March meeting

Polishing metals a talk by Mr Adrian Garner

AGarner

Adrian is the Chairman of the Society of Model and Experimental Engineers, SMEE for short.  Like many youngsters, he played with model railways but he became more interested in the mechanisms and the gear wheels which led to his long time interest in clock making.

He was awarded the Claude B. Reeve Trophy for a beautifully executed Congreve rolling ball clock at the Model Engineer Exhibition, Sandown Park 2010 and has had articles published in both the Horological Journal and the Model Engineer magazine.

Whilst we all recognize a polished surface, Adrian discussed the problems in defining the characteristics of a polished surface both from a theoretical and practical point of view.  He then described and illustrated the methods he uses, including some less conventional approaches, to obtaining polished surfaces on brass and steel components whilst retaining their shape and avoiding rounded edges, dimples and other blemishes.

February meeting

Early Flintlocks and their Manufacture by

Paul Dyer  MA FBIPP FIOD ACII

After a long career in the insurance industry including co-founder of Towergate Partnership; Paul now lectures on Risk Management and Climate Change for businesses across the UK. He has a strong interest in the Military and sponsors the development of the RMA Sandhurst archive, which he has supported from its inception. He has also written for the RMA Sandhurst Journal “Wish Stream” and has written regularly for the Insurance Trade Press.

Now having a little more free time Paul has been able to indulge and learn more of his passion for clocks and watches. He has enjoyed being welcomed by the members of the South London Branch and wishes to reciprocate with sharing his knowledge of one his other passions for military history and the manufacture of Flintlocks. His lecture this evening promises to be a unique chance to experience how early military hardware was put together and how expensive these were in relation to the production of clocks.

January meeting

January 9, 2014

Admiral Lord Nelson and the domestic clock – Rory McEvoy

This talk looked mainly at clocks and watches produced in the 1800 to 1825 period, which is often referred to as the ‘golden age of the painted dial’, and highlighted a few select examples that celebrate the successes of the British Navy from the National Maritime Museum’s collection.

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Image © NMM

“P.G. TIPS” A Lecture by Christopher Hurrion to the South London Branch of the BHI. December 5, 2013

Christopher Hurrion has been interested in carriage clocks since being given a broken one nearly forty years ago. This he cleaned and set going again; in his own words more by luck than through technical knowledge. Having been seduced by the love of horology nearly 40 years ago, he and Charles started a joint enterprise on Paul Garnier. He has built on those foundations since then. As a result far more is now known about him and his carriage clocks, especially the sequence in which most of his models appeared, than when Charles’ and Peter Bonnert’s seminal book ‘Carriage Clocks’ was published.

 

Jean Paul Garnier (1801-1869), known simply as Paul Garnier, was most properly given full credit by the mid-19th century French Horological Establishment for being the creator of the Parisian carriage clock industry. In this connection Christopher paid tribute to E. Flachat, the writer of P.G’s obituary, which appeared in the Revue Chronométrique of 1869. It is to Flachat that is owed most for our knowledge about Garnier’s early life, his career, his business and interests generally. P.G. of course, was not the first in France to make carriage clocks; that credit almost certainly belongs to Breguet, more than 30 years earlier.  What, however, P.G. did do for the French carriage clock was to make their products affordable to ordinary people when they had previously been beyond their means. Paul Garnier’s more or less factory-made carriage clocks left nothing to be desired while remaining comparatively inexpensive. The proof of their excellence is how many early examples, some of them over 180 years old, go today as briskly and reliably as when they were first made. Their sheer quality needs to be closely analysed to be appreciated.

 

In 1826 Paul Garnier distinguished himself by showing to the Académie des Sciences in Paris (founded in 1666) a remontoire escapement for clocks, which, because of its coup-perdu nature, allowed seconds to be shown from a half-seconds pendulum. He followed this up in the 1827 Paris Exhibition with a very complicated mantel regulator having the same escapement but in addition offering a number of astronomical indications. This clock almost certainly owed at least something to the influence of Antide Janvier, whose free horological School P.G. is known to have attended after he came to Paris. At all events, Garnier was not long in coming to Janvier’s notice. The latter was happy to teach so promising a pupil, allowing him in 1827 to adopt the style “Elève de Janvier”, despite the fact that P.G. had never worked directly for him.

 

Christopher explained and showed close-up photographs of Garnier’s chaff-cutter escapement, which consists of two parallel wheels mounted on the same pinion. Each tooth of the wheels ending with an inclined surface is opposite to the space of the other. These wheels are bisected by a ruby sector with a radiused edge oscillating from one tooth to another. The tips are at frictional rest on top of the sector and impulse is given to a balance via the inclined plane of the tooth, to the radius edge of the sector. His escapement differed from the cylinder escapement in that it had no lateral pressure on the balance pivots, thus reducing wear and maintaining good balance amplitude. The chaff-cutter proved both practical and un-temperamental. Better still, it could be made largely without hand-work. It was one of the factors in the great success of his carriage clocks; these were exceedingly well made down to the smallest detail, the majority of balances being brass and rectangular in section with radiused edges, the springs flat volutes of six or seven turns. They were, of course, closely related to the best Pendules de Paris, having excellent wheelwork and fine hard pivots and with the added refinement of rack striking-work. Their ‘one-piece’ cases were not only very strong, but were totally free from “rattles” and almost entirely dust-proof.

 

Numbered pieces to just before no. 180 are not carriage clocks at all but pendules portatives in wooden or cast-brass cases or else with naked movements on wooden bases under glass shades. Their Pendule Paris movements were probably “bought in” from Saint-Nicolas-d’Aliermont and their escapements changed or added in Garnier’s work rooms. Christopher showed us no. 34 which was primarily an ‘advertisement clock’ made for exhibition purposes to show off its balance-controlled escapement to potential customers. Another, no. 14, a twin of the previous one, is the earliest Christopher has seen or recorded, and it is of particular interest as having a ‘magnifying bubble’ in the top of its glass shade. Almost all pendules portatives and carriage clocks with Garnier’s escapement appear to have been stamped ‘P.G. Breveté’ (P.G. Patent) on the backplate. In No. 14 however, the balance cock is stamped simply ‘Breveté’. His chaff-cutter two-plane escapement has the great advantage of turning the going train through 90 degrees without the need for a contrate wheel, a frequent source of trouble in conventional carriage clocks, mainly because the escape pinions of their original (or replaced) platforms do not match their contrate wheels.

 

Christopher is currently trying to track down an early example of Garnier’s work Clock No 179, of which only photographs are known. This clock is significant as the escapement seems to be transitional and there is tantalising evidence of a date code on the clock. This clock also has the day and date rollers, (à rouleaux).

 

Apart from this clock and the series (0) clocks, all clocks up to 1850 appear to have or have had chaff-cutters. The movements were always fitted with finger-type stop work to the going side and sometimes on the striking side. The series (0) clocks (six are known) used a removable platform assembly  which consist of the balance cock and bottom potence complete with balance, spring, index, staff and disc only; the escape wheels remaining in the movement. Garnier clocks up to at least no. 1167 wind from the front. Most of the portative dials are engine turned in circular waves. In carriage clocks the dials are engine turned with wavy vertical or horizontal stripes the centres being of a radial (rose engine) pattern. All of these would have been finished with dead silvering, (see Claude Saunier’s ‘The Watchmaker’s Handbook’ for the recipe).The series (0) are timepiece movements, have gold balances, watch type quarter repeating and are reminiscent of Breguet’s work.

 

The series (1) are both large and small offering various types of complication from alarm work to striking, striking hours and quarters and repeating. Christopher showed us a selection of these. As the series (1) progressed so did Garnier’s popularity, signing himself on a few clocks “Paul Garnier Elève de Janvier”. Later Garnier had clocks signed for various retailers in Europe whom he supplied.  Christopher showing us one example, no. 568, a grande sonnerie clock and the first known to be signed “Her. Du Roi” which had an enamel dial set behind a gilt mask, two sector quadrants for sonnerie/silence and for quarts/heures et quarts as well as, unusually, the bells mounted horizontally on the underside of the case.

 

By 1839 he was entitled to sign himself “Hger. Du Roi” but most likely did not so until after the revolution of 1848. From the numbering and signed mainsprings it is deduced that from 1831 to 1834 Garnier made about 500 clocks approximately a further 350 by 1836 and a further 2000 by 1848. He also signed himself “Her. de la Marine”, probably after 1848.

 

Christopher also showed us an unusual day date clock employing concentric discs. The clock strikes hours and the half hours, then repeating the same on a gong. This is signed for the retailer ‘Milleret et Tissot à Geneve’ and the striking is achieved by two pin wheels both inwardly facing; a pause is created in the hour to half hour striking as the hammer arbour is shunted, the tail picking up the relative blows from one or other of the wheels in turn. This clock we were told was discovered in pieces covered in verdigris in three boxes at the back of a London clockshop. Obviously a headache for the repairer! Christopher was grateful for the talents of Ian Ford in restoring this and getting it together again.

 

A feature of Paul Garnier quarter striking work was his use of shunts Christopher illustrated this with the photographs of no 1103, its dial removed to show the two racks and the way the hammers are pushed across to strike the hours and then the quarters. Smaller series (1) have no repeating work and there is only one known example with alarm work; otherwise all are plain striking movements. The cases of this series were uniform in construction the collets to the wheel work the same and always the same gear count giving a 15120 vibration per hour. Jewelling was limited to the balance and its pivots only and should be viewed with suspicion if otherwise. Wooden blocks were fitted to the bases as a practical means to stop the clocks from toppling over if overhanging a ledge, these being numbered the same as the clock but with a further two numbers in ink – the assembler’s works number, perhaps?

 

The Series (2) clocks were more decorative. Later cases were engraved the dials being enamel with blue black or gold numerals. These movements wound and set from the back which meant that the hand styles could change as they no longer required to be so robust Series (2) (3) and (4) do tend to overlap one another and (3) can be distinguished by the movements not being housed in the one piece style cases but often in a multi-piece case; the movements are the same quality as the series (2) and are mainly repeating. The series (4) however are simpler and mainly have a count wheel striking movement, therefore are not repeating; although some have rack striking and are repeating. The early portatives were also count wheel and could easily be put right if the time shown became out of synch. with the hours struck but the series (4) clocks had one other difference as the rear opening doors of the  Series (2) and (3) were replaced with an engraved panel through which the clock was wound.

 

Christopher is aware of special case designs and two large musical series (1) clocks but said these were disappointing as the musical movements are not in his opinion of good quality. By 1839 Garnier was pursuing other different mechanical interests notably medicine, steam and electricity and his interest in the carriage clocks was waning. Apart from constructing his own clockmaking machines he developed an engine counter for railway and marine use and Christopher’s last photographs were of this, both front and rear, showing how it was connected to a round-ébauche movement.

 

Garnier also produced electric master and slave clocks to the railway system of France, Gare de Lyon being one of the closest to us that was still using these timepieces until about 20 years ago. Garnier was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur for his work. It is thought that his son continued the retail side of the business after his father’s death.

 

Christopher concluded his talk by thanking us for our attention and to Charles Allix for firing his enthusiasm all those years ago. After a quick question and answer session Philip Whyte offered our vote of thanks to Christopher for a very interesting evening full of many facts about this fascinating technician; far more than it is possible to convey on this short report.

 

Duncan Greig.

Not only did Duncan bring along a bench but also also a selection of traditional clock and watchmakers’ turning tools. He started the demonstration by fitting a contrate wheel to an arbor using a beautifully preserved 19th century clockmakers’ throw. 03As the work is held between centres, it is necessary to fit a carrier. Whilst fitting the carrier, Duncan explained that many old clock arbors have a small chamfer turned at each shoulder so that the arbor can be spun between centres without stressing the pivots. He added that the throw has a significant advantage over a chuck lathe as the work can easily be removed for inspection and then put back – safe in the knowledge that the work will be running exactly as before. 04

Once the carrier and the arbor were fitted into place Duncan began to turn the collet for the contrate wheel. Whilst spinning the hand-wheel, Duncan described how he was cutting back a gentle taper to find the right diameter for the wheel, then he repeatedly removed the work to check against the wheel. When the right diameter was achieved he turned the side of the collet straight, removed the work once more and pushed the wheel home. Re-mounted the wheel and arbor between centres and then using a burnisher rubbed over the end of the collet to hold the wheel good and tight. The contrate wheel was then passed around the audience to see the slightly domed burnished collet end that was immovably holding the wheel to the arbor.

Duncan then showed a smaller bow lathe, which he admitted was perhaps not always commercially viable to use in the modern day workshop, but was  nonetheless very enjoyable to own. A tool Duncan employs regularly in his workshop is the modern set of Swiss watchmaker’s turns which formed the next part of his demonstration. Duncan mainly uses these to support components whilst polishing them. He uses various custom made brass runners for this but demonstrated the tuning of a steel spacer.

05 The spacer was mounted to a carrier in the form of a tapered steel arbor with integral pulley wheel. Before fitting the carrier between the centres, he laid the hair of the bow across the bed of the turns. Once the work is fitted he can then simply pull the bow upwards setting the hair on the pulley and by rotating the bow wrap the line tightly around the pulley. He turned the piece, only cutting on the down-stroke of the bow, whilst explaining that he found the small turns very useful for everyday work and used them a lot.06

The final stage of Duncan’s demonstration was to burnish the pivot of an old cylinder assembly on the Jacot tool. He used the balance as a carrier for this procedure and cautioned the audience that it was all too easy to remove material from tiny pivots and it was worth checking progress regularly.

Duncan joked modestly that he should not be trusted with anyone’s watch but the pivot remained intact and gained a bright burnished finish.

07

 

DOC498
Mainspring winder with reversible ratchet

James Marten, our glorious leader, took to the bench with a mainspring which had been pulled out of its barrel causing a permanent set. “This is not acceptable” he said, peering over the top of his glasses sternly at the audience and then explained that a mainspring winder could prevent this evil and should be considered an essential bit of kit for any clockmaker’s workshop.

He than produced his mainspring winder, similar to the example illustrated above and a fusee barrel with mainspring inside. Once the cap had been popped off and the mainspring fully wound, James took a pair of short-nosed pliers to grip the end of the spring before removing the barrel – the shorter the nose of the pliers the greater the grip. The spring was kept from unfurling by hand and inspected for sharp edges before being released slowly – during the process being careful to position his body so that he was out of harms way. The spring had a slight set to it and James then demonstrated how it was possible to reduce this by careful systematic bending and corrected the shape so that it would develop inside the barrel with out scraping either end.02

We were then shown a new spring, which was released from its binding, wiped and checked. The first and most important thing was to make sure that the hooking was central and of the right shape. The hooking should, ideally have a flat edge to receive the barrel hook so that it can find its centre inside the barrel and most new mainsprings have oval hole, which prevent this and therefore should be carefully filed to shape -ensuring that no sharp edges are left – and bent so that they readily meet the hook. Once the spring was wound up and fitted to the barrel, the arbor was then fitted and gripping the square with a pair of parallel pliers, James checked to see if it engaged properly with the end of the spring – which it did. The spring was oiled lightly to the tops of the turns, using engine oil, definitely not lacquer (you had to be there) and the cap replaced. The square was then help in the vice and the barrel checked for endshake. James wound up the spring, pausing every now and then to check the endshake. When it was fully wound with equal endshake at every stage, it was allowed to unwind and judged ready for purpose.01

Concluding his demonstration, James explained how to measure a mainspring with a view to replacing it. Using a bench micrometer, he checked its thickness and a ruler to check the height, as well as the barrel’s inside diameter.

James managed to make, what can be quite a terrifying job for the inexperienced workman, look safe and easy – the mark of a true professional!

The first demonstration of the evening was given to us in considerable detail by Ron Rose, who firstly described the equipment required for piercing out intricate designs in brass and other materials, and went on to demonstrate the procedure with great effect.08

A thin metal table with a wedge cut out from it is firmly set up on the work bench to support the job, and a deep throated piercing saw with a round back blade is used. The blades Ron uses are German and can be purchased from Cousins. The choice of blade requires two to three teeth per thickness of work to prevent snagging, and the edge of the metal table can be cut against to reduce the speed of cut when making an intricate manoeuvre. The stroke needs to use the full length of the blade, so there will be constant wear over its whole length, but by using only part of the cutting area it increases wear in a small section and when another part of the blade is used it will grab and break, but lubricant should not be used.

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Now for the demonstration. A pattern is glued and rolled onto the work using a mild adhesive. Ron advises to cut to the line as this reduces filing time. (Try it!!). The saw remains parallel with the arm and does not follow the line of the pattern, as the cutting action remains on the same spot. It is the work that is fed into the blade and on the line as was demonstrated with a circle partially cut out by Ron, and when examined against the light one could not see the point of owning a file. The circle was perfect and without jagged edges.

 

These skills are only mastered over long hours and many years of practise. Ron has been using a piercing saw from the age of fifteen, and has been most generous to share with us some of the lessons he has had to learn the hard way.

Ron received loud and very appreciative applause from the members and guests.

Converting a LINDOW wheel cutting engine to fully automatic indexing and feed

Alan’s talk showed us how to convert a ”LINDOW” wheel cutting engine to fully automatic indexing and feed.

pt265The Lindow is a sturdy machine imported from America by Malcolm Wild it uses conventional indexing and manual feed/return of the cutting tool. This method requires concentration and is open to error especially on unusual and high wheel counts.

Using a couple of recycled stepper motors, some inexpensive toothed belts and wheels, stepper motor drivers and some freely available software Alan was able to convert this machine into a fully automatic and highly accurate wheel cutting engine.10

Alan demonstrated cutting a 29 tooth 0.8 module wheel. Using the software supplied free by Rex Svenson Alan entered the number of teeth and the module, the software calculates wheel diameter and depth of cut the accuracy is shown in this example it showed to be 0.000064” this is so insignificant. The system is a bit on the slow side for commercial use, but this is far outweighed by the fact that you can leave the whole thing to finish the job.

Alan makes all his cutters using the method learnt at a BHI seminar given by Jim Armfield and this along with the REX SVENSON software shows how simply and economically wheels can be cut to a high accuracy.

December meeting

December meeting

PG Tips

We are very grateful to Christopher Hurrion for this month’s lecture. First given in 1992 at the Science Museum with collaboration with Charles Allix he presented the fruits of research into the life Paul Garnier since the publication of the Allix and Bonnert book. Time and experience can only enrich our knowledge.

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Image courtesy of Antique Clocks, price and identification guide

Those of us who appreciate carriage clocks owe a great debt of gratitude to Paul Garnier, who has been recognized as the founder of the Paris carriage clock industry. Born Jean-Paul Garnier in Épinal, France in November 1801, he was obliged to start working at an early age because his father died when he was only ten.  Paul (his preferred name) moved to Paris at age nineteen to work for the clockmaker Lépine and attended the clockmaking school of Antide Janvier.  About five years later he established his own business in Paris, showing great creativity and cleverness through inventions such as his version of a constant-force frictionless remontoire escapement which he incorporated in a complicated mantel regulator shown in the 1827 Paris Exhibition.  Throughout his life Garnier had wide-ranging interests, but in my lecture I will concentrate on his work as a carriage clock maker and the various clever and creative things he did in that capacity.  He was the key instigator in popularizing carriage clocks, and he did this with efficient production of attractive case designs and movements (including specifically his patented chaff-cutter escapement) while building his reputation using various versions of his signature that often included descriptive and impressive titles to distinguish and add value to his work.

 

Christopher Hurrion, a solicitor, has been interested in carriage clocks since being given a broken one nearly forty years ago, which he cleaned and set going again, more by luck than through technical knowledge. He has been legal adviser to the Antiquarian Horological Society for many years and was Master Clockmaker and President of the BHI in 2003. He is still on the Court of the Clockmakers’ Company and is currently and has been for the last seven years Chairman of the Trustees of the Clockmakers’ Museum & Educational Trust, an independent charity which is responsible for the Clockmakers’ Museum in Guildhall in the City of London.