New guy, trying to learn........

Bob Weit

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Dec 30, 2020
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Hi all - first off, happy new year !! I came across this forum and have been "lurking" for a bit - the reason is as follows -

I recently came across two old pocket watches that had been packed away for years. One was my grandfathers - a Waltham 235; one was my uncles - a Hamilton 924. I figured it would be nice to get them both running (they would run for a minute or so) so I started looking for a repair shop that did old pocket watches. The average price I was finding was 500.00 plus parts, with a several month wait.............. Now, while I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, at 65 years of age I am fairly adept working on things (or so I thought) and figured for 500.00 per watch, I would get the required tools and perhaps enjoy a new hobby.. Plus, my grandfather used to work on watches, and I had a small selection of his old tools still in his old wooden tool chest.

I got my tools and I got a couple "junkers" off eBay - "won't run", "for parts" - both were Walthams, as what little I have learned so far indicated that one would most certainly trash the first one or two watches that they tried to work on. Well, I can attest to that being true... The first one (12s) I was doing fine until I tried to re-attach the hairspring wedge (?) to the balance cock.... that little, tiny screw got the better of me and the screw driver slipped and severed the connection of the hairspring to that little wedge. Otherwise though, it seemed that the watch was on its way to recovery....

The second Waltham (16s) was a 7 jewel model, but it cleaned up really well, and after the gear train was installed, I gave it a small wind and it seemed to run smoothly - I had yet to install the balance. As before, I had taken the hairspring and balance wheel off the balance cock (seeing a pattern here..??) and upon trying to put it all together, I found that the little tiny screw had backed completely out while the balance cock (not the hairspring) had been in the ultrasonic cleaner. I found the little guy in the parts basket, and figured a way using my grandfather's old watch repair block, to situate the entire assembly so I could reinstall the screw. Well, that little screw decided to jump off the balance cock and it took a trip to "never be found again" land. So my lesson learned is from now on, I plan to just leave the hairspring/balance wheel attached to the balance cock and dip the whole assembly in One Dip to clean it....

So, for those of you who aren't still laughing at my failures, I wanted to know if any of you got started in a similar manner and now enjoy some success in this field. I plan to get another junker or two before I touch my family's watches - I want to have success at least once. Any pointers, suggestions, criticisms, or other information is welcomed. Now that I have invested in the tools, I am not about to give up !

Hope you all stay safe and well in this new year, and thanks in advance -
Bob
 

Rick Hufnagel

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Bob, Welcome!

I started in the exact same manner. Trust me, with practice, it gets easier. My advice? Buy a nice set of screwdrivers and tweezers. It's going to be a little bit of a hit price wise... But it's completely worth it if you really want to do it. Second... Learn to sharpen screwdrivers and point your tweezers perfectly. This will really be important to prevent slipping and flying parts.

When I was learning, at first I got a giant piece of paper (maybe 2' wide) and folded the edges up about an inch and a half to form a little box to work inside of. This prevented low flying parts from vanishing. Eventually you will build the confidence to not need it.

leave the hairspring/balance wheel attached to the balance cock and dip the whole assembly in One Dip to clean it....
Maybe others will feel differently, but you cannot clean the balance jewels properly this way. If you do it the right way from the start, it will get better with practice.

So make sure you have some good tweezers and screwdrivers, put up a flying parts blockade, and read everything you can and watch videos. Most of all have fun! If you get frustrated, stop and relax for a minute!

Good luck and when you get one running, come back and let us know!
 

musicguy

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Welcome to the madness and the NAWCC forum!

Rob
 
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Bob Weit

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Loosing that little, microscopic hairspring wedge screw was bugging me, so I took our little Dyson stick vacuum and put a magnet in the debris container, and then vacuumed where I was working. Sure enough - that little screw was stuck to the magnet !!!! Couldn't believe my luck; my wife couldn't believe how small that screw was. Now to just try to get it started back into the balance cock...........
 

musicguy

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I had a main spring(that I was winding by hand) fly out
cut my hand and dissapear into the night never to be found.
Well the never to be found might be an exaggeration but having a work space
that is designed to catch screws(or other parts) you drop is imperitive.
Proper tools are a must also.


Rob
 

Rick Hufnagel

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If you have some rodico (watchmaker putty) stick the balance cock into a small blob of it so that it doesn't move. If no putty the another creative way of holding the balance cock from moving.

Actually to be completely honest, before you try to do that, maybe try a little exercise first.

Take that movement you have with the sheared off balance spring. Remove all the screws and put them on the table. Pick up all the screws with your tweezers and reinstall them. Do it enough times where you feel comfortable nothing will fly away. It sounds strange but really helps. It will improve your skills with tweezers, screwdrivers and working under magnification.
 

Paul_S

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Welcome! I got into this by inheriting a Waltham 1883, which I did eventually repair and service 4 years after getting started.

I suppose it isn't for me to say if I'm any good at this vexing hobby, but I'd pass along the advice that it is worth learning to do things the right way with the proper tools. Building the right habits and practices early on saves an enormous amount of time.

I also found, when starting out, that it helps to focus on just a couple movements, like the one you eventually want to repair, to build up expertise and parts.

And finally, I have always appreciated the patient and generous advice of the professionals on this board.
 
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RL

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Hey Bob---another way to look for a screw or small part is to stretch some fabric from a womans nylons or panti- hose over the tube end of a vacuum hose and anchor it with rubber bands,
Slowly vacuum the area and any small substance or screw will be held against the nylon covering the vacuum nozzle. Of course you do not turn off the vacuum until you have it over a pan or tray of some kind.
With a strong vacuum and slow going--I have found a lot of small parts ( watches and other misc.small parts ) that way You will pick up larger pieces of debris also so look carefully.
 
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