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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

Imagine this. Some odd 40 years ago my father and his siblings are roughhousing and they knock over their mother's alarm clock. The balance wheel and staff fly out, then they desperately wind it up as tight as possible hoping it will work again.

They grow up, have kids, inherit it and then leave the burden with me; One of those kids.


I unwound the mainspring, cleaned it, oiled it. Then I reinserted the balance wheel. The regulator seems to be doing its job fine, the balance wheel moves fine, if I give it a little push it will oscillate for 2-3 seconds and the minute hand moves accordingly.

Alarm functions, setting, everything else works fine.

The mainspring just won't deliver any power to the rest of the movement and I can't figure out why.

Here are pictures.

CAM00441.jpg CAM00446.jpg CAM00442.jpg CAM00443.jpg CAM00444.jpg
 

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Hi,
Some possibilities that come to mind is that the old oil is gummed up and stopping the movement from running or there is blockage somewhere in the train, or both. A good cleaning and oiling may help. I'm not sure how much info you'll get here, as watches are what is typically addressed here.
Samantha
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've got the alarm mechanism working, I figured the rest of the movement is pretty standard.

I guessed i'd get cleaning/oiling answers. But maybe someone is some secret alarm clock guru. I suppose I better get busy.
 

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I've got the alarm mechanism working, I figured the rest of the movement is pretty standard.

I guessed i'd get cleaning/oiling answers. But maybe someone is some secret alarm clock guru. I suppose I better get busy.
When I worked in clock shops we always refused to work on Alarm clocks. This is because they are pin lever escapement mechanisms, and with the accident you described, literally anything could have happened to the clock. Then it has sat for 40 years. Without cleaning and oliing it properly, you'll never have a ghost of a chance to figure out what else might be wrong with it.

Let me give you an old farmer trick. Take off the dial, hands and other parts that would be affected. Drop the alarm clock into a bucket of kerosene and wing the bucket over your head ten time or more. Then get a feather and clean of any gunk or grime still remaining on the clock while letting the clock run down completely in the bucket of kerosene. By the way, you'll have to learn how to safely run the power down on the clock to do this. Then take the clock own, wipe it off, set it on a fence post for a few minutes to evaporate the rest of the Kerosene. Wind it up. See if it runs. If it does, put it back together until it stops again, then repeat same procedure in a bucket of kerosene.

If you think I'm joking, I'm not. That's what farmers used to do. Anyone who has worked in a clock shop knows about the farmer method of cleaning alarm clocks (and any other brass clock, for that matter)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I could just dip it in alcohol, run it down, see if I have any luck.

What's the best way to remove the hands, I'm used to a plunger...
 

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First things first, don't be afraid to wind it. The way that mainspring's sitting suggests it's only got a few turns on it, which should be enough to run if everything else is good but probably won't be with wear in there.

The fact that the hands move when the balance is "encouraged" means that there is power getting through the train, just not enough to keep it running. If there was a complete blockage then the balance would move free, and the pallets would tick back and forth, but the wheels (and, hence, the hands) wouldn't move.

From the photos it looks fairly clean and I'd be surprised if there was enough dirt / old oil in there to cause a complete stoppage - those mainsprings are relatively powerful and will drive through some pretty dire sludge. Also, those lantern pinions are pretty tolerant of dirt.

Which brings us to the likely problem: wear. Because they use steel-on-brass bearings, they're never serviced, and the mainspring will keep them grinding away long after the oil's gone, these clocks suffer from wear badly. If you use your thumb on the great wheel (the one attached to the mainspring) to reverse the power while watching each pivot in turn (on both sides of the clock) you'll almost certainly see several of them jumping sideways in their pivot holes as the power is reversed. Some movement is normal (and essential) but you'll likely see one or two moving half their own diameter or more. That's too much! The solution is to strip the clock completely, clean up and polish / burnish any worn or grooved pivots, and fit bushes to the affected pivot holes.

You've also got steel cone pivots on the balance, which must be sharp and smooth to be reliable. If they're not they produce a LOT of friction. They must also be adjusted properly in their cups. These pivots tend to run a lot looser than you might expect - they need definite freedom, which will leave the balance seeming a bit wobbly if you're used to watch balances. The cups must also be oiled lightly with a light oil (again, any friction or drag here is a killer)

All that's absolutely not economically worth it on a clock like that but, as a sentimental family piece, there's no real reason for not doing it yourself and you could probably end up with it running literally better than new! If you do decide to then it's worth picking up a copy of Practical Clock repairing by Donald De Carle - unlike a lot of supposedly "practical" texts, his stuff is almost invariably genuinely useful and will pretty well talk you through the tools, materials and techniques you'd need as well as some that you don't need but make things easier :)
 

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Oh, and don't use alcohol to clean it assembled. Alcohol will carry water and there are just far too many places for water to get trapped in that unless you're stripping it fully and drying with hot air. They tend to use cheap steel and rust becomes a big problem if water lodges in there!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I dried it with hot air for a good while

I tightened the screw around the regulator until it adjusted smoothly, which happened to also leave the balance wheel slightly wobbly. I tightened it more, but now I've loosened it again by means of your good word.

So, I took a small flathead screwdriver and I put constant pressure on the great wheel to watch things go, it does move through the entire train, and seems to run fine (Minus the human intervention). I don't see any jumping, but maybe that takes a trained eye. I suppose I might as well strip her down and do this one piece at a time.
 
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