So you want to fix a mechanical clock – Part I – a beginner’s toolkit

So you want to fix a clock – a beginner’s toolkit. This article will describe some of the tools required to tackle the repair and/or cleaning of mechanical clocks.

Disclaimer. While not a trained horologist I have some advanced skills-sets but I am still learning as I go

Based on 5+ years of clock repair the following are a selection of tools I believe every beginner should have in their toolkit. Some of these items can be sourced at your local hardware store though specialty items must be ordered from clock suppliers such as Timesavers in the USA, Perrin for those in Canada, or Meadows and Passmore for those in the UK. Avoid craft shops much as possible. They are ideal for paint and paintbrushes but they tend to charge much higher prices for tools. A ball peen hammer bought at a hardware store costs half as much as one found in a craft shop.

It pays to spend a little more for better quality

The lead photo shows an assortment of clock keys that would fit just about any clock winding arbour.

Here is what you need

Magnifier: They are available in various strengths and allow a much closer view of your work.

Magnifier
Magnifier

Work light: Illuminates your work, this one articulates and has a magnifier.

Worklight
Work-light

Pliers: A variety of pliers to hold on to your work, release taper pins, tighten nuts, cut wires. The green handle pliers are non-serrated (flat-nose).

Assorted pliers
Assorted pliers

Hammers: A ball peen hammer is very useful (not pictured). The craft clip holder is useful for steadying items that are to be soldered.

Hammers and craft clip
Hammers and craft clip

Files: Variety of sizes to help shape or file down anything on a movement.

Files
Files

Tweezers: Getting into tight situations, grabbing small parts, positioning parts into place are typical uses for tweezers

Tweezers
Tweezers

Level: To find the correct beat the movement (clock) must be level.

Level
Level

Spring clamps: To restrain the power of the mainspring. The flat clamp (upper right) is for those mainsprings which do not leave a lot of working room. Otherwise, the other round clamps are good for most applications.

Assorted clamps
Assorted clamps

Screw drivers: Always handy to remove movements from cases, loosen bolts, pry parts.

Screwdrivers and box wrench
Screwdrivers and box wrench

Letdown set: Before working on a movement the mainsprings must be letdown or restrained in their clamps. The letdown key is the safest method of letting down the mainsprings. Inserts cover most arbour sizes.

Letdown set
4-piece letdown set, #5-6, #7-8, #10, #12

Hand reamers and broaches (cutting and smoothing): For bushing clocks when you cannot afford the luxury of a bushing machine. Cutting and smoothing broaches are useful for enlarging a new bushing when tight tolerances are required. They come in assorted sizes.

cutting and smoothing broaches
cutting and smoothing broaches

Cotton swabs: A variety of cleaning uses.

Cotton swabs
Cotton swabs

Clock oil: Once the movement is apart and cleaned it must be re-assembled then oiled prior to use. The oil, whether it is conventional or synthetic, must be specifically designed for a clock movement.

Clock pivot oil
Clock pivot oil

Toothpicks: For cleaning and “pegging out” bushings on a movement

Toothpicks
Toothpicks

Clock stand: Once the movement has been re-assembled it is tested outside the case for a short period. Gene’s movement stand is a fully adjustable test stand.

Clock movement stand
Clock movement stand

Camera: At every part of the process a digital camera can record critical stages in assembling and dis-assembling a movement. I use a 50mm macro lens for close work.

Digital Camera
Digital Camera

Electronic Caliper: Indispensable for measuring the thickness of anything, springs, pivots, plates and so on. Available at a clock supply house or save a little money and buy the same tool from a retail outlet such as  Canadian Tire in Canada.

Using a micrometer to check pivot
Using a micrometer to check pivot diameter

One might also add a pivot locator, an excellent tool for aligning pivots with their holes during assembly.

Build you set of tools little by little to spread the cost. You may already have some of the items I’ve mentioned but buy what you need when you need it. As for those specialized tools, broaches for example, it pays to spend a little extra for better quality.

These are the tools you require to start your journey into clock repair. If you have a tool (or tools) you feel is indispensable for the beginning clock-maker please let me know.

In Part II I will describe tools for those who would wish to advance their skills in clock repair.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.