Mechanical Clock

September, 2004 - June, 2006

After talking with Katherine's uncle a while back, I decided that mechanical clocks and watches were way cooler than electronic quartz ones. I work in the tech industry, and so understand computer software and hardware fairly well. It's completely amazing to me, though, that you can make a tiny machine that's just a collection of gears and springs, and that is accurate enough to keep good time. And then some of them have extra features tossed in - like calendars that even take leap years into account! The precision and careful design required for all this boggles my mind.

Thus began my fascination with mechanical clocks and watches, especially skeleton-type clocks where the movement is exposed. I bought a nifty skeleton clock for my office, a skeleton anniversary clock (you only wind them once per year!), and a number of skeleton watches. The best I've found is the Swatch "Body & Soul" automatic watch, from their Irony collection. It's really neat looking, and a little slimmer and less gaudy than the gold-plated Russian watch I used previously (which is also nice, and quite inexpensive).

What all this is leading up to, of course, is that I decided to build a mechanical skeleton clock from scratch. I spent a while reading about clock making, and was finally able to begin my clock project while on vacation in September of 2004. I knew it would require me to learn many new skills, and so I decided to build W. R. Smith's "Skeleton Wall Clock", rather than try to design my first clock all by myself. You can read a bit about Mr. Smith and his clocks at the Internet Craftsmanship Museum. The one I am building is the "scroll skeleton wall clock", the first in the list. Mr. Smith produces a number of shop manuals for building the clocks he has designed, and I am using one of these as my guide. You can buy these (and a lot more!) online at The Hands of Time. This clock was designed "specifically for the beginner", so the mechanics are relatively simple, and the required accuracy is a little lower. I figured it would be a great way to learn about many of the basic skills (cutting gears and arbors, depthing the train, etc.), and proved to be quite educational. It was intended, at least in part, to be a "stepping stone" to building whimsical mechanical creations of my own design.

Chapter 2: The Plates

Chapter 3: The Pillars

Chapter 4: The Barrel & Arbor

Chapter 5: Finishing the Barrel

Chapter 6: The Great Wheel

Intermission: Tooling Detour

Chapter 7: The Click, Spring, etc.

Chapter 8: Depthing the Train

Chapter 9: The Escapement

Chapter 10: The Pendulum

Chapter 11: The Dial & Motion Work

Chapter 12: Everything Else


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