Sunday, October 2, 2011

Time Stands Still

Is this clock special?
This story begins, oddly enough, when a friend asked me to represent him at an auction out of concern that his attendance would alert his rivals to the presence of something really valuable on offer.  He was hoping the item, a convict-made piece of furniture, would go unnoticed and sell for perhaps a few hundred dollars.  It didn't, and we were out-bid by at least two other collectors who knew perfectly well what the item was.  It eventually sold for $3800.

While I was at the auction place, I noticed an old clock and made an offer for it. Not because it might be a valuable antique, but really just because I like fixing old clocks.  And something told me this clock was special.

It turns out the clock won't be valuable at all - it's old, but not that old.  1950's or 60's most likely.  And part of the fun will be trying to find out more about it.  There are no brand marks anywhere on the clock.  Stamped on the movement itself are only the words "Made in W├╝rttemberg" and the number "50."

Front of movement, showing chime
timing mechanism.
The wood isn't solid timber, but a laminate somewhat more solid than your average plywood.

So what's so special about this clock?  The chimes.  The quarter-hour Westminster chimes have the sweetest, most musical tone I've heard from a clock, and well worth having around in my opinion.  When I get it going again I'll make a video so you can hear it and see exactly how a clock like this works.

Ruptured pendulum suspension.
Back at the Shed, I carefully disassembled the clock for restoration and discovered what had to be done.  First, the easy bits.  I"ll have to do something with the case, perhaps a varnish or lacquer.  The metal trim can be polished easily enough, and it needs a new winding key. Also, the pendulum suspension is broken, but I happen to know that this is a standard part and easily replaced.

Now the hard bits.  The face is a lost cause, unless I go to the trouble of re-silvering it and hand-painting the numerals and divisions.  Fat chance.  Think I'll buy a replica face instead.  This isn't a valuable antique, after all. If something's not worth doing at all, it's not worth doing properly.

Finally, the real issue.  The hourly chimes were not working, and the reason is this.  In Australia, the condition of this cog is something we refer to as being "Stuffed."  This is going to be a bit of a worry.  I know it's a 72-tooth volute spur gear, or at least it USED to be.  But the pitch diameter will need to be precisely measured, and it may or may not turn out to be a standard size.  It is possible that a replacement gear, which would need to be pressed onto the shaft using a customized fixture, could cost ten times what this clock is worth.

But as they say: in for a penny, in for a pound.  


  1. Thank you...stay tuned for more!
    I love it....great job...

    Solid Timber

  2. Thanks. Hey - after following your sold timber link - I made a Merbau clock once. Polished stainless steel trim, sweep quartz movement - it won a design award for the student that assisted. We'll have to talk sometime.