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First Clock in Metric

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Iain Downs18/10/2021 19:44:27
796 forum posts
726 photos

Hi, all.

I'm close (close for a 3 year project) to completing my first major build - a vertical mill engine. I'm starting to think of what to do next.

Mainly, I think I'd like to try a clock. For the engine I kind of designed it myself (stealing much from many places), but for the clock, I fancy an easier approach and would like to start from a known design. Later I may chance my arm with my own design, but not now!

I would like metric because all my kit is metric and I don't want to convert and re-draw from imperial.

I would like simple (no chimes, no woodpeckers coming out the top, just seconds, minutes hours). Will skip seconds if needed.

I would like something that is attractive without a case, though I'm prepared to tune the design to accomplish that.

I want to make the gear cutters, gears and all the bits from stock.

I would prefer it if there was some build log or book rather than just drawings.

From what I can see I could fulfil my needs easily if I was OK with imperial, but I'm not.

Any and all advice gratefully received.

Thanks in advance


magpie18/10/2021 20:22:47
480 forum posts
92 photos

No drawings as i made it up as i went along, but you might find it interesting.


Martin Kyte18/10/2021 20:48:10
2597 forum posts
45 photos

I wouldn't worry about metric/imperial. Clocks don't really have much in the way of dimensions. By that I mean they are really 2 dimensional, essentially a couple of plates with some gears between them. (simplification I know but few critical dimensions) The train is planted using a marking out jig (depthing tool) where the wheel and mating pinion are located by adjustment on arbors with points which allow the centres to be scribed on the clock plates. What dimensions there are are very easily converted. If you don't want to make a case then I presume you are after a skeleton clock of some sort, the outer profile of which is generated by sawing and filing. Clocks are very different to pretty much everything else in engineering. Take a look at Ian Cobbs site for some ideas as to what you might like to build.


regards Martin

lfoggy18/10/2021 21:29:11
169 forum posts
14 photos

I would heartily recommend one of John Wilding's books which include comprehensive plans and building instructions. There are a few things in horology that even a seasoned model engine builder may not be that familiar with. Took me ages to fully appreciate the low power and hence low friction requirements of a clock.

I too am a metric guy but I managed with JW's Imperial dimensions easily. I convert to metric as I go along. Sometimes I convert to nearest metric equivalent, e.g. a 5/32 arbor becomes 4mm, or for critical dimensions I just calculate the metric and use my digital micrometer and DRO to get me through. Easy really.

Bazyle18/10/2021 21:39:49
6079 forum posts
221 photos

Have a look at this clock thread which has quite a lot of description.
Now don't be put off by the title, it was just a design feature instead of shiny brass and one version built for a man's daughter.
The clock is either a copy or of a generic style that was serialised in ME or EIM or Horological Journal 14 or more years ago as an egg timer initially, then upgraded to a simple clock possibly called "beginners clock" by John Wilding. It used fairly large teeth to make it easy for beginners and the articles showed how to make it on a very small lathe.

David Noble19/10/2021 08:38:01
284 forum posts
12 photos

Hello Iain, I've made 2 clocks from John Wilding ( with much assistance from the guys here ) and I'm currently making a third. Please feel free to contact me if I can help with anything.


Edited By David Noble on 19/10/2021 08:38:50

Russell Eberhardt19/10/2021 09:11:27
2720 forum posts
86 photos

Hi Iain,

My first clock was John Parslow's design for a 15 day skeleton clock, published in ME about 10 years ago. I started a thread on the clock here. The build articles will be available in the ME archive.

Some pictures of my build are to be found in my album. Feel free to PM me if I can help.


Dave S19/10/2021 11:07:52
256 forum posts
56 photos

I’m currently building a “freestyle” regulator clock based on the book by Peter Heinmann.

Ive pretty much only used the book to understand the hows - like the gear ratio and escapement design.

Point is that I’ve not used the measurements really - my clock is 32dp involute geared, not cycloïdal with lantern pinions.

So maybe getting a couple of good books on builds and then going ahead in your own measurements is a viable thing to do.


Iain Downs19/10/2021 17:38:45
796 forum posts
726 photos

Just a quick note to say thank you for all the feedback so far.

I rather like the look of the Parslow clock (as Russell sent). I actually prefer the look (overall) to Clickspring's clock - but I would never try that in any case as I would be embarrassed to let my version out of it's kennel when it was made!

I will look at the others though - and thanks again!


Sam Stones19/10/2021 22:14:38
851 forum posts
321 photos

Iain, you might consider John Stevens’ Skeleton Clock, (Model Engineer c1972*).

As an impressive starter project (that superseded my original intention of building a model beam engine), I can now describe this clock as a ‘Not really for beginners’. However, apart from Mr Stevens’ design being entirely Imperial, you appear to have all the necessary skills and equipment to succeed.

Over a period spanning many years, the project consumed a considerable amount of time, not just mine but that of many others. I can’t recall how many ME members came to my rescue.

Peruse my two albums to see the sort of ‘warts and all’ mess I got myself in.

Part 1 (47 photos) **LINK**

Part 2 (23 photos) **LINK**

*Mr John Stevens’ clock design appeared in five issues of Model Engineer commencing in February 1972. Vol 138, issues 3434, 3435, 3437, 3438, & 3439.

Then there were my own efforts described here …

Building John Stevens’ Skeleton Clock –

7 Parts - Model Engineer – #4526 – 22 Jan 2016 – Last part #4538 – 8 Jul 2016.

Good hunting.


Iain Downs21/10/2021 16:43:39
796 forum posts
726 photos

magpie. your clock looks wonderful - but too hard for me for a first clock

various. I quite liked the dark lady, but I can't work out if I can tolerate a weight and pendulum. I accept that this is easier than a spring driven clock.

Russel. the Parslow clock looks good and I'm tempted, though I would probably redraw it in metric first - in which case it would end up as a variant.

Dave. I've bought the Heinmann book (for 11 quid from ebay - rude not to!) and will see what I can pick up from that.

someone mentioned the elegant scroll clock by wilding and I love the look of that, but the book seems hard to find (ritetime seem to do it). It might work for a second clock ...

Sam - the clock looks nice, but my subscription started after your articles ( and well after John's).

Martin Kyte21/10/2021 17:56:07
2597 forum posts
45 photos

eBay is good for second hand clock books.

Selection of Wilding clock books there at the moment.


regards Martin

Bob Stevenson21/10/2021 18:43:19
570 forum posts
7 photos

One of the best clock build books for a clock beginner is the 'Long Case' book by Timmins.

Also, the last three chapters of 'Practical Clock Repair' by Donald D'Carle is a simple discourse on exactly how the old time clock makers went about making their clocks using the most simple methods to achieve each component. This book, like the Timmins book, is head and shoulders above the Wilding books in my view and uses much superior methods of construction, albeit more simple.

Be aware that some of th Wilding books actually require you to aquire another one of his books to get a complete design....the most notable is 'How To Make A Skeleton Clock' which requires the 'Wall Clock' book in order to gain the pallet/escapement details.....

Iain Downs21/10/2021 19:36:32
796 forum posts
726 photos

Thanks Martin and Bob.

It turns out I have the D'Carle book and will try the Timmins. Not sure about the Wilding. Although I like the clock it does look a bit complicated.


Sam Stones21/10/2021 19:44:31
851 forum posts
321 photos

I imagine Iain, that you've come across this series by Chris of Clickspring?


Which ever way you go, watching Chris's videos as he makes the 'Large Wheel Skeleton Clock' is well worth a visit.



Edited By Sam Stones on 21/10/2021 19:46:37

Iain Downs21/10/2021 20:49:51
796 forum posts
726 photos

Sam, I'm torn between awe and depression when watching Clickspring. Does the man never get anything wrong?

It certainly sets a bar to achieve, though I seriously doubt I will ever have that competence.

And I'm keeping his latest video well away from my wife in case she gets ideas. I would fall short.


Martin Kyte21/10/2021 22:47:48
2597 forum posts
45 photos

I'm not sure I would describe the Timmins as a beginners clock.

regards Martin

Iain Downs24/10/2021 17:24:54
796 forum posts
726 photos

Firstly, thanks for the book recommendations. I've received and read the Wild and I think it excellent.

At the moment, I'm looking at John Parslow's 15 day skeleton as the basis for whatever I do.

My questions on this clock (so far!) revolve (mainly) around the gears. The outer dimensions (particularly the pinions) don't seem to match the calculated OD, the third wheel is slightly smaller than two others with the same pitch and module. This is made worse as some of the text appears to be missing from the original ME articles.

I'm thinking that the pinions are odd because they've been slightly deformed to work with the same pinion cutter. I *think* the wheels are reduced in size to provide clearance.

I'm planning to make my own cutters (Pride and Fall come to mind) so I will make a 12 pinion and an 8 pinion. Hopefully things will fit then..

I'm in the process of drawing this up in Metric. Here's the frame..

frame 211024.jpg


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