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Clockmaking - Past And Present: With Which Is Incorporated The More Important Portions Of 'Clocks, Watches And Bells,' By The Late Lord Grimthorpe Relating To Turret Clocks And Gravity Escapements

Clockmaking - Past And Present: With Which Is Incorporated The More Important Portions Of 'Clocks, Watches And Bells,' By The Late Lord Grimthorpe Relating To Turret Clocks And Gravity Escapements

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Clockmaking - Past And Present: With Which Is Incorporated The More Important Portions Of 'Clocks, Watches And Bells,' By The Late Lord Grimthorpe Relating To Turret Clocks And Gravity Escapements

Lunghezza:
315 pagine
2 ore
Pubblicato:
Apr 16, 2013
ISBN:
9781447488989
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

This vintage book contains a complete guide to clocking making. This text is a veritable must-have for anyone with a keen interest in clocks and watches, and includes detailed, interesting information on the history of clock making, descriptions of the inner machinations and composition of clocks, and much more besides. Although old, the information contained herein is timeless, and will be of as much utility to modern readers as it was to those contemporary with its original publication. The chapters of this book include: A history of clocks and watches, Materials, Tools, Wheels and pinions, Escapements, Pendulums, Motive power, Striking mechanisms, Lantern clocks, Long case clocks, Bracket clocks, The age of a movement, Clock hands, British clocks for export, etcetera. We are republishing this antiquarian volume now in a modern, affordable edition complete with a new introduction on the history of clocks and watches.
Pubblicato:
Apr 16, 2013
ISBN:
9781447488989
Formato:
Libro

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Clockmaking - Past And Present - G. F. C. Gordon

CLOCKMAKING

PAST AND PRESENT

WITH WHICH IS INCORPORATED THE MORE IMPORTANT PORTIONS OF CLOCKS, WATCHES, AND BELLS, BY THE LATE LORD GRIMTHORPE, RELATING TO TURRET CLOCKS AND GRAVITY ESCAPEMENTS

BY

G. F. C. GORDON,

M.A., A.M.I.C.E.

LATE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE WORKSHOPS OF THE ENGINEERING DEPARTMENT OF CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY

SECOND EDITION ENLARGED

BY

ARTHUR V. MAY

CLOCKS TO MEND

SKETCH OF FIGURE OF 18TH CENTURY STREET CRIER. CONTEMPORARY MODEL MADE FROM BEATEN METAL. IN THE EDITOR’S COLLECTION.

PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

IT is probable that no technical subject has been so neglected by writers of books in this country as horology. In recent years, with the exception of the valuable works of the late J. F. Britten and one or two others, practically nothing has been done.

It has always appeared to me that there was room for a good deal more literature on clockmaking, but apparently those who know the subject well have not the time or inclination to record their experience for the use of others. Of course, it is a huge subject, and no single individual can be expected to cover it all; in fact, it would take many experienced men many years to do it. Again, it is very difficult to know where to start and where to stop. In this volume I have endeavoured, as far as possible, to cover ground which either has not been trodden before or which, from my own experience, I think requires more attention than it has hitherto received. It is quite impossible to leave out everything with which other writers have dealt, such as the considerations relating to the shape of wheel teeth, but in such cases I have endeavoured to emphasise the important points and add explanations which may make it easier for the younger men of the trade to understand the essentials.

I am conscious of the fact that my knowledge of the subjects with which I have dealt is very incomplete. I have used the words probably and about till I am tired, and I am sure my book is full of errors. If my statements raise a storm of correspondence, I shall not consider that my time has been entirely wasted. Nothing helps knowledge and progress so much as healthy discussion.

I have to acknowledge my indebtedness to several owners of clocks who have supplied me with illustrations and information concerning them.

G. F. C. GORDON.

PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

IN his original Preface to this book, written in 1924, the late G. F. C. Gordon regretted the fact that no technical subject had been so neglected by writers in this country as that of Horology. Since then, and particularly within the past few years, this neglect has been more than rectified as to-day there is almost a spate of literature on the subject. These books, however, are not all written by practical men and, despite Mr. Gordon’s modest statement in his Preface that his knowledge of the subject is very incomplete, his book still remains, and will continue to remain, fundamentally sound and bears favourable comparison with present works, some of which have probably gleaned valuable material from this source, as it should be.

Mr. Gordon’s wish that there should be more literature on clockmaking has, therefore, since been met. There is none that could adequately take the place of this work but the most informative complement it. The phenomenon is that the layman is showing more and more interest in the subject, with the result that books on clockmaking are not only snapped-up by the practical clockmaker, student and expert, but also by clockowners. There is probably no technical or scientific subject that has fascinated the layman more. For some inexplicable reason he has vaguely and almost suddenly come to the conclusion that there is something desirable in old clocks, particularly the long case clock which enjoys the non-technical nickname Grandfather Clock. These are being brought out of attics, stables, barns and cellars, the best examples are pounced upon by collectors and antique dealers, the rest finding their way into antique shops and antique departments of the large stores. Alas, many of these fine old masterpieces, owing to sheer neglect, are now beyond repair. Before the war many a fine old clock could be picked up for thirty shillings. That same clock now runs into more like thirty pounds. Under the grime on some old dials a famous name has been revealed which has meant a small fortune to the owner or acute buyer.

The possible answer to this renewed interest, and it is with shame that we have to admit that it is renewed, is that, owing to the shortages of most things as a result of the 1939–45 war, people have had little to buy and plenty of money to spend. With a shortage of so much that has been mass-produced, is there any wonder that one should begin to appreciate the craftsmanship of old and better things?

Be that as it may, since the war old clocks and books on clocks have enjoyed a steady demand. Paradoxically, this revived interest in old clocks points to the scope for the individual craftsman of the future, a phase which is covered in the introduction to this valuable work by the late Mr. Gordon.

ARTHUR V. MAY.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

MATERIALS

TOOLS

WHEELS AND PINIONS

ESCAPEMENTS

PENDULUMS

MOTIVE POWER

STRIKING MECHANISMS

LANTERN CLOCKS

LONG-CASE CLOCKS

BRACKET CLOCKS

THE AGE OF A MOVEMENT

CLOCK HANDS

CLOCKS FOR EXPORT

RESTORATION AND REPAIRS

CLOCK TRAINS

REPAIRING AMERICAN CLOCKS

TURRET CLOCKS AND BELLS

BIBLIOGRAPHY

APPENDIX I

APPENDIX II

LIST OF PLATES

(Specially Photographed and Engraved for use in this work.)

INTRODUCTION

No craft has had a more romantic career than that of Clockmaking, and no craft has met with a more tragic decline. For over 200 years the City of London was the Mecca of fine clocks, that is to say from about 1630 in the reign of Charles I. to 1850, in the reign of Victoria. The first corporate body was formed in the year 1631 under the title of the Clock-makers’ Company. A petition for incorporation was made by London makers to check the infiltration of foreigners. From then on the craft flourished reaching its apotheosis in the reign of Charles II., when, due to his personal interest in science and chemistry, the Royal Society was founded in 1662 A.D. This society consisted of men who had suffered repression during the Dictatorship and tyranny of Cromwell, who did not encourage the arts, crafts and sciences. Many of the initial members of the Royal Society were horologists.

In such high esteem was the clockmaker held in the seventeenth century that we are told that the punishable offence of carrying a sword, introduced owing to the abuse of duelling, did not apply to members of the Clockmakers’ Company. That the craft early enjoyed Royal Patronage in Europe is evidenced, not only by the fact that a King of Bavaria nearly went mad in trying to make his several clocks synchronise, and that King Louis IV. of France (The Sun King) was an ardent devotee, but that Charles II. took as keen an interest in encouraging the craft as he did in the masterpieces made specially for him by such men as Tompion. A similar interest was shown in ship’s timepieces by his brilliant naval brother, the Duke of York, afterwards the much-abused James II., after whom the flagship of the Home Fleet is still named.

The decline set in during Victoria’s materialistic reign when, owing to Her Majesty’s liking for things German, the market was glutted with German clocks. Add to this the fact that the inglorious industrial revolution was replacing craftsmanship with the factory system and we have a sorry picture.

It is necessary to give this brief historic background, which can be further studied in this book and at length elsewhere, to obtain a true perspective of clockmaking and its problems to-day.

What is the position at this time of writing? The population of Britain is now around the staggering figure of fifty million. To determine the number of homes in normal times, statisticians base their figures on an average of four people to a home. This means that there are approximately twelve million homes in these islands. Most of these homes have at least one good clock and the bulk of good clocks, with very few exceptions, were made during the 200 years 1630–1850. Thus, the potential clock repair or maintenance market can number millions of clocks, ranging from the long case, or Grandfather, and bracket clocks of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and early nineteenth century to the French clocks of the mid- and late mid-nineteenth century.

Here we are faced with the strangest of all phenomena. So sound are these antique clocks in their construction, and this is also true of the later French clocks, that they go for years keeping tolerable time without attention. There is not a clockmaker living who has not been told by a proud owner my clock goes perfectly and, would you believe it, it hasn’t been cleaned for years! There is the crux of the clock repair industry to-day. It (the clock) has not been cleaned for years and is going perfectly, so why disturb it?

Stranger still is the fact that the clockmaker himself and the salesman behind the counter seem to enjoy a sort of laissez-faire and do not sufficiently stress the all-important fact that a clock, like a car or any other piece of mechanism, must have periodic fresh oil and to keep the oil pure the clock must be cleaned, at least every three years.

What is the result of this all-round neglect? When the clock stops, as it eventually will, pivots and pallets are found to be worn, pivot holes are elliptical and dust and rust have caused damage. While the clock, un-cleaned for years, has been going, it has worn away essential parts. A fine grit, composed of dried-up oil and dust, has done its destructive work.

This, then, is the position to-day: the kind of clocks that lend themselves to the clockmaker’s craft are not new, but are fine old timepieces—of which there are countless thousands, as we have seen, still in existence and needing maintenance. But, assuming that all these clocks are brought out for repairs and cleaning, who is to do them? There are not enough clockmakers of the old school alive to-day to cope with the work. What an untapped source of revenue awaits the student and apprentice! It must be remembered that, as Mr. Gordon says in the following pages, old British clocks never wear out, by which he means, if given adequate attention. There are, therefore, thousands of clocks which have gone for a century or more that, with attention, will go for another century or more.

Modern mass-produced clocks, many of which are electric, are a different story; they are a creation of the factory system which is not emphasised in this work.

The position to-day is, therefore, that there is room for many more clockmakers. Here, however, is another problem. How can an aspiring apprentice go about it? In the eighteenth century, journeymen used to go around the streets singing Clocks to mend! Life is not so colourful and convenient to-day.

There are two branches of clockmaking: that of the individual craftsman and that of the factory hand. The latter is out of the picture as the production belt system employs mostly women who assemble the different parts by routine.

So the choice must be the individual craftsman. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the young man who wishes to follow one of the oldest and most honourable of careers can find and then associate himself with a craftsman of the old school, most of whom would more than welcome the assistance of an apprentice or two. The average veteran clockmaker of this type feels only too acutely the possible tragedy of his craft dying out. He would like to see new blood entering the trade. The clockmaker is one of the few free men left who is not inhibited by trade union rules and their stultifying application.

So much for the clockmaking position to-day. In the following pages you will read what a real lover of this ancient craft has to say on Clockmaking, past and present. He has very wisely put the cart before the horse by opening his work with the present and the basic materials and tools essential for the clockmaker with the few added modern methods which, in principle, have changed little through the years. We must always remember, of course, that the prime essentials for a good craftsman are a good eye and a capable pair of hands.

Unlike other industries with new demands to fit new circumstances according to the progress of time, time-recording is basically the same to-day as it was in the early days of the sundial and clepsydra. The day still has twenty-four hours, full cycle. The moon still gives its name to the month. The sun, from whom we borrowed time, still rises in the East and sets in the West, or rather the Earth in revolving around the Sun suggests this reversed process and, although we are told that Time and Tide wait for no man, Time cannot be speeded up or slowed down. . . . One is tempted to say that, so far as time-recording is concerned, there is nothing new under the sun with the exception of that soulless instrument the electric clock!

At least, there has been nothing basically new since the anchor escapement was invented by Robert Hooke in the 1660’s. While other forms of machinery continually have room for improvement, and new designs come out yearly, the anchor escapement is still the only satisfactory design for clocks with pendulums. The same thing applies to the rack system of striking and the snail that controls the number of strikes per hour, which are also seventeenth century inventions. People in the clock trade take these things so much for granted that it is good to remind them of the debt they owe to the past for relieving them of new problems. All new pendulum clocks rely on these principles regardless as to whether they are mass-produced or hand-made.

One point must be stressed, however, as values have fluctuated and materials have become more scarce, whenever reference is made in this book to either, it does not necessarily apply to prevailing conditions.

Perhaps one of the most valuable phases of this book on clockmaking is the author’s love of the historic timepiece. As he says, he would rather have an old lantern clock hanging idle on the wall than have its parts replaced with modern bits and pieces. Perhaps this is carrying devotion too far, but one will not deny the implications. There is enough vandalism in the materialistic world of to-day.

One parting thought, whether the reader be merely a lover of ancient craftsmanship or a practical technician this record of Clockmaking—Past and Present, is also a record of a period of Britain’s greatness in other spheres of activity in which she built up a fine tradition for Quality. We must remember that the outside world buys British goods on traditional quality and that alone. The world does not look to Britain for cheap, mass-produced articles. The record of British clockmaking epitomises this quality of craftsmanship perhaps more than any other branch of activity.

It should not be assumed, in the light of what has been said in this Introduction, that Britain is not still making good quality clocks. There are firms, some of which have been in existence for over a century, still making fine time-pieces on a semi-handmade basis, but these form only a small percentage of the mass-produced products. Our concern is not with mass-production, as the theme of this book is clockmaking in its true meaning—that of making clocks or parts by hand.

In the following pages, therefore, the late Mr. Gordon has covered a craft that is steeped in the past, a subject wherein, paradoxically enough, one must look back in order to go forward.

CLOCKMAKING

MATERIALS

THE chief materials the clockmaker uses are steel and brass, so a few notes on these and allied substances should prove useful.

When iron ore is smelted on the large scale the product obtained is pig-iron. This substance is really a mixture and contains only about 92 per cent. of metallic iron. It contains about 2 1/2 per cent. of silicon and 3 per cent. of carbon and other ingredients. It is a very cheap and readily fusible metal, but so brittle that it cannot be bent, nor can it be forged when hot. It is largely used for cast iron parts of large turret clocks, but in domestic clocks is usually confined to weights and pendulum bobs.

Wrought iron is produced from cast iron by burning out what are usually termed the impurities in a puddling furnace. The metal is at first quite liquid, but as the process proceeds it becomes more viscous, and finally a spongy mass of almost pure iron, with a good deal of slag entrapped in it, is extracted from the furnace, worked up under the steam hammer and passed on to the rolling mill. A great deal of the slag is expelled, but much remains in the form of ribbons or threads in the finished metal which is put on the market. A polished surface of wrought iron is frequently marred by the presence of slag marks. The carbon content of wrought iron is about one-tenth of 1 per cent., and it cannot be hardened by heating and quenching in water.

Mild steel is a substance prepared by a process similar to that used for making wrought iron, but it is carried out at a very much higher temperature so that it remains liquid until it is poured into the ingot mould preparatory to rolling. The result is that the metal contains no slag, and in consequence is somewhat stronger.

Case Hardening.—If a piece of wrought iron or mild steel is packed in charcoal, scrap leather or pieces of horn,

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