vienna Regulator mechanisms, preparing hard Arkansas stones for working pivots, making burnishers, my gear-holding techniques, and finally my techniques for grinding pallets, and adjusting pallets. I suggested that he work with the existing anchor and see if he could make it work. A couple of days later I got this e-mail from Paul: “Great day today. I left the workshop at 6 pm and the clock had been running for an hour without stopping. The lock is very small about 0.3 or 0.4 mm. I have flattened the pallets as per your pictures and closed them in; thickness is all the same at about 0.9mm. I refaced the impulse pallets; don’t know about the exact angle, though it looks about 45 deg. But both are the same and lapped flat - almost as good as your reflection picture. Very difficult to obtain 66 deg without the right stuff. The main adjustment was to bend the pallets downwards to match the radius of the rest of the anchor. This seemed to be the biggest help. Whatever I did it seemed to work. I tried to increase the lock by closing the pallets more but the escape teeth started to grab. I have also closely checked the pallet arbor hole in the bridge, it has been bushed, the pivot is 0.5mm and I can only fit a 0.6mm drill bit in the hole, so I think it is ok. I am really happy to see it running as of course I brought it as not working.” But, then, the next morning Paul wrote… “It ran all night which was great. But a bit hit and miss today. The lock is right on the corner of impulse and dead-beat face, missed a couple of times. I am going to try and get the 66 deg, will it help to reduce the thickness - is 0.9mm to thick? The tooth pitch is 2.4 mm.” I suggested to Paul that the pallets were not too thick and should not be reduced in thickness. Then, a couple of days later Paul sent: “I have had a busy week, but today I had time to play with my clock. Had great results, got the impulse faces to 66 deg. I made up a jig for lapping; I think it is pretty close. The drop was way out - lowering the arbor did the trick, really happy! I gave it a push and away she went, doesn't even look close to stopping. One thing, the locks are different, entrance is slight about 0.2 mm, exit is double that. I played with the beat but only for a short time. Could the entire crutch be misaligned with the pendulum through the centre line?” To which I responded: “Unequal lock typically equals a slight depthing problem, or a problem with the pallet angles. Regarding misalignment - when you think about it, if there was a slight misalignment of the anchor and the escape wheel – well, you would just move the anchor over a bit relative to the crutch and all would be ok. I do not typically sweat a slight difference in lock, especially if the mechanism is running strong and has good over-swing. In fact, it is not uncommon to find that the locks are not equal on mechanisms that have no apparent evidence of having been worked on before.” Paul spent a couple more days working on the mechanism, and just sent me the following: “I must say that in the last couple of weeks I have learnt so much, which I thank you for. The movement is finished, pivots burnished, plates and wheels polished, screws and hands blued, looks magnificent! The clock has now been running for 7 days in the case on the wall - I think this clock owes me a few favors!” He then sent me a couple of shots of the pallets after doing all the work. They look great - as you can see in the last two pictures in this gallery.

An Escapement Problem

Escapements can be frustrating, especially when they have been “adjust ...

Updated: Jun 28, 2012 7:46pm PST


If you have a suggestions for future workshops, please email here

repair man

West Linn Class

Other Clock and Watch Classes not part of NAWCC
Community Center
5905 SE 43 Ave.  97206  
Telephone: 503.823.3633 


Antique Clock Repair ages: 18 & up You have a classic timepiece, but no TICK TOCK! Discover the history of your slumbering clock while enjoying the hands-on experience of bringing it back to life. Gain important new knowledge of basic & major repairs. M 7-9pm Al H. 1029032 Basement  $18
West Linn Parks and Recreation
This class is over but contact them regarding up coming classes

Price Resident: $55.00
Non-resident: $60.00
Type Classes
When contact school
Time 7 to 10pm
Department --
Activity Category Adult
Activity Other Category --
Activity # 1506.101
Registration dates
Status openings remaining
Ages At least 16 but less than 99
Gender Coed
Where Stafford Primary
Sessions Nine
Clock Repair - Bring an old spring-wound or weight-driven clock; learn the types of movements, as well as basic through advanced maintenance and repair skills. This specialized field can be a potential career opportunity. 
Pacific North West Regional Show, May 19-22, 2011
Pacific North West Regional Show, Portland
Monarch Hotel, 12566 SE 93rd Ave Clackamas, OR 97015 Flyer
No Chapter 31 meeting this month. 
Pacific North West Regional Show, May 19-22, 2011
Pacific North West Regional Show, Portland
Monarch Hotel, 12566 SE 93rd Ave Clackamas, OR 97015 Flyer
No Chapter 31 meeting this month. 

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