Make quality of chime rods "not so tinny"

Discussion in 'General Clock Discussions' started by Jeffrey S., Feb 15, 2018.

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  1. Jeffrey S.

    Jeffrey S. Registered User

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    Hello All,
    I have a new Howard Miller Eisenhower Presidential Grandfather clock. Love the case and inlaid woods, but I am not a fan of the chime sound. I also have a Howard Miller grandmother clock (ca. 1971) with Westminster chime. The tone of that one is rich. When the new clock chimes, no matter which of the 3 that is selected, the tone of the chime rods is harsh and tinny. I compared it to the recordings of actual factory chimes on HM's website, and they are identical.
    I read somewhere else on the site that a little bit of painter's tape on the part of the rods where the hammers strike will mellow the sound. I'm afraid to get any adhesives on the rods unless I KNOW that it won't damage them. I also heard differing opinions about leather vs. the factory plastic hammer tips.
    Any ideas? I don't want to change the volume of the chime, just the quality of the chime so it's not akin to a screeching cat <g>
    Any advise is appreciated.
    Jeff S.

    master_HMI699.jpg
     
  2. steamer471

    steamer471 Registered User
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    Make sure all the tips are on the hammers. I would also make sure the hammers are at least an eighth inch away from the rods. If they are any closer they vibrate with the chime and make a bad sound. Also make sure they are hitting the rods dead on. Whenever I take my movement out or move the clock this is always an issue.
     
  3. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

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    Jeff,

    Assuming the hammers are properly adjusted, the quality and volume of the chiming is pretty much a fixed feature on any clock. You can compare one with another but there is little you can do to make one clock sound like another. Of late the cases have become heaver and the sound has suffered.

    If you just bought the clock, maybe the seller will let you pick another one that sounds better. You would probably have to pay the delivery and set-up fee again ...

    Willie X
     
  4. chimeclockfan

    chimeclockfan Registered User
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    On many modern gong blocks, the chime rods have the brass heads brazed into the block rather than screwed in as traditionally done for almost 100 years. This is probably just another cost-cutting measure because the brass heads and block don't have to be threaded. The drawback is the sound is tinnier - less rich - than the older style blocks.

    Modern chime clocks simply weren't designed for optimal sound unlike their antique counterparts.
     
  5. wow

    wow Registered User
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    Jeffery, I have a HM presidential series Jackson model in my shop right now that has beautiful, full, rich sounding chimes. All of the presidential series clocks were built very similar as far as size goes. Large tall cases with beautiful inlay on them. Mine has the original hammers with no tape or sound softening material. As Steamer and Willie suggested, adjust the distance of the hammers from the rods until you get a richer sound. I think it is an adjustment problem.
     
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  6. Jeffrey S.

    Jeffrey S. Registered User

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    #6 Jeffrey S., Feb 16, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2018
    Thanks everyone for the replies. I bought this clock used from a shop in MA. After it arrived the chimes sounded really bad, so I had an authorized HM horologist come out and replace the hammer tips (a few of the old ones were worn). He removed the movement checked everything over and replaced the tips. They are all adjusted to 1/8" from the rods and they are dead on.
    I did a little troubleshooting and tapped each of the rods by hand (not using the hammers) and two of the rods sound with a "clink" in addition to the regular sound. So I'm wondering if the chimes block itself has something wrong.
    Maybe I'm too picky, but I'm a musician and very sensitive to these things.
    Would it help if I recorded an MP3 of the chimes? I think this message board will allow me to upload the recording.
    Thanks again in advance.
    Jeff
    P.S. if this board doesn't allow audio files, I see video files are allowed. If I do that would it be ok in WMV (windows media player file)? It compresses small enough for uploading.
     
  7. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    It doesn't accept video either :) Post to Youtube and link to it here. Be sure to make it public.
     
  8. Jeffrey S.

    Jeffrey S. Registered User

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    Will do over the weekend and will post the link. Thanks
     
  9. Jeffrey S.

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    OK, I recorded the hour chime on my mobile phone. Sorry that the audio isn't better, but the video camera is packed away right now. However, I think that it will be obvious that there is definitely something wrong with a couple of chime rods. This clock was bought from a dealer in Massachusetts as "refurbished". The clock was supposedly cleaned, serviced, checked and adjusted before shipping.
    The chimes have always sounded strange from the day it arrived, but the dealer has given me the runaround. I had a Howard Miller authorized service tech come out and replace the hammer heads and re-adjust everything so that the hammers strike dead-on to the chime rods and all of them are set at about 1/8" from the rods to prevent them from double-striking, landing on the rod after strike, etc to cause those types of problems.
    I hope that those of you who view this on YouTube will agree that there's something definitely wrong with the rods. Or, maybe I'm just too picky at the newer clocks and the way they sound. I have a ca. 1971 Howard Miller grandmother clock (Westminster only) that has an absolutely stunning chime. I can see by the Presidential clock, that Howard Miller didn't really engineer the sound board to accentuate the harmonics of the chimes. Being a musician, I am very picky about tuning, tone, etc.
    Thanks for anyone's input on this. Here's the link:

     
  10. JTD

    JTD Registered User

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    I agree with you - I am not much of a musician and even I can hear that there are some very odd sounds. However, to me it sounds as if it is mostly to do with hammer alignment (or lack of it). Sometimes it really sounds like metal hitting metal, which can happen if the metal heads are loose or twisted. Without having the movement in hand, it is very hard to know what and where to adjust the hammers, but I do think that with patience a far better result could be achieved than what you are having to listen to at the moment. Also, make sure that the gong block (the black piece that hold the chime rods) is really firmly screwed to the board.

    If the Howard Miller repairman is supposed to have put things right (I wonder why he felt it necessary to replace the hammers?) then call him back and have him listen to his workmanship - he ought to be able to hear the clanging sounds; even though modern clocks are sometimes not as resonant and tuneful as the older ones, I cannot believe this clock is supposed to sound like this.

    Let us know how you get on.

    JTD
     
  11. shutterbug

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    It sounds like you need to back those hammers off a bit more. They are stopping the vibration of the bar.
     
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  12. mauleg

    mauleg Registered User
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    As shutterbug observed, the hammers likely need to be backed off a bit. Another thing to investigate is if the rods are too close to any other part of the clock. If clearance is insufficient, the rods will touch when vibrating, which could also cause the rattling sound you hear.
     
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  13. Jeffrey S.

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    I'll try and back the hammers off a bit, but I've manually stuck each rod with a plastic tool and two of the rods definitely have something wrong. As for the repairman, I requested the hammer heads replaced because the ones that shipped were worn. To his defense, he is in his 80s and a bit hard of hearing.
    My real frustration lies with the clock guy who sold me the clock. It was supposed to be serviced and fully tested before shipping. When the repairman came out, he found several places in the movement that we're terribly loose.
    The block itself is tight to the sound board.
    Call me crazy, but I've ordered a replacement set of rods from timesavers. I have 10 days to return them if they are not solving the problem.
    As I said I will try backing off the hammers, but having been around pianos and tracker organs all my life (I'm 60), I am familiar with the sound when a hammer double taps, slightly rests after striking, or strikes too hard...it's a delicate balance.
    Thanks for all the input...will keep you posted after troubleshooting.
     
  14. Willie X

    Willie X Registered User

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    The strike side has a rod or two out of tune.

    The chime side has several problems. The hammer tips dry up and get harder with age and eventually fall out but I've never seen any that were "worn" out. Probably be a good idea to add a set of 12 new tips to that order of new rods. The tips should always be replaced as a complete set unless the clock is nearly new.

    Adjustment and testing is simple, you just pick up the first hammer about 1" and drop it repeadidly, adjusting for the loudest sound with no bounce or buzzing. If you don't get a good sound, the rod is dead, usually from being loose or improperly repaired, or maybe it's hitting something that you haven't noticed.

    BTW, how old is this clock? "Places in the movement that we're terribly loose" is very ungood.

    Willie X
     
  15. Jeffrey S.

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    Well, I tried adjusting the hammers over the weekend and tweaking things. There was only improvement on one rod. The next to the lowest note on the chime side is still "off". I think that it is possibly loose in the block. When I gently scrape the top of each chime rod with my fingernail, there is definitely a weird sound on that rod that makes me believe that there is something wrong with the rod itself. No amount of tweaking by adjusting the hammer made any difference. The new set of rods from Timesavers is supposed to be delivered this coming Saturday, so I'll try to install it over the weekend. Hopefully this will solve the problem once and for all.
    I DID however, put 2 and 2 together. When the clock shop who sold me the clock made the demo YouTube video, they only played the Westminster chime which doesn't use any of the bad rods. The scale of this clock is A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G#,A. The bad notes are B, E and G#. It is only when you try to play Whittington or St. Michael that you see the problem and I have a feeling that he never checked the other two chime selections (which he SHOULD have done if he was thorough in servicing and checking the clock before shipping).
    Oh well, lesson learned the hard way. :mallet: Will be sure to update the situation after the new chime rods are installed.
    Jeff
     
  16. Jeffrey S.

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    :banghead: Thank you, UPS!
    Well, all, I had hoped to tell you the new chime block is installed and working beautifully. However, the box arrived via UPS and it looked like it was dropped from a 10-story building! As soon as I saw the box, I immediately took photographs. Upon opening the box, the chime block had one of the strike rods loose in the box. UPS must have really banged up the box to cause this! I've written Timesavers to get a replacement (which will take another week).
    In the meantime, I put the damaged block against a hollow core door (to act as a sound board) and tapped each of the existing rods. The 8 notes are perfectly tuned, and the strike chord is actually a chord (A, C#, E, and A). I really like that as opposed to the Howard Miller's block that strikes 2 sets of notes slightly out of tune with each other to create a "chorus" effect (ew!).
    So, I assume it will be another week before I can report back. This has turned into a comedy of errors. I did, however, order a replacement movement for an Ansonia Kitchen clock that I have. It arrived in great shape because it was in a Styrofoam box. I'll be replacing that movement today.

    Cheers and have a good week, everybody!
     
  17. wow

    wow Registered User
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    Jeffery, you evidently are a musician, since your avatar is a photo of a piano keyboard. I have found that the fact that chime rods are inclosed in a case, cause overtones which are dissonant and sometimes cause certain rods to sound "out of tune" when they are not. When you tap the new rods using the door as a sounding board, they are perfectly in tune. I that may also be true of the set of rods you are replacing. It will be interesting to see if the new rods do the same thing when installed in the case. Some clock cases are built so certain frequencies are magnified more than others, thus, creating dissonant overtones that would not occur in other cases. Be sure the new block is very tightly installed. Also be sure the sounding board to which it is attached is secured to the case tightly. A loose block can cause havoc. Good luck!
     
  18. Jeffrey S.

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    Yes, I've studied classical organ since the age of 5 (60 yrs old now). I think the new block will be fine. I'm very familiar with the odd harmonics of the chime rods. Carrillon bells are the same way.
    I find that HM did a real disservice to the chimes by using a very thick heavy piece of wood for the sound board.
    I have a HM grandmother clock ca. 1971 and it sounds so much Fuller despite it's size because they used a thinner sound board which amplifies the sound.
    Hopefully I'll have the new block by next weekend and have great news. Will be sure to record the new sound.
    Cheers
    Jeff
     
  19. chimeclockfan

    chimeclockfan Registered User
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    This technique dates back to the 1910s when rod gong blocks were being developed and experimented upon. The objective was to create a deep church bell sound with the two rods of nearly identical length creating the chorus effect - many German bim-bam gongs utilize this, as do some clocks with the Westminster chime. I find it takes some effort to really convey the intended effect when tuning new sets and some newer gong sets tend to fail entirely.

    The first known use of a chord of gongs (or bells) on chime clocks can be traced to Charles Jacques, renowned chime clock innovator. It was utilized on his 'Monastery' brand hall clocks. The four notes (originally high D, B, G, low D - the exact pitches vary) comprise a reversed chord and give a very full, musical effect. It was later replicated on many chime clocks from a variety of makers. Some contemporary literature will describe it as a 'Big Ben' chord owing to perceived harmonic similarities with the great bell.
    Smaller clocks will typically incorporate just two or three notes because striking too many gongs or bells in a smaller case will lead to a muddled effect: not enough room for so much noise.

    There is a third technique as well: a disjointed chord comprising three or four different notes that are all slightly off-key from each other. It is quite useful when one desires a contrast to the more melodic chime sequence without incorporating the 'deep church bell' sound described above.
     
  20. Jeffrey S.

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    WOW! That's fascinating. Thanks for the mini lesson... I had no idea. You're right that this clock falls short of producing a sound like a large bell.
    From the pipe organ standpoint, the chorus effect that I mentioned is usually a rank of pipes called a Celeste (i.e. salicional Celeste) consists of two identical sets of string pipes that are slightly out of tune with each other (I think about 25 cents or a quarter tone) thus making a string that undulates.
    Bells on pipe organs, of course, are true bells be it cast bells, orchestral chimes, glockenspiels, etc.
    Thanks, again...I love learning about this stuff. I think that the new chime block will be a drastic improvement as it doesn't pretend to imitate a bell, but strike a pleasing chord (I think it will be inverted, but not sure).
    Jeff
     
  21. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    Where did you order an antique Ansonia movement? They haven't been made for almost 100 years now.
     
  22. Jeffrey S.

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    So sorry, got the two kitchen clocks mixed up. I replaced the movement in the Gilbert clock. Got the movement from Timesavers (part #14442)
    Sorry about that. I have the same problem with a Seth Thomas tambour clock, so it has to be serviced professionally.
     
  23. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    So you are replacing an antique movement with a movement made in India, instead of having it repaired??
     
  24. Jeffrey S.

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    I know what you're thinking. However, this clock was in my wife's grandparents farmhouse for decades, but was dropped and the top finial broken. In those days, they simply did a bad glue job on the case. It has more sentimental value than value as an antique. I have a few clocks that are valuable as antiques and would never replace the movements with stock movements from India. Those clocks have had the cases restored and are maintained by a professional clockmaker. On the market, the Gilbert clock would probably fetch no more than $50 for the damages and repairs done over the decades.
     
  25. Jeffrey S.

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    Hello, All!
    You probably thought I dropped off of the face of the earth. Well, the new chimes arrived from Timesavers. I was right - the ones that were in the clock were in bad shape. It took me a while to take out the movement, install the new chime block, and adjust the hammers. I still have a bit of tweaking to do to get them perfect, but the difference in sound is night and day from the old ones. These chime at a slightly higher pitch than the original rods because they are about 2" shorter. However, the really nice thing about these is that the hour strike 4 rods play an actual chord rather than mis-tuned rods that are supposed to sound like a large bell..... vast improvement. I will be posting a recording of the hour strike (Whittington, so a comparison can be made from the old ones) as soon as I get out the recording equipment. My phone unfortunately is set for dialogue and not music, so the sound for playback is horrible.
    Thanks for all your input. I intend to let the guy who sold me the clock know that i was right all along - it's just so frustrating when people don't believe you!
    I should be able to post to YouTube over the weekend and then provide a link.
    Cheers,
    Jeff

    sent from my Dell laptop/tablet Windows 10 combo
     
  26. Arthur Cagle

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    sent from my Dell laptop/tablet Windows 10 combo[/QUOTE]
    The old movement still has value, dollar value and preservation value. If you have no use for it, please make the old movement for sale so someone can utilize it in a restoration.
     
  27. Jeffrey S.

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    I finally got a decent recording of the new chime block. I was very pleased that the one I ordered actually plays a chord at the hour strike instead of the hideous off-tuned rods that come with the clock. I know that they are trying to make it sound like a large clock bell, but it falls very short of doing that. When you click on the link for YouTube, be sure NOT to turn the volume up too high on your PC as I already boosted the volume in the recording. Thanks, everyone for the help.
     
  28. harold bain

    harold bain Registered User
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    The quality of what Howard Miller puts out has been on a downhill run for a few years. Glad you found something better.
     
  29. shutterbug

    shutterbug Moderator
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    It sounds like some of the hammers could be a bit further from the chime rods. They should all ring with a bright sound, and a couple of yours kinda thump ;)
     
  30. chimeclockfan

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    It sounds good. Are the rods in your new block screwed or brazed into the block?
     
  31. Jeffrey S.

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    Harold, Thank you. I agree. I have a 40 year-old Howard Miller Grandmother clock (single Westminster chime) and it sounds 100 times better than the Eisenhower. It's a shame since the new clock costs so much. They really missed out on the sound board as well (being a musician) - they used heavy, thick pieces of wood to amplify the sound when a thinner, more resonant wood could have sounded so much better. AND, someone mentioned to me before that Howard Miller is trying to get the strike rods to sound closer to a large bell, but it falls very short of the mark by detuning pairs of rods by about 10 cents making a horrible din of a noise. Who designs these things anyway? A 4-note chord sounds so much more pleasant to the ear.

    Shutterbug, I completely understand. I'm still playing with the adjustment of the hammers to get the best sound. It's difficult because the space is so cramped and, not being a professional, I'm being very careful not to damage anything. Part of the "thump" sound is the recording software's fault - it uses a compressor/limiter by default and it can't be adjusted or turned off. Believe me, it sounds a whole lot better in person even though I haven't quite tweaked the hammers to my liking.

    Chimeclockfan, they are screwed into the block. I bought them from Timesavers (Welcome to TimeSavers | Worldwide distributor of clock parts and repair material) which has thousands of replacement parts for a variety of clocks. The block was about $60 with shipping.

    I know the recording isn't the best - my laptop has built-in microphones that aren't high quality. But listening in person, it is a 1000% improvement. I think that the original block must have had some rods knocked loose in shipping at some point. I'm just happy that it sounds better now.
     
  32. mauleg

    mauleg Registered User
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    Big improvement over the rattly mess that you had before and nice sustain for rods.

     
  33. chimeclockfan

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