Where to Start? Clock Construction for Dummies

Discussion in 'Clock Construction' started by scootermcrad, Jul 17, 2017.

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  1. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    #1 scootermcrad, Jul 17, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
    Hey everyone! I'll apologize up front for this being a bit long, but hang with me for a bit.

    I've been interested in skeleton and tower clocks for many years now, thanks to Mark Frank opening up his home to me many years ago to view his collection. It absolutely blew me away and I'll say it pretty much ruined me. HA! (yes I'm blaming you, Mark, a little bit :D).

    I'm a mechanical design engineer by trade and since I was a kid have probably destroyed many clocks just to look at them without even the thought of reassembling them, and later in life I grew more and more interested in early machines and their restoration. The eye candy of large clocks, especially tower clocks, were a natural love for me and a no-brainer. Love at first sight, if you will! Functional art in the machine.

    In the last few years I've looked at several movements to purchase and restore, but hadn't found a good fit, nor were they within my price range (and basically over-priced, for that matter). Feeling more and more challenged by my lack of knowledge I decided to simply get involved. I'm volunteering my time to restore a clock in our community and learning as much as I can from a gentleman in Ohio who will be helping with the restoration. But I'm still feeling a bit overwhelmed with all there is to know about clock design and the various movements built throughout history.

    I need some help here. First off, there is some INCREDIBLE information on this forum and joining NAWCC was a great first step to getting serious about learning all I can. I find that a lot of the information is simply over my head, at the moment. I really want to take a step back. Please recommend some good books, websites, threads or papers for clock construction. References for various clock movement types would be great, so I can study them, and anything else with general design and layouts of movements, escapements, etc. I would LOVE to feel educated on Remontoire power assemblies, and designing strike assemblies, as well.

    I would love to be able to ultimately design and build my own movement, but even accurately recreating larger skeleton, wood movements, and of course tower movements is well within my interest level. I've even been collecting (and restoring) early machining tools for my various hobby interests and feel they would be very adaptable to anything clock related.

    Thank you for reading through this huge pile of words and thank you for any help and suggestions you might have for someone that is eager to learn and eager to tinker.

    Thanks!
    Scott
     
  2. Phil Burman

    Phil Burman Registered User

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  3. Allan Wolff

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    Hi Scott,
    Sounds like you have been bitten by the clock building bug! Good for you.

    The Rawlings book that Phil recommended will give you a good dose of theory that will help you to design your clocks correctly. A different type of book that will provide a wealth of knowledge is the "How to Build" construction books that have been written by many clock builders before you. They will provide dimensioned drawings and the tooling required to build each part. These books also contain details on the machining techniques and materials to be used. Check out Ian T. Cobb's website for an extensive list of clock construction books. They are located in England so shipping to the States may be high. I only refer you to the Cobb website because of the variety of book he carries. Many of these books are available from other sources, including the NAWCC lending library. As a NAWCC member, you pay only a small shipping fee to borrow books from the library. After building several clocks from these books and equipping your shop in the process, you will be better prepared to advance into designing your own.
    Good luck on your clockmakng adventure,
    Allan
     
  4. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    #4 scootermcrad, Jul 18, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
    Yesterday I blew up Amazon a bit and ordered a handful of books:
    "Wheel and Pinion Cutting", by J. Malcolm Wild FBHI
    "Clock Design and Construction", by Laurie Penman
    "Making Clocks", part of the Workshop Practice Series (#33)
    "Making Wooden Gear Clocks" was super on sale and are definitely a topic of interest for me

    Also picked up some additional books from the Workshop Practice Series related to machining small bits. Thought they might be good references to have around anyway.

    Excellent! Ordered it. Thank you!
     
  5. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Wow! Now that is quite an extensive of list of neat projects! Thank you!

    I think more than anything I want to have a good understanding before starting to build anything. The theory and design part is equally as interesting to me as the execution and beauty that comes from hand-building these machines. I have a ways to go to learn my machines as well. I'm very comfortable with my Vertical mill and just lack tooling more than anything, but admittedly I have a lot to learn on my lathes and new to me B.C. Ames Horizontal mill. All fun stuff!

    I'm also planning on laying quite a few out in CAD just to get keep the hands-on learning going. I piddle all day long with SolidWorks, so it's another medium for me to tinker.

    Keep the suggestions coming, everyone! THANK YOU!!!
     
  6. jhe.1973

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    Hi Scott,

    Welcome to the asylum, I mean forum. Yeah, that's it....forum.:whistle:

    I found Donald deCarle's book, "Practical Clock Repairing" very helpful in the beginning because he takes the reader through the steps of building a fusee clock movement from scratch along with the chapters on repair.

    I would also suggest taking a look at, and perhaps following, the Home Shop Machinist forum to pick up information about machining:

    http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net/forums/3-General

    I have found an amazing array of knowledge and experience there that most of the members share quickly and freely.

    Glad to see you here and I hope that you enjoy yourself on your journey.
     
  7. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Hey, thank you so much for the recommendations. I appreciate it!

    I'll check out that forum. I hadn't seen that one. Thank you! Another forum I'm familiar with is, "Home Model Engine Machinist".

    http://www.homemodelenginemachinist.com/

    HMEM touches on a lot of tasks that transfer over to clock building and they are generally open to these discussions, where many other machinist forums don't want anything to do with "small part" machining. (which I find odd)

    Great stuff!

    With Tower/Turret clocks being my biggest interest, are there any early books worthy of searching the universe for? Obviously they would be pre WWII books, and more likely pre-1900's books, but maybe there is something out there, or no? I have many catalogs, the popular book on early American Tower Clocks, the Turret Clock Keepers books, and a couple downloadable manuscripts from Mark Frank on tower clocks, but that's about all I've seen.

    Thanks again! Tons of questions that I don't even know I have, yet. HA!
     
  8. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Having worked in a few shops, I have found that some talented craftsmen seem to let their egos get in the way of helping others. I suspect that many other crafts have the same dynamic. I feel that this forum and HSM are run very well so that they do not get the prima donna effect.

    Quickly grabbed off the Net:

    "PRIMA DONNA....................
    a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance.
    synonyms: ego, self-important person, his nibs, temperamental person, princess, diva, pooh-bah; informal drama queen"

    :chuckling:

    I had not heard of HMEM and it appears to be worth looking into. Thanks for the tip!

    Possibly Jim DuBois can check in here with help on tower clocks. He is quite knowledgeable, does some really great work and has much more experience than I do in this area. I just do not know how busy he is.

    After extensively helping to make the Joseph Ives presentation at our last National a success he might be unwinding on some tropical island somewhere. :whistle:

    IIRC, there is a NAWCC chapter just for tower clocks but that is about all I know. If there is one, it might be another resource for you.
     
  9. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    "...unwinding on some tropical island somewhere." I see what you did there. Clock humor... ;)

    Thanks for all that and I'll definitely take a closer look at that machinist forum.

    I'll also see if I can find said NAWCC Tower Clock Chapter.

    THANK YOU!

    P.S. This stuff is really addicting. The books I received on wheel and gear cutting are very consuming. HA!
     
  10. jhe.1973

    jhe.1973 Registered User
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    Oh boy I guess I really am getting old, I missed that pun and I am the one that posted it!

    You are quite welcome and yep, it is addicting to a few of us. The rest of society just shakes its collective head.

    :screwball:
     
  11. novicetimekeeper

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  12. tok-tokkie

    tok-tokkie Registered User

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    A classic book is Grimthorp's "A Rudimentary Treatise on Clocks, Watches & Bells for Public Purposes". Grimthorpe was the designer of the Westminster Clock (aka Big Ben). It is a marvelously didactically written book but glosses over the layout of the train but covers escape mechanisms very thoroughly & mathematically. It is available as a Google scan & also through The Gutembourg Project.
     
  13. Paul Madden

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    Hello Scott,

    I'm also very new to clock construction, and just like you eagerly reading all I can. It seems like the other members have put you on the right track regarding books, but I can add a few more that may be of interest to you.

    1) Practical Clock Escapements by Laurie Penman is an excellent book, and could be considered a companion book to his Clock Design and Construction.

    2) The Clock and Watchmakers Guide to gear Cutting by Robert D. Porter

    3) The Modern Clock by Ward Goodrich

    These three books could be a useful addition to your library.

    Scott, what I can say from my own experience is that no single book will give you everything you need, and also the authors style may not necessarily suit you, but by reading several books on the same topic you can slowly develop your understanding.

    Also, don't be disheartened if you hit a brick wall. If you find yourself blocked on a particular subject, start reading a different subject.

    I am in a cycle of studying gear cutting, pendulum theory and escapements. When I find myself blocked on gear cutting, I put it aside, and read about pendulums, etc. Then at some point I begin reading about gear cutting again.

    I have found that this way I stay motivated, and increase my knowledge slowly over several subjects. It beats getting disheartened.

    Finally, I can say that the more you learn the more you will want to learn because clock making is a beautiful life-long interest.

    My particular interest is skeleton table clocks and weight driven regulators. If you are new to this forum, you should read the posts by Allan Wolff on his Pin Wheel Skeleton Clock. This was actually the post that started everything for me and the reason I joined the NAWCC!

    For some additional inspiration, you should search for Carlo G. Croce on YouTube. He is an Italian gentlemen who designs and constructs fabulous table skeleton clocks.

    I wish you all the best Scott, and many happy hours of learning and building. You are certainly among friends here on this forum!

    Paul.
     
  14. FDelGreco

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    Scott:

    For your first clock, are you interested in designing a clock movement from scratch, or are you interested in reproducing a movement – such as a tower clock – from drawings? The latter is much easier, knowing that if you do it correctly, the clock will work. If so, there are some measured drawings for woodworks tower clocks available.

    Frank
     
  15. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Yes! This is a great one. I have it. Thank you!

    Excellent! I will look at this one too. I'm loving that some of these books really cover the math to help with the design end.

    Hi Frank! I would definitely like to reproduce something big (probably 1/2 scale) as a first round exercise. As I'm studying our A.S. Hotchkiss, I want to understand why things were built the way they were built, so when it comes time to actually build I understand where I need to compensate for scale and where I need to think for myself and design my way into proper component sizes. I'll definitely take a look at the woodworks tower clock. I had heard of this one and have been thinking about it. Thanks Frank!

    I have a little wooden clock kit that I've been sitting on for years that I need to build. The reason I haven't built it, is because I want to understand what's going on instead of just building it like an erector set.
     
  16. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    This is great info and I know exactly where you are coming from! Sometimes I start reading about a particular subject and it's like it goes in one eyeball and out my nose, or something. HA! But that is good advice for sure.

    Thank you for the references and recommended search topics. I agree about the books, too. They all approach the subject a different way, different terms/vocabulary, and different contents. I'm enjoying just trying to build up a pile so I can pick and choose what works and that I can apply to what I'm trying to learn.

    Thanks Paul!
     
  17. FDelGreco

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    Scott:

    If you are looking to make a 1/2 scale woodworks tower clock, you might be interested in a half-scale Samuel Terry clock. The original, made in the mid-19th century, is shown below and now sits in the American Clock & Watch museum. It is 44 inches long, time and strike with rack striking.

    In 1988, a member was allowed to measure the clock and made about 6 dozen detailed drawings -- one for each part -- in order to make an accurate half-scale reproduction. The prints used to be available from Ward Francillon for the cost of the printing. At least three of those clocks were made by members.

    I have scanned all those drawings and have them on a CD. The half-scale clock is about 22" long by about 12" deep. Maple frame, cherry wheels, and lignum vitae bearing blocks, as shown below. If you are interested in making this clock, PM me your full name and address and I will send a CD.

    Frank
     

    Attached Files:

  18. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Hi Frank,

    That is a very cool project, right there! I appreciate the generous offer. I will send you a PM. I appreciate the help!

    Scott
     
  19. scootermcrad

    scootermcrad Registered User
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    Can anyone recommend a good source for new and/or used tooling for wheel and pinion construction? Seems I'm going to need to start collecting a few different types of gear cutters.

    How about materials? Seems there are some pretty unique brass types that are preferred for wheel construction.

    Learning a ton! Thanks again, everyone!
     
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