RAF sector clock restoration

Peter Planapo

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Hi all,

I got hold of this sector clock project and would appreciate advice on the bezel. The bezel it came with is a blackened spun brass job, missing the retainer. If I were to use it, I'd either need to make a retainer (that would be a long, narrow, curved bit of sheet I imagine), or use plaster of Paris.

I also have a cast bezel which fits, but I'm unconvinced it would be appropriate, because the groove for the glass isn't pointing towards the centre radially, but slightly outwards, suggesting it might be for curved glass. It's 1.2mm wide and 1mm deep so quite a lot of glass would have to be removed to make the bevel.

Anyway I've never fitted glass to a cast bezel and from what I read here, it isn't easy.

The book I'm working from, The History of Clocks in the RAF by Bob Gardner, states that the Type 1 sector clocks usually had cast bezels. Mine is a Type 1 Elliott fusee of 1939. But Gardner also says that often bits were moved around between clocks and repairs were made with whatever was available, so my thinking is that the glass in a cast bezel might have broken and the repair tech fixed it with a spun bezel, a much easier job than fitting new glass.

So, my 1939 clock could have started life with a cast bezel and finished up with a spun bezel, not factory-original but possibly RAF-original.

That's my thinking. Is it logical? Would you use a cast bezel or keep the spun one it came with? And if the latter, would you use plaster of Paris, or try to make an original-style retainer from sheet metal?

Thanks!
Peter

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Peter Planapo

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Yes, but not till some time tomorrow. And it's incomplete, no hands, I'll have to make them I think as I can't find any suitable for 14".
 

jmclaugh

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These clocks are uncommon and I think still expensive so if it was me I'd leave it as it came other than cleaning and necessary maintenance any clock is due. When you say blackened do you mean paint?
 

svenedin

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Yes, but not till some time tomorrow. And it's incomplete, no hands, I'll have to make them I think as I can't find any suitable for 14".
Great. So is it basically a fusee dial clock with a special dial? I have a WW2 era fusee dial clock with the broad arrow on the dial but otherwise it's just an ordinary dial. I can let you know what kind of retainer that has if it's remotely useful.
 

novicetimekeeper

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I agree with jonathan. Any restoration is likely to devalue it, certainly don't touch the dial.
 

jmclaugh

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Great. So is it basically a fusee dial clock with a special dial? I have a WW2 era fusee dial clock with the broad arrow on the dial but otherwise it's just an ordinary dial. I can let you know what kind of retainer that has if it's remotely useful.
Well no, any original WW2 RAF sector dial clock engenders rather more than 'basically'.
 

svenedin

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Well no, any original WW2 RAF sector dial clock engenders rather more than 'basically'.
Oh so the fact that it is an RAF sector clock changes the movement behind to something special?
 

novicetimekeeper

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No being a sector clock makes it a special clock. Many forgeries about which is why restoration is such an issue.
 

svenedin

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No being a sector clock makes it a special clock. Many forgeries about which is why restoration is such an issue.
Obviously it's a special clock. I was just asking the OP about the movement which doesn't take on magical properties because it's part of an RAF clock. I have a Smith's clock that was used on submarines but the movement isn't remarkable.
 

novicetimekeeper

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no the movement isn't anything special. It's a late fusee, in another clock the value would be very low. Fusee dial clocks go up in price as they approach and enter the 18th century usually.
 

P.Hageman

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Are these clocks special because not many where made for the RAF? What do those colored sectors mean, whats the use?
 

jmclaugh

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Oh so the fact that it is an RAF sector clock changes the movement behind to something special?
No though the movement is by FW Elliott who are regarded as one of the best quality English makers in the 20th C and typically make any clock more expensive than an equivalent one with a non-Elliott movement.
 
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Peter Planapo

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Very interesting bunch of replies, thanks to all.

I have a WW2 era fusee dial clock with the broad arrow on the dial but otherwise it's just an ordinary dial. I can let you know what kind of retainer that has if it's remotely useful.
Yes, that would be very helpful, thanks. It could well be from the same period. What movement has it?

This clock doesn't seem to be a forgery, at least I hope not, as the movement is correct and dated 1939, and the back board has the same date 1939 as well as the Air Ministry stamp (so this clock is early enough to have been used in the Battle of Britain in 1940). The dial is is not in bad shape and I won't be touching that. Someone has applied paint stripper to the mahogany rim and I may have to French polish it.

Missing are hands and pendulum. A suitable lead-filled brass pendulum I can get from eBay, but the hands I can't find anywhere. 12" are easy to find but not 14". I'll try making some with an electric scroll saw, it shouldn't be impossible.

The bezel (black paint, but old black paint) may not be original but it did come with the clock, and my cast bezel I'm pretty sure (from the angle of the groove) is for curved glass which is incorrect for the clock. Can anyone confirm this from the photos I posted earlier?

I have a second sector clock, a later Type 2 with a 1942 Smiths Astral platform movement (these were lower-cost versions introduced later in the war to replace the expensive Elliotts). You can see the difference in the fast-slow adjuster slot in the dial below the crown. The dial is thinner metal, and the rim and box are cheapo bakelite and plywood respectively (because imports of mahogany had dried up). The dial is rather worn (excessive cleaning?), and I'm in two minds what to do with it. Leave alone or send off to the painter.

Peter

Pics of the whole clock (well, most of it) as requested:


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svenedin

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Very interesting bunch of replies, thanks to all.


Yes, that would be very helpful, thanks. It could well be from the same period. What movement has it?

This clock doesn't seem to be a forgery, at least I hope not, as the movement is correct and dated 1939, and the back board has the same date 1939 as well as the Air Ministry stamp (so this clock is early enough to have been used in the Battle of Britain in 1940). The dial is is not in bad shape and I won't be touching that. Someone has applied paint stripper to the mahogany rim and I may have to French polish it.

Missing are hands and pendulum. A suitable lead-filled brass pendulum I can get from eBay, but the hands I can't find anywhere. 12" are easy to find but not 14". I'll try making some with an electric scroll saw, it shouldn't be impossible.

The bezel (black paint, but old black paint) may not be original but it did come with the clock, and my cast bezel I'm pretty sure (from the angle of the groove) is for curved glass which is incorrect for the clock. Can anyone confirm this from the photos I posted earlier?

I have a second sector clock, a later Type 2 with a 1942 Smiths Astral platform movement (these were lower-cost versions introduced later in the war to replace the expensive Elliotts). You can see the difference in the fast-slow adjuster slot in the dial below the crown. The dial is thinner metal, and the rim and box are cheapo bakelite and plywood respectively (because imports of mahogany had dried up). The dial is rather worn (excessive cleaning?), and I'm in two minds what to do with it. Leave alone or send off to the painter.

Peter

View attachment 605982 View attachment 605983 View attachment 605984 View attachment 605985 View attachment 605986

Mine is Stockall and Marples (who also supplied the Air Ministry) dated 1939. Dial diameter 14 inches. Pendulum Length (top of suspension spring to bottom of rating thread) 10.5 inches. Both sides of pendulum brass-faced. Pictures attached. I could not get a good photo of the retaining ring but it is spun. Fusee movement as you can see. Used for some kind of government/military business but I do not know where it came from. My uncle was in the RAF during and after the war and it is possible it came via him. I did not buy the clock but inherited it.

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Peter Planapo

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Thanks, that's useful. You might be interested to know that Bob Gardner writes "Elliott movements were of superb quality but SM & Co movements were a little bit better, certainly in attention to detail". A few SM & Co movements made it into sector clocks up to 1942, when they all became Smiths platforms.
 

svenedin

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Thanks, that's useful. You might be interested to know that Bob Gardner writes "Elliott movements were of superb quality but SM & Co movements were a little bit better, certainly in attention to detail". A few SM & Co movements made it into sector clocks up to 1942, when they all became Smiths platforms.
Thank you. I did not know that. Certainly the movement is very nicely made. The case is also marked on the inside. My clock had to make way for a Biedermeier Vienna and has not been on display or used in years. I don’t collect military pieces. It just happens I have some.
 

Peter Planapo

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Do you think you could do a photo of your pendulum resting on a tape measure or ruler? This is so I can get the relative lengths and spacings of the rod and slot (it's likely I'll end up having to make up my own rod, as these are all so different).

Much appreciated if you can, thanks.
 

svenedin

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Do you think you could do a photo of your pendulum resting on a tape measure or ruler? This is so I can get the relative lengths and spacings of the rod and slot (it's likely I'll end up having to make up my own rod, as these are all so different).

Much appreciated if you can, thanks.
Will do
 

svenedin

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As requested. Note the rule is aligned to where is starts at zero. John Wardle has lots of dial clock spares including pendulum rods of many different lengths and a brass-faced bob to suit. Meadows and Passmore has dial clock hands in different lengths but they may not be exactly the right design.

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Peter Planapo

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Thanks for the pic, I like your Stationery Office ruler. It reminds me of what I used to use at school. Not a cm in sight.

Wardle has the rods but I'm going to have to find my own fusee bob. Of course there's no guarantee that Elliott and SM & Co pendulum rods would be the same length. When I have the movement in bits I'll do a tooth count.
 

svenedin

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Thanks for the pic, I like your Stationery Office ruler. It reminds me of what I used to use at school. Not a cm in sight.

Wardle has the rods but I'm going to have to find my own fusee bob. Of course there's no guarantee that Elliott and SM & Co pendulum rods would be the same length. When I have the movement in bits I'll do a tooth count.
True there's no guarantee but since they were both government suppliers it would have been handy if the pendulums were interchangeable. Haha yes I like that ruler so it's always the one to hand.
 

Peter Planapo

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I suspect the idea of interchangeability and commonality of parts in military specifications was rare until well after WW2 when peacetime economies of procurement became more important. I'd love to see an original procurement spec for the 14" wall clock, but your clock will have been acquired by the War Office or one of the ministries, while mine would have been directly acquired by the Air Ministry. It would be nice to think that in the panic of impending war somebody thought to ensure that clock pendulums were interchangeable across armed services and ministries. We'll see when I get mine running, and I'll post the answer here.

Do you know the bpm of your SM & Co?
 

svenedin

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I suspect the idea of interchangeability and commonality of parts in military specifications was rare until well after WW2 when peacetime economies of procurement became more important. I'd love to see an original procurement spec for the 14" wall clock, but your clock will have been acquired by the War Office or one of the ministries, while mine would have been directly acquired by the Air Ministry. It would be nice to think that in the panic of impending war somebody thought to ensure that clock pendulums were interchangeable across armed services and ministries. We'll see when I get mine running, and I'll post the answer here.

Do you know the bpm of your SM & Co?
I work for the military and don't even mention procurement..........interchangeability is entirely wishful thinking.....

Unfortunately, I don't know the bpm other than it's quick and loud and I find it quite annoying! I am not fond of clocks with short or shortish pendulums. There was some research done that showed that second's pendulums (as in a longcase) calmed people and slowed their heart rates whereas quick beat pendulums did not or sped the heart rate up. I can't recall where I read that now.
 

Peter Planapo

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I have a deadbeat Enfield longcase with a seconds pendulum... it's quieter than a quartz. And three Viennas which are not quite seconds pendulums but also very quiet. I wonder if deadbeats are quieter than recoils? You're quite right, I think, the fusees are loud, I have a 19thC one running and it's the only clock I can hear, apart from an open lantern clock which is a bit noisy. BTW the quietest clocks I have are synchronous, and also the most accurate over time. Of course you could say they aren't clocks at all but just electric motors, and you'd be right. If the Time Error Correction were to be abolished my synchronous collection and many others would become useless.
 

svenedin

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I have a deadbeat Enfield longcase with a seconds pendulum... it's quieter than a quartz. And three Viennas which are not quite seconds pendulums but also very quiet. I wonder if deadbeats are quieter than recoils? You're quite right, I think, the fusees are loud, I have a 19thC one running and it's the only clock I can hear, apart from an open lantern clock which is a bit noisy. BTW the quietest clocks I have are synchronous, and also the most accurate over time. Of course you could say they aren't clocks at all but just electric motors, and you'd be right. If the Time Error Correction were to be abolished my synchronous collection and many others would become useless.
Yes recoils are noisier than deadbeats. The noise is actually wasted energy. Well made deadbeats can run on much less weight than a comparable recoil. A lot does depend on the case. Some cases seem to amplify the tick. My month running Vienna is almost silent -it has to be very efficient to run on the small weight it has.
 

jmclaugh

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The black paint on this clock is not original, it was most likely done as the brass was wearing off the bezel, I'd remove the paint but it's not my clock.

Most English fusee dial clocks I've come across have an unmistakeable loud tick, I would never describe it as noisy but then they are one of my favourite clocks and another favourite is almost as quiet as a mouse. The movements supplied to the RAF during WW2 were from a limited number of makers so one might conclude parts were interchangeable for any one maker and I can't imagine Churchill taking kindly to problems on that front or such makers wanting it to occur, the threat of being invaded kind of focuses things.

Stockall & Marples was a lesser known but high quality English clock manufacturer known to have supplied movements to the RAF whose sector clocks were very good timekeepers for rather obvious reasons whatever the type of escapement hence they bought quality movements.

Workclocks - Stockall Time Recorders
 

Peter Planapo

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Yes recoils are noisier than deadbeats. The noise is actually wasted energy.
That's interesting and I can see the logic of it.

The black paint on this clock is not original, it was most likely done as the brass was wearing off the bezel, I'd remove the paint
Well, it's debatable. This bezel is solid spun brass, not brass plated steel, so brass can't wear off, and might have been painted matte black in late 1939 or 1940 to comply with the "tone-down" wartime colour scheme (dark lacquer on the surround, matte-black bezel) to which Bob Gardner refers several times. It looks as if nearly all the WW2 sector clocks in the book have black bezels, except some which Gardner says have been over-enthusiastically restored.
 

jmclaugh

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Well, it's debatable. This bezel is solid spun brass, not brass plated steel, so brass can't wear off, and might have been painted matte black in late 1939 or 1940 to comply with the "tone-down" wartime colour scheme (dark lacquer on the surround, matte-black bezel) to which Bob Gardner refers several times. It looks as if nearly all the WW2 sector clocks in the book have black bezels, except some which Gardner says have been over-enthusiastically restored.
Fair enough, it is entirely up to you, it's your clock.
 

Peter Planapo

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Yes, it's mine but I do listen to and respect the voices of those here who are much more experienced than I am. You have given me some very good advice in the past. Would you mind please, suggesting why you'd take the paint off? You could convince me.
 

jmclaugh

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Peter, I don't know enough about these clocks to contradict what Gardner has to say in his book. If he says the RAF had the bezels painted black then to maintain it in the original condition it was used by the RAF it sounds best to keep it as is. All I know is I have seen them with unpainted brass bezels though whether the paint was removed or not I couldn't say.
 
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