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  1. #1
    Registered User Kelly's Avatar
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    Default French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested

    One of the first two clocks I bought stopped running about a week ago. Since this is not one of my "learner" clocks, I was really hoping it wouldn't require maintenance for a while. I'm looking now for some advice regarding a couple of possible problems I've noted with the mechanism.

    The clock was described in the auction listing as a "Napoleon III" era (1850-1870) marble mantle clock. It came to me carefully disassembled (i.e.: mechanism removed from marble case, brass decorations removed from marble case). It has been running for several months after being reassembled and put in beat.

    I've removed the mechanism and examined it. With my still ignorant but slightly more educated eyes, I noted two possible problems with worn/distorted pivot holes (bushings/bearings). I also noted a moderate amount of greenish lubricant leaking from the spring barrels.

    I've attached three pictures: one showing the clock in its marble case, and one showing each of the two eccentric pivot holes. The first eccentric pivot hole is the mainspring pivot hole rear plate: it shows a small amount of wear (perhaps 0.2 mm on a 4 mm pivot) on one side. The other being the fourth wheel (not sure if thats the correct nomenclature: the wheel that engages with the escapement wheel) front plate (about 0.1 mm on a 0.5 mm pivot). Note that the worn fourth wheel pivot hole is in an adjustable gadget as shown in the photo.

    My questions
    • are the two problems I've observed likely sufficient to stop the clock? Or should I assume other problems are almost certainly necessary to rob that much power?
    • I don't plan on doing anything with this clock until I have at least four or five other successful refurbishments under my belt. But is it best to leave French mechanisms like this one to experts?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails paris_3.jpg   paris_2.jpg   paris.jpg  

  2. #2
    Registered User Scottie-TX's Avatar
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Kelly)

    I would imagine your clock has ceased because it is in need of a thorough cleaning, dismantled, lubed, etc.
    It would not be good advice to suggest that a few drops of oil could get it going again, because quite possibly it would. If it stopped because it's dirty, then helping it run longer dirty, would cause further damage to bushings and other parts.
    As for that external bushing, when removed you'll find it is not an adjustable one but a different style that is simply external. It should have a pin that indexes a hole in the plate for proper positioning.
    Yours is a very beautiful, high quality clock and I think it prudent also that you get perhaps four or five other disassemblys under yer belt before going into this one.
    You're on th' right track all th' way. CONGRATS!
    Last edited by Scottie-TX; 09-04-2009 at 08:36 PM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Scottie-TX)

    Looks like your clock may have been cleaned without disassembly, oiled up and sold. Sure, it would run for awhile. As Scottie said, it's going to need to be done right, but because of the value of the clock you may want to get some more experience. That "bushing" is bad, and it looks like it may have been an add-on at some point. I could be wrong about that. The pivots will probably need to be polished, and some bushing work done. There may be other issues. Very nice clock! Hope you got a buy, 'cause you're going to be investing a few hours into repairing it Note: the pivots will be hardened and will break off quite easily. Be extra careful.

  4. #4
    Registered User Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: shutterbug)

    Thanks, Scottie and Shutterbug!

    That external bushing plate thingy... it looks heavy (1mm thick plus) and original (blued steel screw, slot munged up a bit like its been there a while) to me, but...? Is that a normal design on this type of clock?

    As for what I paid... probably too much (around $500), but I liked it and still like it. Sure, I wish it hadn't stopped running, but... what can you do? The movement is heavy stuff and looks first class all the way- just in need of some TLC, I think?

    I'm going to set this one aside for now as I mentioned, and work through my others first. But I'm getting the sense that, at some future date with four or five other clocks under my belt, this one might be doable?

    I'll be honest: I think I'd rather risk doing this myself (once I have some more experience) and know exactly what was done then risk an "unknown" professional messing around with it. Does that sound odd?

  5. #5

    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Kelly)

    What is being called an "external bushing" (I don't know the correct name either and haven't found it yet) is 100% original to the movement. As Scottie posted this is quite common on French clocks. I think of it as being like a "bridge" even though it isn't "elevated".

    Nice clock.....

    Best,


    Richard T.

  6. #6
    Moderator leeinv66's Avatar
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Kelly)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly View Post
    Thanks, Scottie and Shutterbug!

    That external bushing plate thingy... it looks heavy (1mm thick plus) and original (blued steel screw, slot munged up a bit like its been there a while) to me, but...? Is that a normal design on this type of clock?

    As for what I paid... probably too much (around $500), but I liked it and still like it. Sure, I wish it hadn't stopped running, but... what can you do? The movement is heavy stuff and looks first class all the way- just in need of some TLC, I think?

    I'm going to set this one aside for now as I mentioned, and work through my others first. But I'm getting the sense that, at some future date with four or five other clocks under my belt, this one might be doable?

    I'll be honest: I think I'd rather risk doing this myself (once I have some more experience) and know exactly what was done then risk an "unknown" professional messing around with it. Does that sound odd?
    Yes Kelly, that external bushing is original and looks ok to me. And yes, set it aside until you gain more confidence in your abilities. That said, there not that tough to work on. I'd sooner repair one of these French movements than most American time and strike movements. You wonít find yourself having to wrestling springs and levers into place with one of these! I would think a good clean should see it up and running again.
    Cheers
    Peter R Lee: AKA (Pee-Tah) from Australia

  7. #7
    Registered User Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: leeinv66)

    Thank you, Peter, Richard: that bridge/bushing plate is interesting, and I'm happy to hear its original.

    I'll pack this one up and put it aside for a few months down the road. I'm moving pretty slowly on my learner clocks, what with finding new tools and parts I need on my bench at each step. I'm learning patience, which is a good thing at my age.

    By the time I get back to this clock, I should have a good collection of bits and pieces, plus maybe a little bit of additional smarts... or at least a little less 'dumbs'

  8. #8
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Kelly)

    Kelly:

    I have a couple questions. First, is it completely wound up tight? If yes, then the old oil in the mainspring barrel is probably bad. If, in the meantime, you would like to get it running again, do you have a letdown key? If you do and know how to use it, you can release the click ratchet, let it down completely and then rewind a little less completely. It may get you going again for now.

    When (or if) you decide to tackle it as a repair project, remember, there are "timing marks" on the strike side gears and the gears on the outside of the front plate. There is normally a stamped dot on the strike wheel with the lifting pins on it. This corresponds to a stoned tooth on the leaves of the steel gear with which it engages (very hard to see; you need a magnifier to see the tooth; it has an edge cut down at a bevel when compared to the ends of the other leaves.)

    If you don't get these two lined up, when the strike train ends its cycle, the lift pins will often end up lifting the strike arm while at rest. Not only does this look bad from inside, it can cause a stall in chiming or a premature strike during warning. There are also normally alignment dots on the gears outside the front plate (snail gear, etc.). These (normally 3) dots should all be lined up to ensure proper count.

    Personally, I love French movements as they pretty much spell out for you where everything belongs. Keep us posted.

  9. #9
    Registered User Scottie-TX's Avatar
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Chris)

    Thanks for all the GREAT info, CHRIS.
    I share your romance with these little frenchies. Next to Wieners, my most favored. They just REEK of quality and are so EZ to assemble and set up.
    My favorite of course, the open escapement.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Scottie-TX)

    Scottie:

    I agree; they are well-made and generally suffer little wear. The most common problem I find in them is that the mainspring ends are cracked from heavy winding.

    While I do share your passion for the open escapement, I have one on the bench that has defied me for months now. No matter what I do, it refuses to run. I thought I had it down to a lift arm rubbing one of the gears in the time train, but it stopped again!! I'll get it eventually.

    Another thing to remember is to make sure the finishing washer (one used over the end of the minute hand) is a tight fit. If it's not and the minute hand tube can wander forward even slightly, it will mess up the striking. It will cause the strike to fail in an inconsistent manner. What I do is rather than using a straight tapered pin, I use brass wire and thread it through the hole, bend the ends like an "S" and then press the ends against the washer with my blunt edged pliers to make sure the cap stays tight.

  11. #11
    Registered user. tlw1344's Avatar
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Chris)

    [QUOTE=Chris;400494]Kelly:
    This is the first time I have heard of markings on gears of a french clock. I have not seen these marks but plan to make a note of this.

    When (or if) you decide to tackle it as a repair project, remember, there are "timing marks" on the strike side gears and the gears on the outside of the front plate. There is normally a stamped dot on the strike wheel with the lifting pins on it. This corresponds to a stoned tooth on the leaves of the steel gear with which it engages (very hard to see; you need a magnifier to see the tooth; it has an edge cut down at a bevel when compared to the ends of the other leaves.)

  12. #12
    Registered User Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Chris)

    Thank you, Chris! Your advice re: the timing marks will be invaluable when I take the clock apart at some point in the future.

    Letting down the spring and re-winding less tightly: let me see if I can make sense of why that might work, and you can laugh at me. Assuming the spring lubricant is "bad" (gummy/sticky/binding), winding tight would cause the coils to stick together more completely. So letting the spring down and rewinding might "unstick" it a bit?

    I tried that, and I'll play with it a bit more... but it does seem to be losing some power (ticks fine and sounds in beat, but stops after two or three minutes). Regardless, it is interesting to play gently a bit with it. I got it running again and it has been going now for 15 minutes, which is better than my previous attempts.

    Side note: the click ratchets on this clock have a little "handle" to grab them! Now that is some thoughtful engineering Dumb question: I've completely let down the strike train spring while I play with getting the clock to run- is there any harm in that? Or should I keep it wound as well while I'm testing?
    Last edited by Kelly; 09-06-2009 at 12:20 AM.

  13. #13
    Registered User Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Kelly)

    The clock has been running now for over 40 minutes, so I've had a lot of time to watch the pendulum swing. That leads to an observation/question.

    I notice that the pendulum not only swings but "rotates" or shimmies a bit, particularly at one extreme of its swing. I would suspect that this torsion consumes (wastes) some energy. But despite watching it go back and forth several hundred times, I can't really figure out what is imparting this rotation.

    The pendulum crutch rod (the vertical) is slightly bent, and it also seems as if the "arms" of the crutch that clasp the pendulum are not perfectly level. That is, one arm is slightly higher than the other. It seems to me that these factors might impart some rotation, but... thoughts?

    Side question: the vertical crutch rod is bent, and I'm assuming it was intentionally bent at some point to put the clock in beat. But to put the clock in beat today, I seem to have to lift the opposite side (e.g.: the crutch rod bends towards the right, and I have to lift the left side to put it in beat). From what little I know, this implies to me that the bend is to the *wrong* side. Am I right?

  14. #14

    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: Kelly)

    Yes, you're right. Also right about the crutch needing to be at right angles to the pendulum hanger.

  15. #15
    Registered User Scottie-TX's Avatar
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    Default Re: French mantle clock- some advice/guidance requested (RE: shutterbug)

    You're ABSOLUTELY correct on all accounts KELLY! You're very intuitive.
    CONGRATS!
    ALL angularities of all components in the pendulum system have an effect on proper pendulum motion. Optimally we want the pendulum to travel such that it describes a straight line when viewed from the top.
    Any error in any of the components will affect that motion and distract it from a straight line.
    KELLY: I think you may be a natural for clock analysis.
    Last edited by Scottie-TX; 09-07-2009 at 08:40 PM.

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