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Help with French mantel clock

rikfr

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Mar 20, 2015
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Provence, France
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Hi,
I've just acquired a striking mantel clock from a local vide-grenier. The case is very heavy and seems to made of a cast material (cement, plaster of paris??) clad in what appears to be black granite. It has been painted at some stage, and I plan to remove the paint back to the base material - any advice on this would be appreciated.

The dial is marked "Ducommun" and "Breveté S.G.L.E." which refers to a patent, and "Avignon".

It was not working when I got it, but after removing the movement and letting down the mainspring it appears to be running fine, with no obvious signs of damage. The back plate is marked "D.H. Patented" and has the numbers 2200 and 5 2.

It winds with 2 "retractable" keys, and there is an adjustment to the suspension spring (see photo) operated from the front by means of a small key, which I do not have. I am not sure what this does; can anyone help on this? The only part I've found to be missing is the screw-in pad from the end of the striker arm - will it be possible to find a replacement, or will I need to improvise?

I would be most grateful for any information anyone may have on this clock - I am sure that it will be beautiful when I get it cleaned up.


Thanks,

Ian

DSC02058.JPG DSC02060.jpg DSC02061.jpg DSC02062.jpg DSC02073.jpg DSC02075.JPG DSC02077.JPG
 
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R. Croswell

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I'll comment on the easy parts first. The hammer tip is usually a piece of round leather often cut from a round leather belt. In the US this material is sold by most clock repair parts outlets such as www.timesavers.com One can also purchase the complete hammer tip but I would keep the original and replace the leather. The small key at the top raises an lowers the pendulum suspension spring to make the clock run faster or slower. You did not picture a pendulum which must be present for the clock to run and keep time. In the first picture the movement appears to be mounted crooked. The "12" should be directly over the "6" for the pendulum to operate properly and maintain the clock "in beat".

The movement appears to be typical French but I have never encounter one where the winding arbors pull out, at least not without removing a retainer. Perhaps someone else can comment on that. French movements in general are very precise and must be clean and in good order if they are to operate at all.

As for removing the paint, my only comment is to be very sure that it has been incorrectly painted and was not originally white enameled.

Good luck with this project.

RC
 

gmorse

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Hi rikfr,

This case is almost certainly made of a black limestone, (much of which was quarried in Belgium, and often incorrectly called "slate"), which would originally have been highly polished. If the decorations are incised, they would have been gilt. The retractable winding squares are a refinement I haven't come across, and may be the subject of the patent marking on the dial. The parts of the case are held together by plaster of Paris and sometimes some metal struts.

The original finish may have been damaged in the painting process, and removing the paint could do more harm, but since you'll probably have to re-polish it anyway, I'd go ahead and get rid of that paint.

If you do dismantle it to clean it, be very careful, as the pivots on these movements are usually very hard, and hence brittle and easily snapped.

Regards,

Graham
 

rikfr

Registered User
Mar 20, 2015
40
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Provence, France
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Many thanks for your replies.

RC -I noticed that the dial was crooked, and it appeared that the clock had not been used for quite some time. The mainspring winder would not retract so the hands could not turn (easy to rectify when the movement was removed), and the pendulum and coiled strike rod were loose in the case. Outside the case the movement has been running fine since yesterday, and I will make sure that it is properly aligned when I re-install it. I only need to find a key for the pendulum adjustment rod and replace the hammer tip. The matt paint finish is definitely not original, and I think that removing it will be the most difficult job.

Graham - Thanks for the information on the case material. I'll need to find a paint remover which won't damage the black limestone or affect the stability of the case construction - do you know of any suitable products? I live in France, but should be able to find an equivalent for most UK products. As the movement looks quite clean and seems to be working fine, I don't plan to dismantle it at this stage.

Best regards,

Ian
 

Talyinka

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May 14, 2011
650
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England
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The case is very heavy and seems to made of a cast material (cement, plaster of paris??) clad in what appears to be black granite. It has been painted at some stage, and I plan to remove the paint back to the base material - any advice on this would be appreciated.
I can't see any reason why normal paint remover wouldn't work. Test it in a hidden area first. You may find that the Belgian limestone is gray rather than black after this process. You bring it back up with a product called Marblack. After this process you re-paint the gilding using Liberon Gilt Varnish, Chantilly Antique Gold. Finally you protect and polish to the desired finish using only beeswax (other types of wax don't seem to work well with Marblack).

The dial is marked "Ducommun" and "Breveté S.G.L.E." which refers to a patent, and "Avignon".

It was not working when I got it, but after removing the movement and letting down the mainspring it appears to be running fine, with no obvious signs of damage. The back plate is marked "D.H. Patented" and has the numbers 2200 and 5 2.
Ducommun was probably the retailer. I don't have any info about a Ducommun in Avignon but I have never searched for one either :).

The Breveté abbreviation just indicates a patent with no government guarantee, meaning that no government institution has tested the patent for workability. 2200 is a serial number - it should be repeated on the pendulum and possible in various other places such as the reverse of the dial. The '5 2' is the pendulum length in puces and lignes.

It winds with 2 "retractable" keys, and there is an adjustment to the suspension spring (see photo) operated from the front by means of a small key, which I do not have. I am not sure what this does; can anyone help on this? The only part I've found to be missing is the screw-in pad from the end of the striker arm - will it be possible to find a replacement, or will I need to improvise?

I would be most grateful for any information anyone may have on this clock - I am sure that it will be beautiful when I get it cleaned up.
I have never before seen those adjustable length winding arbors. They are very unusual. The mechanism carried forward through the dial is used to adjust the effective pendulum length by moving the suspension up and down so that you can easily adjust the speed of the clock to compensate for seasonal temperature variations. You just use a pocket watch winding key to turn it (measure the width of the square with a vernier rule and acquire a corresponding key, e.g. from P&M). The movement looks quite dirty on the photos and in your shoes I would disassemble and clean it. The springs, if they are old, probably need to be replaced because of cracks. It is cheaper to replace them before they break and take some teeth with them...

You may be interested in reading my little brochure about caring for French clocks:

http://www.zerocarbonsolutions.com/AllDeco/Documentation/ClockCareWeb.pdf

Nice clock - have fun with it :). If you have more questions don't hesitate to ask.
 
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rikfr

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Mar 20, 2015
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Thanks Talyinka. I've downloaded your pdf - very informative - but the pictures don't show. Is there something I need to do in order to see the full brochure?

Best regards,

Ian
 

Talyinka

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May 14, 2011
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I don't think so - they are embedded j-pegs. I haven't come across anybody else reporting this issue so I'm a bit at a loss. The only thing springing to mind is that you may be using a version of Acrobat Reader which is too old. I generate pdf files that can be read by Reader ver 6.5 and newer.
 

shutterbug

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They show up fine for me.
 

BigAl

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I am using a 64 bit version of Linux Mint 17.1. PDFs are opened in 'Document Viewer' and the version that comes with Mint is 3.10.3. The pictures all show okay for me.

BigAl
 

rikfr

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Mar 20, 2015
40
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Provence, France
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Hi Talyinka,

Problem solved. It seems to be an issue with Windows 8.1 - when I clicked on your link I couldn't see the jpegs on screen, but when I saved the pdf and opened with adobe all was well.

I now need help, please, with another issue. While cleaning the case (the paint came off with an all-surface paint remover, and I will order some Marblack to refinish it) I left the movement running out of the case. It ran down completely, and now I can't rewind it. The mainspring is just turning in the barrel - it seems as though the spring has become detached from the barrel. Does that make sense? I don't think that it snapped, because it wasn't tightly wound and there is no other apparent damage.

I'll obviously now have to replace the spring - as you originally suggested! Can you please advise where I can find replacement springs, and also instructions for dismantling the movement?

Many thanks for your help.

Ian
 

R. Croswell

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Apr 4, 2006
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Ian, a French clock is not really the best clock for one's first attempt at clock repair. There is a lot more involved than may be obvious. You really need a spring winder tool to manage extracting and inserting the springs and the tiny pivots are easily broken and the wheels of the strike train must be timed correctly for the strike to work. The spring in your clock may have broken or it may have come unhooked from the winding arbor, or the anchor in the spring barrel may have pulled out. You probably will not be able to know for sure if anything was damaged until it comes apart. Once the clock is apart and the springs removed you can measure the springs and see if you can find something close.

If you do attempt this repair yourself I suggest that you get a couple good books on basic clock repair. Steven Conover has a good book on just French striking clocks that you might find helpful. It is available in the US from most outlets and should come up in an on-line search.

RC
 

harold bain

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I suspect the wind arbors keyed to the barrel arbor may have been added by a previous repairman trying to use a Hermle or similar type of winding arbor system. If so you may have a hard time fixing this one.
 

dave r

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Although I've followed the repair message board, this is actually my first post because of my interest in French clocks. If all went well, I attached several slides from a PowerPoint present that I recently gave that includes photos of two French movements with unusual winding features - one that is very similar to your movement. The first group of pictures shows a movement where the winding arbors extend (pull-out) from the movement (after bezel is opened) for winding. The next group of photos shows a winding feature where a key fits on the center arbor that winds both the time and strike sides of the clock. Both movements are completely original without modifications. Both movements were housed in very nice large French slate cases.
 

dave r

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Harold, I don't think my slides got attached. Not sure what I need to do. I dragged them to where they belonged? Thanks.
 

rikfr

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Mar 20, 2015
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Provence, France
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Dave, your post crossed with my reply to Harold.
I can't see your slides, but I would very much like to view them. Do my pictures look familiar to you?
 

harold bain

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R. Croswell

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Dave, see if these instructions might help:
https://mb.nawcc.org/showthread.php?121822-How-to-Add-a-Picture-from-your-PC-or-Laptop

Would like to see what you have. What purpose would there be to having a slide out arbor like these? I just know I haven't seen everything yet and am likely wrong about these.
Post # 14, picture No. 2 shows the "pull out" winder is really a retractable attached winding key but it also looks like a regular key could be used while it is attached. I've never seen one but seems like a one of those crazy neat ideas that never quite made it to prime time.

RC
 

shutterbug

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I don't see where that fast/slow adjuster comes through the dial. You are correct that it uses a small key (usually a double end key that winds both the clock and sets the timing rate). It simply raises or lowers the pendulum to increase or decrease the timing.
 

Talyinka

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May 14, 2011
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I've never come across that winding system. Great fun but probably too expensive to produce so never made it into the mainstream.

With regard to the springs you really do need the right tools. I see that you are all the way down in Provence. Do you ever come up here to Blighty?
 

rikfr

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Mar 20, 2015
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I get back up to North Yorkshire 2 or 3 times a year. The main thing I miss is the draft beer!

Since my last post I've dismantled the movement. The mainspring was broken, but fortunately doesn't seem to have done any damage - the teeth and the pinions look OK. I've ordered replacement springs and Brocot key from M&P, together with Marblack for the case.
 

rikfr

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Mar 20, 2015
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Provence, France
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Update - new springs fitted, movement re-assembled and fitted in case restored to original black finish. The clock is working well and keeping very good time.

Thanks everyone for the help and guidance.
 

Burkhard Rasch

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Congratulations,but pics,please?
Burkhard
 

Glenn Davis

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This looks almost identical to my Jape Freres clock. Mine is stamped with the Japy mark but this one is very close to identical. Mine needs a good cleaning but keeps perfect time. I just got into clocks and am still learning but mine chimes the half hour at 25 minutes instead of 30 minutes and all the hourly chimes are perfect at top of the hour except the 12 o'clock chime only chimes twice. I have no idea whats causing the 12 o'clock problem and have been to lazy ro pull it back out of the case but I'm guessing the half hour chime problem is a bent pin maybe?

I really like these french made clocks they are very well made with thick heavy plates.

Glenn
 

Randy Beckett

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This looks almost identical to my Jape Freres clock. Mine is stamped with the Japy mark but this one is very close to identical. Mine needs a good cleaning but keeps perfect time. I just got into clocks and am still learning but mine chimes the half hour at 25 minutes instead of 30 minutes and all the hourly chimes are perfect at top of the hour except the 12 o'clock chime only chimes twice. I have no idea whats causing the 12 o'clock problem and have been to lazy ro pull it back out of the case but I'm guessing the half hour chime problem is a bent pin maybe?

I really like these french made clocks they are very well made with thick heavy plates.

Glenn
It will most likely cure your 12:00 strike problem if the snail is moved one tooth counter clockwise. The rack tail is likely catching on the wall of the snail between 12:00 and 1:00, when it falls at 12:00, and not falling all the way.
 

rikfr

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Mar 20, 2015
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Glenn - Mine has no markings on the movement, so I don't think it's made by Japy Freres. I have a large pocket watch made by them, and their logo is clearly marked.
Fortunately I had no problem with the chimes - once I replaced the springs it worked fine. It's been going for several days now and keeps good time.
Good luck with sorting the chime problem.

Ian
 

Burkhard Rasch

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Great job,it looks so much better in black!Congrats!
Burkhard
 
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