尺時計 Shaku Dokei

Discussion in 'Your Newest Clock Acquisition' started by ballistarius, Jan 13, 2015.

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  1. ballistarius

    ballistarius Registered User

    Oct 26, 2009
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    Hello everybody,
    At last, I've been able to purchase my first Japanese traditional clock (wadokei)Nutjob
    it is a tiny (37 cm high) weight-powered timepiece of the type shaku dokei (foot-rule clock, the shaku being a traditional lenght unit of 0.303 m or approx. one foot)
    Allfront.jpg
    On this type of timepieces, there is no conventional dial or hands. A pointer attached to the lead weight marks the hour along a ruler while it descends. Before Japanese Imperial Government adopted officially the Western time system in 1873, Japanese were still using temporaty hours (six for the day and six for the night) varying in length along the year to fit the variable length of days and nights.
    The lacquered 'dial' of my shaku dokei is a 'wave' dial (nami-ita-gata), the last step in evolution of shaku dokei dials.
    Nami-ita-gata.jpg

    The curves mark the different lenghts of night and day hours during the monts of half a year. Each vertical line goes for the first or second half of a month. The pointer attached to the weight can slide along a horizontal bar and so be placed over the appropiate fortnight vertical line during six months and then back again for the other six. Foermerly, there were separate hour markers (toki) sliding vertically along a slit and, later, detachable 'fortnight' dials.

    Case-components.jpg
    Teh case comprises the dial, a glazed hood with a sliding front and a little drawer at the bottom for the winding key (unfortunately, mine is not an original one) the glasses look too flat and surely are replacements. A close-up of the weigth with the pointer and the drawer.
    Weight-key.jpg Hand.jpg Weight.jpg
    The way the weight is attached to the gutline is clearly modern. There are lots of unused holes in the weight, witnessing several changes in the hanging system. I would thank any help or hint on the original way the weight was hung. teh pointer looks original, but it back shows clear signs of (rather) crude reworking. The iron wire along which the pointer slides is also a crude replacement. Looking at the left side of the weight (red arrow) the remains of hte broken shank of the original bar are still embedded in the lead. I would also thank greatly detail pics of any original bar.
    Hood-Rmvd.jpg Mov-front.jpg Mov-three-quarters.jpg Mov-top.jpg Mov-bottom.jpg Mov-side-top.jpg
    As for the movement, it is attached to the backboard of the case by means of two screws. The Front plate is delicatly pierced and engraved in the shape of a hanging basket of chrysanthemum flowers. Vertical crown-wheel controlled by circular balance and hairspring. the bottom plate with the turned pillars is just decorative.
    Mechanically speaking, it runs, even if it would benefit of a re-bushing for the third wheel and if the hairspring isn't in its best moment.
    Like nearly all Japanese wadokei, it is only intended to run for a day. When dusk arrives, it must be rewound to the set the pointer at the top of the dial.
    For Japanese standards of the day (say, second half of the 19th century, early Meiji period) it was a common clock, intended for the less well-to-do.
    Time to stop now, but the thread can be as long as you wish...;)

    Aitor

    Allfront.jpg Case-components.jpg Hand.jpg Hood-Rmvd.jpg Mov-bottom.jpg Mov-front.jpg Mov-side-top.jpg Mov-three-quarters.jpg Mov-top.jpg Nami-ita-gata.jpg Weight.jpg Weight-key.jpg
     
    Chris Radano likes this.
  2. jakematic

    jakematic Registered User

    Sep 26, 2014
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    That is one seriously cool clock, and the decoration is beautiful.
    I read about these, but haven't seen one in such detail. Thanks for sharing :)
     
  3. ballistarius

    ballistarius Registered User

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    Many thanks, Jake:)
    I feel very happy of owning it, after years tracking one. It has not been cheap, but never as expensive as a striking shaku-dokei or one of those beautiful lantern double foliot or spring-powered bracket ones...:eek:

    Aitor
     
  4. Albra

    Albra Registered User

    Oct 17, 2006
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    Aitor, thank you very much for the detailed description, for I have really no knowledge of clocks from Japan! Very interesting!

    albra
     
  5. oxblood2

    oxblood2 Registered User

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    Aitor this is one special clock that most have never seen . I myself have not seen one and admire the thought behind the production of the timepiece. You have a treasure there and the knowledge to go with it.
    Robin
     
  6. ballistarius

    ballistarius Registered User

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    You're welcome, Albra!:cool:
    I've been studying this fascinating adaptation from our occidental clockmaking to a very different way of measuring time for a few years. Unfortunately, there is not much available biblography and all of it is rather old. An interesting and friendly title is "Alte japanische Uhren' by Wilhelm Brandes.
    BTW, my shaku dokei has come from Germany, seemingly from an unknown big collection. At one side of the case, there is a written signature of the kind used in museums and big collections:
    137601-0019-019.jpg Maybe 1939 is the year the timepiece entered the collection. Not a very auspicious year...:cuckoo:

    Aitor
     
  7. ballistarius

    ballistarius Registered User

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    Many thanks, Robin:cool:

    I am trying to make the timepiece giving the temporary hours, but I am not being successful enough to adjust the time to local sunrise and sunset. I hope to have time later to give here a full explanation of the dial, but now, in short, I am sure that my dial was made for a lower latitude. Bilbao is N 43º 15', which is the same than the North of Japan but my timepiece was surely intended for Tokyo or Kyoto, in the range of N 35º. Thus, the difference between nights and days' length is bigger here than where the dial was made.

    Aitor
     
  8. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    Aitor, the NAWCC has a video on early Japanese timekeepers that may interest you. It is free to members, can be watched on the internet. Here is the description:
    DVD 943 - Clocks of Old Japan by David Olson Chapter 56 (25 Min) This program discusses and displays the very rare clocks used in Japan before that country was opened to the Western world. These unusual clocks that used pictures of animals on their dials instead of numerals were made obsolete overnight in the mid-1800s when Japan switched to the time keeping methods of the west.
     
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  9. ballistarius

    ballistarius Registered User

    Oct 26, 2009
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    Many thanks, Harold. Unfortunately, I'm not a member and I can only see a an error message...:(
    In fact, there weren't pictures of animals on the dials, just the symbols for the twelve Chinese zodiacal animals, which were adopted by Japanese to design the twelve hours in which a day was divided:cool:
    You can see them at the right part of my nami-ita dial. Here goes the 'translated' version of the dial:

    Nami-ita translated.jpg Top and bottom is the Cock, coincident with the dusk hour. The Rat marks midnight, the Hare, dawn and, the Horse, midday.
    The left column is for the hours' numerals, in two series of six, one for the night hours (upper part) and the other one for the day hours (lower part). One, two and three bell strokes were reserved only for religious ceremonies and, thus, 1, 2 and 3 numerals were banned from Japanese dials. To make things even more complicated, the series are read backwards. Therefore, we have two 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 series and, if you thought that it couldn't go worse, the numerals selected for dawn and dusk are the 6, which means that the series finally reads 6, 5, 4, 9, 8, 7!:cuckoo:

    The top section of the dial is devoted to identify to which fortnight of the year corresponds each of the vertical lines marking the lenght of the temporary hours. The Japanese calendar, like ours, was divided in twelve months, but the year started on our February the 4th. 'M' goes for 'Month' 'm' for 'middle' and ''b', for 'beginning (i.e., second and first fortnight) The numerals are those for the months. Remember that '1' goes for 'February' and '12', for 'January'.
    We would start the year with the 'hand' placed at the extreme left position, corresponding to the winter solstice (mid-December) and then, gradually sliding it to the extreme right, the summer solstice (mid-June). After reaching that point, we would continue sliding the 'hand' leftwards until we would reach the winter solstice again.

    You have surely noticed that, while the summer solstice line looks 'correct', having a short night and a long day, the line of the winter solstice looks like a equinox. The reason for that seems to be that Japanese counted the morning and evening twilight periods as being part of the day.

    BTW, not fully pertaining to this topic, but I've posted on the section 'horological books' a review on the English translation of the only Edo period Japanese treatise on horology and automata https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?120637-REVIEW-An-Eighteenth-Century-Japanese-Manual-on-clocks-and-automata

    Aitor
     
  10. timepast

    timepast Registered User

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    Fascinating clock... I`m always learning new things here
     
  11. Tommy Thomas

    Tommy Thomas Registered User
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    Aitor,

    I stumbled across this post today. So interesting and a great looking clock.

    Tommy
     
  12. ballistarius

    ballistarius Registered User

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    Many thanks, Tommy!:)
    Undoubtedly it is (and will remain so) my most exotic catch:cool:

    Aitor
     
  13. Tommy Thomas

    Tommy Thomas Registered User
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    Oddly, I have always wondered what Japanese clocks looked like. ( Either a bored or inquisitive mind ) I thought they would be similar to ours with Japanese numerals. But this is a whole different concept of keeping time.
     
  14. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    I've seen them in auctions, but never understood how they worked. Thank you for the explanation.
     
  15. zedric

    zedric Registered User
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    There is a book available on Japanese Clocks, called Japanese Clocks, but the video probably gives more detail as the book only covers some history, the methods of keeping time in Japan, and photos of 130 or so clocks, mostly from the front. It does show, however, that there is much more individuality than you get in the relatively few clicks that make it to auction.

    great clock Aitor, and thanks for sharing photos in such detail.
     
  16. Tommy Thomas

    Tommy Thomas Registered User
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    Is this the book? I found it on Amazon.

    JAPANESE CLOCKS BY N.H.N. MODY-

    51P+JZJLvlL._SX361_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
     
  17. zedric

    zedric Registered User
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    That’s it..
     
  18. zedric

    zedric Registered User
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    The book was originally written in the 1930s, as an edition of 200, then reprinted in the 1970s. In that time, it seems that very little else has been written about Japanese clocks in the English language.

    If you ever get to Tokyo, there is a small clock museum with a few examples, but my advice would be to phone / email ahead, as when I went there the museum was a) very hard to find and b) closed, despite it being during the "opening hours"... Also, the reviews I saw online were that the descriptions of the clocks were in Japanese, so having something like this book with you would probably help to work out what you are looking at.
    Daimyo Clock Museum | JapanVisitor Japan Travel Guide
     
  19. Lynsey

    Lynsey Registered User

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    Fascinating and a beautiful timepiece. Thank you for sharing it with us. You may wish to consider writing a small book to document that clock. I am sure it would be very well received since there are not very many books on it at all. Your knowledge and care of that piece deserves to be in writing!
     
  20. Tommy Thomas

    Tommy Thomas Registered User
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    Thanks Zedric. I have been reading about the clock museum. Really interesting.

    And I agree. Aitor you should write an article about this clock. :)
     
  21. ballistarius

    ballistarius Registered User

    Oct 26, 2009
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    I've been lately distracted designing the missing lower fence for my Haas shelf cuckoo and could barely expect so much activity on this thread after nearly four years :eek:
    Moreover, folks, many thanks, but you're overwhelmingly opthimistic about my capabilities...:oops: I don't have the necessary direct knowledge on these timepieces as to write something longer or deeper than I've already done here!:?|
    I own two more books in English and another one in German on traditional Japanese clocks, besides that by Mody:

    The first one is 'The evolution of clockwork. With a special section of the clocks of Japan' by J. Drummond Robertson. First published in 1931 and reprinted in 1972 and 1975.
    The second one is 'Weight-driven Dutch clocks & their Japanese connections' by Ernest L. Edwardes. Published in 1996, 12 years after the author had passed away.
    The third book is wholly devoted to Japanese clocks and full of information but, alas, it's written in German: 'Alte Japanische Uhren' by Wilhelm Brandes, published in 1984.
    There is a facsimile with an English tranlation of a Japanese technical book on automata and clocks, just click the link to my review on post 9 here.

    Aitor
     
  22. Tommy Thomas

    Tommy Thomas Registered User
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    Thanks Aitor. You are a wealth of great information :)
     

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