Fashionable Watches

How to take a clock apart (and put it back together again) I Curator’s Corner season 3 episode 4

How to take a clock apart (and put it back together again) I Curator’s Corner season 3 episode 4


Hello, I’m Oliver Cook, I’m a curator of
horology here at the British Museum and welcome to my corner. So first of all, I’ll take off the weight because we don’t want that clattering around and the counterweight too. Now I can safely take the clock off the stand and you can see on the back here there goes the door there’s our little bracket for hanging it on the wall. So first of a ll I’ll take the side door off and then I will take the hands off and the beautiful thing about this clock is I don’t need any tools at all to take it apart put it back together. So now the dial should come off and I will now take these front wheels, this is what we call the motion work these wheels are behind the dial and these drive the hands from the main mechanism. So I’ll take those off and then I’ll take the back of the clock off we have little pegs in here to come out. There we go. Put that up there. So we’ve got the clock down to its bare bones now so we can see a bit more what’s going on I think I will sit down now because it’ll help. So I said we’d have a little look at the striking train this is the mechanism at the back here so if I put this wheel of the motion work back on which is necessary to do this bit. So the minute hand is on this square here, so it goes round once an hour and this pin you see here comes up as we
get towards the hour and starts lifting this lever which we call
a nags head because it’s a bit like an nags head and you’ll see it nodding in a minute and as we get up to the hour, your striking train will be released. Now looking on the back of the clock obviously somehow the clocks got to know how many strikes to strike at each hour three strikes at three o’clock, four
strikes at four o’clock and so forth and to do this it uses this device here
which we call the count wheel. What you’ll notice, it’s got little slots around the edges that as we go around have space increases that’s the basis on which it counts if I if I set the clock off again and lift the lever you’ll now see this pin coming up and every time you see that lifting you’ll hear a dong on the bell if the bell was on this clock but it isn’t so you see their little pin there feeling for the hole but if it doesn’t get it it lifts up again until it finds the slot and then the striking stops and that’s how the striker system
works. Other systems were devised but they needed more parts but one of the benefits of what came after the rack and snail system is that you could set a clock to strike on demand by tugging a cord which was very useful at night because obviously you can’t see the time at night unless you have a night clock but that has its own problems such as causing buildings to burn down. Okay so now let’s take the clock apart and have a look at some of the components a bit more closely. So I think I’ll take off that count wheel first. Just need to pop a pin out and there we have it you’ll see on the back of it is another wheel which is driven by this small little pinion here Now I think I’ll take the top off It’s the next stage. There we go. And now you can see the balance wheel
a lot more clearly and the lid band running around the edge So lets just… we can run that again just so you could see the clock
running. Now we will take that out, off we come, and there you see the verge these are our pallets that I showed you earlier, which are part of the escapement and now with the escapement out if we decide we want to run the clock it will just spin through freely. Now we need to take our striking set off lever out so another pin to come out and we’ve got this rather lovely little latch here that comes up there we go there’s our nags head. Now let’s put this on it’s back take the rest of our motion work off and this is rather lovely, little wooden wedge at the front here just slides up and out. Okay now we can pop the front train bar out and then out comes the going train here’s our escape wheel with the pins on it and I think I’ll leave the rope in the
clock for the purpose of this exercise but we unhook it from the great wheel
and out comes our great wheel and there you can see the pulley that the rope sits in and when we’re winding the clock that’s the clicking you’re hearing, that little ratchet there and when the weight is released the ratchet engages and tries to pull the wheel around. So that’s our going train out. Now turn the clock over. Again let’s pop the wedge out here take the rear train bar out and out comes our striking train and this is again this is the great wheel
of the striking train, similar to what you just saw some broken teeth here, that’s perhaps one drawback to wooden geared, a wooden wheeled clocks is that the teeth are more fragile. And here on this side you see six pins and these drive the hammer that strikes the bell. and here at the top of the train is actually a fly and that’s doing the job of the controller in the striking train. It’s helping regulate the speed at which the striking is happening its by no means far removed and actually even from the balance wheel we’ve just seen on the going train but all it needs to do is slow the train down enough so that we can count on the stripes. So there we have it; our clock is now in bits. That was the easy bit now I’m going to try and put it back together, so here we go Now we’re ready to hang the clock back
on its stand and the moment of truth will it still tick? the counterweight on
first Whew! So there we’ve taken this lovely clock apart and put it back together again without any tools and it was still ticking at the end. Thank- you for watching and if you liked this video please do subscribe to the
British Museum YouTube channel thank you.


Reader Comments

  1. That is one sturdy and well put together clock, it reminds me of old Japanese buildings. Thanks for the demonstration, very professional.

  2. That's pretty incredible. I'm amazed that the whole mechanism can be disassembled without tools. I do wish we had gotten a more detailed view of how internals fit together though. The time lapse was a bit disappointing, I wanted to see how everything came together.

  3. Incredibly fascinating! Thank you so much. I feel the anxiety rising in me every time he takes out another part. I know that it were up to me, I wouldn't know the first thing about putting it back together D:

  4. I see a slight warping of the counter wheel… another problem with using wood.  Still works remarkably well for it's age, though.
    Thank You for continuing the series.  I'd like to know more about who commissioned  and owned these type of clocks, what was the importance of telling the correct time to these owners, etc.  I love to hear about the development of the clock and it's use to find longitude while at sea.

  5. I'm really impressed by the elegant simplicity of this clock. As I am a hobbyist wood and metalworker, i'd very much like to know if there are any accurate building plans/instructions available for this type of clock (with tooth counts etc.). Making a replica of this timepiece would be a cool challenge.

  6. Thank you, that was amazing. Both for the simplicity of clockworks in general, but also for a clock that needs no tools. I want to make one. Perhaps I could, seeing this.

  7. please let this man read any fridge-manual lying around. or the odyssee. for some ancient finkel god‘s sake just keep him talking, thanks!

  8. Very jealous of the experience and expertise involved in taking apart such an old and delicate work of art and putting it all back in place. That kind of knowledge might lead one to a deeper understanding of time, not just of clocks…

  9. Admit it, you've done this before. Thank you for the explanation and showing us this beautiful clock. The little wedge holding the frame in place is just brilliant.
    Inspired by this, I just got to work on a semi-antique brass clockwork I had lying around and didn't dare to try to understand until now. Separating into running and striking train helped me a lot get it. Still not quite there, and it's getting late, so I'll call it a day.
    Now here's a question: what would a curator and clock expert use to clear out decades of oily dusty gunk and then lubricate it?

  10. I would love to see this fellow do a part in a new sci-fi movie. I have no doubt that he would make quite the splash, especially with the excellent speaking voice and easy manner in which he delivers the excellent info about how clocks (or the specific clock featured) function in this video. I fancy that he could be the next "Dr. Who", no problem, and I would be sure to catch all the episodes if that were to come to pass. Bravo! Very enjoyable! I look forward to more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *