My new (and first) fusee, what-where-when-who-why etc?

Discussion in 'Your Newest Clock Acquisition' started by Peter Planapo, Dec 21, 2019.

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  1. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User

    Mar 23, 2019
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    Hi all,

    I let my wallet defences drop for just a moment and Common Sense was instantly defeated by Emotion. Oh dear. I ended up with this 12 inch dial fusee clock (and 2 VRs and an Ansionia and a Schaublin 70...).

    The marquetry is mother of pearl and well executed. The "railway tracks" around the drop dial seem to be metallic silver. But there is no maker's mark or serial number.

    Could anyone help me out here with:

    1. Possibly English mid 19thC (1840-1860)? The movement looks very hand made, a bit crude even in places, so pre Industrial Revolution perhaps?

    2. Is gut the correct fitment rather than chain? I understand that fusee chain needs a flat-bottomed fusee groove while gut needs a round-bottomed groove, but the close-up profile photo seems to show a fairly flat groove. Just wondering if I should fit a chain to be more original or if that would make it less original!

    3. Is the case made of mahogany, or walnut, or some other wood? To me it's the typical reddish colour of mahog but the grain looks somehow different, with more character and grain than mahog I'm used to. And what could be the significance of the bunches of grapes, as in: it's always time for a drink...? (OK, perhaps the cabinetmaker just felt like carving grapes that day).

    4. What's the function of the horizontal steel lever in pic no. 5 and the last pic? I think I've seen it called a fusee stop lever, but have no idea what it does. Is it supposed to guide the gut or something? It's not touching anything, it's just free to swivel with a spring detent at one end of travel.

    5. Why does the pendulum bob need to be so heavy? It's solid lead and weighs 350g. A vastly bigger Vienna bob is hollow and weighs rather less. Could the weight be to limit overswing?

    Many thanks!

    Peter

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  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Peter,


    A smart looking clock.

    Yes, it was largely hand-made, but very solidly put together, as most of these clocks were, but certainly not pre Industrial Revolution, which began in this country quite early in the 18th century, (or even earlier according to some historians).

    I can't provide much in answer to most of your other questions, but the steel lever in your question 4 is indeed a fusee stop lever. Something has to stop the winding when the line reaches the top, (narrow end) of the fusee otherwise there's a risk of snapping the line. The lever is held out of the way by its spring until it's raised by the line when the line is almost at the top, and there's a steel piece (called a fusee poke) attached to that end of the fusee which only contacts the hooked part of the lever in its raised position and hence stops any further rotation of the fusee. You can just see it in your 3rd picture.

    novicetimekeeper will be able to answer your other queries I'm sure.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  3. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    A nice octagonal drop dial clock which at first glance you might take for an Anglo-American one, English case and American movement. I'd think it is last quarter 19th C and the case looks like oak to me but I've only go the photo to go by. If I remember it right you can use gut in a fusee cut for a chain but not the other way round, anyway unless you are overly bothered I wouldn't worry. The movement looks almost new.
     
  4. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Is it perhaps Rosewood? I think a pic of where the gut attaches to the barrel may help people advise if it has always been gut. Certainly gut can be used in flat bottom grooves, so may have been original. As to the pendulum, I don't know, I have never questioned it, but these things have powerful movements. Aren't Viennas weight driven?
     
  5. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User

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    #5 Peter Planapo, Dec 21, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2019
    Thank you for the responses.

    As you say, it's not cast in stone and it wasn't a 2-week event like the October Revolution but went on well into the 19th. As I understand it, it was around the (not well-defined) end of the IR, the 1830s - 40s that the true Vienna Regulators, hitherto hand made by master clockmakers and their apprentices, began being made in Germany with an increasing degree of mechanisation and automation by Gustav Becker et al. I was just wondering if my clock might fall into that sort of timeline, but apparently the English fusees never went the way of the Vienna Regulators to be produced in their millions.

    Very clear in the flesh. I'll have to check it out next time I wind.

    So, is that only on first glance, or do you think it may be an American mvt?

    Well, for comparison, the clock is on an oak table. The colour is very different (but it could be stained) and the grain is certainly similar.

    That's a useful titbit of info, thanks.

    I'm inclined now to think it could be. I'm lucky enough to know a wood scientist in the USA who does marquetry as a hobby, I'll ask him. I hope he won't need a biopsy.

    Attached pics. That was a good point. It's hard to imagine how a chain could be attached to the fusee or barrel.

    Looking at the fusee teeth, they do look hand-filed, would that have been how it was done at that time? That is to say, in England or the USA... because German-made Viennas look nothing like that; they are masterpieces of precise and fine engineering. Also I'm thinking that JM's comment that the movement looks almost new may be spot on, because if it had been running for 100 years, all those file marks would be long polished away.

    Indeed they are apart from some smaller ones from late 19th on, which aren't from Vienna and aren't regulators, because they have springs (without fusees). Why would the power source determine best pendulum weight? I've not done experiments but my intuition tells me that a heavy pendulum would absorb more energy for a given impulse, to a given swing.

    Thanks again!

    Peter

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  6. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    not my area, but I would have thought given how strong the springs are you really don't have a problem absorbing some of the impulse in the mass of the bob. In a weight driven clock you have more choice about drive power as you can reduce the weights.

    To me that looks like a standard gut setup but others can explain the difference.
     
  7. daveR

    daveR Registered User
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    Hi Peter, in to gmorse's explanation which as usual was on the money, the stop lever stops the line or chain from winding right off the end of the fusee and dropping onto the pivot which would be a mess.
    David
     
  8. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Peter,

    No, they would have been cut with a wheel engine; tools of this type had been in use for at least 200 years by the time this was made. The marks you see are the result of later interventions.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  9. Chris Radano

    Chris Radano Registered User

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    Already mentioned, the case is rosewood veneer and solid rosewood side grapes. I don't know what material was used for the inlay. Most commonly you see brass inlay (usually earlier in the 19th c.), then later mother of pearl. Your clock may be pewter inlay, but I can't be certain.

    From what I understand, the English clockmaking philosophy was the more heavy and robust the movement, the better quality and timekeeping accuracy. A heavy bob was thought to make accurate timekeeping. Of course this required the use of more brass. English clocks were more expensive than French, Black Forest, and USA clocks that were also sold in England at that time.
     
  10. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User

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    Yup, I see the function clearly now. I'm learning.

    Save us from butchers. It's hard to imagine how a piece of good machining could be got into that state. I hope it works properly.

    Seems spot on. The face and angled sides are def veneer, while the substrate is some kind of red wood with unremarkable grain (see splinter on the back). Maybe reject mahogany they had lying around? The box case seems to be 6mm solid mahogany with a nice grain.

    The bezel inlay is pretty certainly mother of pearl as the new pics show. How does this help with dating?

    I had thought the tramlines were silver, but I've just done an acid test with aqua regia, and they turn blue-purple. So they're a nickel alloy possibly with some silver, but not pure silver, which would have shown red. (Pewter would have been brown/yellow).

    An interesting idea, not sure about the physics of it. I have a longcase whose hollow bob was so light the clock wouldn't run properly, and I had to pour some No.6 lead shot inside; now it's fine. I'll have to run the clock a few weeks for checking (I don't really want to open it up to count the teeth for ratios and BPM). It's a recoil escapement, as they all are I suppose, so I won't expect regulator accuracy.

    Peter

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  11. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User

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  12. Jmeechie

    Jmeechie Registered User
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    Hi,
    The general rule on fusee’s is if the grooves in the winding cone are flat at the bottom of the channel then it takes a chain, and if curved at the bottom of the channel it takes a gut. Also the attachment point, chains hook to a hole in the cone and mainspring barrel. The issue becomes, chains were more expensive to repair or replace and the attaching points can be modified to accept gut. The gut on yours looks a little too narrow as it should nicely between the sides of the channels.
    The fusee stop, as previously mentioned, prevents winding the gut/chain too far and with breaking or stressing to the point of unhooking, similar to weight driven, there should be 1/2 to 3/4 cord/cable/gut still on the barrel when fully ran down. This prevents stress at the attaching point, leading to premature failure!
    if memory serves, the heavy bob assists in modulation of the accuracy of the fusee as it runs down. This is the purpose of the fusee, to maintain even driving force over the entire run period.
    Beautiful clock and a great find!
     
  13. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    If gut is original to a fusee then you'd expect the fusee to have been cut for it.
     
  14. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User

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    Yes, I understand. Prob won't replace it just now as It's working as it should and the gut that's in there looks pretty new. I'll wait till the next gut change, if I live that long. But was this fusee cut for gut or chain? The spiral groove isn't dead flat, or rounded, but seems, to my unpracticed eye, to be somewhere in between.

    Thank you, you are a gentleman! I always like hearing things like that.

    It's ticking away happily now, with a pretty big 3 inch swing (for a 12 inch pendulum) and very little overswing. I think I may understand why the bob is solid lead. It seems possible that a light bob would allow much more overswing and could hit the sides of the case. Could be wrong there, it's just my intuition.
     
  15. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    The first photo shows a typical hook up for a chain used on a clock. The 2nd photo shows a typical cut tie off/hook up. Both your barrel and your fusee show they were originally fit with gut

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  16. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User

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    Thanks Jim, now that you explain it it's quite clear. It's nice to know that in that aspect at least the clock is original.
     
  17. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Regards the weight of the bob, a heaver bob will store energy at a higher rate, as the clock runs, than will a lighter bob. The efficiency of a pendulum is sometimes stated as "Q" An in-depth discussion of the theory and math involved is well outside my expertise, but all told your bob is proper for your timepiece and it should be perceived as a better quality approach. It contributes, at least a bit, to the clock being a better timekeeper than would be afforded by a lighter bob.
     
  18. new2clocks

    new2clocks Registered User
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    Peter,

    That is a beautiful clock!

    Regards.
     
  19. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User

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    Interesting, Jim, thank you. One concern I'm noting, now the clock is hung and being regulated, is that to run at about the right rate, the bob is sitting high up on the brass pendulum rod close to the top end of the rating thread. When it's ticking, all you can see in the drop dial window is the threaded rod and the bottom third of the bob.

    I thought to add a clamp-on brass weight to the rod halfway up, which would raise the centre of mass such that I'd have to move the bob downwards to compensate (and thus be able to see it in the window).

    Obviously, that's non-standard, but of course it would be a reversible mod.

    But I don't really understand the problem; wouldn't the maker have tried to get the bob visible in the middle of the drop-dial window?

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  20. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User

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    Thank you new2clocks, and I realise you aren't "new" any more, I've followed many of your knowledgable posts with great interest.

    Peter
     
  21. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    That's what I thought but I'm only a collector, not a repairer.

    I've never accepted the flat so it must be chain argument, as the spring barrels are flat regardless. The only firm rule I can see is that a chain can't sit properly in a round bottom groove.
     
  22. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    Don't forget a fusee cone isn't flat or round, I agree about the chain.
     
  23. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I still don't see how that means it has to be chain if the grooves are flat bottomed, to me the indicator is evidence of current or past fixings on the fusee and barrel. We know that there is no problem running gut in a flat bottom fusee, so there is no real need to cut the fusee to match. There must be a reasoning behind why some are square and some are round, perhaps it was just a question of whether chain was an option with that maker. Were the fusee cones bought in?
     
  24. Jmeechie

    Jmeechie Registered User
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    Peter,
    A clock like this would have been hung relatively high on the wall, especially if it were in a business and the pendulum would have been more visible through the window! This preventing the help or customers from fiddling with or moving the hands!
    Cheers,
    James
     
  25. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    I would imagine the production of fusee cones was quite a specialised operation so makers would buy they in though perhaps the larger concerns produced their own though I don't know for sure. As they were made with both flat and rounded grooves that indicates different designs for chain and gut otherwise you'd expect they would have just made flat ones for both but again I don't know that for sure.
     
  26. Peter Planapo

    Peter Planapo Registered User

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    A very good point James, why didn't I think of it? The concept works by adopting a crouch. Of course in those days, if you could afford a clock like this you also lived in a house with 10 or 11 foot ceilings. I am not so fortunate.

    Not so sure about business use, weren't commercial clocks relatively simple in design? This fairly elaborate clock might have been in, I suppose, a jeweller's or a milliner's, but surely not a bank or a hardware shop. Would you agree?

    Thanks!

    Peter
     
  27. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    They started with gut, so it makes sense that everybody started with rounded, the profile was already in use on longcase.

    Later on they had the option of chain or gut, and while gut can go in rounded or flat but chain can only go in flat then I would expect some makers to use flat for both. We don't know of course, but what we do have are fusees that are cut flat and have only ever had the securing system for gut.

    We don't even know who made most of these later fusee clocks, so it isn't likely we will ever resolve this.
     
  28. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Jonathan,

    I believe fusee cones would have been available both cut and uncut, according to the purchaser's preference, but since, as you say, fusee cutting required a specialised engine and the skills to use it, I suspect that the majority of smaller makers would have bought them in already cut.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  29. jmclaugh

    jmclaugh Registered User

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    I've no reason to disagree and merry Christmas Graham.

    Nope, very unlikely, merry Christmas Nick.
     
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