Unusual Vertical Tower Clock Mechanism

Discussion in 'Tower, Monumental & Street Clocks' started by Jim DuBois, Oct 18, 2017.

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  1. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    So, this beast surfaced a couple of weeks ago in Indiana in a basement. Not much known about it. It allegedly came out of a courthouse dated 1860. That said, it is much later than 1860 in my not so humble opinion. Why? It has ball bearings for a starter in all the shaft bearings from what I can see. There are no names to be seen in the castings and nothing on the setting dial. It being late, ball bearing, and vertical all make it a bit unusual. This is all that exists today. It was left in the house by a past homeowner so the current owner has no information whatsoever other than he wants it out of his basement and generally thinks it is worth more than some of us. I see no sign of country or origin in how it is made, but IMO it is certainly early 20th century. One of our learned brethren says post WWI and I have no reason to doubt that.... I would think it to be American based on where it is, and the general availability of tower clocks in the USA from 1860-1940. No need to import them back in those days...

    Anybody seen anything like this before? Thoughts as to maker? Country or origin?

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  2. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Wow! That is AMAZING!!! The ball bearings are certainly interesting, as well. Very strange and unique arrangement. How on earth did someone get a movement of that size down in that basement?!

    Thank you for sharing that. I really hope you can crack the mystery. I would love to know more!
     
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  3. gvasale

    gvasale Registered User
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    Walk in cellar. Could also be lens perspective making it look larger than it is.
     
  4. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I understand it is about 6 feet tall and the estimated weight is 400 pounds, but that is a friends guess, no more...he says it is easy access and he could have it out in short order by lifting it out of a nearby hatch...using his tractor hydraulic lift.....
     
  5. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Definitely curious to see what comes of this. Such a unique piece.
     
  6. BLKBEARD

    BLKBEARD Registered User

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    Where there's a will, there's a way. I'm in the heating service business and access a lot of basements. I see everything down there. Such as full size Bridgeport Milling Machines in the basements of homes with no access other than the basement stairs. When you ask the owner how the hell he got that in there? The typical answer is "I was much younger then"
     
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  7. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Any updates on this interesting movement?
     
  8. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I spoke with the fellow who located this clock a couple of days ago in an effort to buy it. It is in the basement of a house recently acquired by a fellow who does not need money. It appears as if I need to acquire a significant piece of "trade bait" of a type of scientific instrument he collects...I am not confident this will happen due to geography as well as his reluctance to appreciate cash....but work is still underway to trade for it...
     
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  9. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Good luck Jim! Would love to see this in good hands and running! Such a neat piece!
     
  10. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    what type of scientific instrument? (I collect them too)
     
  11. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    He is interested in early American survey equipment as well as some specialized stuff like an early Van DeGraaf machine, or an early Wimshurst generator and things like that. His interests are fairly sophisticated as is his current collection....I need to find something within a fair value of the tower clock, whatever that might be, yet interesting enough to set the hook.
     
  12. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Van de Graaf only invented it in 1929 so they don't really come very early. Wimshursts do but there are much earlier types of electrostatic generator I would have thought would be of more interest.

    I have a couple of Van de Graafs at home and more at work, but I fancy a decent Wimshurst. One went at an auction in Yorkshire for £160 recently but carriage would have been a bit of a nightmare with that auction house.
     
  13. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Ouch. That's a tough position to be in. Maybe you can let HIM do the pointing to something he may want, so you can get a better feel of what the clock is worth to him.
     
  14. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    The problem is if he sees something he wants he buys it. I need to find something that he has not seen but something he will want. I missed it a month or so ago on a 1820's American engrave surveyors transit by a named maker...he paid $1000 for it from a friend and it could have been mine as a middle man....and then traded to him. But, I waited too long. He would also be a good candidate for an early Edison motor, or something like this one below, of the whatever it is with the 2 eyepieces on is, or a very old nice well done version of Tesla Coil..... but I am quite hesitant to go spend a bunch of money on a guessing game.....so I need to figure out something else.....

    e8dfa12c01347b7205edfed14cc15ac1.jpg Lot_12181.jpg
     
  15. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    That Edison motor is awesome! I need one of those in my life! (hitting myself in the head with a 2x4) Wait. No I don't! HAHA
     
  16. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    it's a prism spectrometer
     
  17. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I guess I knew that at one time or another. I owned a more simple version for a few days 30+ years ago
     
  18. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    We had one in the back of a cupboard at work hadn't neen used for decades, I had one at home. Last year they suddenly reappeared in the new curriculum, we appear to be going backwards.
     
  19. pidragos

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    if this is a clock, then it is very interesting. I have seen such vertical arrangements in UK, in few church towers. But those clocks were much older...
    I may ask to my friends in UK, if I am allowed to distribute the pictures
     
  20. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Sure, feel free to use the photos as you see fit. The local "legend" around this clock says it was installed in the town courthouse when it was built in 1860. That seems quite unlikely given we see it has ball bearing races in some of the bearing points, and the style of the wheels themselves seem a bit later in style and tooth patterns and the like. Several of us who are pretty well into American tower clocks have never seen anything quite like this clock. And yes, we are aware of the vertical clocks built much earlier in Europe / England.....wood frames most often I recall?
     
  21. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Jim,
    I've got a couple feelers out for you also. The reaction so far has been, "what is that?!"
     
  22. pidragos

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    I have 2 feedback from UK already, from 2 restaurateurs, like "very interesting" and "not English" . I will come back with news...
     
  23. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I have shared the photos both here and with the NAWCC Tower Clock members, with no one so far having seen such a clock previously. And those folks have seen literally thousands of tower clocks over the years. A far as we know this is a previously undocumented version of tower clock. And our initial thinking is it is most likely American in origin. But, since we don't have any further information all bets are off as to origin, date of manufacture, who made it, where it has been...etc....it is in rural Indiana and thought to be in that area for the last 100 years or more. While ball bearings are at least an 18th century invention they didn't come into widespread use in industry in the US until about 1900. And we can see ball bearings in this clock in several places. So, confusion continues...
     
  24. pidragos

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    Chris McKay (restorer, author and BHI collaborator):
    "Dragos,
    No, I am sure it is not English. Looks like a one-off made by an engineering company to me. Difficult to date, I would think pre-WW1. Ball races appeared in engineering around the 1880s.

    Hope this helps,
    Chris"

    Keith Scobie-Youngs:
    "Very interesting clock and not a design you see that often in the UK. The only example I know of from a similar period is a clock made by Thomas Cooke of York for Frodshams. I will try to dig out some photos.
    You do come across wooden framed turret clocks from the late 1600 to early 1700’s that are called door frame clocks with one train above the other, again I will try and find some photos for you.
    Best wishes
    Keith
    Keith Scobie-Youngs FBHI, ACR.
    Cumbria Clock Company Ltd
    Dacre, Penrith, Cumbria. CA11 0HL
    Tel: 017684 86933
    www.clockmaker.co.uk"
     
  25. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    Here are a few bad scans of some early English version vertical tower clocks, just FYI

    standing tower clock 6.jpg standing tower clock 7.jpg standing tower clock 8.jpg standing tower clock 9.jpg standing tower clock 10.jpg
     
  26. pidragos

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    I just remember. here are few pictures taken by myself in UK in 2015, during my short trip together with Chris McKay and Brian Sparks to a nice old church...

    WP_20151012_15_33_06_Pro.jpg WP_20151012_15_33_46_Pro.jpg WP_20151012_15_34_21_Pro.jpg WP_20151012_15_35_37_Pro.jpg WP_20151012_15_35_53_Pro.jpg WP_20151012_15_36_07_Pro.jpg WP_20151012_15_40_35_Pro.jpg
     
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  27. FDelGreco

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    Dragos:

    That clock in your last post -- partially burned but repaired -- is a 16th century clock in St. John's church. I visited that church in 2000.

    Frank
     
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  28. pidragos

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    Indeed, Frank... Church of St John the Baptist, Aston Cantlow Warwickshire. William Shakespeare 's mother was baptized here and finally parents of W. Shakespeare got married here.
    The clock was restored and now strikes the hour on the tenor bell.
     
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  29. BLKBEARD

    BLKBEARD Registered User

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    Just a thought..............
    Is this definitely a clock? Or could it be some type of a weight driven drive for some type of industrial application designed to produce a specific consistent reliable speed?
    I only ask because it seems that none of the Tower Clock Gurus have ever seen one like it before.

    There are many non-clock devises in the world that were driven by a Clock-Works mechanism. One that comes to mind is the Roasting Jack. A Clock-Works rotisserie for turning meat in front of an open hearth fireplace.

    You guys are the Tower Clock Experts, I just enjoy following your efforts on these fascinating old relics.
     
  30. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    A time and strike roasting jack? I can't think of any use of a timing device that has a strike, it does have a snail that can be seen in one of the photos. It seems the rack is entirely missing, as are a number of other parts such as the hammer lift mechanism and the like. It does have a solid escape wheel which seems strange as that is a great place to spoke wheels and reduce inertia.
     
  31. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Besides the vertical construction of this clock, I would think the ball bearing pivots would a clue. Are there any other clocks from the early to mid 1900's that used ball bearings of this fashion? Are there any other unique pieces that may give a clue as to the maker? The escapement wheel appears to be somewhat standard, as does the strike side. Is there anything else that seems really unique?
     
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  32. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I am not aware of a single tower clock in the US that was originally made with ball bearings in the train. Even the last production clocks I, and others report, from Howard and Thomas did not have ball bearings in their trains. As to unique features, the vertical frame of this clock is unique in my thinking for an American clock. It also apparently uses a weight on a rod for maintaining power, something used in English clocks centuries ago....not something frequently seen in American tower clocks. Harrison maintaining power was the solution for most tower clock companies in America for the last 150+ years. From the little we can see of this movement it appears the ball bearing are original as there is no apparent way to mount the typical flange sleeve bearings seen in many tower clocks, and the casting around the bearings suggest the frames were cast for these bearings....and the solid escape wheel is not a normal feature of most tower clocks....unique? No, but highly uncommon....and it appears the tooth profile of the train gears are involute vs more traditional forms for tower clocks.
     
  33. pidragos

    pidragos Registered User
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    so it might be a mechanism made by an engineering company with a purpose of something. maybe naval or railway or...?
    I have seen staff similar to this used to move some dams to release water, but not with barrels and this looks like it has a leading off rod. I do not see too many levers to release something or block...
    It might be used to pull or lift something!? this is my feeling
     
  34. scootermcrad

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    Very interesting. When did involute profiles start showing up in clocks and/or other machines? A tooth profile of that design seems MUCH later. Mid 1900's and up?? Maybe this was simply a one-off clock for demonstrational purposes? Is there any kind of trail to be explored as to who may have owned it last?

    Would seem strange that it would be used as anything other than a clock, with a strike train like that.

    On a side note. I've always wondered what the long term repercussions would be from using a set of sealed ball or roller bearings as pivot points.
     
  35. Jim DuBois

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    Involute gearing came into frequent use in the late 19th century. Involute gears are tighter fitting than cycloidal and are much less tolerant of dirt and grit. Involute gear pairs have much less backlash than do cycloidal gears as well. A number of very accurate clocks have been made using involute gearing but it not widely used in clockmaking even today. Generally involute gear trains require more precise machining and more accurate center to center distances and the like. Simply put, involute gearing is an extremely poor idea for tower clocks....pigeon dung, and blowing about dirt and grit, are good reasons why the tight tolerances are major flaws for this purpose.

    Regards ball bearings, sealed ball bearings would be the preferred style for tower clock use. In the subject movement they are open ball bearings, the absolute worst choice for this use....see pigeon dung, blown about grit etc....A shielded bearing might be a good compromise and use less energy than sealed ball bearings while having much more protection for the race than open construction. As mentioned previously this clock carries the local alleged history of being installed in the local court house when the court house was built in 1860. If I am able to either visit this clock or even better acquire it I will chase those details further. Those claims seem a bit incorrect....
     
  36. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    OOPS! I missed that detail. Sorry for having you repeat it. Well, that's good news, at least.
     
  37. scootermcrad

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    I've gotta' bump this back up. I've been wondering about this mystery. Any updates, Jim?
     
  38. Jim DuBois

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    Sadly, the opportunity to grab this one was lost. The owner, who acquired the ownership by accident when he bought the property, has decided he MAY donate it to the local historical society as it "should stay in the community". The local historical society has no room for it and does not seem to be very interested in it from the very little we have been able to learn. So, it remains where it is, basement of an empty house, and we have no access to it these days so I can't get more photos or research it further. I made another attempt to either buy or research it further this summer, all to no avail....
     
  39. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Oh no! Well, please don't give up!

    If the owner insists on donating it, and won't sell it, and the local historical society can't take it, then maybe it can go to NAWCC? Raise a little money for shipping to get it to PA? Either way, I would hope that it could get into good hands. Good luck! Maybe a small suitcase of greenbacks could be enticing?? HA! In all seriousness, I'm hoping the best for this situation. We've had too many unique pieces destroyed already. This one is very interesting!
     
  40. jjsantos

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    Late to this thread, but it reminded me of this clock that Don Lathrop resurrected a few years back. It's vertical, and was all wood (new wood when Lathrop rebuilt it AND motorized it). By John Hawting of Oxford in 1762. No ball bearings tho. ;)

    Still ticking, but the church doesn't know what to do with it as well!

    The First Church Clock
     
  41. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Jim,
    Any news on what happened to this clock? I can't stop thinking about this mystery machine!
     
  42. Jim DuBois

    Jim DuBois Registered User
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    I approached my contact on this find a couple of months ago. He has given up on it. The owner is not interested in selling it and is not interested in letting one or more of us inspect it either.
     
  43. scootermcrad

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    Dang... what a shame. Hope something good eventually comes from it.
     

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