As some of you may know, I like tools. I love learning about them, what they can do, and increasing the number of things I am able to make for myself. I've been dreaming of buying some miniature machine tools for years. I've held off on the purchase because I didn't know if I could justify the expense. Perhaps that money would be better spent elsewhere or simply put in the bank for a rainy day. Still, my desire for these tools -- a Sherline lathe and mill to be specific -- continues to burn inside of me.
In an effort to commune with the great automaton makers of old -- many of whom were watch or clock makers -- I started to learn about clocks and clock repair last year. It's a fascinating subject that has captivated my attention recently. It is gratifying to be part of a venerable craft and tradition, and to bring old machines back to life. I've been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of several people who have provided me with expert advice on the topic. I've also found an outstanding mentor who is teaching me the details of clock repair and restoration. I took four courses on clock repair and miniature machine tools in the last year -- one of which was on wheel and pinion cutting at the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors School of Horology.
Over the last year, I've come to realize there is good reason to own the Sherline tools that I've long desired. You see, when a gear (called a "wheel") in an old clock or automaton is badly damaged, it's not always possible to repair it. To make matters worse, these wheels don't always conform to a standard, so you can't simply buy one from a clock supply company. You can hunt for junk clock of the same model, but there is no guarantee it will ever come your way. What does all this mean? If someone doesn't take the time to machine a new wheel, then that clock will never run again. If a clock will not run, it is thrown out, used for parts, or robbed of its remaining parts for uses that don't always sit well with me. If a new gear were to be cut, the clock would, in all likelihood, run for another 100 years or more.
At the moment, I have one automaton for sale. I realized today that, by complete coincidence, the price I set for the piece matches the cost of the tools I need to cut my own clock wheels and pinions. I'm not particularly superstitious, but I'm going to take that as a sign. I envision the following sequence of events:
Step 1 - Sell this automaton that I designed and made
Step 2 - Purchase Sherline machine tools
Step 3 - Cut custom clock parts like this one I made in a class
Step 4 - Save hundreds of antique clocks from an ill fate
So what tools am I talking about? Here they are:
These are the exact same tools as those used in the course I took on wheel and pinion cutting, taught by master machinist, Jerry Kieffer. I expect to be fixing clocks for a very long time. I think it is fair to say that these tools will save hundreds of antiques from being destroyed. They are, of course, capable of producing more than just clock gears. In fact, with these two tools, almost any small part can be fabricated! That's a prospect which I find truly exciting.
I would prefer that antique clocks continue to serve their intended function. In fact, I feel an obligation to make sure that happens. If you agree and/or are in the market for an automaton that I have made, please consider purchasing The Unwelcome Dinner Guest automaton or drop me a line using the contact form.