electric neon clock

cazboy

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I think I got my cousin Warren on the clock bug, because he called me to tell about a thriftstore bargain he got. At $20, I have to agree! It's an electric wall clock that was made by Neon Products in Lima, Ohio. The clock works perfectly but the neon light doesn't function because of a burnt transformer. I wonder if some of you might tell me where a transformer like that might be obtained.
Anyway, here's all the pictures my cousin sent me:
 

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harold bain

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Doug, I'm going to move your thread down to the electric clock forum for better exposure. Here is a live link to Wayne's website:
http://www.waynesneonclocks.com/
He should be able to help your cousin. These neons usualy get about 10-20 times what he paid for it, definately worth fixing.
 

Ingulphus

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I can recommend Tech 22 - http://www.t2-neonpower.com/ - they have good quality and fast service. I also recommend a core and coil over an electronic transformer - around 3 KV and 30 MA should do it, but each transformer is listed with the maximum tube length and diameter, for both neon and argon/mercury (which is most likely what yours is). And, of course, make sure the case is properly grounded - a lot of these clocks weren't, originally.

These are some of mine - I particularly like the table clocks... The large clock (26") had lost all original neon, so I was free to remake it as I pleased. The phrase is from Mel Brook's "High Anxiety", muttered by Harvey Korman to Chloris Leachman. Each clock required new neon and a new transformer.

They are of scant horological interest, but old neon is FUN!
 

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cazboy

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Harolod, thanks for moving this thread to electric clocks. Shoulda thunka that inna first place!

Davefr & Ingulphus, thanks HEAPS for the pointers to suppliers.

Ingulphus, I know what a transformer is. But a coil & core - that sounds like a transformer to me. What's the difference? Why is one better than the other? Safety concerns?? BTW, gorgeous neons of yours! And the motto is great.
 

Ingulphus

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A core and coil transformer is what was originally used in these clocks - it's an iron core with two separate coils of many layers of wire, taking line current and stepping it up to X kilovolts by induction. They have a steady output, are very reliable and last for a fairly long time (10 - 15 years depending upon use). The old ones found in these clocks may still work when found, but eventually heat and age break down the insulation between the windings, and the transformers fail. Plus, all modern coil and core conform to a UL code for secondary grounding, so even if I buy a clock that's working, I replace the transformer and wiring for safety's sake.

The other choice is an electronic transformer, but my neon maker told me they're not suitable for a sealed clock case (I'm really not sure why), and I've noticed that they tend to be used for external applications, such as beer signs. Some electronics have either a two-level switch (high/low) or a dimmer, which can be useful when the tubing is exposed and bright (such as my large clock - it makes the hallway it's in glow a hot magenta when lit) , but probably not needed for your cousin's clock (which probably has a white tube).

The guys at Tech 22 or Wayne's will give a better explanation, and I've found them very helpful with questions.

Best regards,

Mark
 

cazboy

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Hi Mark, thanks for your clear explaination. Much appreciated! I emailed my cousin last night and told him about the two neon clock websites I heard about here - I'll keep ya all posted!
One thing I really like about the clock he got (and this will sound strange) is the black crinkle finish you can see on the back. At least, you can see it on the parts that aren't covered in interior house paint. Anyway, you just don't see that finish on ANYTHING anymore.
But the main thing I like about this clock is...NEON!
 

Ingulphus

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There are people reproducing the cases for custom clocks, and they've managed to replicate the finish, but I have no idea how. I have a Glo-Dial case that's very rusty - the outside was originally done in a deep blue enamel, but once I sand the rust down, I'm going to use a deep blue "hammered" paint (Rust-Oleum), as it will hide the minor dings.
 

Scottie-TX

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3KV/30ma reads about right to me also. I'd just scour eBay and buy one. They are not expensive there. I too am a HUGE fan of neon altho I no longer have a neon clock.
Basically, the newer transformers are solid state, lightweight, and very picky about their load. Their load must conform to types of gas, length of tubing, diameter of tubing, etc. If thses parameters are violated, the transformer just crashes.
The original coil and core, heavy ones don't care. If the tubing is short it doesn't care. If it's too long, it doesn't care but the tube won't light, etc. but the transformer doesn't care about it's load. It has a current limiter and regardless of load will only supply that much current, shorted or open.
 

Scottie-TX

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That big box at the bottom: Is that original or somebody's klooge add-on?
I'm not familiar with this clock as most I've dealt with had the transformer inside the case. You see, these little 3K's are only about 2 X 2 X 3 and don't need a huge box. How would it be hung? There may be some kind of much larger, unoriginal transformer in there - like a potted, beer sign transformer, which of course is overkill.
 

Ingulphus

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Scottie -

I believe electronic transformers are load balancing, and will modulate their output depending upon the tubing. Core and coil produce a fixed output, and if the transformer rating is significantly higher than what's required, the neon will run very hot and perhaps fail prematurely (and buzz, which is very annoying). Both types are identified by the maximum tube diameter and length they will power (neon requires less current to light than argon/mercury, and wider diameters of either gas also require less, although wider tubing also produces less light).

It looks like the clock was meant to stand on a surface, rather than be hung on a wall, and the large box might act as a counterweight to keep it stable. Indoor clocks usually have a relatively small transformer, roughly around 3" by 4", especially those with a single tube - each of my two Glo-Dials had an 1800/18 ma Acme. (And true to Wylie Coyote's experience, anything with an Acme brand is bound to fail...)

Large clocks meant for outdoors (and with multiple tubes) are usually found with those large, heavy Franceformers (9 kv and up) - the ambient temperature being a factor. The transformer's heat would offset very cold temperatures so the clock motor wouldn't freeze.
 

Scottie-TX

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Yeah; We pretty much on th' same page theorywise. I did consider it might be a standing clock rather than hanging also. Perhaps it is a stander altho the wire hanging from the back says that someone was hanging this one. That big box still looks suspect. Awsum find! I'd give it colored neon if now white, but would save the white if it appears original, as ORIGINAL tubing significantly affects the value of these old clocks.
As an aside, neon lights my entire apt. at nite - mostly a deep cobalt blue, as well as my Scion toaster. This I do with an inverter and a 7.5KV 60 ma that pulls two amps from the electrical system.
 

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edsel58

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Hi,

I'm the proud owner of the clock in question (A BIG thanks to my Cuz'n Doug for the original post).

To answer a couple of questions regarding the box and how it's displayed....

The large box houses the transformer and is original. This box is being re-popped, as is the smaller one for the clock mech.

It may be displayed two ways:

First - Standing. At the base of the clock face, there are two white rubber bumpers. I am assuming there was a third (which is missing), mounted to the rear of the transformer box.

Second - Hanging. Missing are the chain and hooks which attach to back of the clock. The brackets to attach the hooks are still on the clock (which may be seen in the pics which Doug posted. (Also see attached pic of a similar clock with it's original hanging hardware)

Thanks!
Warren
 

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cazboy

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Hey Warren (whoops, I mean edsel58), welcome aboard! Glad to see ya on here.

Shhh....hey evrbuddy, dis here's mah fayvert cuzzin.... way more of a collector than I'll ever bee...hopefully he'll spill the beans on what he's got...

Anywhoose, here's hoping you'll keep this thread updated with updates as you fix that bargain find of yours.

And ScottieTX, I had no idea you were so into neon...your ride looks awesome.
 

edsel58

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I've ordered a transformer and am anxiously awaiting it's arrival! I'll update on my progress.

BTW, my wife wants to sell the clock because, "The colors don't match our room". I say, "who cares!" ;) I'm trying to sell her on the finer points of the clock...

Warren
 

Scottie-TX

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Naw; This' too EZ. Jes' ast 'er what color she wants and have tubing made to her color preference. (call her bluff) Actually she doesn't like the clock at all and she's hoping the color deal'll lock her case. (not)
 

ElectricTime

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A core and coil transformer is what was originally used in these clocks - it's an iron core with two separate coils of many layers of wire, taking line current and stepping it up to X kilovolts by induction. They have a steady output, are very reliable and last for a fairly long time (10 - 15 years depending upon use). The old ones found in these clocks may still work when found, but eventually heat and age break down the insulation between the windings, and the transformers fail. Plus, all modern coil and core conform to a UL code for secondary grounding, so even if I buy a clock that's working, I replace the transformer and wiring for safety's sake.

The other choice is an electronic transformer, but my neon maker told me they're not suitable for a sealed clock case (I'm really not sure why), and I've noticed that they tend to be used for external applications, such as beer signs. Some electronics have either a two-level switch (high/low) or a dimmer, which can be useful when the tubing is exposed and bright (such as my large clock - it makes the hallway it's in glow a hot magenta when lit) , but probably not needed for your cousin's clock (which probably has a white tube).

The guys at Tech 22 or Wayne's will give a better explanation, and I've found them very helpful with questions.

Best regards,

Mark
Core and Coil Transformers will last for 60+ years. I would recommend he take the clock to a good neon shop. The voltages involved our significant and a good neon person should look at it. Core and Coil transformers cannot be used anymore outside - UL has mandated secondary fault protection for all outdoor neon installations.

I've attached a photograph of our shop clock - still working about 60 years - the tube had to be regassed after 40 years though.
 

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edsel58

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Well, I finally got around to installing the new transformer and, voila! It works! The neon is plain ol' white - not very bright, but it's sufficient for the moment. I cleaned up the old *re-wiring* from it's sordid past (a previous owner just twisted the wires together and taped 'em - arrrrgh!).

The next step is going to be even more interesting. As can be seen in the pics at the beginning of this thread, the back and part of the sides of the clock has had 2 coats of flat (I'm assuming oil based) interior house paint slopped on by someone too lazy to remove it from the wall. Probably the nice *leaded* type, also.

OK, I'm trying to figure a way how to remove the house paint without damaging the original black crinkle finish. I was thinking of trying Pine-Sol, but there is no real inconspicuous place to try it out. I'd hate to have to repaint, since the original black is in decent shape.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Warren
 

Scottie-TX

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Rotsa ruck. I believe paintwise, yer losin' this battle.
Fortunatelly UL has no bidness here and my C 'n Ts rule, box (XB) and apt.
Congrats!
 

harold bain

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Warren, often house paint can be scraped off a metal surface without damaging the original finish. It is a labour intensive job, but worth trying.
 

edsel58

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Well, I tried a diluted solution of Pine-Sol to remove the house paint. It DID soften it up less than the original black crinkle, but my efforts were less than successful. *sigh*

I tried experimenting with the transformer cover, first. One good thing using Pine-Sol, it helps lift the paint so a lot can be peeled off fairly easily, and it's not messy like paint stripper. I suppose I could have made a *bath* of drain cleaner (lye), but I've have good results with the Pine-Sol. You can also buy concentrated pine oil at a drug store for more aggressive stripping. It looks like I'm going to have to disassemble the entire clock, strip it, and repaint with black crinkle. At least the paint and repro decal are available!

Watch for the next exciting installment!

Warren
 

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