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Sunday, 5 December 2021

A Fiddle Too Far

This is my parents’ brass carriage clock. It was a touch of luxury, new around nineteen seventy. I seem to remember it ticking in their bedroom, but there it is later on my dad’s mantelpiece around fifteen years ago, just before we sold his bungalow. That picture could be a whole blog post in itself.

On the back it gives the maker’s name as St. James of London. A few clean and shiny ones otherwise the same are for sale for £300 or £400 on ebay, although around £100 seems more the going rate. That is when they are working. This isn’t.

It worked until recently. I assiduously wound it up every Sunday morning, and it kept good time until a few months ago when it began to stop mid-week. A little nudge would start it going again, but gradually became more and more ineffective until it stopped completely.

Could the cause be a simple lack of lubrication? I bought this clockmakers precision oiling tool. 


Four screws under the base of the clock secure the case. I undid them, lifted it off and applied tiny drops of oil to the centres of the large and small cog wheels visible here above and below the hairspring. It worked. The clock started up and ran well for a few minutes.
 

Just before putting it back in its case, I thought it might better disperse the oil around the mechanism if I wiggled the slow-fast lever. Idiot! The hairspring broke. One bit of wiggling and fiddling too far. It doesn’t go at all now.

It would cost at least its value to have it repaired, not really worth it. It has little sentimental value because I was no longer at home when my parents bought it (I wouldn’t have fiddled in the first place if it had). Should I label it “not working” and put it in a charity sack, or just send it to scrap metal recycling?

53 comments:

  1. How about just using it as an ornament? There are a couple or so old-fashioned looking clocks (but modern) in my house, which would work if I put batteries in them, but then I'd have to put them back and forward every year so I don't bother. They just look good tucked away in the corners of my display cabinets.

    If you hang onto it, you may eventually see a similar one in a charity shop, which you could then plunder to replace the damaged parts in your own.

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    1. My understanding is that when these clocks fail it is usually because of the hair spring and other bits you can see right at the top, so it seems unlikely I'd find a non-working one with these bits in worting order.
      Yes it looks good but at the end of the day there is only so much stuff one can keep and if I don't dispose of clutter then someone else will have to do it.

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    2. I was thinking more of a working clock that someone had given to a charity shop, as they'd be unlikely to accept one that wasn't working. However, if you've no strong sentimental attachment to it, perhaps it's time to let it go.

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  2. Could you not have a battery movement put in such a fine carriage clock?

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    1. That's an interesting idea. I'm not sure, but my guess is that even that would involve significant cost.

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    2. You can buy battery movements. You're a smart fellow. I'll bet you could install it yourself. Type battery clock mechanisms into your search bar. Here you can get a kit for about $14.

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    3. To have it done wouldn't be cheap, but yes, doing it myself should be. Still not keen on this idea. Wouldn't be the same. It would also mean dismantling the whole clock with all those cog wheels to fit it in, assuming there is space enough. Could buy a whole new battery carriage clock for £30.

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  3. What is it they say about a stopped clock?......It's right twice a day.
    Personally I hate things that are broken or don't work

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    1. Me too. I am so annoyed with myself. It seems I'd sorted it and then fiddled too much. But who knows how long it would have gone before stopping again.

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  4. If you have sentimental attachment, you should repair it. If not, take it to a charity shop. I personally am a huge fan of old clocks. I love the idea of them marking hours while manmade disasters unfold around them. Time marches on. This too will pass. A ticking clock comforts me.

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    1. I like ticking clocks. Kids and wife can't stand them, especially if loud and (even worse) chiming through the night. I am not particularly attached to it, even though I have kept it running for 15 years.

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  5. I have a grandfather clock which needs a full restoration
    But the kitchen clock, which is battery run, gives me the loud tick tick that I need to hear in a quiet cottage

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    1. I haven't got on to writing about the grandfather clock yet! Lots of other "no-longer needed" posts in mind too.

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  6. My father n law had a similar clock but much older than that one. When it came to us on his death we found it was no longer working. It cost £400 to repair several years ago but now has stopped working again. I don't suppose we shall be having it fixed again.

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  7. Replies
    1. Thank you. Actually I'm thinking charity shop or ornament.

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  8. I have an old clock that is much the same - I expect I will chuck it eventually. When I bought my first house I also bought. aclock from an auction - it cost me 20P. For my fiftieth birthday my mother had it restored so the chimes worked properly - cost £200! I shall keep for my lifetime no doubt, but thereafter, I doubt others will want it. And quite right too - we cannot hold on to the sentiments of others.

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    1. This doesn't chime. Chiming ones can cost even more to repair. It is possible to repair them oneself given the care and patience I do not seem to possess.

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  9. I bet you could sell it even if it's not working. Someone might pay £20 just for the enjoyment of fixing it themselves.

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    1. If it was only £20 I'd send it to the charity shop. Easier then the hassle of trying to sell it.

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  10. Perhaps a keen clock repair person is scouring the charity shops for just such a find? I think I'd vote for it going to charity.

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    1. Yes, and if I put it in a box in a doorstep collection sack then it disappears without any questions asked.

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  11. I'd say charity shop. A tinkerer might be thrilled to have a the pleasure of repairing it.

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    1. Provided they are a better tinkerer than I am.

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  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Traffic density! How dare you Ratana! A few of us are not dense.

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  13. Donation at one of those 'right to repair' workshop days where people take stuff to be shown by 'experts' how to repair/maintain it themselves. Clock repairers (especially hobbyists) keep all sorts of little bits out of clocks like that.

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    1. Don't know if there is one near here. But a clock reparier might at the very least use the spare parts.

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  14. I dare guess that there are plenty of ornaments at your house already. A broken clock is an item that does not do what it was made for, and if it were mine and I would not want to have it repaired because of the cost, I'd put it in the recycling bin.
    Now I am looking forward to a post about your Dad's front room. Family photographs alone would probably each give enough material for a post.

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    1. As replied to Bea, above, we are inundated by doorstep collections for charities. If I put it in one of the sacks it would disappear without anny effort.
      The front room picture is deliberately low res. so the family photographs are fuzzy. It's the decor that amuses me. It could never be described as minimalist.

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  15. I'd put it on Ebay or similar. Someone can probably repair it cheaply and make a nice profit. But if you can be bothered. I probably wouldn't, so charity shop it is.

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    1. Ebay can be financially rewarding. Over the years we've made thousands of pounds selling no-longer-wanted children's toys and books, and had only one bad experience, but the hassle of wrapping it up safely and posting it (and it's heavy so would be expensive) is something I no longer need.

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  16. I know the problem about clutter and having to get rid of it. Funnily enough one thing I packed in my suitcase was a pretty faced clock I had given as a birthday present. But it doesn't work either and the chiming at night is troublesome.

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    1. Sometimes there is asetting to switch of nighttime chimes. I quite like them but I'm not allowed to have my family grandfather clock ticking at all.

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  17. In honour of your dear departed father, you should take it to a reliable clock specialist for repair. This is the only way you will be able to assuage your guilt. Try A Oldham & Son, Huddersfield.

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    1. I didn't know you were a psychiatrist. Perhaps you would be kind enough to offer £200 towards repairing it.

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    2. Eh? I didn't stop it working. Besides, I doubt that A Oldham and Son would charge that much. You could always phone them and ask.

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  18. Dear Tasker, the first decision you have already made - to get rid of it, because it doesn't work anymore - is a clearance kick: I got the impression you don't think it overly beautiful, and, as it doesn't work anymore, it is no longer useful - you know what dear William Morris said.
    Sentimental value I see neither.
    And as you have immortalised it in a blog, together with a photo, you can say good-bye to it. Depending on your attitude you give it a chance at the charity shop - someone might like it and the money is for a good cause - or you sell it as scrap metal (if a prick of conscience appears: donate the money for a good cause :-)

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    1. For the likely value it is too much trouble to sell even for scrap metal, so probably it will be the charity sack - collected from the doorstep never to be seen again. Yes, I've photographed it and even found an older picture with it in, so I can always see it. If I wanted to hold it again to feel the weight and smoothness I could find a substitute, perhaps one of my gold bars from under the floorboards.

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  19. Not a lot I can add really. I'd be doing what you have proposed in the last comment. There is always someone out there who wants to tamper.

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    1. Oh, so you really do have gold bars under your floorboards. I might pay you a nighttime visit.

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  20. How about contacting the BBC and seeing if 'The Repair Shop' would fix it? It wouldn't cost you a bean - and you'd be on the telly too. You'd probably have to 'exaggerate' any sentimental attachment you might have for it though.

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    1. Interesting idea but probably too ordinary for them. Anyway, I don't want to be on the tele. I always tick the no publicity box.

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  21. I vote for the charity shop, someone else may happily tinker with it and get it going again. I've just taken two tea sets to a charity shop. But I've still got three left!

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    1. Oh for goodness sake, don't get me started on tea sets and canteens of cutlery.

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  22. It's hard to know what to do when old things one is attached to stop working. I've always had a soft spot for old valve radios and the last few years have been crunch time - a whole lot of components used in them have reached the end of their natural life-spans. To get one working now usually requires a massive overhaul.

    As for the clock, I think I'd simply keep it as an ornament!

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    1. It is still there on the top of the book case reminding me that instead of mending it I made it worse.

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  23. In my case I would remove the innards and use the case for a craft project.
    Briony
    x

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    1. There's an original idea. It would certainly make an interesting and unusual display case for something.

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  24. Take off the clock face and just have the cogs etc on display, perhaps in a study or library room if you have those.

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    1. That's an original idea to consider, although we do have rather too many things on display and if we ever decided to move a lot would have to go. Thats for reading and commenting.

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