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Novice struggling with escapement.

aitchgee

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Feb 5, 2013
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I’m working on a 1950s mantel clock, British and looking at escapement problems for the first time. Despite reading up –de Carle, Penman, Gazeley, I don’t really get beyond trial and error. This thing has a recoil escapement with the solid type of anchor. I thought the scape wheel looked a bit iffy and I needed to get some practical experience, so I topped the teeth in the lathe (my workshop is basically that of a home machinist) and refiled the non-radial side until the tops were about the right thickness. I stoned the anchor with my new expensive Arkansas stone.​
I really don’t see how to set the depth of engagement except by trial and error, but after some meddling I got good results and the clock ran for about a fortnight. Just as I was preparing myself for the plaudits of the owner, the bugger stopped.​
I checked the train and everything was free. The thing would run in a rather lack lustre sort of way about a half turn of the wheel and then stop- not necessarily at the same place. More meddling accomplished nothing! I then took out the anchor thinking I might have to give it more attention, eg soften and bend it. There seemed to be some marking on it, so I stoned it again and this time put a light film of oil on it. It’s been running happily for the last 5 hours now.
My theory is that the working surfaces needed to bed in and created some microscopic waste in doing so and that cleaning that off and giving it some oil may have been enough.​
But, clearly, I know nothing, so I’d welcome some advice- hopefully better than “ don’t mess with what you don’t understand” . I’m trying to learn. The books get frightfully technical about impulse angles, the drop and the like, but I can’t see how you can measure very much in situ.​
Thanks ,​
Henry​
 

shutterbug

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I imagine that the oil made all the difference. A video of it operating would help determine the health of the escapement action. The pallets need to be highly polished, and your stone isn't likely able to do that ... depending on the stone.
 

aitchgee

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Thanks. I'm far too embarrassed to show you all a photo. I'll have you know my stone is the finest quality US of A Arkansas stone with a Bergeon label! Seriously, what would be the best thing to polish it with?
 

R. Croswell

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If the clock is still running, you should be able to see a noticable recoil of the escape wheel between pendulum swings if the escapement is getting adequate power. I suggest you see how long the clock will run. If it is an 8-day clock it should run at least a day or so beyond 8 days. There has been a lot of discussion about polishing pallets. If there are no ruts, a buffing wheel with Semichrome metal polish works. Some use rouge or rotten stone. As long as it has a mirror-like finish when you are finished it really doesn’t much matter.

Yes, the books do get very technical but unless one is designing and building an escapement one usually need not be too concerned with all the angles. One mistake may newcomers make is to start making changes to the escapement. Unless the verge or anchor is missing or broken or positively known to be an incorrect replacement, one usually is better to assume that the clock was correctly made and that it has the proper angles and that it was running fine at one time until something changed to stop it. That something is more likely to be worn pivot holes or pivots, an accumulation of dirt, or the lack of oil, or some combination of these.

RC
 

Willie X

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Feb 9, 2008
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One mistake may newcomers make is to start making changes to the escapement. Unless the verge or anchor is missing or broken or positively known to be an incorrect replacement, one usually is better to assume that the clock was correctly made and that it has the proper angles and that it was running fine at one time until something changed to stop it. That something is more likely to be worn pivot holes or pivots, an accumulation of dirt, or the lack of oil, or some combination of these.

RC
I agree with RC. Being that the escapement actually propels the pendulum, logic often tricks newcomers into thinking that this is where most of there problems will be. But, with experience, you will learn that escapements rarely give trouble unless they have been tampered with, or worn by maybe 75 years (or more) of use.

Loss of power is always the first thing to rule out. This gets tricky because a completely worn out clock will often still seem OK to a beginner "everything turn free".

My best tips to a beginner are: learn to find the problem before you 'fix' anything, and look for the short list of easy stuff first before moving on the the very long list of difficult stuff.

Good luck, Willie X
 

Tinker Dwight

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Oct 11, 2010
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Since it is a solid pallet, I would agree with RC and Willie. It is unlikely to be made wrong.
I've seen a lot of strap pallets that were likely replacements that were not properly
fitted to the clock.
Tinker Dwight
 

Scottie-TX

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DO mess with what you don't understand but understand what you're doing before you mess with it.
Now your expensive stone. No matter how expensive or fine is not fine enough for a final finish. Use any metal polish of your liking. I prefer SIMICHROME. Pallet faces should look like a mirror. IMPORTANT!
Now adjustment of the recoil. To adjust a recoil you want MAXIMUM bite. You want the teeth to land on the pallets as far inward as possible. To do that, lower pallet body until escapement will not unlock. Now begin raising arbor S L O W L Y until escapement just unlocks. Raise it one or two more RCHs more to accomodate errant teeth or runout. DONE. ALWAYS put a light coat of lube on pallet faces.
 

aitchgee

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Gentlemen, thank you very much. All tremendously helpful, even if I had to Google RCH (really! You Texans!). I fully understand about the thing being properly made in the first place, and on clocks where I've (wisely) left the escapement well alone despite it looking very worn, I've been surprised to find it working very well. I'm pretty sure I was right about the free running, but point taken. Also it ran for I think 10 days before I rewound it,and then 2 or 3 before stopping. I had put no lube on the pallets. I have previous for putting the stuff where it shouldn't be and I was trying to be more careful. Now I know better.Thanks again.
 

Scottie-TX

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While this is true:
you will learn that escapements rarely give trouble unless they have been tampered with,
Unfortunately MANY do tamper with the escapement so don't assume GAWD adjusted this thing so I MUST not suspect it's condition and assume it has never been touched.
I suspect the reason many do tamper with it is because it is one of the few components that are adjustable in the time train. So learn how to analyze it. Understand how it works and you'll begin to recognize when it is not performing properly and how to correct that
 

Douglas Ballard

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As a novice myself I have to reinforce what has been said already about watching and being very careful to to "fix" something that turns out to NOT be the problem, thus compounding the issue. I have done this a few times, then had to backtrack and undo my "fixes" because they were not the problem.
 

R. Croswell

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Scottie is correct to point out that things do get messed with and there is no assurance that a given clock has not been messed with or that the current state of adjustment could not be optimized by one who fully understands the theory of escapement operation. However, the initial inquiry was from one with limited experience in this area. It boils down to the probability of whether an uninformed novice fooling with the precise adjustments of an escapement will improve the operation of the clock or create a new problem.

Generally, unless one knows otherwise, most clocks that now do not run did in fact run ok for a number of years before stopping. The geometry of the escapement, while possibly not perfect, did not change except possibly where a badly worn escape wheel pivot hole cause the escape wheel’s position to shift or become unstable. Generally, one should find what did change and fix that first before messing with the escapement.

After the rest of the clock is returned to good mechanical condition one can evaluate the action of the escapement to determine if adjustment is indicated. “Understand how it works and you'll begin to recognize when it is not performing properly and how to correct that” is excellent advice with emphasis on understand.

On these pages one often sees the advice to adjust a recoil escapement to MAXIMUM bite or to position the anchor or pallet strip as close as possible to the escape wheel while still allowing the escapement to unlock. That is a good place to start, but that unfortunately is not the end of the story. Maximizing the “bite” maximizes the “locks” and minimized the “drops” at the pallets which, all else being equal, maximizes power transfer to the pendulum with a recoil escapement. Unfortunately the locks and drops at the entrance and exit pallets are not affected equally when the “bite” is increased or decreased so one can easily end up with maximized but unequal locks and drops and unequal power impulses in each pendulum direction. Correcting that usually involves adjusting the spacing between the pallets, which affects angles the escape wheel teeth make to the pallets, which brings us full circle back to the complexities of escapement design that can be daunting for the uninitiated and which we were hoping a novice might avoid for the time being. Then there is the question of how much pendulum amplitude is the optimum amount? We know that the pendulum rate error increases with the amplitude and there is the whole isochronism issue that can be upset with a misadjusted escapement.

Unless there has been obvious damage or tampering, most clocks can be returned to operating condition without messing with the escapement. If it does become necessary to adjust the recoil escapement, unless one is prepared to deal with pallet angles and spacing, I would recommend adjusting the “bite” to obtain equal drops at both pallets and if there is visible recoil of the escape wheel between pendulum swings, and pendulum swing is adequate for stable operation, at that point the novice should call it quits and enjoy his (her) accomplishments rather than risk introducing additional problems.

RC
 

Scottie-TX

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Unfortunately the locks and drops at the entrance and exit pallets are not affected equally when the “bite” is increased or decreased so one can easily end up with maximized but unequal locks and drops and unequal power impulses in each pendulum direction
While all here is true, seldom if ever are locks made unequal in the process of raising or lowering pallet arbor while often drops do change unequally and equal drops are more important than equal locks except on torsion clocks. Changing pallet span also changes entrance drop only. However it is HIGHLY unlikely his pallet span was changed as this is a BRITISH movement and very probably has a SOLID, anchor type pallet body. So if drops were equal when bite was max, drops will again be equal when returned to max.
 

aitchgee

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Just say thanks again, gents. I 'm learning a great deal from all this. It tremendous that you're prepared to spend time on edumacating-as a friend of mine always puts it - novices like me.
Now it's back to the cuckoo. Vile thing.
Regards,
Henry
 

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