I need some advise on working on a self winding clock

Discussion in 'Electric Horology' started by Jmurrell, Jun 26, 2020.

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  1. Jmurrell

    Jmurrell Registered User
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    Apr 3, 2011
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    I am getting ready to work on a self winding Western Union clock.

    I purchased this some years ago and it has run without fail for about 5 years before it quit.

    At that time I installed new batteries but they would not bring it back to life.

    I know little to nothing about these clocks other than I have read on this site.

    I am going to take the movement out to oil it and hopefully clean the contacts, but that is where I need help.

    What can I use to clean the contacts and not destroy them?

    Can you please share any vital information I might need to do this job and not be a total failure.

    I would certainly appreciate any info you can give to someone new to these clocks.

    Thanks
    John Murrell

    100_1706.JPG 100_1705.JPG
     
  2. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    Have you looked at the wire at the top of the coil. Does it have a push in connection the other end? If it is easy to replace, I'd start there.
     
  3. Jmurrell

    Jmurrell Registered User
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    I am not sure how they are supposed to look but I will post some additional pics.

    John

    100_1700.JPG 100_1701.JPG 100_1702.JPG 100_1704.JPG
     
  4. Jmurrell

    Jmurrell Registered User
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  5. Tim Orr

    Tim Orr National Membership Chair
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    Good evening, John!

    Starting at the beginning, you said that this clock was working for 5 years. Was it damaged in any way? Was there ever a "blue spark" or a "smoke" event? If not, that's probably good.

    I'm guessing you can hook up new batteries the same way the old ones were hooked up. Can't quite read what's on the blue painter's tape, but I imagine you can.

    On the top left of the movement, near the back wall of the case, clearly visible in the second picture, is a "leaf switch." Have you tried pushing that? Normally, if you do, you will hear the interruptor motor start winding the mainspring and see the wheel turning as it does. You can watch this happening from the point of view of your last photo, in Post #4. If you hold the switch closed until the winding stops, you can then see if the pendulum will swing with the clock fully wound.

    If the mainspring won't wind, try winding it by hand by moving the wheel to which it is attached with your finger (Again, see photo in Post #4).

    The two Fahnestock (spring) clips at the top of the photos in Post #3 are for synchronization. They shouldn't have any relevance right now.

    There is a service manual posted on another thread: SWCC - Self-winding Type F - Various questions

    The main thing, for me, is that if it was working for 5 years, there must be some reason it's not working now, "ceteris paribus" (as the economists say). We need to find what's changed.

    Best regards!

    Tim Orr
     
  6. D.th.munroe

    D.th.munroe Registered User

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    This has nothing to do with the electrical parts but in a couple pictures the hour wheel looks jammed and the post on the minute wheel looks bent down.
     
  7. Jmurrell

    Jmurrell Registered User
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    I am not aware of any of the issues that you speak of.

    It just stopped as far as I know, however something could have happened when I wasn't looking at the clock.

    The blue tape just has the positive and negative connections for the batteries so I didn't get them the wrong way.

    I will have to figure a way to hook up some D batteries to power the winding on the spring as I currently don't have any of the larger 1.5 volt batteries.

    I didn't know I could wind the spring by hand. Thanks for that info.

    John
     
  8. Jmurrell

    Jmurrell Registered User
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    It's just slid forward with the hands and nut off the clock. I probably did it when I took the hour hand off.

    As far as being bent it just must look that way in thee pictures.

    John
     
  9. Ingulphus

    Ingulphus Registered User

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    When was the movement last serviced? If it's been a while, there could be worn bushings, dirt, etc. that are stopping the movement from running.
     
  10. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    There should not be room for the hour wheel to slip out of mesh. I'd fix this if you want the clock to work after you fix any other issues the clock has.
    There is surface rust in places and a lot of that is in the electrics. This is all very old insulation and you haven't actually said that you have tested all of the electrics?

    Certainly the clock will benefit from an overhaul.

    As to cleaning the contacts. Mix up a bit of baking soda with water and wash all the contacting surface. Wipe them off with a moist cloth or cotton earbud. Vinegar also works. A glass fibre brush will shine them up afterwards.
     
  11. mxfrank

    mxfrank Registered User

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    As a general rule, be very gentle when cleaning the contacts on self winders, and especially be sparing with abrasives and files. The contact point is often a relatively exotic material, like platinum, tungsten or iridium. The contact is welded or hard soldered onto the brass contact arm. Replacing the contact material can be a challenge. Unless the contact is physically damaged or severely pitted, I'd just clean it using a commercial contact cleaner like Deoxit or CRC. If these are unavailable, a few drops of isoproyl alchohol on a q-tip is fine.
     
  12. Jmurrell

    Jmurrell Registered User
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    Well, I rigged up a couple of batteries so I could test the spring winding and it works when you push the contact button.

    I also put some oil on the pivots as it didn't look like it had much present.

    I wound the spring and started the movement and I do have it running, however when it gets to the point where it winds the spring it doesn't seem to wind it very much.

    Maybe I am expecting to much but the spring doesn't seem like it gets wound very tight.

    I did clean the contact for the spring winding and I wasn't sure what to use so I did just use a little alcohol.

    John
     
  13. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    The period of time between winds may show you more.
    Most such clocks only wind the clock enough to keep it running. There is a fair amount of energy involved in winding the mainspring fully.
     
  14. Tim Orr

    Tim Orr National Membership Chair
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    Good evening, John!

    Glad you got it to wind and run, even if it doesn't seem to wind much. Let it run for a while and see what happens. Many Type F movements wound once an hour for about 30 seconds or so.

    There were special SWCC movements that were used in radio stations. I kind of doubt yours is one of them, because yours is in a square case. Nevertheless, it is so easy to change out a movement that perhaps you have a "radio station" movement. I don't know. In any event, the radio station movements, in an effort to reduce the amount of noise they produced, had thick felt batting on the inside of the case, and, in addition, were set up to wind much more frequently but for a much shorter time, just a few seconds. That way, the noise generated in a radio studio would be less.

    The one right behind me just wound, and I am sure it was for no more than 3 seconds. In spite of all the precautions SWCC took to reduce noise, it used to be said among radio announcers that the SWCC clocks were great, but they would never wind or sync themselves until you opened the mike. Not true, of course, but sometimes, it seemed that way.

    Let us know how you're doing with it!

    Best regards!

    Tim
     
  15. Jmurrell

    Jmurrell Registered User
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    My clock has Western Union on the dial so if that is true it is not a radio station clock.

    The other thing is that I do remember when it was running before it only winds once per hour.

    The clock did run through the night and is still running except for one time that it stopped but that is because the minute hand had hit on one of the wires to the batteries, that I had not pulled far enough away.

    Obviously if it is still running the next day then it must be winding enough.

    My concern however if what had caused it to stop in the first place a couple of years ago.

    I did put some oil on the pivots this time, but I had also done that about 6 months ago when I tried to get it to run without any success.

    I had not worked on it for some time because I know little to nothing about these clocks.

    I have really considered taking this apart to clean the movement but I am afraid to do so because I don't know how to adjust the contacts.

    The mechanical part of the movement I can handle but the electric part I know very little about.

    One question I have is about the solenoids. Do the top ones do anything other than reset the time at the top of the hour? Do the bottom ones do the winding?

    If I were to take this apart what kind of lube do you use on the solenoid shafts?

    John
     
  16. Tim Orr

    Tim Orr National Membership Chair
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    Good evening, John!

    Like any clock, this one may need a disassembly, thorough cleaning, perhaps some bushings, reassembly, adjustment, lubrication, etc.

    "Western Union" is on the radio station clock I have. Western Union supplied the synchronizing signal that activated the synchronizing solenoid on the top right of the clock. In our station, we had a dedicated telephone line connected to the Western Union office. At the top of the hour, Western Union would send a 90-volt AC (I am told) ringer pulse down that line. In essence, they "called" us at the top of the hour. The ringer pulse pulled in a relay that in turn sent the 3-volt sync signal to all of the clocks in our station. This caused the minute an second hands to snap to the top and lit the red light just above the numeral 6.

    Western Union was the "distributor" of the Naval Observatory time signals.

    I don't think yours is a radio station clock. All the ones I've seen have round cases, sweep second hands, and red minute/second count numbers on the chapter ring. They also wind much more frequently than once an hour. I can't remember how frequently, but a lot more so and for a much shorter time, just seconds as I said above.

    Disassembly of these clocks can be scary, for exactly the reasons you've cited. Especially problematic is the fact that some of the insulators may be so old and decrepit that they fall apart when you disassemble them.

    The top solenoid is solely for synchronization. The bottom one handles the winding. That yours is now running is a great thing! Congratulations on your efforts so far! This indicates that there's probably nothing serious wrong with your clock.

    When you say "solenoid shafts," I'm guessing you mean the shaft that holds the armature. I don't think a lot of lube is needed. In fact, it could be one of those situations where you might just want to thoroughly clean the armature and its shaft and then reassemble it dry. There's no tension there to create wear. The solenoid activates infrequently, and gummed up lube would be worse than none at all. Might need a tiny oil slick to prevent rust. I was born and raised in northeastern Ohio, and I'm guessing it's pretty humid where you are.

    Best regards!

    Tim
     
  17. Jmurrell

    Jmurrell Registered User
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    I do appreciate all the information you have shared and I did look at the site that you shared.

    I have lived in Southeastern Ohio all my life and it does get very humid as I am sure you know from Northeastern Ohio.

    I just can't make up my mind as to whether I want to take this apart because of all the issues that I don't understand about these clocks.

    I will let you know if I get that brave.

    In the meantime I will try and find out as much and I can about these clocks.

    One of the biggest problems I can see is that I have no spare parts if I do screw something up.

    Thats always a concern when tearing a different kind of clock apart.

    Thanks for all the help I really appreciate it.
    John Murrell;)
     

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