Masive discovery thats completely exciting and da vince code

Ok so I may have oversold in in the title but Im going to be honest with you, I cried when I made this discovery. Genuinely. Tears welling up in my eyes. Heres the story.

I got called this morning, (by the way I am writing this immediately after the event and am still pumped about it), by a 90 year old woman with several clocks. I was expecting to pick up a couple for repair and there was nothing particularly special about the call as far as I was concerned.

On entering the residence I was duly greeted and gagged myself with a face mask that I hate wearing because its now not really that necessary and the chances of meeting anyone with covid are remote in my region, Essex. Anyway, with steaming glasses we proceeded to go over the clocks. The first one was a novelty cuckoo with a coffin movement made for about 8 sheckels or whatever currency they were using at the time of its manufacture. An awful clock to fix because the cases are glued on these units on the assumption that once it was worn out nobody would consider a fix so why make the movement removable. I have had three of these in a row which I have taken on because I take on anything and its about how much the clock means to people, not its quality. But it hasnt been profitable or fun. Hacking away at 70 year old glue on matchwood while maintaining the integrity of the joins for reassembly is almost impossible meaning B&*$% woodwork has to be done on top of fixing a movement that has no equal for bad transient quality before failure.

The woman was 90 years old. She loved the clock. I had to get it going in the minimum possible time without taking it away. So I cleaned it out with a washing brush, bent a few wires to allow for oxidation and stiffness, gave it an oil and….it worked. Even I was surprised.

Then the next clock. This is where it gets interesting. What she showed me was a completely original museum condition mantle clock of medium to high quality from the deco era. Here it is.

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I have a good knowledge of Antiques which is why I work from an antiques centre. This knowledge has been considerably added to over the years of working with clocks because examples date back to the 16th century and the clock and case evolved over the decades of the centuries in line with the styles of the time. So, if you know what a clock from 1700 looks like then its pretty easy to spot other items like tables or chairs that share the same styling. Equally if you are looking at antiques with any techinical aspect, they will reflect the manufacturing methods of clocks at the time so you are able to date and identify via that association.

The clock in the photo is clearly from the Deco period and there is a hidden reference in the design. You see the deco period is defined as from 1910 onwards to the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925. 3 Years earlier Howard Carter had discovered the Tomb of Tutankahmun and this ploughed into the deco design of the time creating a vogue for a new kind of egyptian influenced design in what one might call the “deco movement”.

Normally the view of the antiques trade is that the best deco peices are those that cover the transitional period between the bezier curves of Noveau and the pleasantly balanced dramatic lines of hard core art deco peices. Beautifully svelt posed women in 20s dresses standing on a line formed deco plinth – the best of both worlds; the boimorphic and the modernist. This clock has a little of that. Its Napoleon hat style with its biomorphic curves blend with stright lines and flare of modernist deco.

IMG_20200905_172041_6

But this clock has something else in addition. A lost hidden reference to Howard Carter and Egypt.

If you look at the centre divider on the bottom of the clock where the lines meet….they dont meet at the centre divider.

Now this is an unthinkable error on a clock of comparative quality. You have to remember that at the time this clock was made they might, socially speaking, not have been available to the lower middle or lower classes of the time. Victorian England and the empire had created a wide middle class and wealth which prevailed into the 20th century, and prevails today.  But, still, the majority were not wealthy. The Middle class was much thinner than it is today. So, owning a clock might be compared to owning an expensive car today, or perhaps just a car in 1960 – not everyone had one by any means. So in 1925 having a clock was probably something like having a good Mercedes. Now if you buy a Mercedes and the number plate is 10 cm to the left so it shows, you take it back. You just do. And the same would have applied with this clock.

The idea that the centre point of the triangle does not intersect with the terminating point of the flared outward lines is unthinkable in deco design terms. So why is it like that? Its because its deliberate.

Its extremely clever and its a hidden reference to Howard Carters discovery in egypt iconified by the pyramids – the greatest of the tombs. You see the pyramids are arranged in a banana shaped line if looked at from far above. This, many stipulate, is a reflection of the pattern contained in the stars of Orions belt, a star constellation that is thought to have had significance to Egyptian religion.

If you look at the centre pointer you will see there are infact two triangles. One infront of the other. One side of the formost triangle has been more lightly coloured to give it a 3d effect. This is not an accident of polishing – I checked with the owner and she had never polished it. The reason the triangles are off centre is because they represent the two larger pyramids at Giza viewed from a slight elevation that allows you to see both. The reasons the lines dont meet at the top of the triangle is because they are running to the location of the third pyramid obscured from view that is OFFSET from the line of sight of the first two large pyramids . Its a little hidden cameo of the pyramids, suggested as a normal deco design value. Whats even more clever is that you either get it or you dont. If you dont get it, to the casual eye all you see is more deco lines and a central point of focus that your mind peridorically centres. If you do get it, you see the pyramids. You need to consider that at the time the clock was made there was Tutankhamun fever, enough of it for a reasonable proportion of people, albeit only the educated with their “mercedes”, to get it.

You also have to remember that at the time, the vista of the three pyramids sitting on the horizon would have been a common illustration; something people found fascinating and familiar. Whats really really clever here is that a third pyramid offset in the design would utterly ruin the symmetric design values of deco, so rather than put it in, the maker has put a secret pointer to where it is at the theoretical meeting point of the flare lines. This subtextually identifies the top two triangles as pyramids. He or she got a non sytmetrical design reference into a symetrical appearing design. I mean its brilliant and takes real flare. Alas, the movement is unmarked, and while I could probably track down the maker (The pendulum looks suspiciously like a Britiannia movement pendulum) the case and face are not branded in any way. Perhaps the designer was more inclined to put the cheeky reference in because of this anonymity. We will never know who or how but thats what makes it even more brilliant.

To be fair, I dont actualy know if this is something that was hidden at the time. It may be that the people who originally bought the clock were perfectly aware of the reference and found it appealing and in vogue, but that is certainly lost on the casual viewer today and has become a hidden reference.

Id value this clock at £400 – £600 and a museum piece. Now thats a lot for a mantle clock of this period. A really over the top obvious deco mantle of this type might go for £250 but because of the charm of the hidden message I cant see it going for less than £400. Its like antique desks with hidden compartments. They are just worth more because they are scarce and have that extra mischievous something.

Brilliant and it made my day. I felt like Carter himself must have felt. Just less. But not much less.

Oh its not for sale and Its not mine so dont even ask. If you have one…..I envy you.

 

What cuckoo clock to buy

People often come into the workshop with cuckoo clocks they have acquired that do not work – ebay or car boot purchases. Obviously there are costs invloved in the repair and if a customer has to spend more than I think the clock is worth, I tell them. The next question they ask is if I sell cuckoo clocks and… well I dont. I should, but I dont. This is because Im just too busy on all sorts of clock repairs to run a sales operation. I know somebody who does though, Ryan at www.cuckoocollections.co.uk

So thats where to get your clock (read to the end for a 5% cuckoo clock discount code). Its not a blind recommendation – I know this company and they are good.

But what sort do you buy and whats best?. Firstly think about cost of ownership as much as appeal. The more moving things there are on the front of the clock, the more power required, and therefore the wear on the components accumulates more quickly. So, you may be tempted to buy a model village town hall with a brass band, water wheel, rocking goat and music box but think about what you really want. The simple mid range machines are a good place to start. If it were me I would go for a simple two weight machine with a music box. This gives you a cuckoo and a little bit of fun drama on the hour. Always try and get a 1 day clock as opposed to an 8 day as they are more robust runners and need less servicing. If the weights on cuckoo clocks go much over 420g per weight you have to be aware that you will probably be looking for a service on the machine after the warranty term runs out. This is likey to be 40% of the cost of the clock as a rough rule of thumb. So if you buy a £1500 super brilliant everything machine running 1500g weights then expect to invest further in it moving forward. You also have to remember that cuckoo clocks are windy things. They waft in particulates from the air which gather around the oiled portions of the movement and will eventually gunge up the workings at which point a service will be required. Incidentally I often also get asked when you should have a cuckoo clock serviced. The answer is really simple. When it stops working. Dont bother before this as its just not worth it and will cost you more in the longer term rather than being a cost reducing preventative maintenance issue.

Braintree Clock Repairs are the service centre for Loetscher Cuckoo clocks. These are top quality machines with all the things you would expect from a larger maker in that they have a consistent manufacturing approach, good warranty terms, and excellent performance. I can personally recommend the clocks simply because I happen to know that they have an exceptionally low mechanical failure rate. In three years we have had three clocks in under warranty. All three clocks had very simple problems that were easy to sort out and I believe in each case the customer received their clock back within 10 days. When you are buying something quite complicated lke a cuckoo clock this really matters.

Now its all very well recommending a brand but what is more important is who you buy it from. I dont buy cuckoo clocks so Im not exactly experienced in this area, however, I do know Ryan who runs www.cuckoocollections.co.uk. The thing I like about this site is the choice. Also, because we cover repairs and warranty for Ryans company, I know that hes selling good machines because we hardly ever hear from his customers. I think in 3 years we have had a coupe of minor issues to sort out under warranty which, for me, shows hes selling the right quality when it comes to the brands he represents. There are a lot of clocks to pick from as well as electric clocks.

Now you might think electric clocks are not in the spirit of things and I would have agreed with you until I owned one. There are some obvious benefits. Firstly, they are reliable time keepers. While a clock regulated by a pendulum can be accurate it will never really compete with time keeping based on the resonance of a quartz crystal with a current run through it. Secondly there is no winding or pulling of chains. One of the most common problems we see on repairs is the effect children have on the machines. Small children love the cuckoo popping out and find the machines fascinating and fun. They will of course imitate what they see you doing in pulling the chains. The problem is of course that children do not know when to stop pulling and I have heard stories of children actually trying to swing on the chains of the larger clocks like Tarzan!. So, if you have small children or children visiting then you might find an electric cuckoo clock is the direction you should be looking in for the meantime at least.

This is what I like about cuckoo collections as a site generally – the choice. Its really worth a look if your into cuckoo clocks just because there is so much on there.

www.cuckoocollections.co.uk

If you want discount (who doesnt?) then use the discount code BRAINTREECLOCKS and you will get an automatic 5% discount on any cuckoo clock you purchase.

Regulating a grandfather clock running fast or slow.

I just had an email in from Jonathan, a fan of the blog here. He asked me to give me some info on his clock, which I duly did, but he also mentioned he was using extra weight on the pendulum bob to try and slow the clock down a bit.

Now…..thats not the way to do it. It works for Big Ben which until recently was ajusted for timekeeping by placing penny coins on the weight and therefore slowing the clock down a fraction. Yes, you heard right, Big Ben has been keeping good time for all these years because there is a man putting coins on its pendulum which is about the size of two large buckets and would probably need two or three people to lift it.

I rather liked this way. Now its going to change with the refit but I dont think its money well spent. They should have just left it the way it was and kept on employing a regulator to make penny weight manual adjustments. If they put a B£%$$ computer in it I will personally break in and pour water into the keyboard. I believe that clock should be kept entirely hand made and manually regulated because it is a reflection of our awesome country and its history or engineering innovation and skills. Don’t get me started about the Chinese running our 5g telephone network. Perhaps I will blog on that once china has invaded us with ease because they have turned off all our phones capabilities other than its ability to broadcast our location to anybody who wants to war us up. There is a huge “I told you so” coming if it happens.

So how do you regulate your clock (regulate is the term used to descibe messing around with various elements of the clock to adjust its time keeping). Well its fairly easy.

Im going to try and describe this without pictures for the meantime, so, firstly look at your pendulum. You will notice what is probably a square nut stopping the pendulum bob (disc) falling off the pendulum. That nut is there specifically to enable you to set how fast or slow the clock runs. If you screw it anti clockwise (looking from above) then the clock will run faster because the pendulum will swing slightly faster. You cant see this – you just have to know its happening. If you are struggling with this concept just think about playing conkers when you were young. If you used a short string the conker swings quickly back and forth. If you use a long string it sways back and forth much more slowly.

There is a sweet spot for the bob on the pendulum that will result in near perfect time keeping providing the clock is kept within a few degrees of the ambient temperature at the time you are regulating. Believe it or not you clock will run a few seconds slower on a hot day because the metal and therefore the pendulum rod will expand and become longer. The longer the pendulum (or to be more accurate its centre of gravity) the slower it will oscillate and the slower the clock will run as a result.

The method for this bob based regulation is as follows. This method is for clocks running fast but is the same (but opposite) for running slowly.

  1. At a given time of day set the clock to the exact time (taken from a modern clock or good watch) and then set it going. The next day you will see it is probably running a litte fast or slow. Make a note of how much faster your clock is running than it should e.g. 2 minutes per day.
  2. Turn the screw on the end of the pendulum one complete turn anti clockwise. Then set the clock back to you watch time and run for another 24 hours.
  3. You will notice the clock is either running fast or less slow. You make a note of this change so that you know that one complete turn makes a difference of, lets say, 30 seconds per day.
  4. Mathematically calculate how many 30 seconds you need to add per day to achieve accuracy and then turn the nut that many times and run for another 24 hours. If you’ve done the maths right he clock should be, in our example here, no more than 30 seconds fast or slow.
  5. Once the clock is regulated to 30 seconds per day then you have to move to weekly regulation and quarter turns on the nut (which is why it is square). Exactly the same process applies for weekly as for daily regulation, its just that you run it for a week to exaggerate the time gain/loss and adjustments to the nut at the bottom can be as little as quarter or eighth (or less) of a turn.

Some of my customers grandfather clocks are the most accurate in the house and there is one I know of that gains a minute a year. These clocks were built for accuracy. Just because the mechanics can look somewhat chunky dont let that fool you into thinking that the clock cant be regulated to almost 100% accuracy. My grandfather clock runs more accurately than my 1962 Rolex and yours probably can too.

Regulation is not a service I provide. I will regulate any clock which goes over our bench to about 5 or 10 minutes per day. I then tell the customer how to regulate it themselves when I deliver or they pick up. Its great fun seeing how accurate you can get your clock and most of my customers are genuinely interested in doing a bit of assisted maintenance like regulation. Im more than happy to help them do this because…..because I just think if I sold somebody a car Id tell them where to put the oil, petrol and water. Its the same with clocks – I always try and get my customers into the mechanical aspects of their clocks because its so interesting and connects us directly with our science heritage and of course the long dead maker of the clock. Immortality is only theirs if you keep the clock in good order!.

Note that this method can be used for any clock; mantle, wall or standing. If the clock only has a short pendulum e.g. a mantle clock, then you need to work on regulation for some time and definitely do the weekly regulation after you have done the daily. Also be aware that clocks run at different rates depending on where they are wound up to. The fusee mechanism was developed to overcome this but most clocks dont have that so be prepared for a level of daily inaccuracy with the plus side being that by the end of the spring wind the clock should be accurate.

Lastly. If you have something you would like me to write about please email me. Ive covered a lot in this blog over the years, and while I could write forever on clocks, I want it to be interesting and relevant to what people want to know.

A nice email from another happy customer

All my customers are happy and I have plenty of good google reviews for you to rely on.

This one just came through on email so I thought I would just cut and paste it up a a blog entry. The thing about this one is that when the clock arrived it was just too much. EVERYTHING was wrong with it.

Its one thing getting a box of bits as with Guy “worst damaged cuckoo clock ever” I wrote a blog article a week or so ago about but its even more challenging get a clock which looks like a half finished building site inside. Dust, rust, grime and all the signs of log term neglect and bad storage for 30 years. To make a clock like that work you have to do everything properly and in the right sequence. Miss one thing out and you may as well not have bothered with all the other things to fix. Its a yes or no (boolean) type of job.

You can fix ten things on a clock like that but if there is an 11th problem you waste a great deal of time nailing down wether there is another problem but its one of the ones you already fixed and assumed was ok. I sound like Im moaning on – Im not, its just that people who like or play around with clock mechanics read this blog and they will be glad to know “its not just them”.

So, I phoned the customer and said that with our no fix no fee policy, it was too risky to take it on.

About a week later I thought “what the hell are you doing turning down difficult jobs. You made up the policy so stick by it and get stuck in”. I gave myself a good telling off.

We did the clock. Took a loss. Completed the overall mission and felt better for it. I was going to hide the chaps name but I am sure he will not mind me publishing it.

Evening Justin
>
> Just to say that the clock arrived very promptly today at 7.50am – and
> very well packed as well!
>
> I put it on a hook this morning, but waited until 5.30pm this
> afternoon before starting it, to save moving the hands!
>
> Well it is looking good and ticking very nicely. It is amazing how
> the tick changes when the clock is moved just a couple of millimetres
> isn’t it. But I believe I have the tick spot on after one slight
> adjustment and am very thrilled with it. I think I prefer it to my
> larger, eight day clock in many ways.
>
> So, Thank you so much for the very prompt repair and all your
> correspondence – the complete service! I’ll certainly recommend you
> with folk, if the opportunity ever arises.
>
> Best wishes
>
> Jonathan Farquhar.

Definitely worth it.

Discounted (!!!) Kieninger Grandfather Clock Repair

Ok this is about a job we have not even looked at yet.  The reason Im writing about it is that we were asked to discount a job. Now you might think that its nothing special and almost expected these days but you cant discount in this business and make any money unless you do a hell of a lot of clocks. And this is how we maintain lower pricing, simply by doing a lot of clocks. This presents us with somewhat of a problem because if you do a lot of clocks at relatively low profit in order to make a sensible overall profit for the month, then a discount job is like a spanner in the works. Inevitably any dscounted service or job takes 5 times as long as expected which not only wipes profit of the job but also gets in the way of doing jobs that are sitting there with a timer on them ready to go into WIP (work in progress).

I suppose if we didnt have any WIP then discounting might make sense but we always have a STACK of work to get through and exceptionally fast job and delivery times without sacrificing any quality values. So why bother taking the price down?

Here is some background on why.

We are considerably experienced in all types of clock. We just love them and anything new (to us) is gratefully accepted work as it gives us yet more experience and allows our continuous improvement approach to sit in line with our workflow. We dont charge more – everyone gets the same price scale apart from public sector essential workers or and state pensioners. Pensioners are not rich. Pensioners also love clocks because when they were in their prime mechanical clocks were as well.

Boring History Interlude: The volume production of mechanical clocks along the Henry Ford production line principles was only adopted by clockmakers after about 1940 although between 1900 and 1940 its clear that some standardisation was taking place. You can see it in movements like the Jungans p18 and P19 which have standard parts. You can take a part out of one p18 and put in in another one without any problems because the movement were factory produced, just not in huge volumes.

The problem with these two movement, which was typical of he era, was that they handnt quite quite got there in terms of the features you would expect on a mid priced clock from the 40’s. An example of this is the hour chime reset. On the majority of mantle clocks from 1940 onwards, if you pushed the minute hand through two chime points e.g. at quarter past and half past, the chimes go out of sequence. It rings out the half hour chime at the three quarter hour point for example. On the later clocks a clever feature was added that, after no more than 1 hour 45 minutes, the clock will have corrected itself and will chime the right sequence at the right time. The P18 doesnt have this. It has, however, got a lot of nice features and excellent build quality (apart from the winder gearing cog which always goes bang eventually usually breaking the spring and damaging the wheels – if you have one get this done before it does it to you!). It is however a very complicated clock to repair and to set up.

Anyway we had a chap ring this morning wanting to bring in a P18 based clock. I explained the job and the price range and it was too much for him. He couldn’t afford it. He had saved up for the clock fix and got about 70% of the median figure it costs to get done properly i.e. bushes, some wheels, new springs etc. At the price he had estimated himself, we would make no money and take up time that could be used to generate profit. Doing the job at the price he needed would have been madness.

So we did madness.

The reason we are going to do this job, essentially at cost price, is that HE HAD SAVED UP. What this means is that he values our skills. It also means he loves his clock. I was quite touched by this.

We are in business to fix clocks. We are not a charity or a “not for profit” organisation but the fact remains there is a mission in what we do. We are here to keep mechanical clocks running and those clocks, when I peg it, will be my legacy. I will regret it no doubt and curse my high minded perspective but I also know that in about a month there will be a happy pensioner, a fixed clock, and even more experienced gained. Thats good, and a result, and progress.

That probably gives you an idea of “who we are” and thats why Ive published this article. Please don’t ask for a discount unless you work for the NHS, police, army, live on a state pension, or have been awarded a military medal for gallantry in the last great war. Like the Victoria Cross. With Oak Leaves, recorded in dispatches, and with the queens fingerprints intact in the surface and preferably burnt into the patina.

1st Prize to Guy for the most damaged cuckoo clock ever

As Loetschers cuckoo clock repair partner in the UK we get a lot of cuckoo clocks in for service or repair. Most require new parts or just a really good clean and configuration however every now and again we get in….a challenge.

Guy just phoned me to enquire if I had received his cuckoo clock that had been damaged after falling off the wall. Get a load of this…

Guy_Cuckoo_Clock_Repair

This is officially the “most broken” cuckoo clock we have been asked to restore. I would say “repair” but lets face it, this is a restoration whichever way you look at it. We will do it, no problem there, as quite frankly its the challenge of changing a pile of wood into a beautiful time keeper.

I did ask guy how if he had kicked it around the room and then hit it with a hammer after it fell off the wall but apparently not. Talking about it made us both laugh and I am unashamed to say that this one jumps the que simply because its a challenge and we like challenges. Despite resembling a wooden puzzle I am confident we can get this back to what it should be and I will post up a picture of the finished article when it is complete. Great fun and great customer. Most people would have given up but Guy collected all the bits, which I assume were spread out over a large area, and packed them off to us. If a bomb had gone off inside the clock it would probably have done less damage although the movement does seem to be in a reasonable state or repair. So off to work we go…

 

UPDATE: Ok here is the finished article. Only the cosmetic touch up of the joins to do left but this is so close to finished I thought I may as well post a picture up before I forget!.

 

Victorian_Cukoo_Clock_Repair

 

The last clock of 2019 finished 35 minutes to midnight

I dont get out much. By chioce. So new years eve for me is spending time hanging around the house with my sons with nothing particular to do. But there was a clock on the jigg. Its been annoying me. The thing would not activate on its first quarter chime but perfectly on the other three inducing the auto top of the hour reset system working.

Why let something like that run into the new year. Tools out. Diagnostics head on. Method devised and to it!.

I stripped the clock face down and had a look at the components for signs of exagerated wear. If theres a problem wear logically has to be the cause so if you find the wear you can trace the fault. there was no wear but it did become apparent that the cam lift height on each of the quarters was a step higher by a small amount. This is not normal. Its not necessary. The purpose of having one lifting cam much larger off the canon pinion is so that within 1 hour 45 minutes a clock will find its top of the hour chime sequence automatically. Its not a feature you find on grandfather clocks but this clock is a longcase from around 1930 and the invention of the auto reset came about popularly in early and mid 20th century mantle clocks.

This clocks employed the same principle of auto reset but improved upon it. Each lifting pin off the canon pinion was one step further away from the centre meaning that the lift on each quarter increased. Put simply the lift cam for the first quarter will not lift high enough to activate the second. The same aplies to the relationship between the 3rd and 4th meaning the clock will reset to the correct chime sequence in a maximum of 45 minutes which doubles the performance of the feature. Its actually less necessary to employ this feature on weight driven clocks because chimes going out of sequence is usually a mantle clock problem caused by one spring running down more quickly than another to its force equilibrium point with gear friction . In this instance the clock keeps going but the chime spring no longer have the power to drive the hammers. Its is therefore a very nice touch to go to a full quarter chiming longcase and improve upon the fundamental contemporary design.

Once this was understood the fix was applied and finished up about 20 minutes ago. The clock is running with a strong pendulum arc and I can just tell its good to go and finished.

Here it is. Its a really nice example of what it is and a great clock. The case has an simple conservative body with a beautifully arched top. Great lines generally. If I remember Ill post a picture of it installed. Its just chimed quarter to, so time to go but I just want to say…

Thanks everyone. Its been fun this year, lots of new things have happened and Ive met a lot of really nice interesting people with decent taste and an appreciation of historical engineering.

art deco longcase clock

Quick addendum. It struck exactly, to the second, on midnight. This is and excellent omen. Probably. Or its and excellent clock or both.

Is there a ghost in my clock?

So….today I thought I would write a brief article around the subject of  “haunted clocks”. Before I rattle on its probably worth mentioning that I have a periodic table chart on the workshop wall to remind me how fantastic science is without the need to embellish it with an unknown layer of paranormal speculation. You dont need to. Have a good look at how atoms fit together, what they do, how they work and then contemplate wether you are prepared to believe such precise organisation and balance came about by by chance. Despite the heavy subtext of a creative hand in the process of designing the universal components and forces, I still sit on the fence.

I cant prove the existence of a creative force; a force or entity that would logically a very high intelligence to be capable of creating reality with quantum physics blending into the Newtonian model that has a lot to do with clocks. I can however almost feel it.

Micheal Angelo described the frustration those of us who contemplate the existence of a higher power in his Sistine chapel frescoe showing a man reaching out to touch god with god reciprocating. Their hands almost touch but they dont…….and an inch is as good as a mile to a blind man.

You sort of know the art is telling you that last inch is made up of faith.  A rare commodity. Whenever I see the picture I always think “for gods sake try a bit Bl*&*y harder” but thats emotion not logic. Perhaps thats what the artist was trying to tell us.

close but no cigar

At any rate thats the reason I do not dismiss my customers accounts of their odd and seemingly paranormal experiences with clocks. I believe one should keep an open mind considering how unbelieveable the nature and possibilities of science are.

Clocks hold a special place in the history of science. Their invention showed the dawn of mankinds greater awareness of his environment. Now, the main driver for this was the NEED to tell the time. The sun dial, if you know how to use one (set it up at night using the north star as a reference point and you will get the best shaddow arc), is dead handy. It does two things. It will tell you the time of day but of course, because the shaddows are longer and shorter during the year you can tell roughly what time of year it is by their length. Pretty handy if your planting, hunting or celebrating annually. No mechanics required and, as yet, I have not been asked to repair a sun dial. Actually, thinking about it Tom here at the Antiques Centre did ask me but the thing sold broken. Good old cast bronze or brass sundails are popular sellers – specially the late Victorian arts and crafts influenced design. Im going off point here a bit…

OK, so why would a sane (ish) man of science start waffling on about ghosts in clocks. Well, its pretty simple, I hear the same story over and over again. The clock stops the day, and often to the minute by some accounts, the owner dies. It appears in some way that these clocks have some sort of linked lifeline with their owners. This is so common I could probably calculate some stats but off the top of my head I would say that one in 20 repairs comes with these accounts.

It is unfortunately not proof positive of something in science we have yet to understand. The fact of the matter is that your average 90 year old isnt particularly concerned about keeping their clock serviced every decade. An un-serviced clock will run for ages past its service point, its just that it will wear more quickly. Clock servicing is in effect preventative maintenance. So of course what you find is that a mantel clock that stops the day the owner died did so because the chap was winding an 8 day clock up every day. As the spring wears on a clock you will find its running time reduce over weeks / months. A weekly wind turns into a 5 or 6 day wind interval until the clock will only run apex of its power curve wound right up. After a day or so the power drops below that required to keep the pendulum in perpetual motion.

The other thing that happens is people say “the clock never worked again after the last time he/ she wound it”. This seems odd obviously. Why should this happen?. I would love to say the likely answer is a soul bond between owner and celestial measuring device. Unfortunately the reason this happens is that clocks are a bit quirky and fussy about the level and position they sit in – specially horizontal alignment for pendulum clocks.

When somebody new comes to wind the clock they are not used to how tight to wind it so they give it the beans. This usually means the clock gets moved in the process and falls out of balance in a totally un-ghost like fashion. The person who winds the clock thinks that they have not changed a thing but in reality moving the clock 1cm on an uneven surface can easily set it off beat / level and stop it. People often turn up at the shop with clocks that are perfectly ok but they just need to be shown the balancing method. If you dont know this then watch this video I produced explaining things.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ7sjJrftV0

There are some examples which are less easy to explain. These are old carriage and grandfather clocks. Its very common for these to stop when their owner does. Inevitably when I see the clock the problem is simply an overdue service but it does seem strange that the critical point where the clock turns from being in need of a service to not working due to dirt build up, coincides with the owners passing. The occurance seems to be way above what one might expect statistically. Having said that one must consider that when a relative dies the clock winding is generally not at the top of the “to-do” list. Inevitably this means the clock sits idle, possibly in premises that are no longer heated and any fouling in the gearing gets a chance to change viscosity and change its characteristics to an abrasive glue rather than a lubricant.

So, if your clock stopped when your parents or grandparents passed on there is possibly less need to call the Ghostbusters than you might expect once the dust settles. Call me instead. No charge for clock blessings and my sincere hopes and prayers of a good journey for your loved one.

Regency Auction Grandfather Clock Advice

I help people out with clock identification via email. I try to keep it quick but always end up spending too much time on it. I have plenty of proper work to do. I like doing it and it creates the community I like to believe exists for this website but Im wasting my time….unless I publish the enquiries and replies so everyone can benefit from the iformation imparted. I really dont know why Ive not th0ught of this before. So from now on Im going to try and quickly post up any of the longer replies as opposed to the ones that go “.3.5mm, dont bend the hands and makes you use the rubber washer or the face will rotate. All the best justin.”. Incidentally thats fitting sizing and fitting a quartz movement advice. Anyway, heres the first letter Im posting up.

On 2019-09-16 18:27, Derek wrote:
> Can I take you up on your generous offer of a basic evaluation on this
> English long case clock which I bought at auction recently. After
> repairing the foot of the crutch it has been running smoothly and
> accurately driven by its single continuous chain. The name on the dial
> is R. Stevens with Stovesley underneath. The photos are attached.
>
> Thanks
>
> Derek Aspin

Auction_Grandfather_Clock_Advice

Hi Derek,

The case is typical of a late georgian i.e. 1770 and the face ans size of the clock push the dating a bit further forward to the regency period when urns and swags were the decorative fashion.

With a chain it must be a 30 hour clock and such things were the equivalent of a cheap car at the time – A major purchase for the owner but done to a budget. The hand decoration on the dial is ok, the hands look original and its a late enough clock for there to be a high chance its in its original case.

Watch out for the chiming mechanism on 30 hour chain clocks. The method the clock uses to stop itself after each chime sequence is pretty brutal so if you just blue-tak the top fly wheel on the chime train firmly this will stop the clock chiming an save your rattling it to bits, realistically beyond repair. Turn the chimes on at xmas and when you have friends over rather than have it on all the time.

Good buy although the clocks wear quickly due to being pretty basic from a movement perspective. When you get your next one talk to me and Ill try and point you in the next direction. I change my grandfather clock every few years – it can refresh the look of an entire room. The best clocks are smaller e.g. 5.5ft, exotic wood e.g. walnut veneer or chinese laquer, brass faced (pre-1770) and in my view the square ones have the edge from a practical and aesthetic perspective. A good reconditioned brass face with polished brass, guilded spandrels, and a re-silvered chapter ring (we can do all that if you buy a dilapidated one) is probably my next clock. At the moment I have a Mason London arch dial 1730 I love but it may be time…. for a change.

Got to go, lots to do. Well done on your purchase and happy to assist.
Regards,
Justin Holt
Braintree Clock Repairs
www.braintreeclockrepairs.co.uk
07462 269529

We now provide balance wheel platform escapement repairs

Ok. A short but not insignificant post about a new sevice we are offering.

We can repair ANY platform escapement with ANY problem.

Prices start at £200 and run to whatever they run to. Under £1000, unlikely to be £750, probably £450 but dont be surpirsed by 550 and if its a clean and refit then your at £200. So bascily no help a at all – I apologise. Theres also a minimum charge of £60 to look at it properly and take it apart to component level before we give you the bad news on price for doing it properly, and then the “this price gets it working” conversation takes place and a fix is agreed and scheduled.

We need the WHOLE clock to do the repair if possible. If its a large heavy 19c slate or an ornately framed clock then just the movement will be enough. Only remove the movement if you are confident in doing so. And unplug it if you need to. Quite important that.  If you know roughly what you are doing but need a hint or two then email or ring me for advice. Its either easy and we can sort it out in two minutes or its a “give up and bring it in when your passing”. All this assumes that postage is your preferred way of doing things.

The reason we need the whole clock is that there is a lot in the fitting of these platform escapements. Ill do a separate blog on that.

Prices vary so much by job as they can include anything from re-manufacture of the balance weel or re-jewelling to pivot holes so theres much more to go wrong that you might think and we do the job properly – we dont say “well thats ok for the moment” if it looks like its going to fail in then next few years.

If you want us to fix yours email pictures and then phone. Its not really worth having a conversation on diagnosis without some idea or what we are dealing with and I can tell a lot from a few pictures at least about the type of unit, if not the cause of the problem, However it does atually help with this as well to a degree as different clock types have typical faults you line up as the usual suspects.

The most common problem we have sees so far is balance staff breakage and/or jewel fracture. Spring damage is common with a broken staff, as is pallet wear or damage, depending on how luck you got with the bang that broke the clock. Pivots and gears are generally ok and dont need too much work, if any; its the staff, jewel points, pallets and spring in that order for the most part.

The skills and extensive experience required has now been acquired so we are very confident this will go very well in terms of adding another complimentary skill set, so much so infact that we need to limit the amount we take in or it will impact our core more general business of repairing just about any clock.

A lot of my friends think it is madness to offer a general clock repair service with such a broad range of clock types (as opposed to sticking to perhaps long case or cuckoo clocks – specialising) but its all part of the fun as far as I’m concerned and I want to keep it that way.

So, we are allowing a capacity of 5 escapements per month and these slots may be taken by jobs that come in and are discovered to need this attention mid-job as has been the case so far – usually with a replacement solution as opposed to a fix.

Thats now changed to a fully tooled and experienced craftsman with decades of experience at the highest end of things. He can fix a Rolex if you take a hammer to it. Genuinely. Totally bad example of course because Rolex themselves are even better tooled up than us so that would be the place to go, however, if gives you and idea of where we are.

If you want your platform escapement repair provided by us then dont wait. Order it now and theres less chance you will get a “no Im sorry I cant store anymore in my small workshop” or “yes, about 6 months. Sorry.”

I have no idea what happens next. Could be nothing or the phone might explode with phone calls. More probably Ill  l will get the really difficult frustrating profit risk work nobody else will take. Or trade enquiries.

I hate trade enquiries. Fix your own bl***** clock if you put “Clock Fixa”on your business card. If you think you probably cant fix the real problem then tell the customer and stop wasting their time with your voyage or discovery into your own incompetence. I have discovered over the years, honestly, to my surprise, that Im better than most and one of the best. Nobody can touch us on cuckoo clock repairs standard and experience backed up by our supply and UK wide accreditation from Loetscher in Switzerland, we are great on grandfather clocks, prepared to take on 20th century overly complicated cheaply producted post war clocks and, as yet, weve not turned down and job and completed to delivery or resolution.

I cant say this doesnt lead to some pretty pressurised situations but its worth it. At the moment Ive got two massive station clocks with broken (split to 3 pieces) faces, rusty iron bezel frames and movements that are industrially joined to the iron frame to ensure structural strength under nazi bombing. So ive got a, finish (rust) problem, a ceramic boding solution to apply on a huge jig, reinforcement of the structure and a high power electricity phase controlled movement. And I have to do it so that its accessible for seasonal time changing. Is that clock repair? I don care because I have a picture in my minds eye of what this will look like and I like the look of it!.

Then I have a Secticon electro-mechanical movement to service – a complex and unique movement. The clock case / dial / hands are together a breathtaking piece of iconic 60’s form and this clock is going to be very sought after when that genre recycles properly and becomes the standard for the few years. And then and then and then and so on and so forth.

Its a jungle out there – even in clock land. Thats why this is a temporary service. We are testing it nationwide as opposed to just offering it to existing customers. If its too much then we will just stop. If its too little, it doesnt matter and if its just right then we will keep it going. So, nows a good time as we wont let anyone down whos already ordered if we suddenly pull the plug on the whole thing. I suspect it will be months but with the speed of the internet it could be days quite frankly.

I left that paragraph to the end to filter out all the “might be interested” people who gave up half way through and you….have a problem you need fixed.