Tips on putting plates together without breaking pivots?

Discussion in 'Watch Repair' started by rstl99, Jun 8, 2017.

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  1. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Another frustrating and humbling step in my journey to learn watch repair as a hobby.
    I picked up a couple of months ago a nice condition English lever pocket watch and case which was sold as non-working.
    A couple of days ago, I took it apart and ran it through my cleaning machine.
    All looked good when I inspected the parts, all pivots looked good, pivot holes in the plates (not jewelled, this was not a high end watch) looked good and round.
    I was looking forward to putting it back together and maybe get a nice runner (silver case, dial and hands are all in excellent condition).
    I decide to calmly try to reassemble it today. Put the lever, escapement wheel, and three train wheels in the full plate, and then try to carefully insert the plate on top. Some binding occurs at one of the 4 posts, and then the top plate settles in on one side. When I look between the plates, I notice the lever is cockeyed. Take everything apart, and sure enough, the bottom pivot of the lever is broken in the hole. Darn....

    I've taken apart and put back together a couple of movements in the past, but have broken pivots on a couple occasions, which is never fun. I tried to be careful but found the plates on this watch a bit binding, and should likely have addressed that before trying to press the plate on top of the wheels.

    I'm trying to learn lessons from this frustrating experience (putting aside whether I'll ever be able to repair the lever pivot or find a replacement), so am asking folks here for any tips on how to put plates back together and ensure that pivots wind up in the right place without breaking anything. Obviously, there may be easier movements to learn on than one like this, for starters...

    Some things I can think of that I'd try to do different:
    1. make sure one is rested before tackling this
    2. ensure good lighting and comfortable working height
    3. ensure appropriate eye magnification to see what's going on between the plates
    4. ensure that posts aren't binding between the plates
    5. :???:

    Thanks

    Photos: two plates coming apart for cleaning; all parts cleaned; broken pivot 307161.jpg 307162.jpg 307163.jpg
     
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  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Robert,

    Numbers 1 to 4 are all good. Number 5 is to put the watch together on the top plate (in other words upside down) so that the lever is safely inside the potence. Number 6 is to hold the plates together with light rubber bands, which will apply enough pressure without risking any pivots which aren't properly located yet.

    The picture is a quarter repeater which has even more pivots to locate!

    Regards,

    Graham

    DSCF4485.jpg
     
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  3. richiec

    richiec Registered User
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    If you are adept enough, light finger pressure works but it takes practice to not cock the plates with the pivots in them. Don't think I ever used rubber bands. Nice idea.
     
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  4. GeneJockey

    GeneJockey Registered User
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    Definitely put the watch together on the top plate, if you're doing a full-plate watch!

    My other observation is that unless there's a problem with the posts, or steady pins binding in their holes, once all the pivots are aligned the plate will noticeably drop into place.
     
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  5. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    This watch design is more difficult for the beginner. It all hinges on the pallets. Because the fork of the pallets must be installed over the subplate that the bottom pivot of the balanceand at the same time the pivots need to be in their holes. The English designer made this watch to have the pallets go in before the escape wheel lines up.
     
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  6. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    #6 rstl99, Jun 8, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2017
    Thanks everyone for your tips and advice!
    Yes, I had a feeling as I was putting the wheels in and the lever that this might not be an easy watch to grow some confidence on. It's a shame because the watch is very attractive in all ways, and I saw no reason why it shouldn't work well after a good cleaning and oiling.
    Oh well, maybe I'll get a chance to make a pallet staff for it when I get my skills up on my "new" turns... ;)
    Add another one to the pile of future projects.
    I'm going to take apart and put back together a couple of cheap swiss movements (with the separate bridges for each wheel) to restore what little confidence I used to have... ;)

    Really, I had less trouble with a couple of fusée verge watches I took apart and put back together. I find those old watches more forgiving of amateur hands in some way, or maybe I was just lucky!

    Anyway, I'll remember the top plate trick!!
    Best regards,
    --Robert
     
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  7. Ticktinker

    Ticktinker Registered User

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    I have seen a number of posts of this issue,
    Some mention using a bit of rodico to stand the pallet upright.
     
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  8. Dave Coatsworth

    Dave Coatsworth Senior Administrator
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    I use the Rodico trick. Just finished using it on a model '57, in fact.
     
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  9. roughbarked

    roughbarked Registered User

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    #9 roughbarked, Jun 10, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017
    I'd be lost without a bit of rodico at hand. It is the perfect accompaniment.
     
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  10. Skutt50

    Skutt50 Registered User

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    I sometimes also use Rodic to hold the pallets but I still assemble upside down!
     
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  11. Bila

    Bila Registered User
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    If you use Rodico why assemble upside down??
     
  12. Skutt50

    Skutt50 Registered User

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    Because even if you assemble upside down some pallets have a tendency to tilt, more so than the rest of the gear train. A small piece of Rodico makes it easier to fit the pallets in place.
     
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  13. Harvey Mintz

    Harvey Mintz Registered User
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    I've said this before, and I guess I have to say it again: I don't like using rodico for this because it often leaves a small amount of Rodico behind on the pallet fork, which can have an adverse affect on the running of the watch.

    I have fashioned a small clip that allows me to position the pallet fork properly in the top plate and then turn it over to assemble allong with the rest of the movement on the pillar plate. Once everything is aligned and a screw or 2 is tightened, you just slide the clip off the edge of the movement. Obviously, the clip should be made without sharp edges that can scratch the plate (I use a length of old mainspring with the edges softened. A plastic clip would also work well). I put a V in the long end, and that captures the arbor of the fork to hold it in place.

    I read about this a long time ago (somewhere) and have been doing it this way for a long time - never broke a lower pallet fork pivot after making the clip.
     
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  14. Ticktinker

    Ticktinker Registered User

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    I have used a bit of fishing line strung through the potence opening, taking care to make it just the right amount of tension, so as not to damage a pivot. Assembling upside down as some others do.
    Just a granny knot (half of a square knot) does this for me.
    Dave.
     
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  15. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Wow great tips (rodico, clip, fishing line)! Nest time I tackle a PW reassembly I'll be much better prepared with tips and technique, and hopefully come out with all pivots unscathed! :)
    (Wish I could picture that clip in my mind, Harvey... ;)
    cheers
    --Robert
     
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  16. Harvey Mintz

    Harvey Mintz Registered User
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    No need to wonder, because here are a couple of pictures:
    307522.jpg

    Total length is about .8 inch.

    You gbetit to bend 180 degrees by heating it red hot (a cigarette lighter will supply sufficient heat) and then doubling it over. Heat the longer end and let it cool so youcan cut the V shape in it with a file. Soften the edges (with fine emory) to prevent scratching the plates.

    Or, find a similarly shape plastic clip and use that.

    The spring action doesn't need to be strong (it probably works better when the spring action is weak). Just put the pallet fork into the potence with the pivot in the hole, then put the clip on so the slight spring action holds the pivot in the hole. Assemble the rest of the movement on the dial plate, then turn the top plate (with pallet fork) over and put it together. Make sure you get all the pivots into the holes they belong in, using slight pressure on the plate (either with a finger in a finger cot, or with a wooden stick (you could use your finger directly, but it will leave a finger print, which will eventually permanently mark the plate). Put a couple of plate screws in, then pull the clip off. 307521.jpg

    307522.jpg
     
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  17. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Wonderful, thank you Harvey!!! The photos and description of making and operating the tool are very clear. Regards.
     
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  18. Berry Greene

    Berry Greene Registered User

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    Its actually rather uplifting to read of others endeavours and their tricks. I find the tip 1) "Be rested before tackling this" has sensible a ring to it. I say its my age that makes this so necessary! I can't remember ever breaking a pivot during reassembly but I have broken a balance stem taking it apart. Bad handling was to blame. This can be a job of great patience and teasing. Anxiety is the enemy. Its a challenge as a hobby and collector and I take my hat off to those who made or make a living out of it. Nevertheless, I have the time to indulge where common sense would dictate otherwise.
    Thanks everyone. Good thread.
     
  19. Rob P.

    Rob P. Registered User

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    While I do assemble full plates upside down, I never use any pressure on the plates while getting the pivots in place.

    If you look carefully you'll see that each gear is different in overall length. Not much, but just enough that there's an order to putting them into their pivot holes. As you do each one, the plate drops noticeably and you can hear it click. Check the pivot hole to be sure and then move on to the next "tallest" one.

    Never needed to use Rodico or anything for the pallet fork this way.
     
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  20. Berry Greene

    Berry Greene Registered User

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    Thank you Rob. I don't usually either and I agree slightly different heights. I start with the heavy ones and when T1, T2 T3 in place (usually) I work towards the EW & lever. I also try to tease the located pivots to be more central between the plates as they wont come out if T4 etc wants to lift it slightly. I use wooden sticks to tease the shafts and pivots and absolutely no plate pressure. I usually put one or two nuts or screws on loosely just to prevent the plate popping off anywhere. Its not a bad idea to check the plates slide on to their posts easily before you start. This system works well with patience, However,.......,
    I had a device here once that would just not play my game and I ended up with Rodico everywhere. I was oblivious as to whether anyone else did it this way and I absolutely agree it can, (does), leave traces of itself unless you're lucky or careful. You can use another piece to help clean it off to an extent, but surely its best not to use it at all. In the end I am not precious about methods. A way to get a result is mostly good enough for me.
    I have resisted so far mentioning those movements that allow you to reassemble wheels upside down. Have you not done that - maybe in a chime train? The most confusing trick is the "extra" wheel. Work alone to avoid this prank. :<))
    This is the first time I have found a thread dealing with this very important part of re-assembly. Thanks everyone. Great stuff here. Rgds, BerryG
     

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