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Unsigned 18th Century Tall Case Clock

Lightwood House

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Jun 28, 2019
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I recently purchased a brass-dial tall case clock. it is in great condition, I believe in good original condition, case, dial and movement all looking good and original. Seat board and rub marks all line up and the fit in the hood opening is good.It is a 5 pillar plated movement, rack striking with incised rather than raised finned pillars. It has very nice wheatear edging around the arched dial, with female head-style spandrels. it is very well made, with a lot of refinement in the engraving and finishing of the dial and movement. It is in an. oak case. There are quite a few square slotted screws holding spandrels etc. to the dial. The front hood pillars are fluted replacements, but the back ones are original, and the front bases still remain beneath the replacement brass bases. The finials are later replacements, and the middle finial seems to be an old dinner bell placed on the top- but looks kind of cool nevertheless. I don't know if there was a caddy top originally, above the present top, or if it is an original domed top. There are side glass windows in the bonnet.
The top roundrel in the arch is inscribed "Tempus Fugit" but not sure it looks quite right. It seems to be hand cast but I am not sure if the style of engraving is correct, or if it replaces the original maker's name and place. It is the one thing about the clock that gives me pause. It has a shaft that is pinned to the dial rather than a bolt and nut.
I know that unsigned clocks were sometimes made to avoid non-masters paying a penalty for selling them in London. The quality is so nice (the spandrels are finished to perfection with no typical sloppiness, and the wheatear engraving looks almost 3 dimensional), that I was wondering if it could indeed be an unsigned London clock.
I am. adding photos below, and will add photos of the movement in a few days.
I am. writing to ask opinions of those familiar with this period of clock. I am. thinking 1720's, and maybe a little earlier if a London Clock .I know the wheat-ear edging is an early feature. My apologies about no photos of the movement. I will post those soon. Thanking you all in advance for any info. you might share. Cliff W

IMG_3542.jpeg IMG_3544.jpeg IMG_3420 5.jpeg IMG_3422 2.jpeg IMG_3551 2.jpeg IMG_3549.jpeg
 
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Mike Phelan

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Dec 17, 2003
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The top roundrel in the arch is inscribed "Tempus Fugit" but not sure it looks quite right. It seems to be hand cast but I am not sure if the style of engraving is correct, or if it replaces the original maker's name and place. It is the one thing about the clock that gives me pause. It has a shaft that is pinned to the dial rather than a bolt and nut.
British longcase clocks never used nuts on arbors.
I know that unsigned clocks were sometimes made to avoid non-masters paying a penalty for selling them in London. The quality is so nice (the spandrels are finished to perfection with no typical sloppiness, and the wheatear engraving looks almost 3 dimensional), that I was wondering if it could indeed be an unsigned London clock.
Quite possibly. I'd go for 1730 - 1750. Nice clock which will last forever. If it was much earlier it would have used count wheel striking.
 

jmclaugh

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Jun 1, 2006
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Nice clock, as you say the dial follows London styling. Woman's head spandrels date from the early 1700s and were very popular between 1730-40 which seems a reasonable period to date this clock to .
 

novicetimekeeper

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Jul 26, 2015
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I agree on the dating. Tempus Fugit definitely appears on 18th C clocks. If the dialplate has cutouts behind the chapter ring it suggests a northern clock and fashions lingered longer there.

As to countwheel vs rack, provincial makers adopted rack much earlier than most London makers, and it was invented in the 17thC so it appears in the provinces from late 17thC onwards. My earliest is around 1695-1700 (though that is internal rack, the earliest style)
 

Lightwood House

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Jun 28, 2019
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Thank you all- I have a couple of other questions. The door appears to be original, and is held in place with plain butt hinges, with no sign of any previous hinges. I know that strap hinges were also used early on, with the straps attached to the inside of the door. How early were butt hinges used on case doors?
Also, I replaced the later period minute hand, and although I am not aware of doing anything wrong, the hands no longer turn. The clock runs, second hand turns, and the clock strikes properly when the hands are turned manually. I assume the. "clutch" or whatever the proper term is that controls the hands is slipping. The shaft turns, but not the hands. How can I adjust this?
So far no one seems to question the "Tempus Fugit" roundel. It just seemed to me it might be in the "Too good to be true". catagory , with the Eagle, since it is almost a Cliche with modern tall case clocks. Great if it is original. Thanks!
 

Levi Hutchins

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Oct 21, 2012
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...So far no one seems to question the "Tempus Fugit" roundel. It just seemed to me it might be in the "Too good to be true". catagory , with the Eagle, since it is almost a Cliche with modern tall case clocks. Great if it is original. Thanks!
The idiosyncratic rendering of the bird may point to its "pre-conventional" authenticity.
 

Lightwood House

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Jun 28, 2019
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Thanks- That thought occurred to me as well. The early eagle depictions were often not the noble birds we are used to seeing today, but sometimes downright awkward and funky. Here is an example from one of our late 18th century fret carved mirrors. So the somewhat ungainly Tempus Fugit eagle on our clock would fit right in with that, as well as being charming in a folkish sort of way.

IMG_0036.jpeg
 
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Mike Phelan

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Dec 17, 2003
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I replaced the later period minute hand, and although I am not aware of doing anything wrong, the hands no longer turn. The clock runs, second hand turns, and the clock strikes properly when the hands are turned manually. I assume the. "clutch" or whatever the proper term is that controls the hands is slipping. The shaft turns, but not the hands. How can I adjust this?
Hi there,
On such a clock, the way that the hands allow you to turn them is that under the cannon pinion there should be an oval or triangular curved spring, and also a domed washer on the minute hand holding the centre arbor by a pin. This allows the hands to be turned manually.

As the cannon pinion will be free on the centre arbor otherwise, if any of these items is missing or wrongly fitted then the hands won't turn when the clock runs.
As you say the clock is running and striking OK and if you turn the hands manually and it strikes then all else must be OK.

HTH.
 
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Lightwood House

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Jun 28, 2019
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Thank you Mike for your info. I think I am beginning to understand the principle of the cannon pinion.Does the pin holding the domed washer and minute hand provide pressure to the spring under the cannon pinion which acts as a sort of clutch (I guess to avoid breakage, or for flexibility if the hands need to be adjusted)? I think that may be the problem, as the different thickness of the replacement hand did not make for a tight fit when the pin is inserted.
I love these clocks, and have learned quite a bit about them, but not so much how to fix minor issues.
 

Mike Phelan

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Dec 17, 2003
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West Yorkshire, England
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What you say is absolutely correct. Looks as if changing the washer caused the problem; maybe just a bit more of a curve on the washer under the cannon pinion will solve it.
 

Lightwood House

Registered User
Jun 28, 2019
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Hi Mike- Thanks- I figured things out- it was the domed washer which was too thin, so not enough friction behind it on the minute hand.
I am including more photos of the movement. There are domed collets on most of the wheels , but I do see something that looks later on the escape wheel, so might be a replacement or a repair. The fifth pillar is not visible in these photos. The spandrels are held in place with early square headed screws. Also, the front hood columns seem to be replacements, and don't match the back ones. The original wooden bases and capitals remain under the brass ones.The "fins" on the pillars are incised rather than raised. It seems like a nicely made clock to me.
I would appreciate any insights that any of you might have

IMG_3570.jpeg IMG_3568 2.jpeg IMG_3566.jpeg IMG_3562.jpeg
 
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