Request for howard maintenance guidance

Discussion in 'Tower, Monumental & Street Clocks' started by sullivanwb, Mar 17, 2009.

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  1. sullivanwb

    sullivanwb Registered User
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    Mar 17, 2009
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    Hi,

    I have just been given the goahead to assume volunteer clock maintenance duties on our town clock. I am not a clock man but I have a strong interest in this clock and a little flexibility with my time in my retirement. The clock is housed in a tower atop the two-story town hall. The building was constructed in 1911 and I understand that a tower and the clock were added a year later. Old newspaper accounts relate that it was converted to electricity in 1949.

    Maintenance in recent years has been performed by various public works employees of the town when their other duties permitted. About a year ago the clock was placed in running order and kept accurate time. Striking of the hour, however, was not in sync with the time but it was consistent; faithfully striking one hour and forty-five early for each hour. It would occasionally strike a dozen or so extra bells but always seemed to correct itself. Several months ago the bell began striking the hour exactly on queue at 3:15 PM. From my home I counted over 100 bells before it went silent. The town office crew apparently had had all they could take and killed the power at the breaker box. The clock has been idle since.

    I have been to the clock room several times and have begun to try to clean and otherwise prepare the unit for turn on again. So far I have only worked on the room itself getting rid of cob webs, dead wasps, cigarettes butts, and various other debris accumulated over the last 90 years or so. Most of the clock bears a coat of oily dirt or dust that I believe I should get rid of before doing anything else. Can anyone recommend a non-flammable solvent that would be effective?

    My plan, such as it is, is to clean up the works, disable the electric feed to the striking mechanism, set all four dials, and turn on the power. I can approach the striking as I hopefully learn more about it. Any suggestions as to how to proceed would be very welcome.

    I am attaching a picture of the clock that I took from the trap door leading to the clock room from the bell area below. If anyone could help identify the model or point me in the right direction to find out I would be most grateful.

    Thanks,

    Willis Sullivan, North Carolina

    MAXTON_HOWARD.jpg
     
  2. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    Mar 30, 2005
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    #2 gvasale, Mar 18, 2009
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2009
    you're looking at what is perhaps the most common of Howard tower clocks. The key to striking at the right time is to observe the snail's position and set the hands to match. Also look for wear of the strike letoff pin, and check for possible bent or broken teeth on the rack. All arbors/bushings should be in proper order as would any other clock.

    Hand shafts, if original can fail occasionally; the small metal pin in the wooden plug is a pain, but there are ways to fix them. Occasionally gears on the motion works may slip. They are all staked in place. The retaining ring of a glass dial if loose will also indicate inaccurate time.

    The electrics are usually very stable; work or fail.

    Have fun.
     
  3. doug sinclair

    doug sinclair Registered User

    Aug 27, 2000
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    Willis,

    I am very familiar with that model of Howard, having restore one 20 years ago, and still wind and maintain it to this day.

    re: the erratic striking. If you look on the "front" of the movement, on the left side (opposite the governor fan) you will see an asceding shaft that goes up to the "turret". This shaft has a bevelled gear at the bottom which is driven by a bevelled gear in the movement. Trace all the gears from the gear at the bottom of that shaft and make certain that the tapered pins that orient the gears on the shafts are still in place, and that none of those gears are slipping. Make certain that the potence on the outside of the movement that bears the bottom of the ascending shaft is bolted down tight. Any slippage in this gear system could account for thestrike occurring at the wrong time.

    re: the erratic hour strike. You should trip the strike repeatedly, observing very closely the action of the gathering pallet, the rack hook, and the teeth on the rack. As has been mentioned, it could be a problem with any one (of more than one) of these components. It is only by observation that you will be able to decide what to do to fix the problem. It sounds as though the rack hook fails to index the teeth on the rack properly, on occasion. That could be caused by damaged teeth on the rack.

    Mind you, from the sound of it, unskilled non-clock people have maintained this clock over the years, and you're likely to find many faults. Ask me how I know!

    Doug
     
  4. DanJeffries

    DanJeffries The Tower clock man
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    Dec 1, 2008
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    Hi,

    Looks like you have a good candidate for a "functional restoration". That is what I call the type of restoration that I have done in several rural counties here in Georgia. Most of the counties here do not care what the clock mechanism looks like they just want it to work. It also looks like you have the pendulum sitting there. That is worth a gold mine there. So many clocks here in the south were converted to the electric motors due to the humidity, the wooden pendulums just soaked up the wet/dry air thus making the clocks run crazy all the time. Most of the time the pendulums and bobs were just thrown away. You might even want to consider making the time train mechanical again as a long term goal..... My local courthouse has the time side of the clock running mechanically but left the strike electric since it take so much weight to lift the hammer for the 42" bell.

    Degreasing the clock will make a lot of difference in the way it works.... years of grease and oil build up will cause the rack (for the strike mechanism) not to work properly, but it can also deteriorate the teeth the the pinions and gears which is a huge concern. Most non-experience clock caretakers, just shoot oil and grease all over the entire clock thinking they are doing the clock a lot of good. Well give all that oil and grease a little while and it soon becomes grinding paste once the dirt sets in.

    Anyhow, since the clock is stopped, I would recommend taking the clock bushings and wheels out of the clock and degreasing while you are at it. You can get all of the old oil and grease out if the teeth of the wheels with a brass wire brush. I have been surprised at once I get the clock running again how the local gov'ts do not like for me to stop it again or at least for a long periods of time.

    Carefully document with pictures where the wheels and bushings go. This will give the clock a new found freedom and let the electric motors run freely.
    What part of NC are you in? I have family in NC and if you are near them, I might could give you a little help with some info and maybe some trouble shooting. I love to help getting a tower clock running again.
    Let me know if you need some help
    Thanks
    Daniel Jeffries
     
  5. David B Pendley

    David B Pendley Registered User
    NAWCC Business

    Aug 25, 2000
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    Hi Willis, I'm a member of the Carolina's Chapter 17 and over the years we've done or helped with several clock tower restorations. The Chapter in New Bern or Chapter 126 in Hendersonville have also done this. Contact the one nearest you or contact me and I'll get you in touch with someone close. Don't forget to do the "Spot a clock" listing also...Sounds like your in for an adventure...
    Carolina Chapter 17 web site www.nawcc-carolina17.org
     
  6. sullivanwb

    sullivanwb Registered User
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    Mar 17, 2009
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    Thanks to each of you for your input on the Howard clock I'm working with. I suspect I will be getting back in touch with you as things progress. Even though you all seem to recognize the model as a popular Howard product, I still don't know how to reference the clock. Does it carry a particular model number or name? Also, any recommendation for a non-flamable solvent for use in cleaning up the works?

    Thanks,

    Sullivan WB
     
  7. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    Mar 30, 2005
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    When I locate my Howard catalog reprint I can give a model etc. As far as cleaning, mineral spirits, which is flammable, but not having a low flash piont, is only fair in action, and slow to dry, also leaves a residue. What I use, is Gunk or NAPA carburetor cleaner. Use outdoors, with protective wear. It smells bad, can cause burns, but is really quick. Does need a rinse, which can be hot water, or mineral spirits. Then to finish cleaning, Barkeepers' Friend, along with NeverDull and sometimes really fine 600, 1200 sandpaper, along with tooth brushes and stainless and brass scratch brushes. And don't forget the elbow grease.

    The above is for small parts. To do the great wheels, winding drums, you're going to have to split the frame (you really need two people) and use a creative mix of everything above or none of the above.

    Hope this helps.
     
  8. sullivanwb

    sullivanwb Registered User
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    Mar 17, 2009
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    Tanks for those tips, Mr. Vasale; I'll look foward to the results from the Howard catalog. What I'm really hoping for with a model name or number is a line on where to locate some kind of technical drawaings and/or description so that I can learn how this clock works. As I said earlier, I am not a clock person and I don't want to do any damage.

    My initial cleaning job is going to be with the clock in place so that's why I want to minimize the fire hazard. I'll likely try all your suggestions in small amounts but with lots of the elbow grease -- that's probably the safest.

    Thanks again,

    SullivanWb
     
  9. doug sinclair

    doug sinclair Registered User

    Aug 27, 2000
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    WB,

    My copy of the 1923 Howard tower clock catalog doesn't give model numbers for any of the Howard tower clock movements which were available at that time. As to more technical detail regarding the clock, you might contact the librarian at NAWCC headquarters whose contact information is available on the NAWCC website.

    You mention that you are a watch person, and not a clock person. It might be a wise move to try to enlist the assistance of a knowledgeable clock person to assist with your investigations. This is a huge step to go from watches, to a tower clock. Speaking from experience, it is even quite a large step for a clock person to jump from ordinary clocks to tower clocks!

    Doug S.
     
  10. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    #10 gvasale, Apr 25, 2009
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2009
    The carburetor cleaner is the black liquid that gomes in gallon containers and costs $20+ a gallon. You need a tub to put it in using enough to cover the parts. So, you're looking at maybe 3-5 gallons. Use it outside, like I said. As far as disassembly, take out the time side first. the strike levers are easy then. when putting everything back, do the strike side first, and put in the output shaft (with the index) last, making sure to get the arm with the strike letoff pin in place. Before you take it apart, set the clock for 12 and take photos of the snail's position. This will aid you during re assembly.

    I just went through one like it. It sits in a tower where humidity is a problem. Rust was forming on the arbors in the time train. One was actually packed with rust until it couldn't turn; broke the gearset in the drive motor.

    This particular clock also needed work to the pivots on the lifting lever as they wore enevenly, resulting in the lever being lifted rather than partially rotating in its bushings. These bushings needed service too.

    Then the bell hammer suffered from the same ills. I have the hammer I took out. I put in a welded hammer to relace, of original Howard source, along with its brackets. Repaired brackets now have brass bushings.

    The strike lever on the clock. and the hammer both have shafts that are staked in the original condition. They cannot be repaired just by turning in a lathe because the lathe would need to be huge, not just big.

    A good machinist might be able to put in new ends, but its easier to cut out the old shaft and fit new steel. These shafts are not very round, look like :???: Easier to repair in the future too. Im sure red Locktite will be around for years.

    Maybe some photos later. Just not this weekend.
     
  11. Ray Fanchamps

    Ray Fanchamps Deceased
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    Aug 24, 2000
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    I don't have a catalog name or number but purchased this as a # 2 "Round top". Also referred to as "dome top" by others.

    This one is complete on the time side but has been electrified on the strike side. The strike is driven through the conventional strike train but the winding drum, fan assembly and associated drive wheel were removed and are history. I see some electrified clocks where these parts are still there but the time side is gone.............
    If you know where I might find these missing parts, winding drum, fan assembly and drive wheel please let me know.
    One was offered on ebay a few months back but was on the E coast and sold for more than I thought it would............

    FWIW short of repainting or complete restoration much of the work can be done removing the large removable bushings, no need to separate plates.
     

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  12. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    #12 gvasale, May 5, 2009
    Last edited: May 5, 2009
    Some photos. (coming soon... AOL has crapped out on me twice already trying to upload) Plenty of elbow grease used. No intention of recreating a showpiece.Object was to remove detremental buildup and restore functionality.
     

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  13. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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  14. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    repaired hammer and brackets:
     

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