November meeeting

Following the AGM there will be a series of short presentations:

– Duncan Greig presents an inappropriate use of lead solder – how not to repair a tourbillon
– A short film describing the manufacture of high quality gut lines at the Bow Brand factory
-Grenville Johns, to discuss fitting and wiring a 3 phase motor to a lathe
-Morris Fagg, describes a four facet drill sharpening jig and the benefits of the extra facets
-James will present an addendum to his excellent mainspring talk


September 2013, Meeting


The overhaul and servicing of complicated travelling and carriage clocks. 


Our speaker this year needs no introduction to members of the South London branch BHI. But for those of you who are new to our membership my personal recollections of his quiet and unassuming achievements are as follows. Ron’s horological career started when a school careers officer placed two options in front of him over 50 years ago.


A complicated carriage clock, shown for illustrative purposes only. Original image and catalogue entry for this clock can be found on the Antiquorum web archive. 

In Ron’s own words “thank heavens I was right-handed and chose horology” and at the tender age of 15 he took an apprenticeship with Thwaites and Reed; “the alternative would have been a typewriter engineer”. My first recollection of Ron was visiting the workshops above Strike One Islington in 1978. Already established as one of the top restoration businesses in London I appreciated the fine work displayed in the workshops. Learning of his recent publication of a book on English Dial Clocks I made it a priority in my Christmas list that year. I next saw Ron with his family exhibiting at the Clocks for Everyman exhibition 1980. Ron had to move his business from Islington and many of us have visited his shop on the junction of the Five Ways at 731 Sidcup Road, where he looked after the trade and public alike. Ron has always taken an active interest in the BHI helping his fellow horologist with work and advice when needed; he has trained three apprentices that I know of. In the 1990s he encouraged members of the South London branch to construct a skeleton clock at Upton Hall. This led on to setting up a workshop in 1998 for those individuals who wished to take part in the millennium project constructing their own skeleton clock. There were both professional and amateur alike working side-by-side revelling in the support that Ron gave them. The late Beresford Hutchinson was one of those members. For this Ron was awarded the BHI Barrett Silver Medal in recognition of his services to encourage the furtherance of horology. Ron’s own clock, his second, a month duration striking skeleton clock, is testament to his high standard. Ron has taken part in the Art in Action demonstrations, is a member of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers and was part of the examining board of the BHI. I have nothing but a high regard for his skills and ability to overhaul some of the rarest carriage clocks that collectors and dealers have placed in his hands. Over the years I have observed the high quality and reliability of his work with complicated traveling and carriage clocks.

Ron is the driving force behind the South London branch and without his perseverance the current workshop would not have come to fruition. Ron still continues to impart the knowledge; skills and camaraderie he has done for many years with this lecture which will include minute repeating work, Grand Sonnerie repeating work, lunar work, perpetual calendar work, a short video presentation and the work of James Ferguson Cole.

D. Greig

From the SLBBHI Workshop


We thought it may be interesting to show some of what as been going on in the SLBBHI workshop during the evening classes.

Let me first set the scene. The class is made up of a mixed bag of ‘students’ with a range of abilities including those with many years of prior horological experience, through to myself with almost none. So far, each student brings in their own projects to work on. Each gets individual attention from Ron and, on welcomed occasions, James, with advice on how to proceed, problem solving, associated history, and subtle encouragement for further study. The evenings are frequently punctuated by talks or demonstrations given to the whole class by Ron. Everyone takes an interest in the other students’ projects. In this way the learning opportunities are frequent and cover many aspects. I am looking forward to the next class before I have left the current.

Onward! To describe a project, chosen just because it is mine, and my first ever dabble in the practical aspects of clocks:

The subject is a weight-driven winged lantern clock by Thomas Dyde, Londini, probably dating from around 1660’s. It has been in my family for about 50 years. It has not been cleaned or given much care since it was first restored after being purchased as a box of blackened parts from a shop while on family holiday in Yorkshire. For most of those years it has been running and I have childhood memories: of it’s tick; of watching the pendulum swing in and out of the windows in the wings; and of raising the weight and the pleasing sensation feeling the click while pulling the rope. In recent years it had become tired and would need to take a nap after a few minutes of running. So, it has been temporarily entrusted to me to enliven.

At the start, I had no intention of writing about it so I don’t have any pictures of the initial condition. On first opening the sides it became clear what the probable cause of it’s unreliable performance was: cobwebs and the remains of a diverse range of arthropods. The attention of a 2″ paint brush completed the problem solving but I took the opportunity to dismantle, clean the components with lighter fluid, remove surface rust from the iron components with a fiber-glass pencil, reassemble, and oil. Here are some pictures of the result, with some comments on things I learned, with Ron’s help, along the way.

Lantern Clock

So you can see what I’m talking about, here is the clock, cleaned, and in the sun.







The first point of interest along my journey that I want to share was the minute-hand wheel. The hand sits over the square end. In it’s current state, the hand is held on by a washer and a pin through the steel shaft which the wheel rotated on. However, Ron notes that originally the hand would have been held with a clip that sits in the groove in the square end. The first clue to some changes the clock has seen over the years. The wheel also shows signs that the strike pin has moved and that a tooth has been replaced due to a stress crack that started at the original location of the strike pin. (click pictures for full-size)


Another example of a replacement tooth, and the first I noticed, was not dovetailed as the minute-had repair has been, but instead has a round mortice profile. This is on the wheel that takes the weight (I’m not up to speed on terminology yet, despite being told).


This wheel also shows signs of alterations. The click stop has been upgraded from a latch spring that would have engaged the wheel spokes (and there is considerable wear on these as evidence) and given a ‘stop’ every quarter of a turn of the wheel, to a more fine latch on a new wheel mounted alongside.


More on the subject of stress fractures in cast  brass, here is a repair to a crack…


In detail, a stress-relieving stop hole drilled at the end, and a supporting plate riveted in place. It seems that the crack may have been aggravated by a replacement bush:



Someone in the past, who perhaps wanted to avoid riveting a replacement bush in a material prone to cracks, has opted for a more raw blacksmith technique to close up an oversize hole. (By the way, Thomas Dyde had a blacksmith apprenticeship  and was not known to be a member of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers so in some way this seems appropriate here but probably not generally recommended for fine clock restoration!) The metal around the pivot hole has been ‘moved’ to close up the hole by using a round punch around one section of the perimeter. The punch has been applied to both sides of the hole.


There are more photos available on Google+

August meeting

MARION SMITH –  Researching 18th and 19th Century Lewes Clockmakers.

Pre-talk blurb:

Marion was born, and still lives in Lewes Sussex. She was first introduced to Lewes clockmakers when she visited the longcase clock exhibition convened by the late Michael Sautter, at the premises of Bill Bruce. The longterm storage of a longcase clock by John Holman of Lewes, belonging to her nephew, served as a perpetual reminder that there was some research to be done!

A Richard Comber clock dial showing his unusually refined style - from

A Richard Comber clock dial showing his refined style – from


Marion is a retired psychologist, with a post graduate qualification in social science research methods. Local history research is somewhat different. But there was enough common ground to give her the impetus to launch into the local archives, assisted by access to the books and extensive knowledge provided by Bill Bruce.

The talk will follow the course of her research into 5 significant Lewes clockmakers; considering starting points, sources, recording information, overcoming confusion and maintaining the accuracy of research findings.

The Tale of an Aluminium Tube Or don’t throw it away you might need it

When I was sixteen my father and I bought a Drummond “B” lathe from the swap shop in Croydon. I am now sixty seven and still using the lathe after it came to me upon my father’s death some years ago. Over the years the lathe has had a bed regrind and various modifications including, electronic three phase speed control, a new lead screw and an extended cross slide.

In amongst all the bits and pieces was an aluminium tube about an inch long with markings around it. (See fig 1) Over the years I have considered throwing it in the scrap box as I could never find what it was for.


Recently I attended a course at the BHI to learn how to make fly cutters for wheel and pinion cutting. At the course we learnt to make a form cutter and then how to use this to make the fly cutter. This involved using the form tool on the secondary slide set at an angle to cut the blank.

The secondary slide for the Drummond is normally in the cupboard as I do not use it very often. As it was stiff in operation I stripped it and cleaned the thread adjusted out the back lash and considered what set up was required for cutting the blank. During the strip down a plate fell off with a notch on it, I examined it and reconsidered the o ring on the winding shaft. (See fig2)


Suddenly the light came on and I realised what the tube was for, found it in the draw, sliding it over the shaft and the o ring. My father had made and fitted an imperial vernier for the lead screw.

Having decided that the pitch of the lead screw was ten to the inch how was I going to measure the feed in millimetres?

I turned up a length of brass to fit the shaft. A tenth of an inch is 2.54mm so using my electronic dividing machine I scribed lines at 7.0866141730 this being 0.05 of a mm. The odd 0.4mm was painted black, so one turn bar the black bit is 2.5mm. (See Fig 3)


Rotate the curser round to lose the black bit and I can use the imperial; lead screw to measure mm.  With this device I can measure the feed down to 0.05 of a millimetre. (See Fig 4)



July meeting

The talk was a fascinating and enjoyable journey through an often overlooked area of horological history with great clocks and amazing instruments.
Pre-talk blurb:


Our Speaker will be David Hornsey from Frome in Somerset. David was trained in the scientific field of Biophysics and has a fine arts degree which he gained from studies at Southampton University. He then studied at the British Horological Institute’s course in Birmingham before taking his training further gaining a Diploma in antique clock restoration and conservation from West Dean College. He has an intense interest in Art and technological history.


The title of his talk will be “Clockmaking in Soho, Birmingham” and will focus on the horological history of the mid-18th century to the early 20th. Paying particular attention to the clockmaking of Mathew Boulton of Soho House and the Lunar Men who spearheaded the Industrial Revolution. David will illustrate the progression of 19th century clockmaking with workmen like John Haughton and W F Evans who made many of the elaborate architectural skeleton clocks of the second half of this period. He will also address some of his other research into this fascinating period of the horological history.

June meeting

SID LINES                                  WORKSHOP PRACTICE – HINTS AND TIPS

Lots of useful tips, presented with great clarity!!


Pre-talk blurb read:

This month’s talk is “Hints and Tips” it will have an Engineering slant to it, but will be useful to people that make clocks or clock parts on a regular basis.
The talk starts with a couple of Sid’s favourite gripes, followed by a section on some useful tips on the uses of a
lathe and cutters.
The second section is practical tips on how to get the best from a small milling machine like setting the machine and vice correctly plus some useful tips on cutter alignment.
The last part of the talk covers compression and tension spring making , drills and their uses plus some other odd
things to help in the workshop like pin making and flattening of metals etc.
Regulars at the South London Branch will remember Sid as chairman of the Kent branch. His engineering knowledge combined with his straight talking style will make an interesting and informative talk. I am sure we all will learn

R & A ?

Norvin wrote:
I am sure one of you will Know why on a number of German clocks is there a large R ↓ A on the pendulum?5245551_3_l

Hi Norvin
This appears on many clocks Retard or Advance R – A
Just like Slow or Fast S – F

May meeting – clockmaking


Clockmaking – Cornelia & George de Fossard


Cornelia and George de Fossard’s recently constructed miniature longcase clock appeared on the front cover of the February horological journal. Please join us as Cornelia and George take us on what promises to be a fascinating journey into modern-day clockmaking.




Cornelia served an apprenticeship to a carpenter and cabinet maker in Germany before heading to the UK to further her skills at West Dean college near Chichester. Now self-employed as a furniture restorer, she has an extensive range of of skills including carving, gilding and turning to mention just three.


George served a four year apprenticeship in mechanical engineering then went on to read Mechanical Design, Materials and Manufacture at the University of Nottingham. After a spell working in design engineering, he re-trained as a clockmaker at West Dean College.


George and Cornelia now run a business together based in Frome, Somerset specialising in the design and manufacture of fine quality handmade clocks. Cornelia also undertakes the conservation and restoration of early English furniture and clock cases.