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Westclox Big Ben Alarm Clock

lwalper

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I just got this clock at an auction site. Seller said it was "ticking" when it was listed, then, when packing noted that it was no longer ticking so gave me a really good deal (I paid the shipping). It's pretty obvious these clocks were never meant to be repaired, but everything looks pretty good inside -- needs cleaning and oil. My question -- How to let down the mainspring? I don't see a click mechanism -- more like a spring-wound clutch. Does anyone actually repair these things or is it destined for the bin?

winding-clutch.jpg
 

R. Croswell

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I have one with that type of movement. No ratchet wheel and click and one spring powers both time and alarm. I came to the conclusion that it was not intended to be repaired, but I am interested in what you discover. I kept it because it belonged to a now deceased family member. I gave it a sort of cleaning without taking it apart (not a recommended practice) and it ran OK. I don't usually run it but the last time I wound it still ran. There must be a way to service it for crazy people like us who can't accept no for an answer. What model is your clock? can we see front and back pictures?

RC
 

Mike Mall

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There are web sites dedicated to these, like this one.
I think luck is always involved in repair of these, due to the way they're designed.
 
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R. Croswell

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There are web sites dedicated to these, like this one.
I think luck is always involved in repair of these, due to the way they're designed.
Its been a long time since I worked on mine, but I have a note that there is an interesting arrangement that shuts off the alarm while the spring is still partly wound so the clock can continue to run after the alarm runs out.
 

Mike Mall

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Thinking back, I remembered how I've let these down.
I ran the alarm down as far as I could get it to go, even helping the escape a little toward the end. I then was able to hold a thumb and finger across the two gears on the drum, while removing the two screws that retain the drum arbor on the end. Then remove the drum clear of the wheels out the side.
 

lwalper

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I ran the alarm down as far as I could get it to go, even helping the escape a little toward the end. I then was able to hold a thumb and finger across the two gears on the drum, while removing the two screws that retain the drum arbor on the end. Then remove the drum clear of the wheels out the side.
That was my thinking -- got as far as removing the two screws and the retaining plate and then thought "maybe not:???:" -- and put it back together. Think I'll try that again. It doesn't look like there is much pressure on the spring at that degree of tension and being able to hold the great wheels without spinning anything else may be safe?:rolleyes:
 
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R. Croswell

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That was my thinking -- got as far as removing the two screws and the retaining plate and then thought "maybe not:???:" -- and put it back together. Think I'll try that again. It doesn't look like there is much pressure on the spring at that degree of tension and being able to hold the great wheels without spinning anything else may be safe?:rolleyes:
Some of these things have open lantern pinions, that is, one end of the trundles are embedded in some sort of pot metal and the other ends have no shroud and just stick out like prongs. If that main wheel gets out of hand and spins at all, it could wreck something so proceed with care.

RC
 

lwalper

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Thanks RC. Yeah, I noticed. Easy as she goes . . .
 

Swanicyouth

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I’ve worked on several alarm clocks recently, including a BB 1a. I kinda disagree, these things can easily be repaired - some of the parts are not the most robust - but there are tons of donor movements out there.

You can bush them, replace springs, and do hairspring work on them like anything else.

The way I let down a spring in the situation you are describing is to lock a wheel with a pencil or similar, loosen the plates a bit, & gently take out the pallet fork.

Let the spring down into the barrel in a controlled manner by holding an adjoining wheel. I know there are other ways to do it, but this was pretty easy to me.

Take good care of the hairspring - they are fragile, you want to remove the balance wheel first before you do anything & put
It somewhere safe. Don’t clean it with anything with water.
 
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shutterbug

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I'm opposed to dunk and swish cleaning, but I make an exception for alarm clocks. They are not worth disassembly and servicing, and in general have minimal wear. I have one I recently "cleaned" and oiled for a friend, and it's running good right now.
 
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roughbarked

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I'm opposed to dunk and swish cleaning, but I make an exception for alarm clocks. They are not worth disassembly and servicing, and in general have minimal wear. I have one I recently "cleaned" and oiled for a friend, and it's running good right now.
As an apprentice, was taught to take the balance out and do the Duncan Swish with this type of clock. Any clock that could be taken apart was taken apart. I recall a Big Ben that I had cut a new hook into the barrel wall three times. Was starting to run out of spare barrel wall.
 

Swanicyouth

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If they are pretty clean, yeah you can get away with not taking them apart. For whatever reason, I always get ones that have rust on the steel; hairspring / trundles, etc.. Od course also, if something is broken you need to take them apart. Luckily, some of the Big Bens you can replace the spring without taking the movement plates apart.

Ingraham, Ansonia, New Haven, Lux etc you need to separate the plates to fix anything.
 

Mike Mall

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I have repaired various alarm clocks, even a cheap Chinese plastic one, the Westclox have given me the most grief.
I have also repaired a Western Clock Co. clock, with the same lead pinions, made before the Big Ben was even around.
On Westcloox the challenges like rubber insulators that have deteriorated (million pieces everywhere), hairsprings that are painted instead of pinned in place, seized threads, seized hands, etc.. are what I was referring to as "needing luck."
 

Mike Mall

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The only reason I've repaired a few clocks is like Mt. Everest, "because it's there."
 

lwalper

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The movement actually looked pretty clean so, removed the balance, hairspring, mainspring, and stuck the whole thing in the hot US. Everything was spiffy clean and really didn't see much wear anywhere. Reassembled and still won't run. Looks like the EW has excess wear which allows the wheel to ride up and bind on the mating trundles as the wheel rotates. Mmmm - bad! These things sure have lots of end shake. All the wheels have nearly a full mm of loosey goosey
 

shutterbug

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That's when you have to decide whether it worth taking the next step. Maybe - if it's really old and/or has sentimental value.
 

Mike Mall

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Sounds like you have a parts donor for your next find.
Unless it needs an escape wheel :emoji_wink:
 

lwalper

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Sounds like you have a parts donor for your next find.
Unless it needs an escape wheel :emoji_wink:
Yep, it looks like a lot of good parts. It's not actually the EW with the problem, but the worn hole in the plate. I know they can probably be bushed, but I'm leary of using my reamers on that steel plate? No bueno. :confused:
 

Mike Mall

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Yep, it looks like a lot of good parts. It's not actually the EW with the problem, but the worn hole in the plate. I know they can probably be bushed, but I'm leary of using my reamers on that steel plate? No bueno. :confused:
You shouldn't risk a reamer on an experiment. But you can use standard drill bits on steel plates, in a drill press.
The link I posted earlier has a listing of the bushings they use on these.
With what you paid, it's not much of a risk to try. How much is the lesson worth?
Maybe you'll run into a steel plate Gilbert, or the like, in the future.
 

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