Fusee chain madnessss

jplotkin

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May 8, 2016
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Peak frustration in all my time with watches -- trying to reinstall the fusee chain on this English movement (sold in Philadelphia).

Photos of the movement disassembled (before cleaning) are posted.

I've re-assembled the two plates with the main wheel, third wheel, fourth wheel, barrel, and fusee cone. (Also with the maintaining power detent and maintaining power spring in place, between plates). See photo when re-assembled. The fussee internal ratchet is operating properly.

But I cannot manage to thread the **** chain back onto the fusee -- by any means. Best approach seems to hook the barrel first, and wind the barrel around twice, to take up some slack. And then to hook the fusee end and start winding the fusee using the key. But the problem is that chain does not continue to align along the fusee cone nicely as it winds up the chain. The chain slips up or down one or more rungs on the cone, no matter how many times I try! Also, sometimes the chain gets stuck in the small space between the barrel and lower plate, and so cannot be continued to be loaded onto fusee cone. SO ANNOYING.

I've re-cleaned chain twice, and inspected it for faults. The chain moves smoothly, with occasional kinks that are easily removed with slow pressure. Chain seems fine.

What's the best approach to getting the chain back on cone and barrel? At this point, I'm tempted to take off the top plate and install from above somehow.

ARGH. Advice for sanity please.

movement.jpeg
movement

before-cleaning.jpeg

before cleaning

barrell.jpeg

barrel before cleaning

cleaned-ready-for-chaing.jpg

cleaned, re-assembled, ready to install chain!!
 

gmorse

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Hi Joshua,
But I don't understand why the third wheel needs to be removed (there is a special bridge on the back for this) during the setting up process. Removing third wheel means that no power is sent down the train...
Also: should the lever be installed before I add pretension using the setup ratchet and mainspring arbor?
It's important to keep the chain under some tension and roughly aligned with the groove as you install it or it will jump out of the fusee as you've found. If the chain is an incorrect replacement and too thick, it will certainly try to jump out. If the barrel arbor square is long enough to provide a secure grip, I prefer to wind all the chain onto the fusee first, hook it onto the barrel and then use the barrel ratchet to gradually apply tension as the watch runs.

Only if the barrel arbor square doesn't provide a secure grip would I wind the chain onto the barrel first, keeping it snug with a finger, and if absolutely necessary holding it in place with Rodico, (although that can leave traces which then have to be removed, so I would try and avoid having to use that). Threading the chain behind one or two posts is a matter of practice, and a pair of number 3 tweezers.

The fusee can be wound in the usual way to get the chain onto it and nothing needs to be removed; this method means that you can install the whole train except the balance if it's a lever; on a verge you can install the balance as well.

Older movements which use a tangent screw under the barrel to setup the spring are usually easier, provided that the wheel and screw engage properly.

Also that little hook on the fusee will pull outward away from the fusee when at the end whereas if that part is still on the fusee it will always just pull flat in the groove.
I don't think this makes any difference to the likelihood of the chain breaking, as long as the hooking pin in the fusee is secure. Inspecting the chain very carefully before you install it is essential, so that you can remedy any suspect links or rivets.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Skutt50

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This can be a pain before you get the hang of it........

Here is my method:

I work with the movement held in vertical position with the fusee away from mee and the barrel on top.
A winding key that fits the square portion of the mainspring barrel arbor is also needed.
I fit the fusee hook first. If loose a bit of Rodico can help keeping it in place.
I then hook the barrel and with the key I wind the chain onto the barrel keepting a small tension on the spring by sliding it between two fingers. Make sure you NEVER turn the barrel backwards during this procedure! The chain will unhook!
Once the chain is tight I lock the barrel and chain with one finger while I replace the ratchet wheel (unless already in place if the square portion of the arbor is long enough to allow the ratchet wheel to be fitted during the procedure) and then the click.
Now give the mainspring a slight tension by turning the barrel arbor half a turn. The fusee should move until the chain points at some 90 degrees from the fusee. Then you can set the proper pre tension. Half a turn or 3/4 turn is usually enough.

First time you wind the mainspring do it in small turns and follow the chain on its way onto the fusee. You need to help it by moving it sideways on the barrel if it is about to climb out of the fusee groove. Careful when moving the chain. I use a flat screwdriver and push on the bottom part of the chain, closest to the barrel. Otherwise the chain may actually turn 90 degrees and you have another problem to solve!
 

gmorse

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Hi Skutt,
You need to help it by moving it sideways on the barrel if it is about to climb out of the fusee groove. Careful when moving the chain. I use a flat screwdriver and push on the bottom part of the chain, closest to the barrel. Otherwise the chain may actually turn 90 degrees and you have another problem to solve!
I use a pair of brass tweezers to do this, it stops any tendency for the chain to 'fall over'.

Regards,

Graham
 

Skutt50

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Hi Graham

Good idea and I have tried that. The tilted chains appeared when I had good tension on the chain and was on the last turns. That's when I started to carefully push at the bottom of the chain..........
 

SKennedy

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I first rotate barrel and fusee so that the hooking points are easiest to get to, nearest the outer edge of the plate. Then, with the movement vertical, I dangle/pass the barrel hook end of the chain behind the pillar and hook it on to the barrel. I leave the other end of the chain hanging out of the movement - no need to hook it to the fusee yet but you do need to make sure it doesn't get caught up on anything in the next stage. Then I wind the chain on to the barrel using the set up square and light finger pressure (either paper or cot covered) on chain/barrel to maintain a little force so the barrel hook doesn't come loose. Once the fusee end of the chain has reached the fusee hooking point I can then hook that end on, maintaining that finger pressure on the barrel to ensure that end doesn't detach.
Its sometimes possible to position the chain close to the spiral form it will eventually take as it winds on to the barrel, though usually only with thicker/18thC movements. I apply about 1/2 turn of initial set up which is normally sufficient to allow the watch to run down to the end of the chain and keep it taught.

I install the chain after the train is in a watch but before fitting the balance. WIth a lever watch, I leave it ticking to run down like that before then winding it for the first time, watching the chain and ensuring it follows the fusee groove. With a verge/cyl/duplex the train is free without the balance there, so it will spin as the set up is applied to that 'end of the chain' point. A chronometer is slightly different in that the chain has to go on either before fitting the detent so the train is free or after fitting both that and the balance.
 

jplotkin

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May 8, 2016
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Thank you all -- Graham, Skutt, Seth. What a terrific community.

After dangling behind pillar, I have in fact managed to wind the chain around the barrel neatly (simply by rotating barrel from its side by my finger), and then hook the other end to the fusee cone. But I didn't then add any pre-tension using setup ratchet -- which is probably why it was then impossible to neatly transfer the chain onto the fusee cone -- there was no pressure on the chain at all. Also, I didn't have the lever in the movement during any of this.

This time, after winding around barrel, I will then add pre-tension using setup ratchet before starting to transfer the chain onto to fusee cone -- is that correct?

One remaining question: I presume the entire train should be assembled, down to the lever (but lacking balance), during this entire operation. Is that correct?
 
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Skutt50

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This time I will add pre-tension using setup ratchet before transferring the chain onto fusee cone, right?
Yes, you need some tension or the barrel may run a tiny bit backwards loosening the hook. With some tension the hook stays in place.

I presume the entire train should be assembled, down to the lever (but lacking balance), during this entire operation. Is that correct?
That is what I do.
On a lever the fusee will not run down initialy to the point where the chain is at 90 degree angle but on a verge escapement it will. Adjust the pre tension accordingly.......
 

jplotkin

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May 8, 2016
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Success! Thank you all so much.

I followed Seth's procedure. During the process, after wrapping chain around barrel (I just rotate barrel by finger), I added a bit of rodico to hold the wrapped chain to the barrel while I worked to insert the other end hook into the fusee cone.

Unlike prior attempts, this time I then added pre-tension (about 4 clicks on the setup ratchet), which made all the difference when then transferring the chain to fusee cone. Since there was tension on the chain, this time, the chain went easily into the cone grooves. Finally I wound the mainspring using the normal winder above the fusee.

Fusee seems to be setup properly.

Thanks for all your help!

BTW: This was just a practice watch (although I love the fact it was finished by a Philadelphia company c. 1860-69). The movement has several faults: a chip in balance top hole jewel; the impulse jewel on the roller seems to have been replaced by a piece of metal (!) instead of jewel. As a result of these, I guess, the entire movement has very weak amplitude. Maybe I should blame this "AJL" watchmaker who seems to have done some work on "July 6th '75"

But it still looks great, and was nice to practice fusee cleaning and re-assembly.

IMG_3052.jpeg IMG_3014.jpeg
 
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Skutt50

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Congratulations.

about 4 clicks on the setup ratchet
This might be on the low side. I assume you hooked the fusee with the hook close to the side of the movement. When the mainspring runs down the chain will continue beyond this point and continue until it has close to 90 degrees versus the fusee. With low pre tension you will not reach this point but the watch will stop early so to say.

Let it run down and adjust the pre tension so you can use the mainspring to the full extent......
 
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jplotkin

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Follow-up question: this assembly has made me wonder about how to safely disassemble a fusee (in a lever movement):

Is it possible to just let the watch run down until it stops. And then release the extra tension in the mainspring by carefully unwinding this tension using a key held tightly on the setup arbor, slowly letting tension unwind (setup key held tightly) with the setup click pushed clear away from the setup ratchet? And then just dis-assemble the movement?
 

gmorse

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Hi Joshua,

Yes, that will work, provided that you can grip the barrel arbor square securely enough; a winding key may not offer that security so use something more positive, such as a pin vice.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Skutt50

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When I can let the movement run down it is not such big problem as when I get hold of a fusee that is fully wound and does not run........ The only way I know of is to remove the balance and let it run down in a controlled fashion breaking the geartrain so it does not rush.....
 
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jplotkin

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When I can let the movement run down it is not such big problem as when I get hold of a fusee that is fully wound and does not run........ The only way I know of is to remove the balance and let it run down in a controlled fashion breaking the geartrain so it does not rush.....
Just so I’m sure I understand: even after you let out all apparent energy in the mainspring this way, by letting gear train run down, you still would need to let out some remaining “pretension” using a controlled rotation of the barrel arbor as I described above, is that correct?
 

Skutt50

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Yes that is correct. If I can grip the square part of the click arbor safely I use a winding key. If not, I use some narrow pliares to grip the ratchet wheel and let it down. Probably not the best way but the only way I know of......
 

gmorse

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Hi Joshua,

You could grip the ratchet wheel with something like one of these tools.

DSCF7053.JPG Chrono Column Wheel Tool.JPG

Regards,

Graham
 

jplotkin

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BTW -- did you see that inscription on back of bottom plate from "AJL, July 6th 75"? Is it common for watchmakers/repair to leave inscriptions and dates like that? I really want to find someone to blame for replacing the impulse jewel with a piece of metal!
 

gmorse

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Hi Joshua,
Is it common for watchmakers/repair to leave inscriptions and dates like that? I really want to find someone to blame for replacing the impulse jewel with a piece of metal!
Watch repairers leaving some record of their activity isn't at all uncommon, or should I say it wasn't in the past, (it's rather frowned upon now), but they're mostly in private codes. I don't think I'd have wanted to own up to that piece of work though!

Regards,

Graham
 

SKennedy

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Worth adding that even with all the mainspring power off (ie the set up ratchet and click loose and even the chain off) there can still be some power on the train in a fusee watch with maintaining power. Probably not enough to do any damge in a lever watch but enough to make the escapement try and jump out of the plates as you separate them. You can release the maintaining power by using pegwood or similar to push the maint power ratchet wheel to 'wind' it a bit further, just enough to release the pawl and pull that out of the way before letting the ratchet wheel go free. This may need three hands with seven fingers on each to also hold the movement steady.
 

jplotkin

NAWCC Member
May 8, 2016
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Philadelphia, PA
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Interesting, Seth — thanks. Fusee is more than eye candy, it seems.

Luckily, membership in NAWCC comes with an extra hand and fingers — a comparative advantage over BHI. I’ll need them.
 

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