My First Homemade Tower Clock (Bragging Rights)

FDelGreco

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I collect tower clocks, but I decided to make one.

I spent about two and one-half years building a wooden works tower clock that is a close, but not an exact, reproduction of one on exhibit at the American Clock & Watch Museum in Bristol, CT. The maker of the original clock, ca. 1836, is not known. The original clock first ran in a Congregational Church in South Glastonbury, CT until it was replaced with a Seth Thomas in 1916.

The two-train clock has countwheel striking control. The clock frame, wheels, and drums are made of cherry. The arbors, pinions, and pillow blocks are of hard maple. I made everything except the pendulum bob; the latter came from an antique tower clock.

The wheel teeth were fly cut on a milling machine, with the wheels mounted in the vertical position on an indexing head. There are eight wheels, not counting the countwheel, and seven of the eight have a unique tooth pattern. Seven fly cutters had to be custom ground. Only the 2nd time and 3rd strike wheels are the same. Each cutter cut the notch between the teeth and rounded the tops in one pass. All wheel sides were freehand-decorated like the original on a wood lathe.

All arbors were freehand turned. Pivots are tool steel. All pinions are unique in size and shape. I mounted the arbors on an indexing head and cut the teeth on the mill using router bits, rather than grinding custom cutters. The gullets were first cut with a round nose router bit. The teeth were then rounded to their elliptical shape using an appropriate oversized roundover bit. Finally, the ledge that was created between the bottom of the roundover bit and the sides of the gullet was removed using the straight portion of the round nose bit to blend the tooth with the gullet. This was a seat-of-the pants operation. The milling table needed to be shifted and the arbor rotated slightly. I had to “sneak up” on the final cut, a few thousandths at a time.

The drive notches on the countwheel were cut on the mill using a slitting saw. The slots for the countwheel hook were cut with another custom ground square end fly cutter.

Metal parts, including fasteners, were buffed with an abrasive nylon wheel to give a satin finish.

I did not cast the pendulum bob. I bought the antique tower clock bob in a mart. However, it was too heavy so I faced off both sides to reduce the weight from 12.5 lb. to 9 lb., similar to the original.

The strike and time sides function on 30 lb each.

I entered the clock in the craft competition at the York national convention and won both first place in the wood movement category and the people’s choice award.

This is the first clock movement I’ve ever built.

See images below.

Best regards,
Frank Del Greco
 

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doug sinclair

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Frank,

Indeed a project to be very proud of. I suspect a glass case covering the clock is in the offing? It's too nice to hide.

How will the teeth on the cherry wheels stand up considering the traditional technique of making the wheels out of segments with the grain running radially? Did you cut the brass escape wheel yourself?
 

Kevin W.

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Really nice job Frank.A great job to be proud of.I myself have never seen one made of wood before.And i hope it,s on display for you to show your good work.
 

SamS

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Wow Frank, very, very nice!

Congratulations on completing a great project.
 

FDelGreco

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Doug:

The wheels were cut from solid cherry blanks. No segments. The wheels of the original clock were made from solid wood and still works when torque is applied to the winding drums. So I figure mine will last a long time, too.

Yes, I cut the escape wheel myself on the mill and also spoked it that way. The escape wheel is 4-3/8" in diameter by 0.15" thick.

As soon as I'm done making a stand for it, it will go in my living room along with the other three tower clocks currently there.

Best regards,
Frank
 

felice

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WOW, Great to see craftmanship of the highest degree is still alive in this day and age . Love the beauty of Wood.
 
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