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Early American Clock Keys

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, July, 1946

Early American Clock Keys

By W. H. Samelius

In the early days of clock manufacturing, the making of clock keys involved a great deal of work, and different clock companies competed, more or less, in designing fancy keys. However, the methods used for designing keys in those days, were quite different than the methods that are employed today. In our modern keys, the grip is punched, the stem is drilled, and the hole is squared by automatic machines. The two parts are then assembled and the key is completed.

The iron key was cast in a sand mold from cast iron. The cast iron keys were then heat treated in hemotite ore or iron scale and subjected to high heat without fusion. This operation made the iron malleable or tough. The hole was then drilled into the stem, and a square hole formed with a square drift, or sometimes an arbor was inserted in the hole, and the material forged around the square arbor, leaving the hole square. The keys were then finished by means of placing them in a tumbling barrel, where they were tumbled, which tool off the rough edges and smoothed the surface. A fine abrasive'mixed with sawdust or ground leather was used for the tumbling operation.

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