A new to me bushing material

Discussion in 'Wood Movement Clocks' started by Jim DuBois, Jan 20, 2018.

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  1. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    #1 Jim DuBois, Jan 20, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2018
    As we repair clocks we find many solutions for problems, both new and old. When it comes to bushings, we see lead, pewter, brass, bone, various plastics, paper, tape, chunks of other clock plates, pins, needles, and who knows what else will we find. Usually one of the above is an old repair often done I suspect by the clock owners.

    All that considered today I came across something entirely unexpected and entirely new to me. The clock mechanism being repaired is a mid 18th-century American wood works by one of America's earlier clockmaking families. There were some very funny bushings on most of the steel arbors. I pulled a couple of them out. They were unlike anything I had ever seen. I thought the first one was Scotch tape wrapped around the arbor. But, no, it was a seamless semi-transparent round piece of something. So, I tossed it away and started reassembly of the movement, intended for display, not a running clock. The remaining bushings were very tight on the arbor shafts, and the pivots with this material seemingly were intended to rotate in the oak plates.

    Weird! Maybe I should figure out what this stuff is. Pulled the one out of the trash and I lit a small flame under it. Hmmm, smells like burning hair…..not a burning plastic smell that I expected. Sort of looks like horn material?

    A long story shortened a bit. This clock movement is bushed using pieces of the hollow portions of porcupine quills. An entirely new solution for me. Yikes! Ingenuity to the next level. I don’t recommend it, by the way; I don’t think it is a good solution. Just reporting the material.

    2018-01-20 14.48.15.jpg 2018-01-20 15.16.54.jpg Still005.jpg Still007.jpg
     
  2. Steven Thornberry

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  3. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    one of my favorite sayings from Walt Kelly....100% accurate I fear....
     
  4. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Amazing,Jim! I learn something new every day on these boards.

    George N.
     
  5. MartinM

    MartinM Registered User

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    I'd guess it's more likely a quill from a feather.
     
  6. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Interesting thought, Martin M. However, when I forwarded the pictures Jim posted to my friend at the University of Tennessee, he concurred with Jim that the piece indeed looked like a porcupine quill rather than a feather. He reported that the quill section had a thinner wall than what would be found on a typical feather of the size needed to be an effective bushing. He also reported that porcupine quills were used for other things as well, including, just like feathers, writing/decorating uses with ink and paint. He said they were especially useful in using paints of the 1830-1840s time frame, due to their natural inner lubricating qualities that kept the quills from clogging as easily as feathers. He told me that children would often gather the quills as they came across them, selling them to adults who paid about 2 cents per 100 quills. A lot of work for a couple of pennies, huh?

    Best to all,

    George N.
     
  7. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    George and Martin, Thank you both for your thoughts on these "bushings". I have had both quills and feathers in the shop over the years and when I saw these I immediately went to quill rather than feather. The more or less semi transparent color going to black just seemed more quill than feather as well as the small diameter, so I jumped on that as the material. George, please thank your friend for me for making a more educated assessment of the bushing. The feathers I had always seemed to be substantially larger in their hollow portions, and tapered rather quickly, the quills had a longer hollow section, and were substantially smaller in diameter. But, I had those pretty much a half lifetime ago and what I had for lunch yesterday is of question today....so, perhaps my guesstimate was good, but feather or quill, not a good repair in my opinion, but interesting never the less?
     
  8. George Nelson

    George Nelson Registered User
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    Hi, All,

    I should have mentioned that my friend at the University of Tennessee works in the biology department. Sorry for the oversight.

    George N.
     
  9. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    Do you think the quills were an effective bushing material? I guess you wouldn't know how long ago someone used this material. Very creative though.
     
  10. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I don't think it worked very well, or if it worked well originally it isn't working now. It looks like they oiled the shafts and we know how well that works out with wood. The quill material either shrank tightly around some of the shafts, or maybe it was fir tight on the shafts originally and the intention was to run the quill as part of the shaft. In any event, the quill, the oil, the iron shaft, and the oak plate didn't really work out long term. The plates were nailed back together using round wire nails so the work was most likely 20th century. It had been a very long time since the movement was a running clock...a very long time. I am not certain it ever ran with the quills, it is all too tight these days with the quills on the shafts...It will be a display piece and not run so I left the quills in place as part of the history of the piece. If I wanted it to run I would have to rebush it in nearly 20 places and while I would do that with oak plugs it seems better to leave it as is. It can always be rebushed later .

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