Clock Watching

Last week, as something of rather an impulse purchase, I bought a 19th century skeleton clock from a clock shop wandered past, by chance, in Teignmouth (“Tinmuth”, I think?) — Time Flies:

The clock’s back home now, and I’m slowly starting to learn about it (so if I talk nonsense in this post, please feel free to pick me up on it via the comments!):

As a first time clock owner, it’s fascinating trying to set it up. The period is tweaked via the pendulum — lengthen the pendulum and you slow down time (i.e. fix a fast running clock). It seems to be running a bit slow at the moment, so I need to raise the pendulum slightly, but I figure waiting another 18 hours or so to give it another full day’s run to see what the daily error is. (I suspect it’s still getting used to ambient temperatures etc., and settling in after it’s trip home.) There is some (deliberate? consequence of age?) freedom in how the wheels align, and one of those definitely seemed out, so I pushed it back, only to have the clock stop after 20 mins or so as various bits of my tinkering seem to have compounded the wrong way: the energy supply must be sensitively tuned relative to the amount of friction that can be introduced into the system.

Slightly more off-putting was a clunk on the rise to the hour, increasing in frequency, and then a slowing after the hour. There’s a single strike (I guess that’s an example of a complication, unless complications only refer to watches???), so I wondered if it could be something to do with the eccentricity of that; but it had more of a sound of something slipping or giving way, which I fancied might have something to do with the fusee powertrain:

Having emailed a quick audio grab to the clockshop:

a response quickly came back  that, firstly, it was very off-beat, (which I’d been introduced to in the shop as one of the things that could go “wrong” with it), and of less concern that the clunk was likely a thing, perhaps with the fusee mechanism, that would probably start to settle down as the clock found its way and tempered in:

Taking a look at the audio clip in Audacity, it’s easy to see that the tick and the tock were not evenly spaced:

The fix, as I’d been shown in the shop, and clarified via the “Andrew Clayton, Clock Repairs” website, from which the below image was taken, was to “bend the crutch”:

My warped logic for which way to bend the crutch (the bit at the back) was towards from the tock side, figuring that the clock need to spend less time getting back to the centrepoint from that side. So right hand high and push low with the left, counter to the above example.

Things are a bit better now (though a little bit more adjustment is still required), and the clunking seemed to have settled a bit too although it seems to have just come back now the temperature in the house is changing as night falls and the heating does whatever the heating does:

One thing I did notice having got the beat (I thought) sorted was that it really needs setting in situ. I’d got a pretty good beat going with the clock sat on a rug, but when I moved it back it went off again: presumably the level was slightly off one location relative to the other. A small two-asix spirit level is now on my “must-get-one-of-those” list.

Quite a fascinating machine, really, and something to learn the ways of over the days, weeks, months and years. It’s an eight-day wind and needs a service at least every 20 years, apparently…

In passing, and in trying to start looking for services of vocabulary (pretty much all learning is based, in part at least, at getting the vocabulary down and relating that to what you can see, and hear…), I came across various menions of Parliament clocks, named after the short lived Duties on Clocks and Watches Act, 1797, and the idea of a marriage, a clock in a non-original case,  (from a “marriage of unrelated parts”).

There’s a lot there that might be interesting to explore for a story or two, methinks…

And it’s far more interesting than digital tech…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...