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   Clock Repairs--- Hints and Tips.

  I have gathered together some useful clock repair articles for anyone who is new to Horology, or is maybe curious as to what exactly happens to your clock when in for repair!

David West has kindly made space on his website to allow me to pass on a little knowledge that has taken me 30 years to learn. One thing that I would say at the outset is, don't try to take all the information in at one go. Take each process, one at a time and try to master that subject before moving on to the next. Some people will no doubt say, it's all right for him to talk, but I am self taught and all I had was a second hand copy of the book, De Carles clock repair. At times the air was blue as I struggled to master some task or other, so take heart it can be done!

I have been looking at the NAWCC message board for over a year now and most questions on the site are centered around.

Bushing clock plates.

Pivot polishing, filling, burnishing etc.

Making workshop tools.

These articles take some time to put together so be patient and they will appear on these pages but for now I have included some articles that have already been published, either in the Clocks magazine UK or the British Horological Journal, enjoy. David Creed  

The first article shows how to make a chuck to hold clock wheels safely in your lathe                

If you make clocks or cut wheels on a regular basis, you may be interested in this wheel holding device. I came up with this idea in the mid 80s and have used it ever since. In its basic form it is little more than a piece of steel, screwed onto the lathe mandrel with a ½ inch hole through the middle.  

  Embryo chuck screwed onto lathe mandrel. True all surfaces and take off corners

Remove and replace the chuck about 10 times and check for true running. If at this stage it is not running true something has gone wrong. Check for swarf or even the lathe bearings.

Back in the 80s I had an old zyto lathe and had it more or less permanently rigged for wheel cutting using this device. I have taken the opportunity to make a version for my Unimat lathe so the photographs will make things a little clearer. The lathe that you have will determine the diameter of steel bar you need to make this device. First drill-bore and screw cut a female thread to fit your lathe. Screw the steel bar onto the lathe and clean up all surfaces. Go up through the drill sizes to just under ½ inch. Finish with a boring tool that is nice and sharp and with a small radius put on with an Arkansas stone. What we are aiming for is a polished bore with no ridges.  


 Boring the 1/2" hole. Note the tommy bar hole.

 Drilling the tapping hole. Note packing, bruises will affect accuracy.

It helps if you have a piece of ½ steel to check the progress of the boring job. The bore should be about 1” deep. Remove from the lathe and drill a tapping hole ½ inch from the outer end of the device and a tommy bar hole to aid removal. The hole is for a high tensile grub screw and I would recommend ¼ or 6mm, the reason being that the screw has to withstand side forces when in use.

The spigots are made next and I have always made these from mild steel, but for the unimat I made them from stainless steel, all I will say is that in future I will make them from mild steel.

Cut the rough spigots about 1 7/8 long and face one end and make sure that there are no burs that will mark the bore. Install each spigot in turn and tighten the allan key just enough to mark the metal. When removing the spigot remember that the opposite side of the bore is holy ground and must never be bruised or accuracy will be lost. Place the spigot on a piece of brass or wood and centre pop the mark. Drill the spigot the clearance size of the grub screw of your choice-about 3/16 deep. Take off any burrs with a needle file (you don’t have to be fussy as this side of the spigot does not touch the bore when in use) Install the embryo spigot and turn to the diameter of your choice, tap the end and the device is ready for use.  

 Drilling the spigot, note copper packing

  Using a 3/8" pin drill on 1/8" brass plate


Whatever your method of drilling holes in the wheel blanks it has to be consistent otherwise the wheel blanks will not fit the spigot, or the holes will be too big.

I am a big fan of pin drills and have made many over the years. If I can get a 1/8” hole in the right place, I can drill larger holes without the need to go through those tedious drill changes.

In a repair workshop you never know what is coming in from one day to the next, that is why I use pin drills; they are used for brass only and seldom need sharpening.

If you are a fan of reamers that’s fine as long as you’re drilling technique is consistent.

Drill a hole in a scrap piece of 1/8 brass and use this as a gauge when you are turning the spigot down to its final diameter, what we are aiming for is a near wring on fit to ensure accuracy.

Switch off the lathe while testing for fit or you will be visiting the nearest hospital in no time at all. During the making of the Unimat spigots, it seemed that all I was taking off was dust, but this will end up a precision device so nothing better will do. I have cut countless wheels using this system and it has never let me down.  


. Testing the fit of a spigot using 1/8" brass plate

Wheel chuck with some spigots

If you need to cut a small diameter wheel, then make a spigot with clearance for cutter run out.

Other uses for this device are hand turning, in mid 2002 I made a skeleton clock with 4 vertical pillars and on each end are large brass end caps. Each piece of brass was drilled ¼ and hand turned using this system. There are no projections to catch the fingers and you can turn in complete safety.

When I first started using this device I had to check every time a spigot was changed over and was amazed at the 0-1  thou accuracy

The day after I made the (chuck) a repair job came in, which was a barrel bottom replacement.  

I took the opportunity to take some photographs to show how easy it is using this chuck.  

Barrel bottom replacement. Wheel blank turned to diameter and coated with marker pen, ready for the wheel cutting machine

Using a boring tool to recess the barrel bottom and testing the fit of the barrel


Using a v tool to finish the recess and turn the boss to diameter. Note the brass spacing tube is sacrificed in the process.  

The finished job, the rough workshop drawing with all measurements is vital. This was a solid barrel so was a little more involved but as a rule barrel bottom replacement should  be straightforward  

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