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Information Please!

From The American Horologist and Jeweler magazine, January, 1946


WMck - Will dipping watch parts in cyanide leave any bad effects?

Answer - If the parts are guilded and left in cyanide solution too long, the solution will dissolve the gilding, leaving the plates dull and dark. When dipping watch parts in cyanide solution, the parts should first be cleaned in naphtha, the naphtha washed off in soapy water and then rinsed in clear water. Give a quick dip in cyanide. You must bear in mind that cyanide only removes tarnish and if the tarnished surfaces are not perfectly clean, void of oil Or grease, the cyanide will not attack the tarnish. After the cyanide dip, parts should once more be thoroly rinsed in warm soapy water or warm water to remove the cyanide. Cyanide solution itself is slimy and cold water will not give a thoro rinse. After the parts are thoroly rinsed, they may then be dipped in alcohol and dried in warm sawdust. This may sound like a long procedure, however. to get good results, the above care should be taken when using cyanide. Cyanide is poisonous and the user should be cautious not to allow cyanide to come in contact with any cuts or sores. He should also be cautious not to inhale cyanide fumes.

AEW: When was the minute and second hand first used?

Answer: The minute hand (concentric with the hour hand (was first applied by Knibb and Quare and other English clock makers about 1670. No definite information is at hand when the first second hand was applied, however a clock built by Tompion of England employed a second hand constructed by him in 1676 A.D.

BW: How do you test a watch for isochronism?

Answer: The isochronal test for the watch is made by winding a watch fully, setting it on the second and then checking the time each hour throughout the 24 hours. This will show how the rate varies as the watch runs down. If the watch shows a constant gain or loss, each hour throughout the 24 hours, we can then say that the watch is adjusted for isochronism. Checking the watch or making alterations to cause isochronal rates can some times be accomplished through the regulator pins, by opening or closing, then again by reforming the overcoil, changing the elasticity at the bends of the overcoil. It may be necessary to fit a new hairspring. which may be a trifle longer or shorter. The object is to create the resistance of the hairspring to equal the force of the balance, so the balance will be returned to the zero point the same duration of time whether the arc be short or long.

MElNc'D: How can I improve the tone or sound of the gong in a mantle clock? When the clock was new it had a clear tone, but now the tone is very dull.

Answer: May I suggest you examine the leather buttons in the hammer. The leather ages with time, sometimes becoming quite hard and occasionally seem to deteriorate, becoming soft and falling apart. When the leather hardens, you will have a harsh tone or metallic sound. If the leather has softened or becomes spongy, you are likely to have a very soft tone. If the leather lining in the hammers are all right check the support that holds the gong. See that the gong is well secured to the support and that the support is rigidly secured to the base board. See that the base board is held firmly. Sometimes the base boards dry out so they become loose or possibly the base board or soundingboard may be cracked.

ABP: I am about to purchase a watchmakers lathe, motor and staking tool. Will you kindly advise which is the best lathe. 

Answer: The writer is not in a position to mention makers names or comment on their quality. I would advise you to rely on the judgment of an experienced watchmaker who might accompany you on your shopping tour and from his experience of handling tools will recommend what is best to purchase.

TNB: I am thinking seriously of going to school to learn the art of watch repairing. When my course is completed, does the watchmaker have to supply his own tools and material, or does the employer supply them.

Answer: A journeyman watchmaker is expected to have his own kit of tools such as small hand tools, a well equipped lathe with an electric motor, staking tool, etc. However, he is not expected to supply repair parts or any materials necessary to carryon the work. The employer usually is equipped with a cleaning machine, and furnishes the cleaning fluids. He also has a demagnetizer, friction jeweling outfit and crystal grinding machine. A machine for fitting non-breakable crystals, a timing machine and a buffing machine should be supplied by the employer. This applies where a watchmaker is working on a straight salary or commission.

RGO: I have a mantle clock whose case is made of cast iron and finished black. What can I do to restore the black polish that has become dull from years of handling?

Answer: If you have one of the early American made clocks, these cases were usually coated with aspheltum varnish and baked at about 300 degrees F. A very satisfactory job can be had by rubbing the surface with rotton stone and olive oil, using a felt pad, when all scratches have been removed a lusterous polish can be had by vigorous rubbing using a flannel cloth.

JFH: I have noticed, after fitting a balance staff that a watch takes on a new rate, either fast or slow. I am very careful about trueing the balance and also for poise.

Answer: Replacing a balance staff is a major repair that has to do with the heart of the watch. Even when you say the balance is in good poise and true, other conditions may not be the same as before the staff was fitted. For instance, the balance may be a trifle larger or smaller, the larger pivot would show a fast rate, the smaller pivot slow rates. The pivot ends may be of a different shape than the original staff. Flat end pivots will cause fast rates, round end pivots will cause slow rates. When replacing the hairspring, it may take on a slightly different position such as the reg sweep in the regulator pins. Your hairspring may not be perfectly centered nor develop properly. This all has to do with timekeeping. Your tweezers or screwdrivers may be more or less magnetized. transferring the magnetism to the hairspring or balance. The end shake of the balance pivots might be more or less than the original. There are many reasons why the new balance staff you are placing in the watch may not perform exactly as the one removed. However, the change in rates will not be so great but what slight regulation will bring the watch to time.

AFH: I have trouble with the gummed paper clock dials holding fast. They seem to hold for a few days but peel off. What can I do?

Answer: The ready made gummed clock dials have been prepared with a special glue and will hold if proper precautions are made. This may be done by scrubbing the surface of the dial plate with emery or sand paper until the surface' is bright and clean. Moisten the gummed dial, place it in position and place the dial under pressure with some convenient weight for a period of 15 or 20 minutes until the gum is set. This will prevent the dial from warping away from the metal.

AFH: I have noticed that paper clock dials I get from jobbers seem to have a soft surface and are subject to finger prints and dirt. It there any thing I can do to them to aid keeping them clean and washable.

Answer: Make a thin solution of grain alcohol and white shellac, apply two or three coats until the paper surface is glossy. Allow each shellac coating to thoroughly dry before applying the next coat.

HFG: Can I reform a flat hairspring to an overcoil pattern and will it keep the same time as when it was flat?

Answer: To over coil a flat hairspring is permissible if space permits. To do a good job, the hairspring stud should be moved towards the center as well as regulator pins. The radius for stud and reg pin should be 2/3rds radius of hairspring from center. Then you can shape the flat spring to conform to the position of reg pins and stud. Usually, a flat hairspring that has been reformed will show a gaining rate but not so much but what it can easily be taken care of by the addition of a very light timing washer or by moving the regulator. 


Front and back views of unusual and fine repeater watch owned by Ira Leonard of California. Photos by J. E. Coleman, Nashville, Tennessee. 

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