August 15, 2019

Gilbert Regulator No. 11 Restoration

 This Gilbert regulator was manufactured in 1891.  It came heavily caked with dirt.  The dial has been eaten by bugs. The case was falling apart and much of the top cornice was missing.  Naturally, it didn't run.

A catalog drawing of how the clock originally appeared.

The clock is now restored to its original beauty. The cornice has been rebuilt using walnut and cherry and stained to match the rest of the case.

The faux perch has been cleaned, restored and reattached. Gouges have been removed and the finish brightened to it original luster.  The broken door latch has been rebuilt.

The bug-eaten dial has been replaced with a custom dial that has the same manufacturer's mark as the original.

Now as when it was first made, it keeps good time and has a beautiful chime.


May 24, 2019

Gilbert 1891 Mantel Restoration

This Gilbert mantel clock, made in 1891, is an imitation marble clock. Most of its agate columns were missing and the case was spattered with paint. Attempts at repairs of some of the gouges and chips had been attempted as you can see in the brown patch on the front lower-left corner of the case.  The works (removed in this picture) needed to be overhauled, which is not unusual for a clock of this age.

Here is the same clock restored and in working condition.  The splattered paint has been removed and the gouges and chips have been repaired.  Column capitals and plinths were cast and painted to replace the ones that were missing.  Because manufacturing agate columns was going to be cost prohibitive, the columns were replaced with a spalted hardwood. The columns were stained amber and lacquered to resemble marble and complement the gold leaf in the case.  The remaining agate columns were set aside to be returned to the owner.

October 24, 2016

My 400 Day Anniversary Clock is Running Too Fast (or Slow)

Anniversary clocks are fascinating to watch as they run and even more enjoyable when they show the correct time.  However I often hear people complain that they keep lousy time.  Due to the billing that 400 day clocks need only be wound once a year (hence the name "anniversary clock") and 1000 day clocks once every three years, people come to expect that they should keep accurate time during those intervals as well.  The problem is that these clocks were not designed for that level of accuracy.  They were primarily designed to run a long time on one winding.  Modern alloys for suspension springs have reduced their sensitivity to temperature changes, however it still takes patience to regulate them to an accurate speed.

The disk at the top of the pendulum (the twirly thing at the bottom of the clock) is used to adjust the speed of the clock.  Unfortunately, this disk sometime seems a crude of a tool for such a delicate task.  The disk usually has arrows on the top to remind you which way to turn it to speed the clock up or slow it down.  However, unless you can read French the arrows may not help you.  Just remember this: when looking down at the top of the disk, turning it clockwise will make the clock run slower; counter-clockwise will make it run faster.

How much you turn the disk when you first start to adjust to the speed of the clock is pretty much a guess.  You may try a half-turn if the speed is really off.  Then check the time in a half hour and see if you need to make an adjustment.  Each time you make an adjustment to the disk, set the hands to the correct time.  As your accuracy improves, your adjustments will become smaller and your intervals between checks will be come larger.  If you go a week without making any adjustment, you are dialed in pretty tight.  Any adjustments after this will be a hair's width.

Bonus Tip

Even though your clock may run for a year or more on one winding, wind it every two to three months instead.  This will keep the tension on the main spring more consistent and will improve the clock's accuracy.  I have a mini Schatz 400 day clock on my desk and I wind it very two months.  At that time I also adjust the hands to the correct time and make a VERY small adjustment to the disk discussed above. 

Remember that patience is the key to regulating an anniversary clock.  Your reward will be a treasure that keeps pretty good time and that both young and old will enjoy watching.

September 15, 2016

Why Does My Clock Keep Stopping?

There are several reasons why a clock keeps stopping.  It may have worn out parts, broken parts, or simply need a good cleaning.  These are issues that can be addressed by your local clockmaker.  If the clock is in working condition but still will not keep running, it is out of beat.  This is a problem you may be able to solve on your own.

When a pendulum regulated clock is running well, you will hear it tick.  The loudness of the ticking will vary among clocks, but a clock in beat will produce a even "tick tock" sound.  The "tick" and the "tock" will have an even rhythm between them.  One will not sound longer than the other.  A clock that is not in beat will have an uneven rhythm in the the ticking and will run no longer than 10 or 15 minutes.

To put a clock in beat, you can have a clockmaker come to your house to adjust either the pallets or the crutch.  However, he will charge a service fee.  Another solution is for you to try to level the clock to where it is in beat.  This is possible with a wall or mantel clock, but a grandfather clock is going to require the attention of the clockmaker.

For a wall clock

Start the clock and listen to the ticking.  Much like straightening a picture on the wall, tilt the clock to the left or right while listening to the beat.  Does it sound worst or stop all together? Tilt the clock in the other direction.  Keep adjusting the clock to the left or right until you achieve an even beat.  If it keeps running, congratulations!  You've just avoided a service call.

For a mantel clock

The clock must be level from side to side and front to back.  First level the clock from front to back so that the pendulum is not rubbing either the back of the case or the rest of the clockworks.  The pendulum must swing without rubbing of hitting anything or the clock will stop.  Next, start the pendulum swinging and listen to the ticking. If the ticking is uneven, lift the right side or left side of the clock listening for an improvement in the beat.  When you have decided which side needs to be raised, use card stock or coins under the feet to keep that side at the correct height.  Verify your adjustments by listening for an even beat. If it keeps running, congratulations!  You too have just avoided a service call.

May 4, 2016

Which Winding Hole On My Clock Does What?

Spring-driven and cable-driven clocks can have up to 3 holes on the dial.  These holes are for winding the clock.  The location and purpose of these holes are usually the same for all clocks.  We will discuss all three types.

One Winding Hole

This is a 'time only' clock.  It does not chime or strike the hours.  Winding the arbor in this hole will give the clock power to keep time.

Two Winding Holes

This is a 'time and strike' clock.  The hole on the right is used to power the time train and make the clock keep time.  The hole on the left is used to power the strike train, which make the clock strike at the top of the hour.  Some of these clocks will also strike once at the half-hour.

Three Winding Holes

This is a chiming clock.  Not only will it keep time and strike at the top of the hour, but it will also chime on the quarter-hour.  The hole in the middle, near the '6' powers the time train which makes the clock keep time.  The hole to the right powers the quarter-hour chiming and the hole on the left powers the striking at the top of the hour.

The direction in which you need to turn the key or crank varies between different makes of clocks.  However, it will be quickly evident with your clock as to which way is the correct direction to wind the clock.  It you try winding the clock in the wrong direction, the key simply will not turn.  Turning the key in the correct direction will produce a clicking sound.  Continue until it will not wind any further.

April 8, 2016

How to Fix an Antique Clock Not Striking the Correct Time

You may come home some day to find that you forgot to wind your clock and it has run down. Then when you wind it up it no longer strikes the correct time.  Antique clocks have a habit of getting out of sync when they run down.  Fortunately, if all else is working well with the clock, the solution is fairly simple.
  1. With both the time and strike arbors fully wound, move the minute hand clockwise to the "12" and count how many times the clock strikes,  This is the time of day the clock "thinks" it is.
  2. Move the hour hand to the number representing how many times the clock just struck. Unlike the minute hand, the hour hand is held in place by friction.  Therefore, you can rotate it either clockwise or counter-clockwise without damaging the clock.  If the hour hand is too lose to hold its place after you move it, press on its flange at the center of the dial to tighten it.
  3. The clock is now in sync but probably doesn't represent the correct time of day.  Move the minute hand clockwise until you reach the correct time.  Be sure to allow it to finish every strike sequence or it will be out of sync again.
  4. Once you have reached the correct time, start the clock and you are finished.

Bonus Tip!

If you think you will be away long enough that your clock will run down, you can avoid the striking getting out of sync by stopping the clock before you leave.  Then when you return from your trip, start the clock back  up and set it to the correct time.

March 9, 2016

Basic Pocket Watch Care

Antique pocket watches are great collectibles and heirlooms.  They were built long before “planned obsolesce” was thought of, and by observing a few basic principles you can preserve the value of your mechanical treasure.  Future generations will thank you for your diligence.
  1. First of all, do not walk across the room carrying a pocket watch in your hand.  If you stumble or drop it, the shock will damage your watch.  Assuming the watch is not beyond repair, you can end up with an expensive bill from the watchmaker.  Put the watch in your pocket or in a protective case before transporting anywhere.
  2. Putting an antique pocket watch in a box or case and forgetting about it is not the best way to care for it.  These watches are not hermetically sealed.  As temperatures fluctuate, dust is pulled into the watch thickening the oil until the watch can no longer run.  The solution is to have the watch serviced every 18 to 24 months.  Your watchmaker will disassemble the works and agitate the parts in a cleaning solution.  Then he will reassemble the watch, lubricate it, and regulate it.  This service is a lot cheaper than a repair bill and it will keep your watch in top condition.
  3. Just like you, (but not as often as you) your watch needs occasional exercise.  If it is left in one position the works will eventually “settle” and the watch could refuse to run even though it was cleaned within the past year.  Wind the watch and let it run at least every three months.  Run it on its back, with the face down, on its left side, right side, straight up, and upside down.  For a pocket watch to remain in good health it needs to be run occasionally in all six positions.
  4. If you have an open face watch, carry it in your pocket with the dial away from your body.  This is not the most convenient way to carry a watch but if you smack into something or something smacks into your watch, a broken crystal is a lot cheaper to replace than it is for a watchmaker to try to get the dents out of a case.
  5. This may seem obvious to you, but not store your watch in the barn, the garage, or the attic. Even though it is made of metal does not mean it can endure extreme environments.  The house or a bank box is a good place where your watch will not experience extremes in temperature and humidity.