Years of poor repairs and bad workmanship.

Antique clock movements run continuously without problems for remarkable periods of time; most of the subsequent wear results from the deterioration of the oil and the accumulation of abrasive dirt on working surfaces. Most of this wear and tear can be repaired and adjusted without recourse to making new components, which is ideal from a conservation point of view. Although not a scientifically reached statistic, it is my experience that pieces only need remaking if the original parts have been so badly repaired in the past that they are now useless; or subsequent later work is incorrect which also needs to be changed if the clock is to function properly.

The Suggates of Halesworth produced many nicely made Provincial, Suffolk clocks. However, the pretty little eight day oak clock I recently bought had suffered from some rather ugly repairs. The issues centred around the strike mechanism and the parts, which regulate how many blows, are struck on the bell each hour. The presence of lead solder and applied heat is not a good sign but the rack had been broken and some poor attempts had been made to remake the teeth, the rack hook had been filed away and the rack tail was the wrong length.

Interestingly the clock has a number of scratch marks with the dates and signatures of a number of clockmakers. A well maintained longcase should run for about ten years but the back of the dial on the front plate had been scratched with the dates 1840,1842,1844,1847.1849, 1854, 1860, 1862, and 1888; five different repairers in the 1840’s. These dates and the clumsy repairs seemed to indicate that something fundamental was not correct and that some explanation for a continued malfunction needed to be found. The ratio between the steps on the snail and the pitch of the teeth on the rack are critical. On close inspection I noticed that not only were the steps of the snail slightly too shallow they also varied in depth by as much as 0.5mm. Therefore the snail needed to be evened up and cut slightly deeper with a file before the rest strike work could be corrected and function properly. These basic discrepancies in the snail had led to the successive bending, filing and manhandling which had finally rendered the steel rack unworkable and irreparable with the only recourse being to make a new one. Not a five-minute job as I prefer to cut the teeth by hand with a piercing saw and files.

 

Posted on 5th August 2013

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