Big Ben Book?

Discussion in 'Clock Repair' started by darita, Jul 5, 2015.

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  1. darita

    darita Registered User

    Apr 17, 2013
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    Does anyone here know of a book or anything on the web, that is all about how to's on a Westclox Big Ben? I'm reading that these alarm clocks are not very highly regarded by clock aficionados, however they are popular and collected, so a lot of people must like them. Also, because there are so many of these out there, someone has to have written about or produced a video on disassembling and cleaning a Big Ben...right?
     
  2. Steven Thornberry

    Steven Thornberry User Administrator
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    You might search this website to see if what you are looking for is there.
     
  3. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    #3 bangster, Jul 6, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
    There are many different models of Big Ben. Check out the website that Steven recommended, to find out what model your clock is (or clocks are), then get back to us.

    If it's the one in your thread "How Fake Is This?", it's almost certainly a "Frankenclock" assembled from parts of different clocks, not a regular Big Ben. Externally, it looks like a Model 1a, but it isn't one, for a number of reasons. If you want to get a peek inside it, do this:

    Unscrew the two winding keys by turning them backwards.
    Unscrew the alarm set knob by turning it backwards.
    Remove the two slot-head screws near the center.
    Remove the three screws out near the rim.
    Lift off the back shell.
    Take a picture of what you see, and post it here. It may just be a picture of an inner shell. Let us see.
     
  4. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    I'm moving this to the Clock Repair forum, where it most likely belongs.

    bangster
    moderator
     
  5. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Thanks for the replies. It's not the Frankenclock. I have several real Big Bens that are 1910 to 1930. Sure hope there's a book or site or vid on assembly/disassembly of this clock. I'm hoping it's simple enough for a beginner clock guy to get into. I love this model clock. It just looks so basic.
     
  6. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Pick one to start with, and show us pictures. I own, and have been through, many BB's. I'm not an expert by far, but I have some experience and I can probably help you.

    I've scanned the net, and haven't been able to find what you're looking for.

    Start with the earliest one. They're most fun.
     
  7. AJSBSA

    AJSBSA Registered User

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    I have picked two PDF files

    Restoration of a 1927 Style 1 Baby Ben Alarm Clock

    ALARM CLOCKS By
    William J. Bilger

    Both seem quite good but are quite brief try googling them
     
  8. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Thanks AJSBSA. I was able to locate the "Restoration of a 1927 Style 1 Baby Ben Alarm Clock" PDF, however I can't find the other. The first is partly what I was looking for, although it doesn't go into the depth of cleaning and oiling that I need it to. I really wish I had the facility to do what he does with full restorations, which is what I like doing for hand planes. That said, my best two hand planes in my collection have not been restored, only cleaned and they show all the age and patina of 100+ years of use. I still consider those to be beautiful planes to look at and imagine the history behind them.
    I'd like to find that second PDF file to see if it has more of what I'm looking for. Any help there would be appreciated. Thanks again!
     
  9. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    #9 bangster, Jul 7, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2015
    The Bilger book is available on Amazon. It has one review:

    2Dont waste your money.
    Bykevin howardon September 28, 2014
    Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
    Disapointing to say the least. Most all the informstion can be found at most clock sites. I was expecting more indepth information than the book offered. It was a waste of money for a book run off on a copy machine and stapled together
    CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

    You're not taking full advantage of this message board. Go to the top of the Clock Repair forum. Pull down the Search Forum menu item.

    search forum.jpg
    Select Advanced. In the advanced window put Big Ben in the Keywords blank. Tell it Search.

    It will turn up a multitude of threads involving the Big Ben clock. Look through them and you'll find tons of info you may be looking for.
     
  10. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Bangster, here's the back of one of them. I think last patent date was 1920...
    P1010320_zpskuzxfliv.gif P1010321_zpshd4g4p12.jpg P1010322_zpsqyhtlw2y.jpg
     
  11. AJSBSA

    AJSBSA Registered User

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    I have the PDF of the

    Repairing ALARMCLOCKS
    By
    William J. Bilger

    It seems OK to me well written and with plenty of diagrams only 20 pages of info though I have never repaired alarms other than the Black Forest Postman variety so I have never really used it just read it a couple times, the amount of money I have spent on Clock books over the years $6 is just a drop in the ocean.
     
  12. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Darita, that is a sweet looking Style 1. I'm not sure what you want to do to it.
     
  13. darita

    darita Registered User

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    What I'd like to do is clean and oil it. What I ultimately want to be able to do is disassemble and re-assemble it, although as a newbie, I know that probably won't be likely possible without some kind of help...like from an instructional of some sort.
    Ya know, this is kinda odd to me that with such a ubiquitous clock like an old Big Ben, that there aren't a lot of How To's out there on the web. What a great video that would make for Youtube showing disassembly/assembly of one of these. Not only would it be interesting and informative to watch, but it would also allow people to decide whether or not it was within their skill level to do it themselves, especially if it was restricted to tools that the common user might have or should have. It would also show us what things should like in there. I'd imagine that most of these clocks have been invaded many times, sometimes by those with limited experience and knowledge of reassembly, not to mention the addition of parts that might not be quite right, like my Frankenclock. Any budding Youtube producers reading this?
     
  14. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    Darita, my experience has been that many of these have never been messed with. I think that perhaps people just ran them until they quit and bought another one. You really do need to take one apart to clean it properly and you CAN do that with no special tools. It is, after all, just a clock, so the general methods described in any good book on basic clock repair apply here as well. You have obviously figured out how to get inside. The next step is to remove the hands - they just press on but can often be difficult to remove but can usually be eased off with a couple screw drivers or paint can openers or a real "hand puller", which is inexpensive. Several tabs hold the face on and when the tabs are sraightened the face will lift off. You now have full access to the movement.

    The next task is to remove the power from the springs. Again basic clock repair texts explain this in detail. you will need improvise a let down tool. One way is to use the time side winding key and a piece of wooden broom handle. Cut a slot in the end to match the key. Install the key, place the broom handle over the key, turn in the winding direction to take tension off the "click" (the little ratchet dog), hold the click back and slowly release the broom handle until the main spring is completely relaxed. You can't usually get to the alarm spring click so set the clock so it will alarm and let it "run down" giving a little help near the end to be sure it is run down. The clock is now safe to work on.

    Remove all the knobs. The springs can now be removed by removing the small screws around the spring plate, and one nut in the case of the alarm spring.
    Next step takes some care and that is removing the balance wheel. First un-pin the hair spring, then gently rotate the balance and ease the hs tail out of the regulator slot. Next unscrew the balance pivot cup on the end away from the regulator and lift out the balance using care not to tangle the hs spring on anything. It can help to clip an alligator clip on the wheel so you don't drop it into the works.

    Next take lots of pictures! From here on its just a mater of taking it apart, recording where everything goes, and not loosing any parts. The alarm set shaft has a threaded round nut (no flats) that must be unscrewed. There should be a flat washer with a keyed hole under the nut AND another keyed flat washer just under the plate. Don't lose these and don't forget to put all of them back.

    Other than the above and common sense, just don't force anything. There has been a lot posted here about cleaning that applies to these alarms as well as clocks. DO NOT PUT THE WHEELS (GEARS) IN AN ULTRASONIC CLEANER! The US will eat up the soft case hubs - don't ask me how I know this. The main springs should be removed and cleaned and because they are narrow and relatively light this can be done by hand.

    Once it is apart and cleaned you can evaluate what else may need to be done. It all goes back together in the reverse of how it came apart. That's the short crash course, I'm sure I probably left something out. Things like worn pivot holes, bushings, lubrication, etc are usually well covered in general clock repair texts. Let us know how it goes.

    RC
     
  15. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    For selfish reasons, clock people don't often write books on how to do their job :) One of the best teachers is to have two identical clocks on hand. One to take apart, the other to help in re-assembly.
     
  16. darita

    darita Registered User

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    RC, this is awesome! I have no doubt many will learn from this. I was truly unnerved at the thought of going in, but after reading this, I think it's doable.
    If anything is left out, I'm sure others will chime in. Thanks so much. Now to find a basic alarm clock book. Derek.
     
  17. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Shutterbug, great idea that didn't even occur to me. I have a few, so side-by-side would be no prob and likely a necessity for me. Awesome!!!
     
  18. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Actually, there's quite a bit more to it than that.

    Have several containers or bowls to put various bits in as you remove them. It's better to keep them segregated, rather than trying to sort them out later.

    First, lift the movement out of the case so's you can get to the hands. Protect the dial with a calling card or something when you pry the hands off. Then remove the dial. Remove the four nuts holding the dial shield onto the movement, and take it off. Put the hands and nuts in one of the cups.

    Turn the alarm setting knob until the alarm releases, and let it run down.

    Remove the setting knobs on the back. The alarm knob unscrews backwards, the time knob pries off. Put them along with the dust shields and tension springs into the cup with the hands.

    The clock has two separate gear trains, one for the time and one for the alarm. Each has its mainspring. Let down the time mainspring as RC described (the alarm spring is already run down and won't need let down). Here's a pic of the sort of letdown tool he describes..Click to enlarge.

    letdown tool 1.jpg letdown tool 2.jpg

    Now follow the procedures RC has outlined. If you run into any trouble, get back to us.
     
  19. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    An interesting feature of this clock is the intermittent alarm. Note the small star wheel on the 3rd wheel. there is a lever there in the center part of the clock that is lifted and released as this wheel turns to stop the alarm sound after a brief time and then restart it. Sort of an automatic snooze feature. Note carefully how this lever is positioned AND there is a small leaf spring that tensions this lever. Make sure the spring is on the correct side of the lever when you put it all back. Its hard to impossible to correct this once it is together. The rest of the wheels only fit right one way.

    Another odd thing is the pivots. There is a steel wire that passes all the way through the cast metal parts and the ends form the pivots. If you find a real long pivot on one end and a real short one on the other, just push the long one in a bit. That cast metal part is real soft so don't use pliers on it. If you get in trouble I suspect most of us have a few salvaged parts for Big Bens. They were very popular. You should find the month and year of manufacture stamped into one of the brass plates.

    RC
     
  20. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    And if you feel like you're getting information-overload, say Whoah! Parcel it out in smaller packages! We are sometimes over-enthusiastic with our advice.
     
  21. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Not at all! This is all very good and very specific information, which is exactly what I was looking for. I must be some kind of dyslexic or something, because I have a hard time reading through a book and sticking with it long enough to get anything from it. I learn the most from very specific direction or demonstration. After that, if I want more general information, I go looking for it. Like I said before, I'm surprised that someone hasn't done a How To on the disassembly/cleaning/assembly of the common Big Ben.
     
  22. darita

    darita Registered User

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    I use mineral spirits a lot for cleaning off tools. Is that ok for cleaning clock parts or is there better? What about an oil?
     
  23. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    There are a lot of threads here on clock cleaning solutions and methods and sometimes as much heat as light over which is best. Mineral spirits is sometimes used. For some reason I have found that if I don't get absolutely all the old crud removed then after it dries a day or two I sometimes find green corrosion that was not there before. Not sure if others find the same. If you plan to clean a lot of clocks I would consider one of the commercially available clock cleaning solutions. Otherwise, Dawn dish detergent and a hot water rinse will do a decent job on a clock like this. You need to dry immediately with compressed air, and/or hot air, perhaps a dip in alcohol before the hot air blow. Especially important that the steel parts get dry quickly. If you want a non-water based cleaner, plain old kerosene will work. More volatile hydrocarbon solvents such as gasoline (Coleman fuel) etc. pose a greater fire hazard.

    Same deal with oil, there is a ton of info on this board as well as huge differences of opinion. Generally OK to go with an oil such as Nye Clock Oil that is sold for clocks. Personally, I would not use any of the "nano" or super magical oils. This clock has some pretty small pivots so a light oil is in order. Also a lot here about main spring lubes if you search. Again, I default to Keystone main spring oil which is sold for that purpose but there are may other opinions, so spend some time with the search function and see what makes sense to you.

    RC
     
  24. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Let me differ with RC on this. Mineral spirits (white spirits, paint thinner) is a perfectly acceptable solvent for cleaning clock parts. It's used all the time. Many repairmen clean movements with nothing more than a toothbrush and a pan of mineral spirits, scrubbing each part clean, then pegging out the holes in the plates with round toothpicks.

    Not using a water-based cleaner eliminates a lot of worries about rusting. Mineral spirits evaporates without the need for a parts dryer. If you've been using it for your planes, it's perfectly OK to continue using it to clean clock parts.

    Get yourself a bottle of clock oil. Any of those in the Timesavers catalog will do. Keystone is the least expensive and does a good job. I also differ with RC on "nano oils", but you need not get into that controversy.

    Good luck.
     
  25. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Love'n all this great info. More the merrier. Just ordered some books and oils.
     
  26. R. Croswell

    R. Croswell Registered User

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    I think you have become infected! This is a disease for which there is no cure but it is seldom fatal..........unless of course you progress to tower clocks and fall from the tower.

    RC
     
  27. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    I know this is an old post but still relevant. I'm getting ready to tear down a Big Ben Style 4. I've learned that the plates aren't steel, but nickel plated brass. (Good), I can rebush as necessary. But before I tear it down I was searching for some documented procedure, and this is the best I've seen so far. Thanks RC!
     
  28. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Just thought I would thank everyone for their help. Since posting, I've restored over 150 Westclox alarm clocks and pocket watches. With some help and trial and error, I learned how to clean, repair and restore these babies. I'm so glad I got the bug. Every clock I do presents a new challenge of some sort and stretches the limits of my abilities. The only issue I've had is not being able to replate the cases that need it. I've been able to replate on small areas and on small cases using a really basic system, however for anything large, it's been another challenge.
    I have to say, early on, some here discouraged me from starting on this journey, however many did help. For those starting out, don't be discouraged by the nay-sayers. Just dive in and do it and I promise you'll learn what you need to know, as long as you persist and ask lots of questions. I"m still amazed and surprised when I wind and clock and I see that balance wheel start to rotate back and forth. It's a blast, so go for it!
     
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  29. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    Thanks Darita,
    I found a pretty thorough video series online about cleaning a Smith's alarm clock. The only concern I had about my Big Ben was the balance wheel assembly. But it's pretty much like a watch.
    I'm not too concerned now about it. I'll tear it down soon and see how it goes.
     
  30. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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  31. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    #31 Dave T, Jun 28, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2018
    Bang, I've seen that one before but it's hard to find. Thanks for the link.
    I've made some progress but right now I'm stuck on getting the center shaft knob off. I'm sure it's friction fit. It has slots in the side of the knob. Update, got it off!

    I'm wondering if I can approach it from the other side and remove the canon pinion. I don't have a puller! It's on my list for the next order at Timesavers.
     
  32. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Dave, if I'm understanding your issue correctly, here's how I do it...not that its the best or proper way, however it has worked on all the Westclox I've done. I simply use a pair of dulled wire cutters, to grab the shaft beneath the knob, then I use flat blade driver against the cutter to pry the knob off. A little heat from a micro torch helps as well to help loosen the knob. As for the cannon gear, hard to explain, but here goes...I take pry bar and snug it into a heavy vice, then slide the gear/plate assembly onto the forks, under the plate, where the shaft sits tightly in the crotch of the fork. Then I tap on the end of the shaft, pushing the shaft thru the cannon gear that is supported by the plate/pry bar. I'm careful not the bend the shaft. I've tried finding a gear puller thin enough to slide under the cannon gear, but long enough to reach the shaft end, however I haven't yet found one. If you find one, please let me know. I hope my explanation makes sense?.?.
     
  33. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    Darita, Yes it does, (make sense). Thanks!
    I used the same approach for removing the knob. But I steadied it by holding the shaft with a pair of padded vice grips. It popped off fairly quickly.

    I've got it all apart and cleaned, but I left the canon pinion in place. The movement was not very dirty at all. I'm surprised. And as for bushing I see some slight wear around the escape wheel, and the one next to it?, the pallet fork and center shaft on the bottom plate. The clock was running well, I'm inclined not to bush it. We'll see.

    Main reason I tore it down was that the hammer wasn't hitting the bell. And so far, I've found no reason why that was so. I'm hoping cleaning and polishing surfaces that interact will straighten it out.
     
  34. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Ya...seen that too. Sometimes the striker has been bent slightly due to a prior unsuccessful cleaning. At any rate, I'm sure you'll fix that. About 30% of the Westclox I've done have had cracked cannon gears, so you're fortunate yours is intact. It's a pain, but I repair those by soldering, then refitting the gear. I have no idea how long the repair will last, but it's all I knew how to do and I couldn't stand setting aside a whole movement, because of that little gear. At any rate, sounds like you're moving right along.
     
  35. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    #35 Dave T, Jun 30, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2018
    I've got this movement back together, but I'm pretty sure I'll have the same problem as when I started. The strike hammer does not engage unless I tilt the movement to the right, (on the hammer side).
    Looks to me as if the lever assembly needs to be rotated on the arbor, so that when the hammer's at rest the notch on the lever on the front of the plate is resting in a notch on the cam wheel. It's held there by a brass sleeve on the steel arbor.
    Is this a viable option? And how would I do that.
    Or, what is the proper method for adjustment?
    Big Ben 1936 striker 1.jpg Big Ben 1936 striker.jpg
     
  36. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Dave, is the straight spring opposite the striker, engaged on the striker arm? It keeps tension one the striker, holding the striker out.
     
  37. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    #37 Dave T, Jun 30, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2018
    Sure wish I could understand this! I don't see any spring. The striker arm itself is a two piece unit, as shown in the picture. The main section extends downward from the arbor and ends with a fork at the end. And on this arm there's another piece swedged in the first arm at the top, comes down makes a bend in the notch and ends with the round hammer on the other end. And that section just floats alongside the main section, with a tad of flex at the end in the fork.
    At rest the arm just hangs down straight with no tension.
    Am I missing some parts?
    Big Ben 1936 striker 2.jpg
     
  38. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    A couple better pictures.
    Big Ben 1936 striker 4.jpg Big Ben 1936 striker 3.jpg
     
  39. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Don't you need something to interact with the rattle wheel?
     
  40. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    Sorry, what's a rattle wheel? o_O Sure wish I could see a picture of this movement from someone else's clock. This one is a 1936 Style 4.
     
  41. darita

    darita Registered User

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    From what I see in your pics, I don't see the straight spring that is mounted opposite the striker and pushes the striker out, keeping constant tension on the striker. At the top of the pic, you'll see a black, straight spring, that mounts near the upper left corner of the plate and rests against a pin on the striker arm. I know the pic is not great, but it's what I had and that spring is essential.
    IMG_1233.jpg
     
  42. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    Bingo! This is it! :)
    Okay, so when I tore this clock down and took pictures this is what I saw, right or wrong. So I put it together the same way. (Mine on the left, your's on the right). I'll have to tear it down to fix it, but knowing is everything! Thanks so much Darita.
    Big Ben striker spring.jpg
     
  43. darita

    darita Registered User

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    Ya...totally bent! And my pleasure. Folks have helped me, so it's nice to be able to pass it along. You won't find many folks here who have had direct Westclox alarm experience, I guess cuz they're considered throw-aways, but I just love them. They are relatively inexpensive, parts are available and they are a challenge to work on and repair and that makes them fun, at least for me. For most, they're not worth the effort.
    Post back when you get it working.
     
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  44. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    One alarm clock leads to another. I bought this one locally over the weekend, just because it was there and the price was right. $5. Don't have it yet. So don't know if it runs or not. Bought it because it's got the animated waterwheel on the dial!?
    Got any Lux thoughts!
    Lux Waterbury Conn.jpg
     
  45. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    Got the spring for the striker in good order and all re-assembled. So, now I'm ready to put the balance wheel in. Thought this would be fairly easy. But so far, I can't get past the issue with the hairspring retainer adjustment. The tail of this arm wants to interact directly with the end of the pallet fork. I cleaned the opening in the retainer to allow good movement for the hairspring, and I'm sure I didn't bend it.
    The clock was running great before, and I'm hesitant to bend the tail of this arm now.

    What's going on?

    Looks like all I do is continue to ask for help, and I don't like that feeling!
    Here's a picture of it when I took it apart, and one now in the clock, and it still looks the same to me.

    Big Ben 1936 hairspring retainer.jpg Big Ben 1936 8.jpg
     
  46. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    Oct 19, 2005
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    It looks like it may have gotten bent on the screw side while it was apart.
     
  47. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    Not sure if it's bent, but I don't see any reason not to bend it slightly away from the roller table on the balance staff?
    Now I'm wondering why the tail on this piece is so long in the first place. Looks to me like the only job of this piece is to lengthen or shorten the hairspring to control the time.
     
  48. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    Okay guys, Forget my last question. After studying this for another half hour or so, I realize I put the pallet fork in upside down! Teardown #3 coming up. Reckon I need the practice.
     
  49. Dave T

    Dave T Registered User
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    Dec 8, 2011
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    Big Ben update, Not good. This clock beat me. After finally resolving the strike issue with the spring position. That's all that was ever wrong with this clock. It ran fine. Past tense!
    During the many processes of assembly and re-assembly I finally broke the pivot on the alarm stop governor. So, I was resolved to put it back together for time only.

    The balance wheel installation was a nightmare. For whatever reason the pivot screws did not seem to line up with the balance staff. After many hours analyzing and trying to fit the balance wheel, I finally broke the end off the hairspring. Still don't know why the balance assembly was such a struggle. And even without the hairspring the staff doesn't want to run free. It has good sharp points and the cups are clean. Thought this would be relatively straightforward to put back together.

    So, a once well running Ben is now laid at rest. Probably to date the most frustrating and disappointing clock I've worked on. Time to put it aside. At least until I find a parts movement.
     
  50. bangster

    bangster Moderator
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    Keep that 'un for parts too.:D
     

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