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400-day clocks in a cold environment

Phil G4SPZ

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Oct 18, 2018
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Hello everyone,

I haven’t posted for the best part of three months, due to my wife and I having caught Covid-19. Better now! However whilst I was incapacitated, I noticed that a couple of my restored 400-day clocks had stopped. I re-started them and they ran, but the escape wheels were moving rather sluggishly, and they stopped again after a while. Having spent a lot of time restoring both clocks, I couldn’t face stripping them down again, and I’ve been putting it off ever since.

It just occurred to me that my workshop, where the clocks live, has got rather cold over the recent spell of wintry weather. Normally I go in there every day, the heating goes on, and the room stays quite warm as it is well-insulated, but being ill I didn’t go in there for weeks on end. So tonight I’ve brought both clocks into the warmth of the living room.

The workshop temperature was a little over 6 degrees C (43 F) and the living room is at about 22 C (72 F) and having warmed up, both clocks are running nicely with good overswing. My guess is that the Windles clock oil that I use to lubricate the pivots and pallets had thickened in the cold and has now thinned out a bit in the warmer room.

A lot has been written about the need to lubricate 400-day clocks (or not) and the merits of different oils, so I wonder if anyone else has experienced this phenomenon?

Incidentally, not all clocks seem to be affected. I have another clock of the same make (K&S) which is still running perfectly happily in the cold workshop! Same oil though...

Phil
 

Phil G4SPZ

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Oct 18, 2018
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Glad you're on the mend! The clocks that stopped...are they the small size? Their ratio of excess power to friction is pretty tight, so they might be affect more than the full size clocks.

Kurt
Hi Kurt,

Yes thank you, much better now although one or two lingering symptoms. No, the clocks are quite different - one is a K&S standard with Graham escapement, and the other is a K&S midget with pin-pallet escapement. The clock that likes the cold is also a K&S but it’s a miniature. All are relatively modern and branded ‘Bentima’.

I have been watching both running for the past couple of hours and the rotation seems to be building up steadily as the clocks warm up. My only problem now is to persuade my wife to accept my growing clock collection in the house!

Phil
 

Wayne A

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Sep 24, 2019
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Phil, good to hear your doing better.

Don't think light oil on the pivots would have enough effect with 30 deg change to stop a clock. I'm thinking that heavy oil or grease in the mainspring may have more affect. All my clocks remain in about an 8deg range so never noticed any issues.
 

Phil G4SPZ

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Oct 18, 2018
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Hi Wayne. Yes I guess you might be right. I have serviced the mainsprings in both these clocks and used oil, rather than grease, but this is one of the fascinations (and frustrations) of 400-day clocks. Perhaps I should look at using a better mainspring lubricant.

Both clocks ran for several weeks without issue after overhaul, but it seems like the problems coincided with the onset of cold weather. It wouldn't surprise me if they stop again! I'll keep an eye on them and report back.

Phil
 

Kevin W.

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Apr 11, 2002
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Hi Phil. Glad to hear you are better and your clocks as well.
 
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Phil G4SPZ

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Oct 18, 2018
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Hi Kevin and thank you for your kind words.

Both clocks have made it through the night; the standard is now rotating 310 degrees and the midget 270 degrees. Both are emitting good sharp ticks as the pallets land on the dead faces of the EW teeth, and EW rotation shows no sign of the sluggishness I observed when they were out in the cold. I’m hopeful...!

Phil
 
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whatgoesaround

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Jan 22, 2008
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Glad to hear that you and your wife are well now. What was the mainspring lubricant that you used? There are a number of recommendations on this forum. Slick 50 was once the recommended lubricant when I first found this forum, but there are more that have been recommended since, most being synthetic oils, which I would not think would be greatly affected by temperature. I believe grease will breakdown over a long time.
 

Phil G4SPZ

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Oct 18, 2018
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Phil said he used Windles clock oil...
Indeed I do, but only for pivots and pallets! When I started out in this hobby I looked for advice on how to lubricate mainsprings, and was a bit baffled by the wide range of recommendations, not to mention the cost of some of the recommended products. So I concocted a mixture of roughly 50:50 Castrol gear oil and 3-in-1, both of which I had to hand. I only mixed up perhaps an ounce or two, and I still have loads of it left. It has worked fine so far in ‘conventional’ American, English and German clocks, but I now know that 400-day clocks are a little more particular.

The problem I find is that all the lubricants I’ve seen recommended are either (a) only available in the US, (b) only available in far larger quantities than I’ll ever use, or (c) extremely expensive. As a mere hobbyist, 50ml will last me a lifetime.

Any recommendations for lubricants ideal for 400-day clocks whilst avoiding (a), (b) and (c) above would be much appreciated!

Phil
 

Wayne A

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Sep 24, 2019
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Theres a wide range of whats used on main springs. From reading allot of old posts here the past king of spring lube was slick-50 engine oil treatment, nevermind its no longer manufactured. I'm useing 0wt synthetic engine oil mixed with powdered Teflon. Had been using graphite instead of the teflon but found a source for the Teflon and tried in on all my midget pin pallets and like the early results.
 

Dells

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Oct 18, 2019
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Hi Phil glad to hear you are both better
I use standard 5/30 synthetic engine oil without any problems as far as I know.
Dell
 
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Phil G4SPZ

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Oct 18, 2018
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Hi Dell and thanks for your kind wishes.

After some searching I have managed to find and order a one-litre bottle of the above spec oil that also happens to suit my car! I never have to top up the car’s oil between services so I didn’t have any to hand, but now I am sorted.

Many thanks for everyone’s advice,

Phil

P.S. Both clocks are still running ‘in the warm’
 

Dells

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Oct 18, 2019
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That’s the reason I used it in the first place, it’s the same as my car also.
Dell
 

Wayne A

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Sep 24, 2019
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Yep all the clock oil I need can be had from the bottom of the oil jugs left from changeing auto oil. Just prop them up over a funnel and letting them drain overnight. Old habbit my father taught me to keep the oiler supplied.
 

Phil G4SPZ

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Oct 18, 2018
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Just a quick update to finalise this thread. My theory about cold temperatures proved 50% correct and 50% wrong.

The standard Bentima carried on running happily in the warmer room, and is still going strongly back in the workshop now the weather has warmed up a bit.

Annoyingly, though, the pin-pallet midget ran perfectly for two weeks then stopped again, due to sluggish action. The only thing I can think to do is to strip it down yet again and clean and re-lubricate the mainspring now my new synthetic oil is to hand.

With grateful thanks for everyone’s interest and advice,

Phil
 

Dells

NAWCC Member
Oct 18, 2019
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In the cotswolds UK
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Hi phil
The midget 400 day clocks are very fussy, the slightest friction will stop them I have one that will happily run when wound up but each time I go to regulate it it stops but if I leave it alone it runs and runs.
Dell
 

Phil G4SPZ

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Oct 18, 2018
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Bewdley, Worcestershire, UK
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Hi Dell,

This particular midget clock is one on which I have expended a lot of effort, but if anything it seems over-powered and had a tendency to flutter, which took me ages to tame. It then ran for a several months without problems, till it stopped in the cold weather.

I suspect mainspring lubrication and that’s what I’ll be looking at next.

Phil
 

Dells

NAWCC Member
Oct 18, 2019
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In the cotswolds UK
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Let us know how and if it helps.
Dell
 
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