Friday, December 7, 2012

Barrel Closers

I can't finish my clock until we mail all of the plates off to be electroplated so I'm having to do random projects in the meantime to keep myself busy.  The last two days was spent turning out 2 different styles of barrel closers on the lathe.  They are both made of black polycarbonate plastic.  In a watch, the barrel holds the mainspring and its arbor and allows the spring to be coiled and power to be transmitted.  The barrel closer allows a watchmaker to snap the watch barrel enclosure and top plate into position using even pressure.
Otherwise I have been practicing my oiling and dis/reassembly skills on an ETA 2878 movement.  I have provided some pictures of my progress below.
 One of the barrel closers and its blueprints
Incabloc shock protection bearing and cap jewel
 The movement side of the 2878 without regulator or pallet bridge
Assembled 2878 on the timing machine

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Home plate

It's been a long and labor intensive week at school.  All of my time has been dedicated to finishing my clock plates in preparation for final plating and assembly.  After over 20 hours with the sandpaper I finally have results.  The clock plans called for windows to be cut in the plate to showcase the mechanism.  This looks nice, but I liked the heartier and more industrial look of the solid plate and opted to keep it.  To add a nice flare I applied perlage to both sides of each plate which adds a nice three dimensional visual interest to the piece.  The perlage was achieved by chucking an abrasive stick into the drill press and then kissing the material with it in a straight pattern.  It turned out better than I expected and should look very good when plated.

A finished plate. All that is left to do now is apply the nickel electroplating, though maybe I'll price out a gold plating.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pin-pallet video

Here's the pocket watch movement mentioned on a previous post functioning.  The amplitude of the balance wheel is fairly low but not bad for the quality of the movement.

Screwhead Polisher

Today I finished manufacturing and assembling my screw head polisher. It is essentially a brass jig that allows you to clamp a screw in the jaws, level the head on a polishing surface and achieve a high polish in that way. It was a fun little project that took several lathe, tap/die and mill operations to complete. My clock has passed its endurance test and I can start skeletonizing and polishing plates tomorrow. Once that is done it can be shipped off somewhere to be electroplated.

 Machining the steel guide posts on the Levin lathe
 The completed product.  The adapter on the left was milled out of a solid piece of brass and is used to polish items that can't be clamped into the jaws.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Some practice on a pocket watch

My grandmother gave me two of my granddads old watches.  There is an Elgin wristwatch and a pocket watch.  They both have badly worn and corroded gold electroplate finishes which I can't recover so I will just have to service the movements and polish the cases up the best I can.

The pocket watch uses a pin lever escapement and a motor barrel.  The finishing inside is very basic but functional.  The dial is dinged up and the crystal has some scratches.  Other than cosmetic issues the movement is in good condition--just needs to be cleaned and oiled. 

So this was my first chance to get practice oiling hole and cap jewels.  These are part of the watches shock absorbing system.  The balance wheel rides on a staff that is protected at both ends from shocks and likely breakage by these jewels.  It turns out that oiling them accurately is pretty tricky but I'm getting better.  The toughest part is keeping the tiny flat jewels held securely in your tweezers.  Once I get the rest of the watch put together I will post results.

The pocket watch mostly disassembled.  The balance wheel and bridge is still attached to the plate in this picture for cleaning
An assembled cap jewel, magnified 25 times
Tiny things

Friday, November 16, 2012

Some Hands

Finished bluing the hour hand today.  I also finally have a minute hand that I am happy with.  The bluing first try on it was uneven so I'll retry on Monday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


My life has been a blur for the last couple weeks now that work has seen fit to start scheduling me consistent hours.  This means between school from 7-4 and work from 5-12 I've got a lot to keep me busy.
I have very nearly finished the manufacturing of parts for my clock.  The only part I have yet to create is the minute-hand.  They are Breguet style hands which means there's a round bulb at the end of the hand with a hole though it.  I'm on my fourth attempt because I am having difficulty getting the holes perfectly centered.  As you can see on the hand below, the hole I drilled was imperfect due to the limitations of drilling holes of that size on a fairly crude drillpress.
I have abandoned the drill in favor of cutting the rough shape out of the hand then filing it to it's final shape.  This technique worked on the hour hand so hopefully I can get it to work as well on the minute hand.
I also fired up the mill to form the flats for the pillar nuts, which hold the whole thing together.  With any luck I will finish the minute hand tomorrow then all that remains is the tedious task of finishing all the parts to a high level of quality then assembling the final product.
There was an issue with cutting out the hands I had on Tuesday.  The blade broke during an upstroke and due the positioning of my thumb at the time my finger got impaled to a depth of around a half inch.  The blade couldn't be pulled out due the teeth of the saw so I had to visit the doctor so they could numb it up and pass the blade out the other side of the thumb.  Moral of the story here is to be very careful with that particular tool!
As bad as the wound appears, less than three days later it's almost as good as new.  Still it's a good thing to avoid, obviously.
A surprisingly small amount of pain.
The pillar nuts drying after being washed in solvent
My second attempt, you'll notice the poor quality of the lower hole

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tick Tock

I had to rebuild the anchor pivot again to center the anchor over the escape wheel and get the correct end-shake (how much the wheel moves back and forth between the plates). Hardening and bluing the pivot took a couple hours then I was able to finally assemble the clock. 

Last steps before the function test were to pressure fit the minute wheel post.  The hole I drilled was slightly too large so I was able to crimp it into the plate using the staking set which worked very nicely.

So my clock is now partially operational, but it still needs to be calibrated, hands installed, dial installed, finished, plated, polished etc. Before I accomplish any of this it must run for the estimated power reserve for seven days.  Here's to hoping it's even still running on Monday when I return to class.

 Lining up the gear-train

 Function testing
 The working clock

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Burnishing Pivots

Today I finished manufacturing the components needed for the click assembly on my clock.  This included a click (the long blue piece) the click post screw, which holds it in place and the two brass posts that hold the click spring in place and keep tension on the click.  In the picture below I have the ratchet held in place by a drill bit.  Once the clock is assembled it will be held in place by the barrel arbor.  Its function will be to keep the mainspring from unwinding.

I also had to burnish (polish and compress the metal) for a couple of the pivots on the wheels I had to modify or extend.  This was accomplished by using a Horia hand lathe and some patience.

I will be able to do a function test of the clock very soon.  I need to remake the pallet arbor that was destroyed when the cutter dug in on it when I was trying to modify the part to fit the new plate.  I will upload a video of the very roughed out clock ticking when I reach that stage.

Dry-fitting the click assembly
Burnishing pivots with the hand cranked lathe

Monday, October 29, 2012

More manufacturing

I continue to complete components for the clock project.  Today I finished with my pivot extension which brought the week wheel into tolerance and I also build, hardened and tempered the click post and nut.
 Forming the flats for the click nut
 The week wheel pivot extension, blued
 The week wheel extension, installed
 The click post screw and nut before heat treatment
The click post screw and nut, finished

Friday, October 26, 2012

Getting to know the lathe

We have started turning out parts on the Vector lathe. This is useful for many reasons as it allows for accurate manufacturing of cylindrical parts such as screws, supports, tools, pivots etc. We started out using free-form hand gravers before starting on the slide rest which allows more accurate cutting. The project I am currently working on is turning out many different parts for my clock. The current part I am working on is an extension to the pivot on the week wheel of the clock that needs to be modified to fit in our clocks. The one pictured blow is my first attempted. The part is turned, hardened then blued in the kiln. I decided to remake the part because the nominal dimension of the stock as outline in the plans didn't match the existing wheel's dimensions. I will upload the piece when I finish it.
 Vector Lathe- Made in Germany
 The staking tool has many uses
My first test pivot extension

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Klok

Our big project has started in class.  We are building a clock, or at least all of the parts minus the wheels and springs.  I am currently working of the front and rear plates but there is an ongoing problem in trying to drill out the holes that the escape wheel pivots will inhabit.

The issue here is that the hole is drilled with a 0.65mm bit, and even when using a precision drill press and a great amount of patience and care the bits have the tendency to break off and lodge themselves in the hole.  This would normally not be a problem but you can't continue drilling until you remove the bit and the only way we have found to do that so far is to boil the plates in a water and alum solution until the lodged drill bit dissolves and that can take a bit of time. 

With any luck I'll be able to finish the drilling early next week and post some pictures of the results.

While my plates are boiling I have been working on several different ETA movements in class, I am able to get the 2824-1 completely apart and back together in under 30 minutes.  Once we start cleaning and lubricating the watches this experience will be invaluable.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Smaller still

For a challenge Elaine, my micro-mechanics instructor gave me a tiny movement to get some practice dis and re-assembling. When you are viewing and working with the watch movement under magnification it's east to forget how small the parts are. It's also important not to squeeze too hard with the tweezers unless you want microscopic springs flying all over the place to be lost forever! 

 102050 movement pictured with razor for scale. You'll notice it's missing the regulator assembly because I may have accidentally destroyed the exceedingly delicate hairspring

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Today we received our first watch movements.  The task given was to disassemble and then reassemble each movement.  I was able to complete 3 by the end of the day, each smaller than the last.  From here we will move on to cleaning and then lubricating the movements.

Monday, October 1, 2012

All together now

I've completed the next project.  It took a total of two and a half days to complete the parts and the reject pile was fairly substantial.  Hardest part was getting the shoulders of the cut square and even.

Moving right along is turning a piece of half-inch brass bar stock into a 10mm square cube.  Tolerance on this are fairly generous at 0.1mm so I was able to complete the filed part in just about an hour and a half.  Once this is completed I applied a frosted finish using grit and a granite slab.

The most difficult part of the project is in process right now, all twelve edges need an identical beveled and polished edges.  This stage is completed with a burnishing tool.  I should be able to complete that and post the final project in the next couple of days.

The completed parts

The brass cube

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Filing Squares

Today I finished polishing my files which allowed me to move on to the next project that required that to be complete.  The project is to take a length of steel rod, cut off an exact length and then file a exact square into the cylindrical metal.  A total of four were assigned for the next several days and as a testament to how difficult this technique was to perfect I was only able to complete one acceptable part in about six hours.  Now that I have the hang of it, I should be able to finish the last three tomorrow.

A shot of the finished polish on the files

A shot of the finished polish on the files

O, herro

A completed part, Tolerance .04mm

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Today I spent the better part of six hours trying to get a flawless mirror polish on the safe side of my finish file.  It's very close, but achieving a flawless surface is tricky. I'll give it a shot with diamond paste tomorrow and post the results.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Days 1-2

We received our toolkits on Monday and spent the first part of the day organizing our benches where we will be spending the next year.

First project: The filing block

For this project you need to take a piece of square hardwood stock which is appx. 24mm square and reduce it to 20mm square.  Then once this is accomplished you follow a blueprint and apply angles, grooves and slots to the piece.  It proved to be good filing and sawing experience. 

It took me a total of 3 tries to get a block that was passable and I could turn in.  In the end I think mine turned out quite well.  I guess I'll know when it is scored and returned.

A shot of my block in progress of being filed and sanded to size. 

A picture of the completed product. 

This is now a watch blog.

Greetings again everyone!  Since I last posted I have moved to Seattle to attend the Watch Technology Institute at North Seattle Community college.  It is a two year-long program that trains certified watchmakers.  I will be posting occasionally as I complete projects in class and acquire new skills.