February 23rd, 2012
Quite often I receive e-mails asking how one might get into clockmaking. My typical response, is to direct them to a couple of books that they can buy. These two texts give a step by step process to build a clock, which in turn gives an idea of what tooling, materials, and hours are needed. From there, it’s easier to decide if it’s worth the leap.
The book I followed to complete my first clock was by W.R. Smith, and was titled “How to make a skeleton wall clock”. It’s not a hardcover, and it’s not in color. In fact it’s bound with one of those tube-like plastic d.i.y. bindings, and it cost $45. It is, however, more than worth it. The pages in that book are saturated with clockmaking techniques that are gold to someone starting out. The other book that I recommend, which is quite similar in concept, is by John Wilding. Its titled “How to make an 8 day weight driven wall clock”. This one is also very easy for a beginner to understand. It’s less specific, but that’s what I like about it. It offers different ways to approach the exact same things executed in Smith’s book. Comparing the two as I went along sometimes helped get a more complete picture of what I was making.
I should add, that I deviated quite a bit from their designs to make “No.1″ as you see it in the gallery of this site. The concept, and visual idea for what I do now came before I learned how to make clocks; therefore a traditional look never crossed my mind. Many of the mechanical techniques that I use are unorthodox as well, born from the demands of this non-traditional aesthetic. I’ve sort of bullied the rules around, because I needed to know how far I could push things. If you’re going to design your own clock works, and you decide to veer from the beaten horological path, you’ll have to decide how much work you’re willing to risk on a design that may not tick.
In creating my limited group of mechanical strange-works, I’ve seen the whole spectrum; from success to heart breaking failure. I’ve had pieces that are accurate within seconds a week, and I’ve had pieces that are off over a minute a day. I even had one that kept stopping, and never quite worked at all. For me, as long as I don’t pull any punches visually, and I learn something from each piece, it’s a success.