Picture of a judge's wigThis Is Not A BLOG!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 03/01/09

Tick Tock...

There was something missing from my New Year this time around.

For the first time in I can't remember how long, the chimes of my hall clock were absent from that most significant of all midnights.

The clock is quite an unprepossessing thing - just a set of works in an old Co-operative Wholesale case, with a bit missing from the glass at the front - but it's one of the nearest things I have to an heirloom, having been in the family for about forty years. It was the old man's pride and joy, and always had pride of place on the mantelpiece. Here it is, for example, photographed as it saw in 1977:

Photograph of a clock on a mantelpiece

The thing stopped working just before Christmas, and resisted all my attempts to get it to go again. It would start, but after a few seconds the pendulum would judder to a halt. I fiddled about and squirted some WD40 in it, but to no effect.

Luckily I'm quite methodical about these things, and thought through the various possibilities as to the cause of the problem. Given where the vibrations were coming from which were causing the stoppages, I reckoned that it was the escapement which was causing the problem. So I unscrewed the pendulum mount. This, however, had the effect of startling me because removing the pendulum mount also removed the anchor (that's the rocking-back-and-to thing which controls the escapement gear - do let me know if I'm getting too technical), and the bloody thing started whirring out of control and made the hands of the clock face whizz around like a clichéd cinematic effect.

Having been thus discombobulated, I quickly put everything back together again and reviewed the situation. On Friday afternoon, I came back to the matter and removed the pendulum mount and anchor again. There were no alarums and excursions this time, simply because the spring had run right down.

Examining the anchor, I could see that it was held on its pivot by a tiny screw, but that this screw only held the anchor by means of friction. I also then noticed that the anchor was tilted off to the right of level by about seven degrees of arc. This meant that the right-hand tooth of the anchor was going so far down into the gear that it couldn't come far enough back up from the pendulum's motion to enable the cog to move on. I loosened the screw, moved the anchor back to as near to level as I could get it, tightened the screw back up, re-fitted the whole kaboodle and wound the mainspring up again.

It worked! I left it to run on the living-room table for about an hour before restoring it to its customary position on the sideboard in the hall...

Photograph of a clock on a sideboard

...where - apart from having the pendulum weight adjusted because it was running slow - it has gone like a bird ever since.

I am now, of course, strutting around the place like I was John Harrison. But it's so good to hear those chimes again.